LIFE

Dancers Ditch Pointe Shoes For Runners In New Australian Ballet, 'Faster'

This is no Nutcracker.

18/03/2017 6:59 AM AEDT | Updated 18/03/2017 4:15 PM AEDT

While a ballet dancer may spend a great deal of his or her time onstage in pointe shoes, there comes a time and a place for those fail-safe runners, neon crops and baggy shorts.

Like in 'Faster', The Australian Ballet's latest contemporary production that opened in Melbourne on Friday night. This is ballet in top gear.

"Dancers are elite sportspeople; they don't run around tracks but they do show it on stage," Artistic Director David McAllister told The Huffington Post Australia ahead of the show's dress rehearsal.

"Faster is an interesting take on our dancers where we use the analogy of sport to show their athleticism and dynamism. Given the sport-crazed nature of people in Australia, I thought this would be a great show to bring into our repertoire."

Jeff Busby
Super-charged, yet so delicate.

Created by David Bintley, Artistic Director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and inspired by the London Olympics in 2012, the work imitates the movements of elite Olympic sports.

"There are very obvious sporting references, from aerials (or gymnasts) to synchronised swimmers," McAllister said.

The dancers have to be in peak physical condition.

'Faster' opens with a team of female fencers, decked out in white.

Later, 30 odd dancers imitate the movements of track and field athletes by jogging in unison for fifteen minutes, to the pulsing rhythm of a building orchestral score by Australian composer, Matthew Hindson.

Quickly, the scene becomes cinematic.

Jeff Busby
Now this isn't something you see everyday.

From beginning to end, the one-act ballet is a reflection of the physical -- a theme tying together two other works that sit alongside 'Faster' in the company's latest contemporary suite.

'Squander and Glory', a commissioned piece by resident choreographer Tim Harbour, also made its world premiere on Friday night.

"It's another pared back, athletic piece," says McAllister. "It plays with the idea of creating dance, whereby the act of making a beautiful work involves a whole lot of effort (the squander) that no one gets to see. The glory is the final result."

Jeff Busby
"To make interesting work, there is always the collateral energy that inspires it."

Joining Faster and Squander and Glory is 'Infra', a ballet created by Wayne Macgregor for the Royal Ballet in 2008.

"Wayne's physicality is unique; he is very interested in the human condition. One of his jumping points was the London Bombings in 2005 and how this event impacted not only the self but the community," McAllister said.

"These are three really different works in themselves but they also come together through their focus on the dynamism of a dancer's body and how that can be reflected to tell stories."

The whole idea of the pared back body and the beauty of movement being highlighted is really appealing to audiences.

And they offer a different take beyond the tutus and tendus of traditional ballet.

"Over the last decade, interest in contemporary works has lifted. People who have already seen the classics like to see a new take on what else ballet can do," McAllister said.

"We also attract those people who may think that tutus and sequins are out of their interest. The whole idea of the pared back body and the beauty of movement being highlighted is really appealing to audiences."

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