Dance, Reviews, Stage

Strictly Gershwin dance review (QPAC, Brisbane)

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Classical ballet doesn’t get much better than this. Music of Gershwin (think a 20th century Mozart on holiday), stunning costumes, some very good singers, a perfect ballet ensemble, a special piano rap from virtuoso Daniel Le, and Mao’s Last Dancer himself (the Queensland Ballet’s artistic director, Li Cunxin) in attendance, it adds up to a perfect night of dance.

I just managed to get tickets for the Saturday matinee, and that was packed even unto the two top balconies, but I was surprised that there weren’t as many 10-year-olds n the audience as usual. Perhaps it was the top price of $140 a ticket that was putting off the doting parents and grandparents, for these are about the biggest bucks that I can remember for a dance/ballet performance in Brisbane.

Bit this was an over-the-top experience. Not a dead or dying swan in sight, nor ever a frilly white tutu, except for the stark stiff horizontal navy-blue numbers that sliced through the air for the Rhapsody in Blue, but sophisticated costumes of the 1930s by Roberta Guidi di Bagno that caught the mood and the period exactly.

Nor do you expect tap numbers in a ballet, in this case choreographed and performed by the founder of Red Hot Rhythm, Bill Simpson, accompanied by his mate Kris Kerr. But there’s something about the genre that makes toes tap all over the auditorium, and gave us this exciting mixture of dance styles. Not so excited by the concept had been the legendary Fred Astaire, who disapproved of such a fusion of ballet and popular dance, which he dismissed as “inventing up to the arty”.

Well, RIP, dear Fred, for this ENB creation proved just how magical this combination could be. We had Astaire clones, as well as seriously good vocalists Rachael Beck, Michael Falzon, Alexandra Flood and Luke Kennedy, who provided a change from the all-dance numbers, and brought back memories to the older members of the audience, who tried, usually successfully, to keep their hum-alongs subdued enough so as not to disturb the rest of us. And Daniel Le’s show-stopping virtuoso piano rendering of Rhapsody in Blue managed to keep even ebullient conductor Gareth Valentine silent and still in tribute to this great performer. And that’s saying something.

It was bloody brilliant, and the more so because it was so different from the style of ballet that we usually encounter. No time to nod off even for a moment, as jazz ballet succeeded sleepy dance rhythms followed by tap and a corps de ballet straight from musical comedy. Truly something for everybody, and the fact that this production used Brisbane’s own QSO and Queensland Ballet members was yet another feather in the multi-decorated caps of these two local companies.

If ever it needed to be demonstrated that Queensland is up there with the best in world dance, this is it. It finishes on Saturday, so save up your pocket money and get to it if you can. Why, it’s more fun than State of Origin, and they kick higher and better.

[box]Main Image by David Kelly. Strictly Gershwin, words and music by George and Ira Gershwin, performed by the Queensland Ballet. Devised, choreographed and directed by Derek Deane. Music performed by Queensland Symphony Orchestra, adapted, supervised and conducted by Gareth Valentine. At the Lyric Theatre, QPAC until 4 June 2016.[/box]

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