Queensland Ballet’s ‘Raw’ programme this year deals with very raw emotions indeed, that of grief and despair but also hope and resilience.
A triple bill of performance pieces, ‘Raw’ never fails to move with striking images, superb costumes and beautiful choreography. The first piece is ‘No Man’s Land’ choreographed by new Artistic Associate Liam Scarlett (famously of The Royal Ballet) and was originally produced for the centenary of World War I.
Female dancers represent women back home working to produce munitions while the men leave to fight on the front. The men and women are separated and reunited in groups metaphorically or literally throughout depending on interpretation. This happens before one last soldier returns and dances tenderly with the final remaining munitions worker, perhaps never returning for real.
The second piece has long been in gestation with the company, ‘Glass Concerto’ choreographed by Greg Horsman started life as ‘One More Breath’ in the 2013 Dance Dialogues season. It matured further with the addition of a third movement and change of name to be performed at the 2015 Prix de Lausanne. Now it has fully come of age with lighting by Cameron Goerg and costumes by fashion designer George Wu. More contemporary than ‘No Man’s Land’, the setting of the second piece is up to the individual audience member, but once again the male and female dancers seem to draw close and pull away at different times.
The lighting by Goerg makes a significant contribution to the telling of the piece and Wu’s first foray into the world of ballet is as successful as his other achievements have been. When coming up with ideas for the costumes, Wu listened to the sublime accompanying music ‘Violin Concerto’ by Philip Glass.
Noting a sensual quality, the fashion designer decided when people think about sex they think about black lingerie which inspired the costumes he did. Working with a dance company was a learning experience though, as Wu noted the costumes have to be made to make sure things don’t fall out during movement explaining “they can be sexy but not too sexy.”
The third piece ‘Ghost Dances’ with choreography by Christopher Bruce was originally performed in 1981 and tells the story of the horrors of the Pinochet coup in Chile. Revived here to complete the trilogy of ‘Raw’, it remains as powerful and relevant as ever and serves as the most moving of finales.
A mix of contemporary and classical dance with three distinct works, ‘Raw’ appears to have a common thread throughout of lives wrecked and relationships torn apart by either war, tyranny or something more abstract. It is regularly emotionally engaging and the dancers are a sight to behold.
Since being appointed Artistic Director in July 2012, Li Cunxin and the rest of the company have been working hard to create something special here.
If it wasn’t obvious to them before, audience members will leave ‘Raw’ knowing one simple fact – Brisbane is incredibly privileged to be home to the very special Queensland Ballet and its talented creatives.
Queensland Ballet’s ‘Raw’ plays at Queensland Performing Arts Centre until 25 March.