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Troy Honeysett, Emee Dillon, G, Australian Dance Theatre Troy Honeysett, Emee Dillon, G, Australian Dance Theatre
photo Chris Herzfeld
WHAT IS IT ABOUT A CLASSIC REVIVED THAT COMPELS OUR ATTENTION? IS IT THE SHEER MIRACLE OF RESUSCITATION? THE GHOULISH LURE OF A ZOMBIE, RAISED FROM THE DEAD? OR JUST SOMETHING COMFORTABLY FAMILIAR MADE NEW, LIKE AN OLD PAIR OF JEANS, CUT-OFF, PATCHED-UP, DYED GREEN PERHAPS?

We put an emphasis on experiment and innovation in valuing the creation of new work. But isn’t performance always offered in repertoire—a repetition of the past, a rehearsal, a re-presentation, served each time afresh? Australian Dance Theatre’s G is just such a work, the dancers like some ancient layered archive, accumulating and re-performing the choreography of our culture’s obsession with romance.

G is short for Giselle, the famous classical ballet, first performed in Paris by the Ballet du Theatre de l’Academie Royale de Musique in 1841. Its revival by Marius Petipa for the Imperial Russian Ballet in the 1880s and 1900s defined the choreography performed by ballet companies to this day. Since the 1940s, Australian audiences have seen Giselle in productions from the Australian, Royal, Bolshoi and Borovansky companies. The Australian Ballet last performed the work in 2006 and 2008.

G was seen as a work-in-progress at the company’s Adelaide studio in March 2008, and premiered in Utrecht later that year. From the Netherlands, it toured through Belgium, Luxembourg, Spain, France, Italy and England before returning recently to Adelaide in 2009 for a season at the Dunstan Playhouse as part of the Adelaide Festival Centre’s Pivot(al) dance program. As a classic case of postcolonial playback, the work has struck a chord with European audiences, and will return to France in November. It also has an affinity for Australian audiences: the Adelaide season was a sell-out and spectators were enthusiastic in applause. It deserves seasons elsewhere in Australia.

In its choreographic intent, G is akin to Birdbrain, the ‘deconstructed’ Swan Lake from 2000 which was Garry Stewart’s first full-length work for ADT. But the modus operandi of this work is not so much deconstruction as truncation and compression. The names of characters are reduced to letters: G, of course, who falls in love with L, who is really a prince named A betrothed to Princess B.

The narrative is similarly cut-up into isolated gestures and stilted fragments, which nevertheless flow past in a stream of body-images and image-objects. Arms crossed in love, hands clasping hearts, swords at hearts, heads thrust back, heads hung low, bodies thrown down and danced upon, a procession of pine trees—the whole story of Giselle, her lovers and their demise is danced in 60 minutes— from left to right.

That is, the dancers process continuously across the stage from left to right in various ways. They make the round trip backstage, of course, and thereby create the panoramic illusion of perpetual flow. There is a great deal of pleasure to be derived from this simple operating premise—from the changing rhythms, speeds, the body densities of the flow, and from entrances that follow exits almost impossibly too soon.

The meanings implied in this ruthless circularity accumulate throughout the work, resonating with that great romantic mystery at the centre of Giselle: the eerie possibility that one could dance oneself—or, more mysterious still, be danced against one’s will—to death. Along the way, the dancers’ moves lay down a lovesick palimpsest of sex, desire and death. This is the choreography of romance in mutation—dug from within and exposed to view like some kind of bio-archaeological excavation.

Colour is a key. The dancers are lit, in part, by Geoff Cobham with a massive electronic screen. Their dancing arcs from the classic choreography of ballets blancs to encompass the excess of gothic horror in black and red, and the surreal formalism of music video in green and blue. Captions are another key which flicker across the screen: narrative fragments with words cut out and streams of words beginning with the letter G—among them, ‘gothic’, ‘grief’ and ‘gonorrhoea.’ The music from Luke Smiles is orchestral and ethereal at times, but mostly it is slavishly metronomic in effect, securing the commitment of the dancers to delivering the work’s unrelenting flow.

Shudder, freeze and flicker are the strongest movement-images that I logged alongside the luminosity of the work’s signature colour, green. Green for jealousy, of course, and also green for feeling queasy. G is a classy diagnostic for assaying the lovesick among us.


Adelaide Festival Centre Pivot(al): Australian Dance Theatre, G, conception, direction, choreography and set design Garry Stewart, performers Chris Aubrey, Emee Dillon, Amber Haines, Troy Honeysett, Daniel Jaber, Lauren Langlois, Lina Limosani, Larissa McGowan, Kialea-Nadine Williams, Kimball Wong, lighting design Geoff Cobham, composer Luke Smiles/motion laboratories, costumes Daniel Jaber, Gaelle Mellis, Dunstan Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre, Aug 25-29

RealTime issue #93 Oct-Nov 2009 pg. 37

© Jonathan Bollen; for permission to reproduce apply to realtime@realtimearts.net

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