‘Moonlight Ballet’ was effervescent.
Split into two distinctively different, but equally vibrant acts, ‘Moonlight Ballet’ was an effervescent double bill.
I’d not visited the Gold Coast’s Home of the Arts (HOTA) before, and frankly many of us in audience were initially whispering about the threat of mosquitoes given the humidity by the back of the Nerang River. There was talk that the company were likely dousing themselves in mozzie spray for the evening backstage before the show, too. Turns out, the humidity evolved into a pleasant cool and we settled into a beautiful evening for the performance.
Set upon the HOTA outdoor stage as dusk set in, the aroma of paella and coffee drifted through the air. Onlookers watched keenly as the company warmed up on-stage before the show, in a rare open rehearsal. Then, the Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet, Li Cunxin, answered a delightful Q&A leading into the first act of ‘Moonlight Ballet’; Jack Lister’s B-Sides.
Patrons sang under their breath as an exciting exploration of relationships, at the turning of the socio-political era, unfolded. *Queue irresistible soul, rock’n’roll, and rhythm and blues of the 1960s.* Wil Hughes absolutely got the sound design brief.
Noeline Hill’s use of nostalgic pop colours, combined with Cameron Goerg’s clean and clever light and line work for this set, made this show easy and delightful to digest. Jack Lister’s highly engaging choreography, arranged to lyrics, drew this performance away from the ballet status quo.
A striking tangerine suit burst onto the stage under the spotlight with powerful and hypnotic movements including hip thrusts as introduced officially by the likes of Elvis, setting the scene for a suite of evocative tales. A duo in lemon, brimming with electricity, wielded one another around every face of the quadrate set pieces, fluctuating in and out of an entrancing simpatico. An electric blue duo navigated the tensions that accompany a contentious relationship.
Classic stage lighting made their outfits pop – faces hidden by shadows cast. The simplicity of the costuming drew perfect attention to vector play as bodies stretched, swung, swayed, and at times, levitated over the boxes, into corners, and atop walls. Clever shadow play and smoke enhanced depictions of electric chemistry and heartbreak.
Intermission interrupted too soon, budding dancers through to seasoned performing arts admirers eagerly rose from their seats, wiggling and stretching to the sound of catchy 60s classics, speculating over the wonderfully unpredictable trajectory of the show.
Act Two saw Christopher Bruce’s ‘Rooster’ turn up the contemporary choreography heat with a touch of country, as cheeky narratives of male chauvinism unfolded. First to hit the stage was a curiously playful number performed to ‘Little Red Rooster’, made unique with elongated slides, distinctive emu-esque head movements, and a slicked back ‘do.
Marian Bruce continued the vibrant costuming motif with kitsch velvet suits and primary coloured ties. An assortment of classic 60s styles was featured, including tiny black mod dresses with red pleats, piggy tails and red neck scarves. A floor length ruby gown aptly brought Ruby Tuesday to life with ethereal sweeps and entrancing lifts – lengths of red twisting and flaring material across the stage.
Unlike Act One, where facial expressions were rarely the focal point (as is common in traditional ballet), the zesty flavour of the toe-tapping soundtrack inevitably beamed from the cast, radiating out through the audience with every kick and kiss.
No set pieces and increased lighting lifted the mood for this half. The stage was often maximised from corner to corner with flocks of dancers passing through, one side to the other, in pursuit, escape, or glee. Christina R Gianelli’s revival lighting was well attuned to each new outfit and complemented the dynamic range of classic-cross-contemporary themes.
Where music often starts first, new outfits and signature movements instead introduced each new song – each scene tied seamlessly into the next. As the tracks ramped up, so did the synchronous audience reaction, gleefully anticipated with each new song. The tempo and intensity kept rising through the ranks with tracks from the likes of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. Body percussion, marionette-like movements, and coy interactions (think, giddy kids playing Kiss Chasey in primary school) really tied the era together.
The utter confidence and gusto injected into each and every move was wonderful, and the return of The Little Rooster’s iconic slide/bob in the final minutes meant Li Cunxin’s standing ovation was easy to follow.
‘Moonlight Ballet’ played HOTA until November 12, 2022. For more information about this production visit Queensland Ballet’s website.