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Love conquers all as Qld Ballet tip-toes its way back to live performance

Culture

Queensland Ballet made a triumphant return to the stage on the weekend, with members of the company performing highlights from the recent 60 Dancers: 60 Stories series in an intimate setting at Brisbane Powerhouse on Saturday night.

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The Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre was completely reconfigured for the performances, with a catwalk stage and strategically placed, socially distanced tables giving the venue a cosy “dinner and a show” atmosphere that radiated warmth and intimacy, offering a feeling a safety without invoking sterility.

“I feel rather emotional standing in front of you tonight,” Queensland Ballet artistic director Li Cunxin said in his introduction to the performance.

“Every piece tonight was created by our dancers during their isolation period. Our 60 talented dancers created 60 pieces in their living rooms, bathroom kitchens, balconies, nearby parks … Tonight are some of the highlights.”

Part of the Brisbane Powerhouse’s Lights On series, the hour-long performance consisted of three acts that were all part of the central theme of “love” – “Where is Love?”, “Looking for Love” and “In Love” – and featuring adroit musical accompaniment from Stefanie Gumienik, Brett Sturdy, Nigel Gaynor and Roger Cui.

Each piece in the first act – which was directed by Rani Luther – embraced themes of longing, wonderment, searching, solitude, or hope and was comprised of individual works including Reflection, Afterglow of a Nocturne, Entwine, Introspection, Real Love, Come With and Eros.

Queensland Ballet dancer Lina Kim.

The second act, directed by Matthew Lawrence, featured more light-hearted pieces – including Looking For Love, Encounter, Comrades and Cy-Gents – with a jovial narrative of camaraderie and courting as the dancers search, fantasise, posture and flirt their way to relationships.

The third act was made up of some of the pas de deuxs that had been created for 60 Dancers: 60 Stories, with director Greg Horsman ordering and arranging individual works including Beautiful Sedation, A Love Like Ours, Prelude, and Ave Maria with choreographic style and music in mind to construct a coherent narrative and overall body of works.

Prior to Saturday’s performances, Brisbane Powerhouse artist director Kris Stewart had told InQueensland the intention of the Lights On program was to make the versatile Powerhouse Theatre “feel more like you’re in a business-class lounge”.

The necessity of having to adhere to strict COVID-era hygiene guidelines could have had the inadvertent side-effect of turning what is ordinarily one of the city’s most vibrant venues into a socially sterile space.

On this co-production, Queensland Ballet and Brisbane Powerhouse have managed the difficult task of creating a safe atmosphere that radiates warmth, intimacy and social inclusion while dutifully adhering to the necessary tyrannies of physical distancing.

Isabella Swietlicki and Kohei Iwamoto perform as part of Queensland Ballet’s 60 Dancers: 60 Stories stage performance at Brisbane Powerhouse.

The fact that these performances were envisioned and choreographed by the dancers themselves in social isolation, and cohesively translated back into a theatrical environment, is a testament to the skill, vision and determination of Queensland Ballet’s dancers, directors, musicians and costume designers.

Hopefully it won’t be long before curtains can rise at other cultural spaces but in the meantime, Lights On and similar smaller-capacity events give audiences a rare opportunity to witness some of the state’s most talented artists in some of the most intimate settings they’re ever likely to perform.

As Li said prior to the performance, “In tough times like this, we need love more than any other time and love overcomes all”.

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