Review: Chroma (The Australian Ballet)

Venue: Sydney Opera House (Sydney NSW), Apr 30 – May 17, 2014
Choreographers: Wayne McGregor (CHROMA), Stephen Baynes (ART TO SKY), Jiří Kylián (PETITE MORT and SECH TÄNZE)
Image by Jess Bialek

Theatre review
The programme begins with Wayne McGregor’s 2006 work, Chroma. Set against the powerful and aggressive music of Joby Talbot and Jack White III, this very modern ballet is instantaneously captivating. Its exquisite set is designed by John Pawson, evoking sensibilities proffered by the minimalist art movement. Covered in white and with its corners rounded off, the stage glows with a warm and quiet spirituality that finds a strange harmony with the vigorous soundscape conducted by Nicolette Fraillon. The dance creates a new grammar based on the balletic form. It is characterised by a dynamic desire for freedom, and it seeks in movement, the expression of all that is beautiful, emotive, and sublime. Inspired by a concept of nothingness, what transpires is a process of distillation with an outcome that displays honesty and necessity. The dance is fresh and new, but it is at no point hollow. There is an originality in its shapes and tempo that seems completely natural, even though it intends to break new aesthetic ground. McGregor’s earth shattering creation is a true work of art, but more than that, its deeply transcendent quality affects us as though it is by nature, sacred.

Stephen Baynes’ new piece Art To Sky is considerably more traditional. It is impressively technical, and the dancers’ athleticism is wonderfully pronounced here. The most well rehearsed and precisely performed work of the night, it showcases the company in glorious light. Chengwu Guo’s solo sequence is remarkably powerful, executed with great flair and exactness. An exceptionally tender pas de deux featuring Madeleine Eastoe and Andrew Killian is touching in its passionate fluidity, and sensitively embellished by the talents of lighting designer Rachel Burke.

Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián is featured twice. His Petite Mort (1991) is as sensual as the title suggests, but also unpredictable. Surprising movements, coupled with unconventional combinations of the dancers’ bodies make for startling and breathtaking beauty. There is however, a lack of depth with its realisation on this stage. The performers require a more thorough engagement with the work to muster a greater range of subtleties to exalt more life. Kylián’s Sechs Tänze (1986) is a delightful and theatrical creation that is equal parts camp humour and extraordinary choreographic innovation. It is engaging, provocative and endlessly fascinating, and the dancing seems to be particularly enthusiastic for this section. This morsel of genius is undeniably the perfect choice for closing the show on a high note.