An Arena Spectacular with a Difference

For the first time in its 55- year history, the Australian Ballet will be dancing in an arena-style performance space with Gala Spectacular, a showcase of greatest hits and special treats from the national company.

Adelaide was scheduled to see artistic director David McAllister’s Sleeping Beauty later this year in the Festival Theatre, but the renovations there caused a necessary change of plan. The Entertainment Centre was available, and, by a lucky stroke, so was the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra.

“It’s a new and exciting venue,” McAllister enthused, talking down the line from Melbourne. “With the orchestra up on the stage, we thought, ‘Let’s make it a big sort of gala-y type of event’.”

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Sleeping Beauty will feature in the Gala Spectacular (photo: Kate Longley)

The dancers and the orchestra will be sharing a specially built thrust stage about 12 metres wide and 10 metres deep. “So it’s huge, like the Bolshoi,” McAllister says with a mischievous chuckle. “The orchestra will be on a rostrum on various levels, so it will be a very different viewing experience. And Nicolette [Fraillon, music director,] will be conducting facing a monitor instead of the dancers.”

The audience will be looking down at the dancers and seated in a kind of horseshoe, rather than completely in the round. “All the lighting will be from above,” he says, “so it’s going to be quite an interesting sort of challenge for the staging.”

australian-ballet-gala-spectacular-suite-en-blanc-adelaide-reviewAmber Scott performs in Suite en Blanc (photo: Lynette Wills)

An all-cast ballet and a rigorous test for any classical company, Serge Lifar’s Suite en Blanc, which he produced for the company in 1981, is the final item on the program which begins with another, a recreation by McAllister of his Grand pas Classique, choreographed for the company’s 50th anniversary in 2012. The Sleeping Beauty’s Garland Dance is another ensemble piece leading into the Rose Adage from the same ballet.

The sizzling pas de deux from Don Quixote and the more romantic one from Cinderella are on the program, with a few added characters on stage, girlfriends and boyfriends, to fill up the large space a little more — “two people on a 12-metre wide stage is going to look a bit sparse” — and resident choreographer, Adelaide’s Stephen Baynes, is likely to contribute what McAllister calls a “typically beautiful Stephen Baynes gorgeous lyrical” pas de deux from his 2003 work Molto Vivace, to music by Handel. Choreographer, dramaturge and theatre director Lucas Jervies will give us a preview of his pas de deux for a new production of Spartacus for the Australian Ballet, premiering next year.

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Lucas Jervies’ anticipated Spartacus pas de deux will be previewed at the Gala (photo: Kate Longley)

The multi-talented Jervies, a graduate of both the Australian Ballet School and NIDA, has danced and collaborated on more than 80 contemporary creations here and overseas. At home he choreographed and co-devised Hidden Sydney – The Glittering Mile, described as “an immersive cabaret that celebrates stories from Sydney’s red light district, King’s Cross”, was dramaturge for the Australian Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty, assistant director for Neil Armfield’s King Lear with Geoffrey Rush, artistic director of Buzz Dance Theatre in WA and much more. His Spartacus is awaited with keen anticipation, and we shall be having a foretaste when we see his pas de deux.

A gala like this always has extra excitement. In their pas de deux, the dancers are making short appearances, giving an extra fizz to their performances. We shall be seeing all the principals at each performance. There is much variety in the costumes – the company production centre holds a staggering 30,000 or so and we shall be seeing about 85 in this gala. There will be about 74 dancers, “allowing for who’s pregnant or injured” says McAllister , and next year he hopes the numbers will increase to 77.

Last year, Adelaide had two seasons but the company will be going to China in October 2018 so we will see them only once next year. In the meantime, there should be much to enjoy with this Entertainment Centre gala.

Gala Spectacular
The Australian Ballet
Entertainment Centre
Friday, October 27 and Saturday, October 28
australianballet.com.au

Header image: The Australian Ballet’s Grand pas Classique – Symphony in C (photo: Daniel Boud)

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