Queensland Ballet Celebrates 60th Anniversary Gala
Queensland Ballet’s 60th Anniversary Gala on Friday night in the QPAC Playhouse was a joyous and momentous event for the company, celebrating their achievements over the last 60 years.
Accompanied by Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra, the gala program presented highlights from various ballets over the company’s history. The program opened with a bright overture, featuring the full company dancers. Artistic director Li Cunxin and Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk took the stage to officially welcome the audience.
From the 1960s, under the direction of founder Charles Lisner, came the Chopin Pas de Deux. Yanela Pinera and Joe Chapman performed the intimate, romantic partner dance, capturing the heightened emotion of Chopin’s music.
Next was the partner dance from Cloudland, a ballet that tells a story of post-war Brisbane and its iconic ballroom. Mia Heathcote and Victor Estévez portrayed musical storytelling through the pa de deux, as lovers separated by war and longing for the Cloudland ballroom where they first met. Camerata performed Jules Massenet’s sweeping, evocative Meditation from Thaïs, led by solo violinist Brendan Joyce.
Then, it was red lighting and smoke machines and the men of Queensland Ballet gradually appeared on stage, wielding long sticks. The Tavern Scene from Carmina Burana was sinister, punchy and dramatic. Liam Geck and the male dancers fought, ran and flew in a complex choreography. The poles were used to full effect, from rhythmic tapping to supports for climbing, suspending and hanging dancers.
After interval, the stage was reset with a bed and draped with white curtains. A girl lay still, attended by a nurse. The Lady of the Camellias, choregraphed by Harold Collins, was full of passion, tragedy and redemption. Georgia Swan and Joel Woellner danced the pa de deux tenderly as Violetta and her lover, interrupted only by Violetta’s failing health.
Then it was time for Spanish flair with the wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote. Camilo Ramos and Neneka Yoshida took turns stunning the audience with their endless leaps, twirls and pirouettes. (On Saturday, Neneka was promoted to Principal Artist!). Camilo and Neneka certainly seemed to enjoy dancing this one, smiling at each other in their bright red and black Spanish costumes.
Choreographed by Francois Klaus, The Little Mermaid was a retelling of the original fairy tale, retaining its setting. Company dancers performed the haunting finale from The Little Mermaid, dressed in white, as water spirits.
For the finale, Queensland Ballet performed Ètudes (Studies) an homage to classical ballet classes. This work began with dancers lined up at the barre, doing repetitive exercises, before building to an elaborate and challenging work for the company and three soloists. This one-act ballet took simple ballet steps and illustrated how they could be turned into art.
When the curtains came down, there was much applause and standing ovations. The principal artists and dancers had to bow and curtsy several times. In all, it was a phenomenal performance, showcasing all that Queensland Ballet has achieved in its 60 years and with a bright promise for their future.
After the performance, to celebrate opening night, we attended a black-tie function at the Skyroom, Convention Centre. This was a great chance to meet the artists, enjoy chef-prepared canapes and look across to the wheel at Southbank and the Brisbane skyline.
Queensland Ballet’s 60th Anniversary Gala is showing until 20 March. Don’t miss out!
What: Queensland Ballet 60th Anniversary Gala
When: 5-20 March 2021, 1:30/ 6:30/ 7:30pm
Where: QPAC Playhouse
Tickets: $85 – $135. Book here.
Photography by David Kelly