Vitesse pushing the boundaries of ballet

Australian Ballet VitesseThree uniquely masterful works combine to create a heart-pounding night of modern ballet, as The Australian Ballet shakes the artform to its foundations in Vitesse at Arts Centre Melbourne from 11 March, before playing at the Sydney Opera House from 26 April 2016.

Christopher Wheeldon’s DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse evokes the flickering intensity of a high-speed train as it passes through a tunnel; Jirí Kylián’s haunting and fluid Forgotten Land explores loss and change with long swirling dresses in a desolate seascape; and William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated is sleek and dangerous, pushing beyond the bounds of ballet technique with a superhuman force.

“Kylian, Forsythe and Wheeldon have each taken 19th-century ballet technique and used it to create these three influential contemporary works,” says The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director, David McAllister. “Following our recent Chroma and 20:21 seasons, Vitesse will showcase our Company at their most powerful and athletic.”

An Australian premiere, Christopher Wheeldon’s 2006 DGV: Danse à Grande Vitesse is set to a score by celebrated British composer Michael Nyman, which Nyman created for the inauguration of the north European line of France’s Train à grande vitesse (TGV). Inspired by the disappearance and emergence of a train passing through a tunnel, Wheeldon’s work sees dancers hurtling from detailed mass ensemble work to finely wrought pas de deux against a steely minimal set.

Beloved by dancers and audiences for poetic works such as After the Rain, last performed by The Australian Ballet in 2011, Wheeldon is one of the most celebrated choreographers working today. He is Artistic Associate of The Royal Ballet, London, and has created dance pieces for Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Dutch National Ballet and Pennsylvania Ballet.

In 2007 he founded Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company and became the first British choreographer to create a new work for the Bolshoi Ballet. In 2012 he collaborated with Marriott on the closing ceremony of the London Olympic Games. Wheeldon has been the recipient of a Tony Award, a London Critics’ Circle Award and an Olivier Award.

Jirí Kylián’s Forgotten Land is an emotional, nocturnal vision recalling times passed, lost lands and loved ones, and the ebb and flow of the tides. The piece draws inspiration from an Edvard Munch painting of a woman alone on a barren shore. Benjamin Britten’s Sinfonia da Requiem sets a mournful tone as couples entwine and part, by turns fluid and furious, in dramatic hues of black, white and red. Forgotten Land is the sombre counterpoint to Petite Mort and Sechs Tänze, hits of The Australian Ballet’s 2014 season of Chroma.

Czech choreographer Jirí Kylián was artistic director of Nederlands Dans Theater from 1975 to 1999, and remained the company’s house choreographer for a further ten years. As well as dozens of works created for NDT, he has choreographed for Stuttgart Ballet, the Paris Opéra Ballet, Munich Bayerisches Staatsballett and Tokyo Ballet. His awards and honours include Officer of the Royal Dutch Order of Orange-Nassau, an honorary doctorate from the Juilliard School in New York, and the Honorary Medal from the President of the Czech Republic.

William Forsythe’s ground-breaking In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated was commissioned by Rudolf Nureyev for the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1987 and made international stars of Forsythe and the leading cast, which included Sylvie Guillem. Chic and dangerous, nine dancers prowl the stage, their rapid-fire solos and duets pulling focus from one another and extending beyond balletic technique in ways that rattled the dance world at the work’s Paris premiere. Forsythe’s close collaborator on over 60 ballet scores, Thom Willems provides the propulsive electronic soundtrack.

William Forsythe was appointed Resident Choreographer of Stuttgart Ballet in 1976. In 1984, he became director of the Ballet Frankfurt, and after the company’s closure twenty years later he established a new ensemble, The Forsythe Company, which he directed from 2005 to 2015.

Forsythe and his ensembles have been the recipients of the Laurence Olivier Award, the Wexner Prize, the Golden Lion of the Venice Biennale, the Samuel H Scripps/American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement, the Hessische Kulturpreis, and the Swedish Carina Ari Medal. Forsythe was given the title of Commandeur des Arts et Lettres by the government of France and has received the German Distinguished Service Cross.

State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. KIlda Road, Melbourne
Season: 11 – 21 March 2016
Bookings: 1300 182 183 or online at:

Joan Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney
Season: 26 April – 16 May 2016
Bookings: 1300 369 741 or online at:

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Imogen Chapman – photo by Justin Ridler