The Australian Ballet's brief New York season reveals many facets of this athletic company, from its genesis in a land mad for the Ballets Russes to its contemporary habit of collaborating with Bangarra, the country's Aboriginal troupe.
A pastiche called "Luminous" juxtaposes a film collage detailing AB's 50-year history with snippets from its repertory, ranging from Maina Gielgud's "Giselle" and Nureyev's "Don Quixote" to the overheated stylings of Stanton Welch.
The New York City Ballet Orchestra, conducted by AB's musical director Nicolette Fraillon, performs Steve Reich's "Double Sextet" for Wayne McGregor's "Dyad 1929," a fiercely modern item with black-and-white costumes, dotted decor and Lucy Carter's dazzling yellow light. It also takes on David Page's percussive score for Stephen Page's mystical "Warumuk -- in the dark night," including songs from North East Arnhem Land.
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But Graeme Murphy's 2002 "Swan Lake," on display this weekend, uncovers the true heart of the Melbourne-based company. Collaborating with Janet Vernon, Murphy takes the Tchaikovsky classic and sets it on 20th-century British royals. Odette, a Diana-like figure, is driven mad by the fact that her prince, even at their wedding, can't keep his eyes off his true love, Baroness von Rothbart. A veiled allusion to Camilla, she combines aspects of sorcerer and Black Swan; the lake of the title sits on the grounds of a psychiatric hospital.
Kristian Fredrikson's designs for "Swan Lake" are sleek and seductive, and the dancers are terrific. Madeleine Eastoe and Amber Scott alternate in the role of Odette, and Kevin Jackson and Adam Bull take turns as the faithless Prince Siegfried; Lana Jones and Lucinda Dunn share the part of the Baroness.
If you go
The Australian Ballet
David H. Koch Theater
20 Lincoln Center Plaza