Coliseum Theatre brings ballet to the West
State of the art theatre hosts the ballet
A romantic escape to Rooty Hill to spend an evening with the world’s leading ballet dancers sounds like it needs the help of a fairy godmother to come true, but the Sydney International Ballet Gala turned out to be a magical evening.
It began with the old Rooty Hill Returned Services League which, like a pumpkin turned into a coach, has been transformed into West HQ, an entertainment precinct and home to the sleek Sydney Coliseum Theatre, an architecturally swish, state-of-the-art theatre. Completed in 2019, it slumbered through the pandemic but has now come to life.
The gala offered a charming mix of aspiring young dancers hoping to become the next generation of ballet stars and principal dancers from leading dance companies around the world who have made the leap into that Cinderella world of glamour which is built on hard work and sacrifice.
Laura Fernandez stars as the Dying Swan
Laura Fernandez epitomises that paradox. The fragile beauty, who is part Ukrainian, gave an exquisite performance of the Dying Swan, imbued with the tragedy that has engulfed her motherland. She had been dancing professionally in Moscow but fled to Georgia to dance with the Georgian State ballet to escape Russians cheering on the war while bombs fell on her family in Mariupol. The Dying Swan was created for Anna Pavlova when she had just become a ballerina at the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg and Pavlova performed it when she toured Australia and New Zealand, inspiring the creation of the frothy, meringue intended to evoke her diaphanous tutu. More than a century later, Fernandez, the first Swiss person ever to be invited to join the Mariinsky Theatre, is keeping the tradition alive.
Natalia Osipova is a highlight as Sleeping Beauty
Other highlights included Natalia Osipova, a Russian ballerina who studied at the Bolshoi Ballet academy and is now a principal ballerina at the Royal Ballet in London. She performed a dazzling pas de deux from Sleeping Beauty with Jarryd Madden of the Australian Ballet. Mayu Tanigaito and Laurynas Vejalis of the Royal New Zealand Ballet demonstrated the depth of talent in our nearest neighbour, dancing a brilliant and spirited pas de deux from the ballet the Flames of Paris.
American Julian Mackay, from rural Montana, also trained at the Bolshoi Ballet Academy before becoming the youngest principal dancer of the San Francisco Ballet. His solo, The Cuban Nutcracker, was performed to the music of the Klazz Brothers & Cuba Percussion which gives a Latin lilt to Tchaikovsky’s Nutcracker. Choreographed by Alisher Khasanov, it sparkled with verve and virtuosity. Mackay partnered with Misa Kuranaga also a principal at the San Francisco Ballet dancing the pas de deux from Giselle and Don Quixote.
In addition to jewels from the classical repertoire, there were excellent contemporary works and four Australian premieres including L’Effleure choreographed by Belgian Colombian Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Victor Zarallo’s sinuous performance overlaid pagan sensuality and longing on Antonio Vivaldi’s melancholy Stabat Mater. Effleurer means to brush against gently, to cross someone’s mind or to unfold like a flower. Zarallo evoked all three, pulsating in the penumbral gloom with a flower in his mouth.
Two world premieres
Two world premieres were created especially for the gala. Italian Davide di Giovanni who came to Sydney to work with the Sydney Dance Company created a melancholy piece about a couple that breaks up but are still drawn to each other. English choreographer Jake Burden created the evocative Forest of Mind for a group of young dancers with music performed by the Sydney Youth orchestra.
In all, there were fourteen performances, five of which included the talented young dancers of the Tanya Pearson Academy, whose directors organised the gala. With an audience heavy on baby ballerinas, proud parents, and dancers from major companies cheering on their friends, the evening was imbued with the warmth of a grand international family gathering in which everyone in the theatre was deeply committed to the world of dance, which is thriving in West HQ. That was the magic that made the gala a night to remember.