(Steller)

On Kunstkamer

(Articles & Program Notes)
Published – 16.06.2022
(Writing)

Sometimes, a piece of art comes along that takes you utterly by surprise - it’s breadth, humanity, humour shock you back into yourself, reminding you why you do what you do, why you live and breathe art in such an all-consuming way. Without sentimentality, but with piles of heart, The Australian Ballet’s production of Kunstkamer was that piece for me on Thursday evening. It was cold, and I was tired, and was (in a move many arts administrators would know) carrying two pull-up banners with me, that I knew would be a pain to check. All of those ingredients pointed to an average night, a night that I very easily could have rang in sick for - stayed home licking my wounds. But an intrepid friend and a deep curiosity about the music curation of this particular work kept me out, kept me anticipating. I checked those banners, and got on with the show. The show itself was tremendous, pulling me out of my apathetic funk and then some. What choreographers Paul Lightfoot, Sol León, Crystal Pite and Marco Goecke, alongside lighting designers Tom Bevoort, Udo Haberland and Tom Visser have achieved with this work is tremendous; it was, to my non-balletic eyes, the platonic ideal of theatre. It was warm in its abstraction, and welcoming in its far-reaching references. The choreography itself bounced between pure strength and athleticism, to humour and pathos. I found myself giggling aloud, much to my own surprise; joining the people around me in clapping with glee in inappropriate places because the spirit moved me. I cried too, after Duncan Salton appeared on stage at his piano (albeit with his back to us). The dancers, in that movement, appeared deeply moved by the music he was making, so in turn, so were we. I was moved, then by the singing from the dancers - imperfect, yes, but sung with the heart of school children committed to the words they were singing. There was joy there, real joy, before more dancing, joyous dancing. I haven’t been so affected at the theatre for some time.

What a delight it is, to remember how good and sweet and extraordinary the theatre can be. And how it can be for everyone - the lovers of ballet and the lovers of contemporary dance, but also the lovers of traditional and modern theatre, the lovers of new music and old, the lovers of visual art of all kinds. Janis Joplin mingled with improvised tambourine solos and riotous Mahler, and all were perfect. The orchestra was excellent under Simon Thew’s baton - you wouldn’t know that it was his first performance of the work. Yi Wang’s solos were deeply moving; I am, and have always been, taken by his commitment to the leadership of the orchestra. My overall feeling is that you should beg, borrow or steal to get a ticket to this exceptional piece. Let it wash over you, move you, change you. I, for one, will be thinking of it long after I saw the curtain lower.

(Articles)
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Published – 16.06.2022

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