Tag: Craig Boyes

Melbourne Ballet Company Presents EMPYREAN

Be transfixed

By Joana Simmons

Melbourne Ballet Company brings us the second chapter of their 2016 trilogy season: Intention and Desire. Empyrean is taken from the Ancient Greek meaning ‘highest form of heaven’, and described in the program as an intellectual light full of love. The show comprises of three separate works created by three distinctly different Australian choreographers – Timothy Harbour, Simon Hoy and Rani Luther – who have created individually fantastic works that bring life to this lofty idea.


The first piece “Illuminate”, by Rani Luther with music by Philip Glass, explores the idea that heaven is there to be found in all of us on multiple levels. The beginning is breathtaking. Three male and female couples beautifully weave in and out, using choreographic devices, technical lifts and turns to create a world that is mesmerizing to watch. There is a great variety of movement, the partner work was solid and innovative and the dancers’ musicality and timing was en pointe (pun intended). Set on the backdrop of a projection focusing on the woman holding the lamp in Picasso’s masterpiece Guernica (which represents a world reigned over by harmony and light amid suffering and destruction) each dancer had a moment to shine, lead by principals Kirsty Donovan and Alex Bayden Boyce. You know a dance work is good when you feel the audience let out a breath when the sweating athletes stand still at the completion of the 30-minute piece.

“Zealots”, by Timothy Harbour and with music by John Adams, is a dynamic contrast to the previous piece: the dancers in their yellow high neck costumes, black socks and shoes do not touch or manipulate each others’ bodies, yet still are rarely apart. There are moments of strong company unison, because they were separate you could appreciate the tricky choreography, with its quirky hip placement and arm lines. The music is electronic and choppy, and the powerful sharp movements blended it to make it bounce off the stage. I loved how you could see each dancer’s unique contribution to the work, and how the women and men were dancing the same, powerful steps. Samuel Harlett’s incredible, almost rubber-limbed movements show impeccable control. “Zealotry” is defined in the program as “fanatical commitment and belief” and you can definitely see the dancer’s full commitment to this hard-hitting sharp movement. The 15 minutes feels like longer as it is dense with complex dance.

The final work hit the nail on the head. In “Lucidity”, by company director Simon Hoy and music by Olafur Arnalds, Max Richter captivatingly combines complex floor work and sharp technical movement. The projections on the giant backdrop synchronised with the electronic beats and hard-hitting movement making it a full physical sensory experience. The thing that stood out for me was how there was real connection between the dancers, making me feel them, not just watch them and it was – dare I say it – sexy.

Hoy and Alisa Finney have put together a delightfully varied and high quality production. Lighting designed by Craig Boyes and costumes by Santha King add so much to make this show memorable. There’s a lot of sad things happening in the world at the moment; this is why we are lucky to have the theatre, where we can escape and be mesmerized by stories and talent. Make the most of it, and look out for the Melbourne Ballet Company‘s upcoming productions.

Empyrean was performed at the Alex Theatre from June 17-18, 2016.


REVIEW: Paul Malek’s BOYZ

Intense and absorbing new dance work

By Myron My

Your 20s are a time in your life where you finally step out into the wider world and attempt to make sense of it all. For most, it includes moving out of the family home, graduating from studies, and finding your place in life. Easier said than done though. Presented as part of this year’s Midsumma Festival, Paul Malek‘s new contemporary dance piece BOYZ explores what it means being a gay man in your 20s.


Whilst there is a feeling of frustration and boredom, things begin serenely enough with five males – Jayden Hicks, Samuel Harnett-Welk, Charles Ball, Lachlan Hall and Kurt Dwyer-William – living under one roof. However, the gradual exploration of their sexuality, individuality and how they fit into a society such as ours, has them experiencing new and foreign moments. Malek incorporates some engaging storytelling through his choreography, and the characters the dancers take on maintain a sophisticated depth to them that I rarely witness in contemporary dance.

This is a physically demanding piece that expects much from its performers who are more than able to rise to the challenge, with the menage-a-trios between Ball, Hicks and Hall highlighting this better than any other sequence in BOYZ. Precision timing is required from all three, as their bodies become one but remain in constant movement. The choreography is so intricate that if one arm or one leg is misplaced even for a second, it would visibly disrupt the flow they have created.

There is a strong Dionysian influence throughout BOYZ, for just like the excesses of the Greek God of wine and ecstasy, the moments shared by the characters on stage are highly intense and passionate, whether it be through drugs, dancing, or with each other. Look deeper and you can see that while these events and the transition into manhood can potentially cause harm and tragedy, they can also be viewed as an opportunity for growth and self-discovery.

The choreography is perfectly timed to music by Danish electronic musician, Trentemøller, which at various times sounds like a rapidly beating heart that’s about to explode. The basic and simple set design by Chris Curran, consisting of a white sofa, table and chairs, is the perfect contrast to the frenetic nature of the characters’ experiences, and together with Curran and Hicks’ costuming and Craig Boyes‘ lighting design, create some evocative aesthetic moments.

While the ending is fitting in itself, with the dancers collapsing into slumberous exhaustion from all they have gone through, it is at a much slower pace than the rest of the show, and as such the overall impact of BOYZ lessens. Cutting the length of the finale would still allow for Malek’s desired effect but would also have us remain completely engaged with the piece.

BOYZ is an hypnotic and honest performance piece that, regardless of sex and sexuality, audiences can strongly relate to in appreciating the events and emotions these five dancers go through. From Malek’s perspective, the world can be a big scary place when you’re set free in it, but it’s the experiences we have, both good and bad, that will ultimately decide who we are and how we can find what we are looking for in life.

Venue: Transit Dance, 2/10 Elizabeth St, Kensington
Season: Until 30 January | Wed – Sat 8.30pm
Tickets: $30 Full | $22 Conc
Bookings: Midsumma Festival