Kat of the Musicals

My most favourite ballet that I’ve seen so far <3, and the discovery of my now favourite Ballerino Guo Chengwu (even though he arged that One Piece was better than Bleach- ha!)

Originally posted on The AU Review.

The Dream is a beautiful adaption of Shakespeare’s classic tale of whimsical lovers quarrels amid a magical midsummer’s night. In The Australian Ballet’s latest adaption the tale is brought to life within a beautiful forest setting full of characters demonstrating the physicality, charm and lightness through dance that one can easily imagine of the original tale. The night is divided into three distinct ballets, with Monotones II and Symphonic Variations preceding the main act of The Dream.

Monotones II is simple in execution and very precise, with three dancers clad in white body suits- two male, one female. The dance is elegant and concentrates on controlled flexibility. The two males provide a support for the female as she turns around on the spot in full extension.

The second, Symphonic Variations, is a little more lively. The dance is comprised of sharp fast movements, dispersed with moments of held pause, and reminds me ever so slightly of Irish dancing. The partner work is splendid, with plenty of lifts and turns. There is a fabulous moment of such synchronicity with Amber Scott and Ako Kondo, and the short solo from Brett Chynoweth was probably my favourite part of the piece.

Both pre-ballets were both splendid in their own right, but by intermission I was certainly looking forward to being swept away into a storyline! Time for The Dream!

The adapted tale follows the four young Athenians- Hermia, Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, as they are caught up in their tangled love lives. Nearby the King of the Fairies Oberon and his Queen Titania are having their lovers quarrel. Oberon intends to humiliate Titania with the juice of a flower, which will cause her to fall in love with the first thing she sees- which turns out to be a mule-headed man. Chaos ensues! Eventually everything is set to rights once more, with all couples rightly matched and the royal quarrel resolved.

There is something so right about the tale brought to life through dance- for these are characters of magic and whimsy, and the beautiful dewy forest stage, soft costumes and dazzling ballet (Fredrick Ashton) is perfectly dream-like. Mendelssohn’s score sets the piece to charm its audiences, with the right amount of playfulness and etherealness. It’s all a wonderfully magical experience.

This is a ballet that is very much to be enjoyed. There are no tragedies or unrequited loves here! The Dream takes you on a beautiful journey through a well-known tale, a tale which is given new life through the choreography of the dance. It is sure to make you giggle, sigh wistfully and gasp a little in awe at the performers.

Madeleine Eastoe in the role of Titania is sweet and beautiful- she sweeps across the stage and you can’t help but feel charmed by her. Titania is accompanied by her company of fairies, and when the rows line up together to perform in perfect synchronicity the effect is beautiful.

The real stars of this ballet though, are its men. Kevin Jackson as Oberon is perfect, he is able to capture and balance both gracefulness and authority in his dance. His heavy breathing near curtain close is well justified- with several long displays of talent and technique.

The Dream is of course known for its requirement for a male dancer to go on point, in the character of the transformed mule-headed man Bottom. This is taken on board by Joseph Chapman who does an absolutely incredible job. His character is absolutely hilarious, and Chapman’s ability to achieve this hilarity through the slightest quirks, antics and on-point shuffles, all from the shoulders down, is highly applaudable.

But the true standout for me is Chengwu Guo in the role of Puck. Guo is simply a delight to see perform, with a technique and skill that is absolutely jaw dropping. His abilities seem to be that of both a professional ballet dancer and world-class gymnast, with this almost inhuman height to his jumps and such strength in the preciseness of all of his movements. In the character of Puck, Guo is so animated and charming with a large cheeky grin and mischievous shrugs. A true performer- best at both his art and in his ability to delight and entertain his audience (who cheered very enthusiastically in response). I must say I have become quite a fan of Guo’s (I also saw him in Giselle recently) and would most definitely be making an effort to see any of his future performances.

Seeing a ballet live is an absolutely enchanting experience, listening to the little squeak of the ballet shoes against the floor amongst the sweeping music of the live orchestra, seeing the dazzling costumes against the backdrop of a magnificent set… The Dream is exactly the type of ballet that makes little girls want to grow up to be ballerinas. And with dancers like Jackson and Guo, hopefully little boys too.

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