The program David Hallberg has curated for his company’s return to its home theatres, Sydney Opera House and Arts Centre Melbourne, is an homage to New York, the city he lived in and loved for two decades and one of the world’s great dance centres. Two works by the great innovator George Balanchine sit side by side with a brand-new work by an innovator of today, the New Yok-based contemporary choreographer Pam Tanowitz. Here’s why you won’t want to miss this jolt of creative energy.
BALLET IS BACK
During the enforced hiatus of 2020, our dancers and staff were working hard behind the scenes to ensure a seamless, stronger-than-ever return to the stage. Despite its difficulties, many of our artists have spoken of their time in COVID-19 lockdown as a period of reflection that reaffirmed their vital connection to our art form and the sheer joy of dancing and performing. And we know that you, our audience members, have been similarly longing to immerse yourself in the unique exchange between stage and auditorium. Real-life ballet! Those of you who attended our Summertime at the Ballet performances in February know there is no thrill like hearing the orchestra tune up and seeing the dancers step out on the stage. Be there when the fabled Sydney Opera House welcomes us back – it’s an historic moment.Amy Harris rehearsing Serenade. Choreography George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photography Christopher Rodgers-Wilson
The variety in this program will spice up your life. We have two very distinct modes of Balanchine: Serenade is the choreographer at his most lyrical, and pays homage to his Russian past with its Tchaikovsky score and whirling lines of long Romantic tutus. The Four Temperaments represents his phase of stripped-back modernity: just leotards, tights and the primacy of the line. Playing with and against Balanchine is Pam Tanowitz's Watermark, both partially inspired by Serenade, a ballet she loves, and a complete change of pace, with unisex costumes and a contemporary vocabulary.Brett Chynoweth. Choreography George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photography Pierre Toussaint
A WORLD PREMIERE
Pam Tanowitz's Watermark comes to us in a flurry of firsts: it's a brand-new work; the first time Tanowitz' acclaimed contemporary choreography has been seen in Australia; and the first commission by our Artistic Director David Hallberg for The Australian Ballet. No time like the first time - and no buzz like the one surrounding a world premiere. Did we mention it's our first time back in Sydney Opera House?Adam Elmes rehearsing Watermark. Photography Lynette Wills
If you've never seen Balanchine before, this is the perfect primer. Two of his most long-lived and lauded works, each of which has been danced and discussed for over half a century, and each of which looks just as fresh today. Both have been taught to the company by world-renowned Balanchine repetiteurs - Sandra Jennings and Victoria Simon - who worked directly with the master. Balanchine lives in the idiosyncratic detail. Watch out for the turned-in feet, bent arms and off-balance poses in The Four Temperaments; even in the more classical Serenade, his characeristic speed, expansive travelling and expressive arms are on glorious display.Ako Kondo. Choreography George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photography Pierre Toussaint
Three ballets means three scores. And not just any scores: music by masters old and new. Where else to start but with Tchaikovsky? His Serenade for Strings in C Major is the majestic and lyrical framework for the clarity of Balanchine's language in Serenade. The score for The Four Temperaments, by the renowned German composer Paul Hindemith, was commissioned by Balanchine as an entertainment at musical salons he gave for his friends. It was only years later that he came to set a ballet to it. The medieval concept of the four temperaments that exist in various degrees in the human body, influencing personality, was only a starting point for both composer and choreographer. Hindemith's score departs from it into soaring, frenetic and angular terrain.
Watermark is by the contemporary American composer Caroline Shaw, the youngest person ever to win the Pulitzer Prize. Her piano concerto Watermark uses Beethoven's Third Piano Concerto as a starting point, weaving in playful references to its structure, instrumentation and cadences into her own work. She says, "I love it when familiar things pop out unexpectedly and then morph into something unfamiliar. It feels like the way dreams work, or flashbacks in cinema, or Dalí's melting clocks."Brett Chynoweth. Choreography George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust. Photography Pierre Toussaint