Bodytorque’s two directions, either fading away or reinvention

After a season in Melbourne last year the Australian Ballet’s annual Bodytorque program returned to the stage in Sydney, but not as we know it.

This year the company introduced “Bodytorque Up Late”, also labelled as a surprise or “pop up” show.

The short Bodytorque ballet follows one of the Australian Ballet’s 2015 triple bills in both Sydney and Melbourne – the Ashton season, titled The Dream and 20:21, a program of works by Balanchine, Tharp and the Australian Ballet’s resident choreographer, Tim Harbour.

The first Bodytorque show of the year, on 8 May, was From Something, to Nothing, a 12-minute piece for six dancers choreographed by Richard House, a corps de ballet member of the Australian Ballet.

I was lucky to be told the Sydney date in advance but I don’t think many in that Friday night audience knew, as there was little advance publicity apart from an article in Vogue and some Facebook posts.

After the curtain fell on The Dream many in the audience departed but at least a third remained seated in the stalls to see House in conversation with the company’s artistic director, David McAllister, before the premiere of From Something, to Nothing.

So, from the familiar season of Bodytorque each year – usually comprising five or six works in a season of four or five days – the concept has shrunk to one or perhaps two works performed once in Sydney and once in Melbourne.

Whether that’s due to financial constraints or a lack of interested dancer/choreographers, I’m not sure, but it’s sad to see the contraction of the decade-long Bodytorque experiment.

The Australian Ballet’s 2015 season package information promised that “Bodytorque will be reimagined in the future” but we don’t know yet what the future will entail.

From Something, to Nothing is Richard House’s third Bodytorque piece and the second I’ve seen. His talent was clear to me in 2013, with his first work, Finding the Calm.

This month, during the Q&A, McAllister asked House if he was interested in tackling a narrative work. House said he wasn’t yet ready for that challenge. But, as Balanchine said, if you put a man and a woman on stage “there is already a story”.

The opening pas de deux in From Something, to Nothing, along with the title of the work and the choice of the music, were all signposts to House’s own narrative, that of a love affair that would soon crumble from intimacy to emptiness.

There was a sense of foreboding from the start, with four dancers in high collared coats standing sentinel as the first couple danced.

From Something, to Nothing begins with Satie’s meditative Gnoissiennes 4&5 but, as the light at the back of the stage fades from orange-red to stormy grey, so too does the mood and the music.

Rachmaninov’s melancholy yet passionate Elegie for piano and cello underscores the tension and loss portrayed by all six couples on stage.

(Rachmaninov’s music reflected the same sense of loss as it did in At the Edge of Night, one of the most beautiful works by the Australian Ballet’s Stephen Baynes.)

The pianist, Christian Lillicrap, cellist, Andrew Hines and lighting designer, Graham Silver, each played a major role in the way they enhanced the intangible, dream-like ambience of From Something, to Nothing, as did the costume designs by Kat Chan whose whisper-thin, almost transparent costumes underscored the languorous mood of the piece.

House’s roll-over-the-back lifts were the most memorable moments in the choreography for his ballet, danced by six dancers, Heidi Martin, Charles Thompson, Rina Nemoto, Mitchell Rayner, Sharni Spencer and Jarryd Madden.

The next performance of From Something, to Nothing will be in Melbourne, following The Dream, on 12 June.

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From Something, to Nothing, Australian Ballet

From Something, to Nothing, Australian Ballet

From Something, to Nothing, Australian Ballet

From Something, to Nothing, Australian Ballet

From Something, to Nothing, Australian Ballet

From Something, to Nothing, Australian Ballet