October 2011

Arts & Letters

Contemporary dance masterpiece

By Deborah Jones
Tanja Liedtke - ‘construct’, 2007

There are no Ring Cycles or Mahabharatas in Australian contemporary dance. The scale is frequently small and it is a fleeting art that depends crucially on its performers in a specific time and place. Since 2000, Stephen Page’s Skin, Garry Stewart’s Birdbrain, Lucy Guerin’s Structure and Sadness, Gideon Obarzanek’s Glow and Meryl Tankard and Paul White’s The Oracle live alertly in the memory, which is their only repository. But if one work must be selected to be first among equals, it is Tanja Liedtke’s construct.

construct premiered in London, with Liedtke in the cast. She died in an accident three months later, making this her last work. The physical reality of making things, particularly something as emotionally charged as a home, framed a study of the building and breaking of relationships. Construction implies competence, practicality, strength and creativity. There is a need for balance, ingenuity, problem-solving and co-operation. A structure can be a home or a prison; it can stand or it can fall. In Liedtke’s hands these literal and metaphorical notions were effortlessly entwined and animated with wit, joy, playfulness, sorrow, anguish and loss. The resonances were deep and intimate, sometimes troubling, yet rarely losing touch with life-affirming humour.

—Deborah Jones

Deborah Jones
Deborah Jones is the former arts critic for the Australian.

Cover: October 2011

October 2011

From the front page

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Big bank tax cuts

The Business Council is on a very sticky wicket

Image from ‘Atlanta’

‘Atlanta’: thrillingly subversive

Donald Glover’s uncommon blend of the everyday and the absurd makes a masterful return

Image of Peter Dutton

South African farmers: we will decide

Australia, refugees and the politics of fear

Image from ‘The Americans’

‘The Americans’, the Russians and the perils of parallels

Why sometimes it’s better to approach art on its own terms


In This Issue

Scene from 'The Theft of Sita'. Image courtesy of Melbourne Festival.

Music theatre masterpiece

An Australian–Indonesian production - ‘The Theft of Sita’, 2000

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

Robert Helpmann & Anna Pavlova

Theatre masterpiece

Tom Wright & Benedict Andrews - ‘The War of the Roses’, 2009

The incendiary Meow Meow, 2011. © Magnus Hastings

Queen of the night

Meeting Meow Meow


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More in Masterpieces

Poetry masterpiece

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Design masterpiece

Marc Newson - ‘Qantas A380 Economy Seat’, 2008

Fiction masterpiece

JM Coetzee - ‘Summertime’, 2009

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Architecture masterpiece

Lindsay & Kerry Clare - ‘Gallery of Modern Art’, Queensland, 2006


Read on

Image from ‘Atlanta’

‘Atlanta’: thrillingly subversive

Donald Glover’s uncommon blend of the everyday and the absurd makes a masterful return

Image of Peter Dutton

South African farmers: we will decide

Australia, refugees and the politics of fear

Image from ‘The Americans’

‘The Americans’, the Russians and the perils of parallels

Why sometimes it’s better to approach art on its own terms

Image of Hugh Grant in ‘Maurice’

Merchant Ivory connects gilded surfaces with emotional depth

Restraint belies profundity in ‘Maurice’, ‘Howards End’ and more


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