Thursday, 12 March 2015

Bailia Brasil at the Opera House

Hot steamy and much fun Here's what I thought for Sydney Arts Guide live music, breathtaking body movements, dance, dynamic percussion and songs from the soul of Afro Brazil, BAILA BRAZIL has a contagious, exhilarating energy and rhythm that will have people dancing in the aisles. The show has been brought to Sydney by the same who brought us BALE DE RUA. At the helm of the team are Artistic Director Fernando Narduchi, Choreographer and Costumer Designer Marco Antonio Garcia and Musical Director Pedro Paulo Da Silva Ferreira, and they come up with another dance and live music spectacular. As colourful as the streets from where they hail, the exuberant cast of eighteen dancers and musicians deliver a high-energy celebration of life, love and the Brazilian way. Loud and with plenty of energy . The set is heavy and industrialised (think a cross between Stomp and Tap Dogs) with plenty of scaffolding. Heavy musical instruments, large drums, hang from the bottom of the set. The core band is made up of guitarists and a keyboard player, with the dancers most of the work on the percussion instruments. Vocals are mostly provided by Alexia Falcao Lopes , one of only two women in the show. Rap vocals are provided by two of the male dancers for the contemporary street dance inspired sections which include breakdance, hip hop and other club dance styles. The lighting throughout is superb. There are, at times, very effective use of silhouette and shadows and at one point much fun is had with the use of UV lighting especially for the flowers. The troupe of 18 dancers and musicians explore the colour and diversity of Brazil. There is a striking and very odd opening religious dance to Ave Maria with the men using the skirts of their costumes to cover themselves and look like women, then ‘reversing’ their energy and becoming macho and hot. The show features a bit of a nod to ballet and contemporary European dance with Uiara Cristina Ferreira as a very different tutu clad dancer with flying dreadlocks and no pointe work, at all. Uiara’s rather clunky boots somewhat ruin the visual ‘line’. Highlights include. the way that Michael Jackson’s white suit and hat and dance style is reverently homaged…the dazzling performance of the sensual salsa and mamba and Latin American ballroom styles…a piece about African slavery…martial arts inspired capoeira, acrobatic hip and break dancing…all performed in a pulsating celebration of the joy of dance. The entire stage is utilised and ‘vertical’ interest is added with dancers using and clambering around the construction scaffolding set. As well as the exuberant dance, the choreography incorporates various props and costumes of the assorted dance styles to create different stories and moods to add extra colour and texture. The various dance styles displayed demonstrated the incredible athleticism and superb fluid movement of the dancers, ranging from very precise, tightly choreographed dance to what seemed to be almost improvised, free-form expression. We are luxuriously treated to wave after wave of eye candy, hunky male dancers in ever briefer costumes of dazzling colours. They are all exceptionally strong dancers, some outstanding in particular styles and given their ‘fifteen minutes of fame’, basking in the limelight in special solos and duets. BAILA BRAZIL is a colourful, steamy night of dance that had the the audience dancing in the aisles at the end. The slinky high voltage energy of the cast is nothing short of sensational. Running time 90 min s (approx) no interval. BAILA BRAZIL is playing the Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House until the 18th January. Share this:3Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)3Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)

Dancing For the Gods

This was stirring and wonderful.Here's my thoughts for Artshub Sri Lanka’s oldest and most prestigious dance ensemble returns to Sydney in its first Australian visit since 1972. The Chitrasena Dance Company, Sri Lanka’s internationally acclaimed traditional dance ensemble, was established in 1943 and today brings an artform developed 2,500 years ago, its origins based on offerings to a pantheon of gods, deities and demons is brought to the stage in a fresh, vibrant way. The Chitrasena Dance School was a major centre of new forms of arts and culture from the 1940s to the 70s and became a cultural haven for leading artists of that period who travelled from across the globe, including film stars, performers and dancers such as Martha Graham, Paul Tailor, Nurtan and Ravi Shankar.What is also interesting to note is the similarities to traditional Indian dance in the regal posture, fluid arms and feet, and the sounds and rhythms. The style is quite sculptural, and at times quite exuberant and energetic, at other times more flowing and meditative. The dancers have exquisite feline grace and soft, powerful pantherine jumps. Particular mention must be made of the four drummers who in their eye-catching red costumes performed with high octane non stop energy. The drums were insistent and persistent, another fascinating element being the different sizes, styles and timbres used for the dances and the various accoutrements used to play them. Now the third generation of the Chitrasena family brings its dynamic dance styles again to Sydney, with choreography by Heshna Wignaraja, the grand-daughter of the school’s founder. The performance is divided into three parts and five sections with a mellifluous introduction and explanation for each part in voice-over. The first part is the dramatic startling appearance of the demon god to bless the dancers and musicians and the audience. The second section, at one point delicately lit with masses of candles like stars, was an Ode to Ganesh combining Kandyan dance, three types of different drum and original folk melodies to celebrate Ganesh, segueing to Pantheru Matha (Stories of the Pantheruwa). The third part, Reflections, began with Moksha (Perfection In This Lifetime) a glorious solo by Thaji Dias meditating on dance as worship. Musically it draws from rhythms claimed to be from King Narasinghe’s court, temple sounds and a traditional Ode that describes the qualities of Buddha. The final piece Kaankaari Aara (A Way of the Kandyan Ritual) that follows the development of Kandyan dance from dance as ritual and worship to the stage. It begins with the traditional male Ves dancer evoking the essence of the traditional setting with drums and chants supporting . Of particular importance here is the sacred headdress he wears. This is followed by a delightful duet, showing how the path was opened for female dancers in a dance form originally exclusively for men. The show closes with an exuberant rhythmic joyous stamping by the whole cast that brought the show to a celebratory conclusion. A vibrant, energetic and exotically colourful way to open this year’s Sydney Festival. Rating: 4 out of 5 stars Dancing for the Gods Seymour Centre 8-11 January

