Tag: August Bournonville

Melbourne City Ballet Presents NAPOLI

Impressive cast bring ballet to the suburbs

By Rachel Holkner

The professional dancers of the Melbourne City Ballet, performing alongside Finishing Year pre-professionals, recently gave a charming rendition of the 1842 full-length ballet Napoli at the Darebin Performing Arts Centre. The casting of the two lovers Teresina (Carolina Pais) and Genarro (Matt Dillon) was wonderful; both highly skilled ballet dancers, they shared real chemistry and were very compatible together.

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While the sets, costumes and props may be on the simpler side (being a short performance season) they more than fulfilled their roles, setting the scene for an Italian love story in a seaside town and then an underwater grotto as Teresina is kidnapped by Golfo, a water spirit (Brendan Bradshaw) and his Naiads.

Napoli, not produced as a full-length ballet in Australia for forty years, was a curiosity and an ideal choice for a small and nimble company. Artistic Director Michael Pappalardo mentions in the program the dancers’ difficult task in adapting to choreographer August Bournonville‘s unique technique. I wish I knew more of this; while certain of the combinations were unusual, it’s difficult to tell as a non-performer what makes them trickier than others.

As for the curious Napoli, it was soon clear why it is not performed more. Act One is a pantomime, acted in time to the music, with a profound lack of ensemble dances. The story is uneven and unnecessarily complex, relying overly on the dancers’ skills in mime rather than expressing character through movement.

The choreography as a whole is somewhat flat (there is no “Dance of the Cygnets” here), and the music insipid, the result of being composed by a collection of musicians inspired by a wide range of source material. While there is copious dancing in Act Three it also feels flat as there is no change in emotion: it is all celebration of the lovers’ reunion and tarantella.

However, none of these criticisms should be a reflection of MCB. They are a highly capable ensemble providing professional productions at locations and at price points for the general public. I would definitely recommend them to aficionados and the newly ballet-curious. This production of Napoli was definitely a case of the performers outshining their source material. Perhaps more of these rare or unusual pieces may be the key to drawing an audience of ballet enthusiasts.

Melbourne City Ballet‘s next production is the contemporary showcase Play Rewind at Metanoia Theatre, Brunswick
26-29 May
Tickets from $26.10
http://www.melbournecityballet.com.au

Image by National Photography

REVIEW: The Australian Ballet Presents PAQUITA and LA SYLPHIDE

Richly romantic

By Jennifer Coles

The Australian Ballet continues to pursue perfection and pure entertainment with each new production they take on. This ‘romantic double bill’ is no exception.  Exquisite and technically masterful, the pairing of Paquita (1847) and La Sylphide (1836) is a wonderful joy to experience.

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To begin, Paquita as a performance piece (music by Ludwig Minkus, choreographed by Marius Petipa and special note must be made of the grand pas de deux, Leanne Stojmenov and Daniel Gaudiello) made excellent use of the space and was accompanied by a charming, minimalist set. The ensemble moved well together, and were completely dedicated to each gesture and movement. The piece also features a lot of pointe work, which was a treat to watch and relish in.

This elegant professionalism continued throughout the performance of La Sylphide (choreographed by Erik Bruhn after August Bournonville). It tells the tale of James (a young Scottish farmer, preparing for his upcoming wedding), who is distracted by the appearance of a woodland sprite called La Sylphide. After his attempts to catch her are unsuccessful, the fairy disappears. He returns to the wedding and angers the local witch, Madge. However, the reappearance of La Sylphide proves too strong to resist and he follows her into the woods. What follows is an extremely unfortunate set of circumstances brought about by the very witch James just wronged.

The set perfectly created the optimism of a romantic wedding in the first act, and a lovely open woodland in the second. Lighting (William Akers‘ original design, reproduced by Francis Croese) was charming and character-reflective (a nice blue hue spotlight for La Sylphide was a terrific touch), and costumes (designed by Anne Fraser, who also created the set) were of course functional and beautiful. As James, Adam Bull was charismatic, and as La Sylphide, Lana Jones was endearing and elegant. Particular delight was the choreography itself , in which La Sylphide (as had Paquita) made use of the musical phrasing excellently and appropriately. The orchestra was also in fine form, responding well to the artists just as the artists responded to the lush music by Herman Lovenskjold.

The Australian Ballet will no doubt have another successful season with this lovely production. After having the privilege of viewing it, it isn’t hard to see why.

Paquita and La Sylphide will be playing until September 7: tickets bookings can be made online.