The Australian Ballet celebrates a longstanding love
affair with British ballet in a triple bill spanning three generations. at the Arts Centre.
British Liaisons features three of the biggest names
in British choreography. Sharing the illustrious bill are Royal Ballet founder Ninette de Valois, the inimitable Sir Kenneth MacMillan and contemporary ballet
legend Christopher Wheeldon.
British Liaisons opens in Melbourne on 25 August
for 11 performances
Two of the ballets on this bill, de Valois’ Checkmate and MacMillan’s Concerto, are making a much anticipated return after a considerable break from
The Australian Ballet’s repertoire. Concerto has not been performed in its entirety since its company
debut in 1974 and Checkmate was last staged in full
Completing the trio is Wheeldon’s modern masterpiece, After the Rain©, which makes a welcome return after its critically acclaimed 2007 premiere.
Artistic Director David McAllister chose these works
to recognise the important role British choreographers have played in shaping The Australian Ballet.
“British ballet was crucial in the development of
our own distinctive Australian style of movement”,
“The Royal Ballet tour in 1956 under Ninette de Valois was a real turning point for ballet in this country. Not long after, her associate Peggy van Praagh moved to Australia permanently and went on to become The Australian Ballet’s founding artistic director.”
A timeless tale of love and betrayal, Checkmate was gifted to The Australian Ballet by de Valois in 1986. With the role of the Red King conceived on Australian Sir Robert Helpmann, this ballet has a special significance to the company.
As each chess piece plays its part, relationships are revealed and tested. The legendary score by Arthur Bliss adds further drama to the arresting choreography. Climaxing with a grand battle
between love and death, this game of chess is anything but boring.
Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto, meanwhile, is a
pure classical ballet which demands flawless technique. Created in 1966, it was the first MacMillan work to enter The Australian Ballet’s repertoire.
Set to Dmitri Shostakovich’s stirring Piano Concerto No.2, it’s a piece that’s as thrilling for audiences
to watch as it is challenging for dancers to perform.
A seamless marriage of music and movement, Wheeldon’s After the Rain© is an intimate portrayal
of what he describes as “an unspoken love affair
that is consummated only onstage”.
A heartbreakingly tender pas de deux is the centrepiece of this work. After the Rain© achieves much in its one act, taking the audience on a
deeply rewarding journey.
As The Australian Ballet nears its 50th anniversary, British Liaisons is a fitting tribute to the company’s heritage.