The Australian Ballet

7 Reasons to see Filigree and Shadow

As part of our contemporary program Verve, we revived the hectic, headlong, menacing Filigree and Shadow by Tim Harbour, one of The Australian Ballet’s three resident choreographers. So what’s it all about?

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Simon Plant and Alice Topp. Photography Justin Ridler

The Filigree

Reflecting the pace of information in the modern age, Tim’s choreography is fast, dense, multi-focused and intricate. He says, “A lot of the movement sits in the upper body, and the articulation you can get just from using your wrists, fingers, elbows and shoulders. That creates a kind of filigree around the core form of the torso and the legs – those arms create an embroidery around the body.”

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Simon Plant and artists of The Australian Ballet rehearsing Filigree and Shadow. Photography Lynette Wills

The Shadow

Tim describes the work as a “catharsis” for difficult emotions like fear and anger. “There’s a dark imperative to a lot of my emotional intentions [in this piece]. I’ve gone to that vicious, angry, frustrated place to generate some of these movements.” You can feel this force running through the work.

The Dancers

Twelve dancers, throwing their all at this hurtling, complex choreography. It’s exhilarating to watch. Soloist Jill Ogai says of Tim’s work, “I love the raw athleticism and power of his movement.”

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Jill Ogai rehearsing Filigree and Shadow. Photography Lynette Wills

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Artists of The Australian Ballet in Filigree and Shadow. Photography Jeff Busby

The Set: Kelvin Ho

One of the concepts that inspired Tim to make Filigree and Shadow was the way birds survive a cyclone – by flying right into its heart, where they’re funnelled out of the top and into calmer air. Kelvin Ho, one of Australia’s leading interior architects, has interpreted that notion in a dramatically simple curve sitting in a square.

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Kelvin Ho working on the set model for Filigree and Shadow. Photography Kelly Geddes

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Karen Nanasca and Cameron Hunter in Filigree and Shadow. Photography Kate Longley

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Jasmin Durham and artists of The Australian Ballet. Photography Jeff Busby

The Costumes: Monochromatic Chic

When Tim created the concept for his ballet’s costumes, his main idea was simplicity and darkness. But we think the high-necked charcoal leotards, worn with black socks and sheer black hosiery (for both women and men), are the height of style.

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48nord at work

The Score: 48nord

German guys making electronica might make you picture Kraftwerk … but the score that the duo 48nord have composed especially for Filigree and Shadow sounds more like dramatic film music. Tim says: “It’s almost hyperbolic, it’s just so over the top in its drama. I just think that’s fantastic for theatre. I listen to their music and it makes my pulse quicken.”

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Tim Harbour making Filigree and Shadow. Photography Lynette Wills

Knives, Caves and Carcasses

To inflect the choreography with the feeling he was after, Tim gave the dancers certain images to work with. He asked them to imagine they were confined in a cave or that they were butchers with razor-sharp arms, carving through a vast carcass. This gives the movement “a delicious tangibility”.