October 2012

Arts & Letters

The Best of Australian Dance 2012

By Deborah Jones
'Gemini', The Australian Ballet, 2012. © Jeff Busby

Glen Tetley’s Gemini was made for the Australian Ballet nearly 40 years ago. It looked like the future then, and still does. Revived in August to celebrate the Australian Ballet’s 50th anniversary, Gemini was inspired by the vastness of the Australian continent, astutely represented by Nadine Baylis’ set design. Rows of slender slats in shimmering colours evoked a mirage-like landscape that stretched to vanishing point.

Within this lustrous space two women and two men embarked on a series of solos, duos and quartets to the bracing sounds of Hans Werner Henze’s Third Symphony. Tetley requires fiendishly difficult feats of the dancers, who must appear radiantly unaware of those challenges while exuding a deep sensuality that makes Gemini rather less abstract than it seems at first glance.

Indeed it was hard to keep a cool intellectual distance from a work in which, wearing second-skin garments of the palest gold, dancers wrapped themselves around each other so there was scarcely a cigarette paper between them – as close to protected sex as you’re likely to see on stage. Gemini’s first cast – Lana Jones, Adam Bull, Amber Scott and Rudy Hawkes – was exemplary. The women in particular were astonishing: Jones with unflagging, steel-willed command and Scott offering luscious creaminess.

Gemini was the centrepiece of a program tagged ‘Icons’, featuring two short narrative ballets that have been important to the Australian Ballet: Robert Helpmann’s The Display and Graeme Murphy’s Beyond Twelve. The Display was more historically interesting than persuasively performed and Beyond Twelve was touching and engaging but is a minor work. Nevertheless, together they asked the audience to see a company in context and in forward motion – a valuable task.

Also worthy of note in the past 12 months was Gideon Obarzanek’s Assembly, which potently combined the forces of a large choir with dancers from Melbourne’s Chunky Move. Independent choreographer Martin del Amo (who should be much more widely known) gave dancer Paul White yet another platform to display his prodigious gifts with the difficult but rewarding Anatomy of an Afternoon.

One of the most entertaining new works seen in an age was Fanatic, made by Larissa McGowan for the Sydney Opera House’s Spring Dance festival. It was witty, smart and danced with kick-arse joy by a trio from Sydney Dance Company.

Finally, a nod to West Australian Ballet and Queensland Ballet, both of which have new artistic directors next year. The directors inherit sharp, versatile ensembles who this year looked splendid in, respectively, John Cranko’s Jeu de Cartes and Nils Christe’s Diner Dansant.

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

There is nowhere quite like The Monthly. We are told that we live in a time of diminished attention spans; a time where the 24-hour-news-cycle has produced a collective desire for hot takes and brief summaries of the news and ideas that effect us. But we don’t believe it. The need for considered, reflective, long-form journalism has never been greater, and for almost 20 years, that’s what The Monthly has offered, from some of our finest writers.

That kind of quality writing costs money, and requires the support of our readers. Your subscription to The Monthly allows us to be the home for the best, most considered, most substantial perspectives on the state of the world. It’s Australia’s only current affairs magazine, an indispensable home for cultural commentary, criticism and reviews, and home to personal and reflective essays that celebrate and elevate our humanity.

The Monthly doesn’t just comment on our culture, our society and our politics: it shapes it. And your subscription makes you part of that.

Select your digital subscription

Month selector

From the front page

Kim Williams seen through window with arms half-raised

The interesting Mr Williams

At a time when the ABC faces more pressure than ever before, is its new chair the right person for the job?

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Letter from Dunkley

As a byelection draws the nation’s focus to the scrappy suburb of the author’s childhood, a visit reveals the damage wrought by the housing crisis

Exterior of the Department of Treasury, Canberra

Tax to grind

Tax reform should not be centred on what we want, but on who we want to be

Rehearsal for the ABC TV show ‘Cooking with Wine’, March 13, 1956

Whose ABC?

Amid questions of relevance and culture war hostilities, the ABC’s charter clearly makes the case for a government-funded national broadcaster

In This Issue

'Lore' by Cate Shortland (director)

'Silent House', Orhan Pamuk, Hamish Hamilton; $29.99

'Silent House' by Orhan Pamuk

'Questions of Travel', Michelle de Kretser,
Allen and Unwin; $39.99

'Questions of Travel' by Michelle de Kretser

'Montebello', Robert Drewe, Hamish Hamilton; $29.99

'Montebello' by Robert Drewe


More in Arts & Letters

David Malouf, March 2015 in Sydney

An imagined life: David Malouf

Celebrating the literary great’s 90th birthday with a visit to his incongruous home of Surfers Paradise to discuss a life in letters

Tony McNamara in New York City, January 2024

Pure things: Tony McNamara

How the Australian screenwriter of ‘Poor Things’, who cut his teeth on shows such as ‘The Secret Life of Us’, earnt his second Oscar nomination

Jeffrey Wright in ‘American Fiction’

The dread of the author: ‘American Fiction’ and ‘Argylle’

Cord Jefferson’s satire about Black artists fighting white perceptions of their work runs out of ideas, while Matthew Vaughn’s spy movie parody has no ideas of its own

U2 performing in the Las Vegas Sphere

Where the feats have no name: ‘U2:UV’ at Sphere

It’s no surprise it took U2 to launch post-stadium rock via a spectacular immersive show within the technical marvel of Las Vegas’s newest venue


More in The Best of Australian Art 2012

The Best of Australian Arts 2012

'Persona', Fraught Outfit, 2012. © Pia Johnson

The Best of Australian Theatre 2012

'Of Mice and Men', Opera Australia, 2011. © Branco Gaica

The Best of Australian Opera 2012

The Pigram Brothers. © Helen Jedwab

The Best of Australian Popular Music 2012


Online latest

Osamah Sami with members of his local mosque

In ‘House of Gods’, Sydney’s Muslim community gets to be complicated

Plus, Barnaby Joyce shines in ‘Nemesis’, Emma Seligman and Rachel Sennott deliver ‘Bottoms’, and Chloë Sevigny and Molly Ringwald step up for ‘Feud: Capote vs. The Swans’.

International Film Festival Rotterdam highlights

Films from Iran, Ukraine and Bundaberg were deserving winners at this year’s festival

Two women on a train smile and shake hands

‘Expats’ drills down on Hong Kong’s class divide

Plus, Netflix swallows Trent Dalton, Deborah Mailman remains in ‘Total Control’ and ‘Vanderpump Rules’ returns for another season

Image of a man playing music using electronics and the kora (West African harp)

Three overlooked albums of spiritual jazz from 2023

Recent releases by kora player John Haycock, trumpeter Matthew Halsall and 14-piece jazz ensemble Ancient Infinity Orchestra feel like a refuge from reality