Opera Australia's La Boheme

This was terrific .Here's my thoughts for Sydney Arts Guide Australia begin their 2015 season yet again with this excellent revival of Gale Edwards’s version of LA BOHEME, originally seen in 2011 . Romantic and lyrically, passionately performed by cast and orchestra it still feels as fresh as if it was written yesterday. Musically, the terrific Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra, under the very energetic , passionate and enthusiastic baton of Andrea Molino, is superb, giving a lush, dynamic rendition of Puccini’s much loved sweeping, vibrant score. LA BOHEME is one of opera’s most popular and best known works, where we follow the story of the young Bohemians living and loving through harsh, trying times, and focusing on the tragic love story between Rodolfo and Mimi. This Opera has inspired audiences and artists alike since its premiere, with countless works based on the opera mushrooming including the Broadway musical RENT. Brian Thomson’s rich scarlet and gold opulent designs prompt us to think oozing decadence. Julie Lynch supplements this with revealing, suggestive costumes that scream ‘profligacy!’ too. John Rayments’ precise yet atmospheric lighting completes a beautiful, cinematic picture (even the emphatic drape of the scarlet front curtain concealing what’s to come, with the opera’s title spelled out with subdued incandescent bulbs aka Baz Luhrmann, referencing the earlier much loved production. Thomson’s huge sets take us from the freezing garret to a chilling , intense tollgate via a high-glam Spiegeltent idea that acts as a counterpoint to the extremes of wretched poverty and opulently vulgar wealth seen elsewhere in the production. Very effective use is made of the revolve at times. The glittering. multi-leveled posh theatre, draped with courtesans in varying degrees of undress in the boxes, gives an uneasy energy and exuberance to the Café Momus scenes. This production very effectively counterpoints young love and naive optimism with new found sexual freedoms and a menacing under-current of what is to come. The political and economic upheavals underscoring the original story here act as a background for the pre-war years of 1930s Berlin, where deprivation and decadence co-existed in equal measures. The work takes on a guise of eerie sociopolitical menace, adding to the star-crossed tragic tryst between Mimi and Rodolfo. Their doomed relationship, in some ways, is symbolic of the death of culture and freedom enforced during the Third Reich. Internationally renowned guest star Maija Kovalenska as Mimi is tremendous and she gives a luminous performance,–sweet , pure and fragile , dreaming of beauty, and featuring a stunning voice. Maija’s delicate rendering of her introductory aria ‘ Si, mi chiamano Mimi ‘ is beautifully nuanced, allowing her performance to further build in the final acts .As the doomed Mimi she is enchanting with a warm creamy voice, terrific , dynamic control of light and shade and an excellent sense of line. Diego Torre does not perhaps really fit the visual image of the ideal Rodolfo, however he is in fabulous voice and vocally gave a stunning performance; his huge dynamic tenor supported by a dramatic performance throughout his character’s agonising. emotional rollercoaster journey. Diego is both tremendously powerful and yet quite vulnerable as the unlucky romantic poet hero. The duets between Rodolfo and Mimi are magnificent. Torre is incredibly focused and we feel his passion and heartbreak. His extremely impressive rendition of the famous ‘Che Gelida Manina’ aria ( ‘Your tiny hand is frozen‘) is spell binding. Lorina Gore as the blonde, slinky , scheming Musetta is terrific, showcasing one of Julie Lynch’s few opportunities for over-the-top glamour with her costume design, and providing a thrilling, enchanting vocal performance replete with smoky spotlight and vintage microphone in the style of Marlene Dietrich. She is radiant and makes the reconciliations with Marcello sizzle. Another highlight was Andrew Jones’ portrayal of Musetta’s beau, the charismatic painter Marcello, featuring hidden ripples of violence , controlled machismo and the rich tones of his terrific baritone. Marcello has an on-off relationship with the beautiful Musetta who is tempted away by far wealthier suitors. Conflict mars the two pairs of lovers mutual devotion, – will they be able to get through?! Gore as Musetta, has a number of very big vocal moments and tends to grab attention whenever she’s on stage – especially in Act 2, with her waltz Quando me’n vo’ (‘When I go along’), the famous ‘Musetta’s Waltz’, as she is torn between love and wealth, revealing intensity and beautiful timbre. The final duet between Marcello and Rodolfo is a highlight , enhanced by a lovely violin solo. Graeme MacFarlane gives a tremendous performance as the somewhat buffoonish landlord Benoit, wearing a garishly loud green checked costume. Tall, gangly Shane Lowrencev gives a vibrant, detailed, generous, admirable performance as the concerned Schaunard, a musician and confidant of Rodolfo and Marcello, who together form a sort of starving, artistic group with their friend, the philisopher, Colline (David Parkin). Colline’s aria to his coat (‘Vecchia zimarra – “Old coat” ‘) is very moving . Much fun is also had by the very engaging children’s chorus too, a highlight of the Café Momus scenes in Act 2. This was a compelling, very moving revival of this classic work. Running time 2 & ½ hours (approx) including one interval. Opera Australia’s LA BOHEME by Puccini is playing in repertoire on various dates until the 16th January at the Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Share this:5Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)5Share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)

