Queensland National Ballet
The Old Museum Concert Hall
Thursday July 26 2012
Reviewed by Michelle Bull
“Dance is a tool for expressing myself totally, for being, breathing, living, becoming myself.”
Classical Ballet and Contemporary dance collide in the latest offering by the Queensland National Ballet Company. Conceived by the Company’s Artistic Director and Choreographer, Martyn Fleming, Interfused explores the dynamics and intimacies of four relationships, exposed within the stark landscape of an everyday urban environment.
Set in the Concert Hall of Brisbane’s Old Museum, the minimalistic set design was reminiscent of an open plan office, complete with furniture and obligatory props. Using the set to create stage levels that showed the characters’ hierarchy within the environment, levels were used functionally and effectively as a means of creating shape, line and focus points that added further dimension to the individual narratives.
My only disappointment with the design of this production was more of a logistical one. As the production was set on a considerably raised stage with the audience seated below, it meant that while most of the choreography was easily in view, anything floor level was unable to be seen by much of the audience. A shame to miss these moments!
Martyn Fleming’s choreography is highly charged and yet balanced in terms of providing the audience with moments of both excitement and reflection. While the logistics of the space meant the audience viewed the work as observers and were not intimately involved in the piece, this did give the work a sense of voyeurism as we watched the inevitable outcomes of the relationships played out onstage, the choreography effectively depicting the struggle between passion, determination and vulnerability of each of the characters. With such an architecturally commanding space as the Old Museum though, I wondered about the possibilities of the staging of this work differently to allow the audience into the onstage environment?
The contemporary influences of this work were supported by a sound design that combined modern sounds with industry noises like phones and typewriters, adding to the creation of the onstage ‘office’. I was instantly attracted to the production’s reoccurring musical motif, U2’s With or Without You; a contemporary musical commentary that seemed to speak a truth of each relationship and that continued to return with varying instrumentation throughout the production, reminding us of the nature of the characters’ emotional connections.
While the dancers onstage ranged in levels of experience, and this was occasionally noticeable in the finer details and precision of their performance, together they sustained a dynamic onstage energy that responded with a strong sense of ensemble and awareness of space.
Of all the dancers, Talia Fowler in the role of Audrey was a compelling performer to watch and one I found myself drawn to continuously. The precision of her movement and holistic engagement with character brought a sense of honesty and depth to her role that exuded professionalism and artistic refinement.
Playing opposite as love interest Whyatt, Pryce Brown gave an equally dynamic performance both in his commitment to character and technical execution of the role. Exuding seemingly effortless strength and a wonderful sense of line, Brown also demonstrated a holistic approach to the role. Combined with a strong onstage chemistry with Fowler, the progression of this onstage relationship was completely convincing, and my personal favourite dynamic of the night.
Despite the bar being set high by Fowler and Brown, each of the other soloists were strong in their roles and undeniably capable in technical skill and onstage energy. Jade Handy in the role of work experience girl, Chloe, and Nathan Mennis as the friendly janitor, Steve, were also standouts of the night. Handy’s grace and delicacy were stunningly beautiful and Mennis moved throughout the space with a balance of lightness and strength that allowed him to completely own his solo moments.
Tracey Myles-Whittington and Martin Collyer as colleagues and love interests Maria and Ben both gave strong and focused performances. Likewise Ashleigh Thomason and Chris Lam enjoyed a tumultuous journey that they handled with skill and wonderful sense of pace. I should mention here that Lam’s performance was enhanced by his expression and emotional transparency evident in both his face and body, adding truth and believability to his characterisation of the role.
Towards the end of the production, as the four couples took centre stage and a soft instrumental version of With or Without You played out, each couple showed a delicacy and grace that was testament to their individual skill as dancers.
Overall, Interfused is a wonderful example of how classical styles and contemporary influences can be fused to create work that communicates universal themes reflective of our modern day world. It is through this exploration and idea of possibility that the dance world continues to evolve and reach new audiences, and I am excited to see these young and talented performers continue to support this. I look forward to seeing the next creation by Martyn Fleming and more from Queensland National Ballet Company’s talented young performers; I shall definitely catch their next production.