Queensland Ballet: Li’s Choice

QB-Glass-Concerto-Yanela-Piñera-Patricio-Revé-David-Power-and-Joel-Woellner-photo-by-David-KellyQueensland Ballet Company celebrated a decade of Artistic Directorship by Li Cunxin AO with the opening night of Li’s Choice on Friday 10 June at Queensland Performing Arts Centre. The three wonderful works presented were all personally and appropriately selected by Li himself.

Choreographed by Greg Horsman, the evening commenced with Glass Concerto. In keeping with the neoclassical context of minimalism, there were no lavish sets or costumes. The paring back of dance wear to basic, black leotards showed the audience the physical perfection of form and movement attained by this, at peak, ballet company.

Six dancers were selected for this piece: Principals, Yanela Pinera and Joel Woellner were respectively partnered by Senior Soloists, Patricio Reve and Mia Heathcote. First Company Artists, David Power and Chiara Gonzalez completed the sextet in this opening performance.

Muscles rippled, shone and moved in synchronicity to Philip Glass’ Violin Concerto. It was a visual display of the aesthetics of strength, grace and timing when captured and controlled by a skilled choreographer and performed by excellent dancers.

We saw and felt the beauty and strength of a performance which is solely a presentation of dance seriously and soberly executed in the absence of character, role or hierarchy. Big commendations to David and Chiara for their ability to beautifully blend in with the skill level of the more experienced dancers.

QB-We-Who-Are-Left-Shaun-Curtis-photo-by-David-KellyWe who are Left is choreographed by Natalie Weir. Basic black gave way to ghostly, loose-fitting, whites and blues in this, set in WW1, interpretative piece.

It was as though the male dancers were stripped down to their undergarments, complete with puttees (which constantly brought to my mind the winding of bandages over wounds.)

There were military drills to train and strengthen the body of the individual and unit to face the fighting and dying which we, as audience, sadly knew lay ahead.

It was painful. It was poignant. It was history portrayed in dance: WW1 when so many signed up and so many were horribly lost. Often mere boys who had presented themselves as men in a misguided thirst for adventure and travel. Even the lonely, living horror of what was then known as ‘Shell Shock’ was strikingly portrayed.

The dancers, like the soldiers back then, were so very young and physically, so very perfect. Devoid of identifying uniform or patriotic flag, they really epitomised the ‘universal soldier’.

In the absence of mud and blood, disfigurement and decay, they were like just washed, freshly laid out bodies on the verge of committal forever to the grave. At one point there seemed to be a pile of undeniably beautiful bodies.

The veil between past and present, the living and the dead, seemed to wave thin during this heart wrenching work when lost loves reached toward each other and almost touched one last time. Li himself, at the post performance reception described this work as ‘emotional’ and added that ‘he was a mess’. Me too.

QB-Elite-Syncopations-photo-by-David-KellyElite Syncopations was a welcome, much needed opportunity to once again behold bold colours and to feel mirth. This extraordinary work was choreographed by the legendary, late, Sir Kenneth MacMillan.

At times it utilised the full cast of Company Dancers. It was a ragtime gaiety of kaleidoscopic colour and quirky costumes and characters.

It was gorgeous in its joyfulness and playfulness. A fitting celebration for Li and aptly selected to conclude the evening. It was delightfully filled with humour and acrobatic moments and movements.

In contrast to the first two performances with their sense of anonymity, we saw the dancers as individuals, rich with fun, personality and character.

Covid aside, what a wonderful ten years it has been for Queensland Ballet with Li Cunxin AO at the Artistic helm of Directorship. Even when impacted by Covid, he has nobly and skilfully steered his company to safety and success.

Thank you Li Cunxin for your leadership and for committing to stay on for another three years in your current role. Under your guidance, Queensland Ballet has indeed become a world class company. You have done us all proud. Congratulations!

Li’s Choice
Playhouse – Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC), Russell Street, South Brisbane
Performance: Friday 10 June 2022
Season continues to 25 June 2022
Information and Bookings: www.queenslandballet.com.au

Images: Yanela Piñera, Patricio Revé, David Power and Joel Woellner in Glass Concerto | Shaun Curtis in We Who Are Left | Artists of the Queensland Ballet in Elite Syncopations – all photos by David Kelly

Review: Michele-Rose Boylan