The suggestion of opulence in hand
Once more Gracia has me in awe of her self-described collaged words for Fjord Review. This time, she has written about The Australian Ballet's recent double bill, Imperial Suite. To whet your appetite, here is a little bit:
Our self-confessed borrower of many things, Balanchine saw no shame in taking a bit from here and there, for this was process. He tips his hat at jazz and Lindy Hop dancers (as we saw in The Four Temperaments (1946)), and he transforms it and makes it his own. Much like a collagist, to me, he created collages with music and the human body and fused them together to make something not possible without the other; to make something unique.
With this in mind, Ballet Imperial assumes a dreamlike quality. It is like seeing the world as I imagined it looked in 1941, one aspect of it, polished and at its absolute prettiest. So keenly does it evoke the period that I feel as if I have been transported to its premiere in Rio, South America, to a performance that received "a rapturous reception and 18 curtain calls..." Ballet Imperial has since gone through several transformations. The bejewelled tutus have been replaced with long flowing white chiffon swathes, the cavalier no longer sports "lace sleeves and a collar of white ermine," and the set that conveyed a sense of the inward-looking Winter Palace has been stripped. For a production staged by New York City Ballet in 1973, the name of the work was altered to reflect this shift and the music that is its source, Piano Concerto No. 2. But in this production, presented as part of Imperial Suite, we are seeing it as it first appeared at that premiere. In its original guise, the tutus and tiaras are back in place, so too the suggestion of the Neva River beyond, blue and shimmering.
And so here we have, in Ballet Imperial, a remodelled version of a Russia that no longer exists, and it is a sumptuous meld of all the things one thinks of when one thinks of Balanchine and his choreography: pure classicism bound to modernity. Reminiscent of theatre of the silver screen, which presented as something of a dream during wartime, rationing, and the Great Depression, there is something of this pure and extravagant escapism to be seen as Adam Bull sends a gentle ripple down two threads of dancers. Orchestrated ensembles form squares, diamonds, and circles on the stage, further illustrating to me the idea that "dance is music made visible”. As new formations assemble, the impression is not unlike looking through a cinematic kaleidoscope.
And to continue reading, you know the drill, please head here or here or here.
You can read other responses to dance pieces here and here, and you can pick up a copy of our collaborative zine celebrating Balanchine's Ballet Imperial, The suggestion of opulence, through our online store.
Speaking of our store, come Monday morning we are having a HUGE sale. We're making room for all the new projects we have in mind. It'll be big, so keep posted.