The Australian Ballet’s new triple bill, Faster, exemplifies the pace and complexity of 2017 life. It also offers audiences a chance to pause and appreciate a display of incredible physicality, deep intelligence and pure emotion – elements that can get lost in our hyper-connected, 24-7, technology driven world.
Opening act Faster celebrates the immense capabilities of the human form. It was first created for the Birmingham Royal Ballet by choreographer David Bintley in 2012, and was inspired by the ‘Faster, Higher, Stronger’ motto of the London Olympics. The piece emulates a variety of sports from high jump to basketball, and culminates in a ‘marathon’ with every dancer sprinting to the finish.
Ballet imitating sport could have been a gimmick. However, thanks to the dynamic allegro (jumps), soaring partner work, and display of sheer endurance as the dancers kept pace with Matthew Hindson’s frenetic score, it was elevated to mastery.
The speed moderates with Tim Harbour’s Squander and Glory, although the dancers’ capabilities are still pushed to the edge. Set to an intriguing score, Weather One by Michael Gordon, and featuring a mirrored backdrop designed by architect Kelvin Ho, it explores how the energy of living organisms can be expansive, then quickly lost.
On opening night, Vivienne Wong danced with power, while Kevin Jackson evoked strength, and the small cast, dressed in striking diamond-cut-out leotards by Peggy Jackson, gave Harbour’s fresh choreography everything they had.
After the speed of Faster and intrigue of Squander and Glory, the final piece Infra calmed the mood and provoked thought. Created by Wayne McGregor to get ‘under the surface’ of cities, and into the hearts of the people that inhabit them, the work focused on how people form dialogue and express emotions.
A scrolling LED screen showed computerised images of people continuously walking, as if crossing a busy intersection. On stage, the dancers dressed in simple leotards, singlets and shorts were connecting in groups or pairs. The lyrical movements, performed to piano-punctuated music by Max Richter, were maturely executed with deep emotion by an expert cast including Chengwu Guo, Robyn Hendricks, Adam Bull and Amy Harris.
AB artistic director David McAllister writes in the program notes that the triple bill was designed to not only reflect today’s chaotic world, but also the ability of the dancers to adapt to evolving demands on their bodies and minds. The three pieces combined to achieve this, while also reminding the audience to pause and reflect on our own humanity.