My childhood loves that competed with becoming an Egyptologist and being Audrey Hepburn going shopping in Paris (I dreamed big), was to be a ballerina but I have *terrible feet* and no natural turnout which are essential to avoid injury in later life as a career, the longevity of a professional dancer prone to injury is quite short. Dance and I have history, it is a bit of a family obsession on the maternal side – I once even got to dance in a bright turquoise tutu (that sadly no pictures exist of). When I was growing up, dance was a rather expensive and inaccessible art form unless you took regular dance lessons or studied classical music (I’ve been fortunate to do both). My favourite ballet by far is Swan Lake, closely followed by Coppaelia, a comedy, and the tragedy, Giselle. So when I heard So when the Australian Ballet Company were coming to Adelaide, my mother kindly purchased me a ticket to their Adelaide performance by my mum (https://australianballet.com.au).
I’ve written about a lot of social events people going to be seen and I go to watch in that creepy way archaeologists do when they observe you, and the audience of a ballet provides fertile ground for the watcher’s imagination. Classical ballet as a dance form is one where it has the whole aura of prestige, with the expected: well to do elder patrons in pearls, coiffed hair and glamorous silks (taffeta perhaps). Yet the performance I went to had an entire cross section of society who were there to see Swan Lake and the Adelaide Festival Theatre created a more anonymous atmosphere simply because in a darkened theatre, it is hard to people watch for their appearance alone. You could tell some of the teeming crowds had never been to the ballet and looked more at home at the footy match next door with the shouting of a footy match and rowdy cheering of a rockstar during the normally polite applause I was used to. I’m personally okay with this crazy unexpected response happening because it means that beyond the Fringe and other arts festivals, the creative industries like dance are becoming more accessible to the average South Australian. I’m going to leave the reviews to experts in ballet though I posted a brief status on the Lonely Archaeologist Facebook: (www.facebook.com/thelonelyarchaeologist/posts/1345829805434253).
Later I was asked by a friend about Swan Lake and I rudely replied it wasn’t Disney and the plot would beyond him. It’s actually more deeply tragic Brothers Grimm material and a sad tale that had me crying like I was at a chick flick during the Dying Swan sequence with snotty nose -I don’t cry pretty even at the ballet. However I took the entirely wrong attitude when asked about the ballet and lost an opportunity to encourage ordinary people to see Swan Lake or other dance shows. I was guilty of making it inaccessible through traditional snobbery as much as the Big C, high culture experts in their ivory towers and went against my very own ethos of arts for the common people.
That being said, googling Swan Lake isn’t too hard and as an aspiring science and tourism communicator, I could have explained the Swan Lake story easily enough but one thing you do have to consider is what your audience will be receptive to. Part of my expertise should be to create interest in a subject but individual taste needs to be accounted for and this one felt like it was going to be a waste of my time. This is the full Australian Ballet Company webpage on Swan Lake’s cast from the ABC if you want more information on the ballet (https://australianballet.com.au/the-ballets/swan-lake-2016).
Films like Centre Stage, Step-Up, High Strung, Make It Happen and various sequels next to the critically acclaimed, Black Swan, create dance in an easily consumable form for at home audiences. Film breaks down walls between the audience and fantasy of the dance world while keeping some of the magic with a decent soundtrack but retaining of the hard reality elite dancers face. The ABC teen series, Dance Academy, was popular with all ages of audience and was granted money to film a sequel this year. So dance as an art form is becoming very much an artform people are aware of among many Australian demographic targets and there is now special interest tourism in it.
Which is why I now move on to ‘Mortal Condition’, a two part contemporary dance performance I saw at the Space Theatre a few weekends ago on a hunch. It was chereographed by Larissa McGowan as a take on popular culture video games and was described as “an angry Lara Croft versus Tetris”.
I’m extremely fluent in popular culture references after studying it at a tertiary level, from seeing the Lara Croft films, tonplaying Tetris and watching my brother and his friends playing games like Grand Theft Auto. The dancing was a mix of the contemporary dance I grew up studying mixed with martial arts from Mortal Kombat and the conceits of objectifying female computer game characters, I’m familiar with in each of the genres. I found the second act more compelling as the first was artistically brilliant but the relationship between the dancers were ambiguous where as the in the second act with the two female dancers, I understood as female characters are often supposed to be part of a girl squad like Taylor Swift in ‘Bad Blood’ and yet competition for each other. This is why I liked ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer‘ in that woman on woman action with the exceptional Glorificus.
I’ll also leave a review by a professional media reviewer (http://www.adelaidenow.com.au/entertainment/arts/rapidfire-thrust-and-parry-in-larissa-mcgowans-mortal-condition/news-story/f89006dac143245942be2845da8c9d14).
Mortal Condition was accessible in a way that Swan Lake traditionally isn’t and I was glad to know that classical ballet isn’t destinied to become a lost art form as the rowdy crowd cat called the principal dancers. I think the breakdown between art and audience is broken down we can create a thriving creative industry all year around. And it pleases me to announce Lonely Archaeologist will be cutting its creative review teeth on the Cabaret and Burlesque season through June and July 2016. Watch this space for Sapphire Snow and Anya Anastacia among our Burlesque and Cabaret. Winter is coming!
Clara Rosetta Santilli