Usually based in Melbourne, the Australian Ballet is currently residing at the Sydney Opera House for the first of two Sydney seasons this year. They have premiered two ambitious works: first delivering a month-long season of Stephen Baynes’ “Swan Lake,” followed by “Vitesse,” a triple bill of contemporary works, including William Forsythe’s “In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated.” In the very same week of “Vitesse’s” premiere, the Australian Ballet gave us “Symphony in C,” an evening of divertissements followed by George Balanchine’s stunning ballet from 1947, lending its name to the programme. For the third opening night within a month, I’m sure it wasn’t just me who wondered whether this was going to be a somewhat weary company performing what looked to be an ambitious assortment of work.
“Symphony in C” opened with “Scent of Love,” a world premiere choreographed by company member Richard House. A striking red dress fills the stage. It proves a dreamy piece delivered by two couples. Next up is the showier pas de deux, “Grand Pas Classique.” A crowd favourite, the variation is often seen performed in competitions by up-and-coming dancers. On opening night it was danced by Miwako Kubota and Brett Chynoweth. Both have a wonderful stage presence and technique, but sadly Kubota couldn’t find her legs on opening night.
The stand-out of the divertissements, and indeed the evening, was Alice Topp’s new work, “Little Atlas.” Contemporary in style, “Little Atlas” is for a trio (two male dancers and one female dancer), who interact around a central halo of lights. Rudy Hawkes, Kevin Jackson and Vivienne Wong delivered. Together they moved seamlessly around the stage, their movements spell-binding, as bodies intertwined. Wong was astounding in her technical ability and interpretation of the work. As the piece came to a close, I heard a young girl behind me gasp to her mum, “that was amazing!” With clever choreography, it was the type of piece that truly inspires dancers. Topp, whose work has previously been seen in the Australian Ballet’s emerging choreographer programme, “Bodytorque,” is currently a member of the corps. Clearly talented, the Australian Ballet is lucky to have her within their ranks.
Rounding out the mixed works were pas de deux, “Diana and Actéon” and Christopher Wheeldon’s “After The Rain,” to music by Arvo Pärt. “Diana and Actéon” was danced by real-life partners Chengwu Guo and Ako Kondo. Another highlight; Kondo continues to grow in confidence since her promotion to principal this time last year. Guo drew cheers from the audience as he flew through the air; his jumps almost acrobatic. The other notable performance was Robyn Hendricks in “After The Rain.” Why Hendricks hasn’t been promoted to principal is somewhat baffling—she is consistently mesmerising, both in her technical ability and her engaging stage presence.
Balanchine’s “Symphony in C” opens to ten ballerinas adorned in pristine white tutus—gasp-worthy indeed. From there the work moves through four movements of Georges Bizet’s Symphony in C, each building in pace and difficulty. The unmistakable Balanchine choreography moves at an astonishing pace, and can pose a challenge to companies who are not New York City Ballet. However, the Australian Ballet demonstrated they are up to the task, giving us an immensely enjoyable, rousing performance. The entire company on stage in the ballet’s final moments is nothing short of joyous.
“Symphony in C” programme reveals not only the stamina and technical ability, but the versatility of the company’s dancers who were equally convincing in contemporary and classical genres. And in Balanchine’s delightful “Symphony in C,” one experiences the Australian Ballet at their ballet best.