REVIEW: The Australian Ballet Presents VANGUARD

Mesmerising modern ballet reaches new audiences

By Ross Larkin

Few art forms command the same degree of discipline as that of dance. The absence of external tools, leaving solely the body as instrument, requires as much stability and fine-tuning as any solidly, hand-crafted alternative. The commitment is therefore not only a full-time one, but one which must be lived and breathed.


The Australian Ballet showcase this lifestyle to its full extent in their current production of Vanguard at the State Theatre. Three strikingly different pieces are presented back to back by highly accomplished choreographers George Balanchine, Jiri Kylian and Wayne McGregor with a beautifully, flawless outcome.

Opening with ‘The Four Temperaments’, originally choreographed by George Balanchine, performers are exposed under a stark, white light for the duration, with no external theatrical aids, save for the varied and glorious accompanying Orchestra Victoria. Viewers are hard-pressed to withdraw focus from the dancers’ palpable control and beautiful unity displayed with seemingly effortless execution.

Second offering, ‘Bella Figura’, raises the bar to stunning and mesmerising heights that impact the audience almost conspicuously. Rarely does one witness such effortless command of an audience’s attention. The moments of stillness and silence were breathtaking and captivating, and, unlike its predecessor, dramatic lighting and clever use of external elements were present in abundance, with particularly intriguing use of stage curtains.

The poignant direction of Kylian’s choreography encapsulated tasteful eroticism and tenderly seductive bodily engagement throughout, with unexpected comical moments in the form of puppetry dance.

Third piece, ‘Dyad 1929’, faces the challenge of following the former spectacular act, and initially feels slightly random and less focused, as the ensemble move frenziedly about a black polka-dot background to jarring, discordant music. Further into McGregor’s piece, however, the focus materialises with spirited passion and the gorgeously fluid dance proves as striking as its cousins, climaxing with the first male interaction of the evening.

The entire ensemble of Vanguard, each present for all acts, are graceful and flawless. Daniel Gaudiello, Lana Jones, Miwako Kubota and Calvin Hannaford leave impacting and lasting impressions, though every performer is worthy of mention.

Powerful and accessible, the Australian Ballet’s production of Vanguard is an experience deserving of a universal audience, and succeeds in moving viewers across all emotions.

Vanguard is playing now at the Arts Centre’s State Theatre with Orchestra Victoria until June 17, 2013