Preview: Australian Ballet flying in for 50th.
The Australian Ballet is showing their unique works in New York, their only US stop on a fiftieth anniversary tour. One-hundred-twenty Australian dancers and company members will alight on Lincoln Center June 12-17 with two Koch Theater programs.
Purists will call Graeme Murphy’s modernized 2002 Swan Lake irreverent. Go without expecting straight Petipa, and you’ll tap into its popularity. Murphy said (in the DVD post-talk) that his heroine shares “a great sense of doubt about one’s ability to be loved.” That’s pretty universal. The ballet has been performed around the world but it’s new here in the US.
In re-imagining Swan Lake, Murphy didn’t toy with or excerpt the gorgeous music we know. “I hope Tchaikovsky would smile, even slightly, at what I’ve done,” he said. The Murphy focuses on Odette and betrayal; it takes inspiration from Princess Diana and the House of Windsor love triangle. With this as the germ, “[the dancers] had real models to base their characters on.”
For Amber Scott, the matinee Odette, the Murphy IS Swan Lake. At 21 she was a corps member and understudy for the role. She got her chance when several principals took pregnancy leave. She collected awards that year for her dancing. According to Francis Mason and George Balanchine in their 101 Stories of the Great Ballets, “To succeed in Swan Lake is to become overnight a ballerina.”
When David McAllister started as Artistic Director, the Murphy Swan Lake was his first project. McAllister publicly praised Scott for making the most of her opportunities. In July 2011, he promoted her to principal. Her delicacy and inner strength as Odette has attracted a fan base. In a recent phone interview, she called Swan Lake “one of the hardest ballets; it just keeps on going.”
Scott’s description and her approach in a nutshell, “She’s a young naive princess who gets married. She’s very fragile. It’s like shards of glass eating away at her, eating away at her innocence…She shatters but her love for the Prince saves her.. She’s not as robust as the Baroness. In the end the Prince realizes that he loves her but it’s too late.” You’ll see swans, “but beneath that there’s a woman. Turning into a swan is a way for her to fly away from herself, from her pain.” The ballerina and her ensemble of black swans mourn the love that could have been. Petipa’s starting point is no less far-fetched.
The second program “Infinity” is a showcase mix with excerpts of company favorites including Scott and partner Adam Bull in a pas de deux from Australian Stephen Baynes’s Molto Vivace. (Baynes is currently creating a new neo-classical Swan Lake for the company.) Infinity also features Stephen Page’s new Warumuk – in the dark night with AB and Bangarra company dancers (indigenous peoples). It is based on Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander traditions and stories. The evening is a chance to see Wayne McGregor’s and AB’s Dyad 1929. This abstract dance is part two of two with “traces of the Ballet Russes spirit,” says the program note.
Murphy had accessibility on his mind when he made his Swan Lake. It may even untether slaves to tradition. “I love to share my art form with the world,” he said.