Dance, News & Commentary

A Dancer’s guide for balance in life and art

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Achieving balance, or at least striving for it is usually regarded as a sign of maturity. For Luanne Hyson, who is the founder and artistic director as well as a principal dancer at the independent Melbourne-based dance company DanceBourne Arts, a desire for balance motivates the approach taken to her art.

In practical terms, says Hyson, balance for DanceBourne Arts involves bringing together classical and contemporary styles as well as featuring professional dancers, choreographers and composers representing all ages and career stages.

Balance is also the title Hyson has given to a new series of three original dance pieces created by leading members of the company. The choreography in each piece emphasises a mature female perspective. The Balance series features original music developed specifically for the pieces by several younger male composers.

In keeping with the company’s collective ethos, each piece is both personal to the dancer who created it and at the same time is the result of extensive workshopping and an intensive process of collaboration.

Hyson herself originated the first piece in the series, entitled Balancé, which she says draws on her training as a young student at the School of American Ballet in New York, and her subsequent experience as a dancer over more than a decade attached to several ballet companies in the US and Europe. “I wanted to choreograph a piece with female dancers en pointe to music I know and adore using the movements and style in which I was trained.”

“This unique style is known as the Balanchine technique, named after George Balanchine. While I was studying I was fortunate to view the New York City Ballet in action and saw most of his ballets performed by huge ballet stars. All this remains in my mind especially the great work Serenade, an absolute masterpiece that was choreographed in 1934 and which was his first work after he immigrated to the US using only students from the School of American Ballet.”

“The first movement of my piece Balancé is prompted by the same famous waltz by Tchaikovsky that Balanchine used in Serenade. Balancé is the classical ballet term for a waltz step that goes down-up-down so there are three movements just like my piece. A balancé is one of the most beautiful as well as most utilised steps in ballet and can be executed in so many different ways.”

“In my piece we only technically use balancé during the very first steps as a group and once as a pair in the second movement. There is, however, a suggestion and feel of a waltz all the way through”.

While she believes that a classical training is vital, it is also the ideal point of departure in creating something new and original.

The other two pieces in the Balance series – each of which was also created by an experienced professional dancer – take a similarly reflective approach, says Hyson.

“Kathleen Skipp has drawn inspirations from her aesthetic response to the ebb and flow of changing seasons. Her work, Lunar Tide, refers to the cyclic and seasonal effects of the natural environment with core themes of change and recurrence.”

The third piece, I Cried Once When the Snow Stopped Falling, which was choreographed and is principally performed by Rain Francis, tells the story she saw reported in the New Zealand media of a man who had died alone and seemingly friendless.

“Among his papers and personal effects were journals of poetry and reflections on the changing seasons. The choreography and music evoke moments of joy and also extreme longing in an isolated yet contemplative life”, explains Hyson.

In addition to highlighting the insights that an experienced dancer’s outlook can bring to choreography and performance, Hyson says she wants to show the audience that the old and the new in dance are not mutually exclusive. While she believes that a classical training is vital, it is also the ideal point of departure in creating something new and original.

“In Melbourne, unfortunately, there appears to be a divide between those dancers labelled classical and those labelled contemporary. Often, it seems, the two don’t mix, understand or appreciate each another. In this program, I am trying to bring them together on the same evening so there is something for everyone in the audience and to demonstrate they can balance one another”.

Balancé, the first work in the Balance series presented by DanceBourne Arts, premieres at The Clocktower Centre in Moonee Ponds in Melbourne on Sunday, July 10.

[box]Main image:(L-R) Chiara Ferri, Beatrice Ramsay, Jarrah McArthur, Luanne Hyson.
Photo by White Space Photographic Studio. [/box]

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