Raising Artists for the Global Stage
By Leeor Adar
It’s a pleasure to return to the magic that the Australian Ballet School conjures for its yearly showcase of talent. This year is no exception, proving that Australia continues to raise artists for the global stage.
In 2019, the showcase is dedicated to the school’s founding Director, Dame Margaret Scott AC DBE, who sadly passed away earlier in the year. In a sparkling commemoration, the showcase begins with the full cast performing the Simon Dow choreographed, Défilé, underneath a projection of the kind face of the Dame herself. Dow is choice to choreograph this piece, as a former pupil of Dame Scott’s, he infuses the piece with nostalgia whilst the current pupils fill the stage like elegant-limbed swans in Kate Glenn-Smith and Maree Stratchan’s costumes.
Divertissement, also choreographed by Dow, is a pleasing entry for showcasing the individual talent from the graduating class, but the real standouts here were its male graduates, particularly Ziggy Debrincat, Benjamin Garrett, Alain Juelg and Louis Ramsay in their quartet, and the megawatt star power of Jett Ramsay in his solo.
Choreographer Margaret Wilson brings a stunning contemporary showcase for the level 8 students in Journey. With a backdrop of the sky, the dancers perform to a melancholy piece by composer, Max Richter. Likened to birds, they move with one another in a mesmerising force. I was totally hypnotised by the choreography and the quality of the performances from the dancers, which required from them a great deal of maturity and skill.
Wilson again takes a contemporary lead with the deeply personal in her choreography of After Escher, a piece that reflects the words of M.C. Escher himself. Wilson’s choices showcase the ballet dancer in the modern world, finding their way with their quality ballet training into new spheres of dance. I found Wilson’s choreography in 2019 more inspired than her previous work for the 2018 showcase, and it was wonderful to see how the dancers took to her choreography.
The theme of elegant birds continues with Richard House’s choreography of the level 5 students in Sketch Tone to the wonderful music of André Messager’s ‘Pas de Deux’. A nod to the classics once again, it is a delight to find ourselves taken from this work to the more frenzied choreography of Leigh Rowles in La Tarantella Italiana. Rowles’ choreography of the level 7 students is breathtaking. It is quickly apparent that next year’s graduates will have much to offer, as they elegantly perform in astonishing unison and timing. The colour and luscious costuming by Glenn-Smith, Stratchan and Lara Barwick are at peak delight here, with bright yellows and reds, the dancers completely come alive, and we are all captivated in awe at the spectacle – a crowd pleaser.
For the final showcase, Victoria Simon stages Who Cares? with George Balanchine’s choreography set to George Gershwin, Balanchine’s great collaborator. I thoroughly enjoyed the jazzy New York inspired work, but there were certainly standouts amongst the graduating class. ‘The Man I Love’ performed by Lilly Maskery and Jett Ramsay was captivating, both of whom established themselves in the 2019 showcase as one’s to watch in the ballet world. Maskery’s solo to ‘Fascinatin’ Rhythm’ was faultless beauty, and Ramsay’s standout performances throughout the night made him the unofficial star of the evening. Heidi Freeman’s energetic and delightful presence on stage was thoroughly notable, including the unparalleled grace of Larissa Kiyoto-Ward.
The performances will now head to Sydney on the 27th and 28th of September at the Concourse Theatre. Tickets available: https://premier.ticketek.com.au/Shows/Show.aspx?sh=AUSBALLE19
Photography by Sergey Konstantinov