Tabac Rouge

A very strange performance as paprt of the Festival of Sydney Here's my thoughts for Dance Informa Theatre January 9, 2015 By Lynne Lancaster of Dance Informa. The son of circus performers Victoria Chaplin and Jean-Baptiste Thiérrée, the grandson of filmmaker Charlie Chaplin, and the great-grandson of playwright Eugene O’Neill, James Thiérrée made his stage debut at the age of five and grew up in the world of European touring circuses. Now he is perhaps best known as a director of large-scale, free-form productions combining mime, acrobatics and dance. La Veillée des Abysses (2003) and Au Revoir Parapluie (2007) are probably his best known works. Sydney saw his Junebug Symphony in 2003. His Tabac Rouge, a major event of this year’s Sydney Festival, was a strange, disturbing and challenging piece in every way, and can be classified perhaps as surrealist or “theatre of the absurd.” It’s heavy set with huge coils of electrical cords and giant emphatic lighting rigs are dominated by a fragmented, mouldy mirror as tall as the stage. This is pulled and pushed in circles, tilted and lifted into a horizontal position, lowered to become a second stage, finally “exploding” in fragments and “flying” in a visually stunning coup de theatre. As in other Thiérrée works, huge blocks of scaffolding and mirrored sheeting are wheeled at great speed around and across the stage. Surrealist looking desks and sofas are piled high with books, papers and mid-20th-century office junk. Meanwhile, snatches of popular classics are played loudly and suddenly, confusingly interwoven with crackly radio recordings and electrical static. Dancers slide on their bellies, race around the stage and throw random shapes in the reflective mirrors and against the scaffolding. ‘Tabac Rouge’. Photo by Prudence Upton. The amazing cast of nine performers sometimes do a slow-motion, arms-waving-like-tendrils-underwater like fragment of movement, accompanied by silent screams, or are perhaps on their back like a baby searching for and following the light. Sometimes they wear lampshades on their heads or dangerously hurl themselves at the scaffolding, which at times revolves, or they drape themselves over the scaffolding as if dead (think Les Mis) or are they? There is lots of rolling floor work. As in tempestuous King Lear, theirs is a scary world in which the power is held by a madman surrounded by acolytes, whose individual and collective actions, like the mirror, reflect his moods and desires as he controls and directs them like slithery puppets. There is a constant cascading rush of fractured, jagged movements that nonetheless coalesce into a sort of coherent, whirlwind whole, although nothing is at all clear. At the central maelstrom of it all, like a rambunctious Lord of Misrule, is Thiérrée. Are we to imagine that he is a kind of Lear character, wandering in his broken kingdom? Or possibly Prospero, shorn of his magic? Remember that Thiérrée played the part of Ariel in Peter Greenaway’s 1991 film Prospero’s Books. He has an incredible boneless expression and body-shape-changing solo at one point. Or is he perhaps an escapee from Waiting for Godot? The overall format of the work is episodic in short, flowing scenes, but there is no real structural narrative. In the programme, Thiérrée doesn’t answer the question as to what the show is “about.” The governance of power is challenged, and perhaps shifts, but not for long. No one and nothing remains still. Everything is on wheels, even the performers at times. Chairs, an old sewing machine, a strange construction of electrical whatsists, a table loaded with props hurtle in and out. Tabac Rouge offers a challenging whirlwind and a most unsettling performance. Photo (top): Tabac Rouge. Photo by Jamie Williams.