The Royal Ballet and ENB may be on a break, but summer ballet season has just started over here, withÂ The Australian Ballet’s return to London after a gap of ten years. The company has brought dancing that is athletic andÂ full of warmth, with two of itsÂ signature productions: Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake (loosely based on the Diana/Charles/Camilla triangle), and the European premiere of Ratmansky’s Cinderella (2013 version). The AB’s London residency concludes this Saturday 23 July with Cinderella, so here are five reasons why you should catch them while you still can:
Aussie ballet lovers should thank their lucky stars forÂ such aÂ prima as Amber Scott. Wonderfully lyrical, with a soft pliant port de bras and dramatic depth, she embodied Odette and made us care about the character’sÂ fate, despite theÂ narrative plot holes in Graeme Murphy’s unconventional Swan Lake. Her portrayal went beyond the one-dimensional sad Odette that we usually get, and made us wish we could seeÂ more of herÂ (preferably in a dramatic role like Manon,Â or A Month in the Country perhaps?). In short, she is the embodiment of #ballerinagoals.
Costumes & Designs
In Swan Lake, we sawÂ gorgeous Edwardian finery forÂ the court scenesÂ in contrast withÂ a minimalist aesthetic lake-side: soft feathery skirts and discreetÂ head pieces to characterise the swan maidens. The designs and costumes by Kristian Fredrikson framed the action with striking imagery. In particular, we love that Odette’s wedding dress hasÂ a long tail and that theÂ choreography incorporates it (Adam Bull’s Siegfried expertly dances around it). In Cinderella, long-time Ratmansky collaborator JÃ©rÃ´me Kaplan had a surrealist ball (literally!) channeling masters like Dali, Magritte and Man Ray, and effectively using screen projections to complementÂ the sets.Â Here, anotherÂ example of a striking long-tailed costume: the stepmother’s coat for the ball, which is used forÂ comedic effect.
Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus
In Ratmansky’s 2013Â Cinderella, we get celestial bodies instead of the usual “seasons”, as if the universe is indeed conspiring to bring togetherÂ Cinders and her prince. Just like the male dancersÂ who wear colourful cropped tops in theÂ 2002 Mariinsky version, the planets are clad inÂ eye-popping costumes that are far from orthodox. Mercury (a fast-footedÂ Brett Chynoweth), Venus, Mars, Jupiter and co. get vibrant solos, pas de deux and ensembles that are bonkers awesome, a total Ratmansky thing!
Charm & Quirk
With this Cinderella, Ratmansky has traded all theÂ Soviet symbolism from 2002Â for aÂ family-friendly production. We can only assume this is to matchÂ the company’s own style and nature. Granted, the choreographer’sÂ production for the Mariinsky (implants ofÂ whichÂ can be seen inÂ this production – ex: the main pas de deux and the Prince’s entrance,Â no Cinders goofy step alas!)Â is more cohesive, but there are plenty of opportunities for The Australian Ballet to imprint itsÂ own brand ofÂ quirky, notably with “Skinny” and “Dumpy”, the two stepsisters, or during the ball, whenÂ female guests change from YSL-esque tuxes into ballgowns, just because they all want to be like Cinders.
The Australian Ballet has some great talent coming up the ranks: soloist Dimity Azoury was a sultry “Baroness Von Rothbart” in Swan Lake and a lyrical Venus in Cinderella, Jasmin Durham led the Hungarian dance (Swan LakeÂ Act I) with authority, while many talented men across the corps de ballet displayed powerful jumps. We were also impressed withÂ Rudy Hawkes’s elegance as one of the Prince’s friends in Cinderella.Â All in all, a very likeable company.
Meanwhile, Alice Pennefather was at the Cinderella general rehearsal and photographed the cast led byÂ Amber Scott and Ty King-Wall:All photos: Â© Alice Pennefather