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Vanguard [DANCE] A New Vocabulary For Modern Dance By Shannon Connellan


odern ballet has ditched the tutu. Not too many moons ago, as the twentieth century revved its newly invented engine, ballet visionaries looked beyond the canonical field of Nutcrackers and White Swans to a new, modern style. And this month The Australian Ballet present their latest contemporary number, Vanguard, to celebrate the moments that steered a new course for dance.

Vanguard is a hand-picked triple bill featuring pieces that stuck it to The Man and shook up the system for ballet in the last century. “Classical ballet underwent dramatic developments in the twentieth century and continues to evolve,” said The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director David McAllister. “Vanguard is a program that will shift people’s expectations of what classical movement can express.” Leading the pack, George Balanchine’s 1946 work The Four Temperaments put classical technique through the wash. Jirí Kylián’s 1995 Bella Figura pushed dancer bodies to new Ty King-Wall in Vanguard


[FILM] When Luck’s On Your Side By Jenny Noyes

contorted limits. Then, under a decade ago, Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929 wrote a new vocabulary for modern dance. These three outside-the-boxers reinvented traditional ballet and splashed icy water on the faces of jaded balletgoers. The works push movement to the forefront, politely asking epic narrative and fancy costuming to take a breather. The choreography is laid bare, the dancers themselves made the main focus. Incidentally, the biggest headliner in the Vanguard bill is the one making all the moves with shiny new Principal Artist for The Australian Ballet, Ty King Wall, making his debut performance wearing the top spot title. Performing in all three of the Vanguard pieces, the choreography King Wall performs is quite different to his main repertoire; he’s ticked off numerous classical characters from The Nutcracker Prince to Don Quixote’s Basilio. And the 26-year-old dancer, who has been with the company since 2009, is keen to get his nose out of the history books for a change. “These are three abstract ballets… they’re all very testing and quite removed from what we usually do. All three are, in their own way, very challenging and rewarding works to perform,” he says. Kicking off the triad for Vanguard is Russianborn New York ballet legend George Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments. Created in the ‘40s, the piece studies the four Ancient Greek “humours”: melancholic, choleric, sanguinic and phlegmatic. Fifty years after Balanchine, Czech choreographer Jirí Kylián decided to create new parameters for a ballet dancer’s technique. His work, Bella Figura is the second featured Vanguard piece, taking the form of a psychological study, which fluctuates between consciousness and dreaming.

King Wall is excited to bring the works to both a seasoned ballet audience and enthusiastic newcomers to the art. “It’s a fantastic triple bill that [The Australian Ballet] has put together. I know the dancers really enjoy performing it and I’m sure the audience can read that and feel that,” he says. What: Vanguard by The Australian Ballet Where: Sydney Opera House When: Until May 18

Making his debut as a producer with Drift, Pollard acknowledges the temperamental climate he had to work in. “Talking to more seasoned producers, they’re blown away. It was the middle of winter in a remote location, a wild location three hours south of Perth and that region is known for its volatility at that time of year. It could just rain and rain and rain and the winds could be really severe,” he says. And that’s what they got for at least threequarters of pre-production. Pollard describes the amount of water as “biblical” and says they were running out of options if the weather didn’t improve for them, but it did. “The sun magically arrived during the first day of shooting, the swell was incredible, it was the best luck we could have hoped for,” Pollard says. Shooting in some of Australia’s biggest swells, they were also lucky to escape injury and avoid any encounters with sharks. Pollard’s face drains a little when I innocently ask about whether sharks were a problem; it turns out there was a fatal attack in the area just a day after the team were filming in the water. “I could put my hand on my heart and say you’ve got more chance of being hit by lightning, but Western Australia just had a run of them […] You can sit out on the water and there are pods of dolphins everywhere, baitfish swimming around. You’re in an ecosystem, and for me that’s the biggest appeal of it. We were very, very fortunate. Someone was smiling down on us.” There is a moment in Drift when the film’s central characters have to make a split-second decision about whether to continue a surf

Spring Breakers

shoot in huge, rough swell. Pollard recounts an almost identical moment that occurred in the making of the film – a case of life imitating art, in the making of art. Again, a twist of luck got them through the scene. Like some of the more extreme challenges faced in the making of Drift, the film’s narrative centres on overcoming “insurmountable odds”, with the early surfing culture of remote coastal Australia’s forming the context for all the drama. “We spent years trying to eke out a really good, strong, inspiring story that would resonate with a mainstream audience, not just the surfing audience,” says Pollard, “but at the same time we wanted to authenticate the surfing experience.” This focus on balancing the importance of dramatic performances with solid authentic surf sequences has paid off. There are some beautiful, epic surf shots, but the characters get under your skin whether you’re a salt water baby or you’ve never stood up on a board. Pollard says the story was constructed as a sort of “fictionalised soup” made from events that have at least a few kernels of truth to them. “You only have to sit down and have a beer with a surfer and they’ll talk until the cows come home about all the surfing myths that exist, all the stories about these larrikins in the late ’60s and ’70s. They loved what they did so much; they loved the whole lifestyle of surfing so much that they built this industry around it out of their backyard sheds. “Unashamedly, we’ve just chucked in a whole bunch of these myths, stirred them around in the pot and added a few herbs to create an entertaining experience,” says Pollard. What: Drift When: In cinemas Thursday 2 More:

Spring Breakers

[FILM] Harmony Korine’s Beach Noir By Dee Jefferson


ntil recently, Harmony Korine has been the underdog of a fiercely independent film-as-provocation subculture of American cinema, along with filmmakers like Vincent Gallo and Larry Clark. A skater, painter, author and photographer, his films have been decidedly on the experimental and performance art end of the spectrum – apart perhaps, from the very verité Kids, which he wrote when he was 19. Thereafter followed four resolutely non-commercial features: Gummo, Julien Donkey Boy, Mister Lonely, and Trashhumpers (about degenerate oldies who hump trash); all lo-fi films set in low-income enclaves, about lowbrow things like fucking, skating, drinking, drugs and casual violence.

game; bare-breasted, they jiggle underphallic yard-glasses waiting to be showered on.

And then Spring Breakers happened: his fifth feature, his first commercial success, and about as different aesthetically to his previous work as Chaplin’s Great Dictator is to Die Hard. At first glance, you’d be hard pressed to see Korine in this film, for all the slick, high-def visuals, production values, and the big-name stars (Vanessa Hudgens, Selena Gomez, James Franco). “Yeah, I can see that,” the writer-director demurs.

“You know I never wanted to make a movie about spring break,” says the writer-director. “It’s almost more representative of this idea, and of this thing that’s more fleeting. And then the film becomes something more of a crime story – about the underworld; the gangster culture, gangster mysticism. All that stuff – beach noir: the coke houses, the guns, the shoot-outs; the menace and pathology under the palm trees at night. The rotting yachts, the dirty swimming pools, the Glocks and the spinning rims and the cocaine and the baking soda...”

Spring Breakers a candy-coloured cultural nightmare, in which bikini-clad babes cruise the streets of Miami on scooters in slowmotion, straight out of a rap video; jacked up on coke, brandishing machetes and fake guns, they rob a diner like it’s part of a video 20 :: BRAG :: 511 :: 06:05:13

“There’s elements of the visual style of rap videos that are kind of sifted through – like a cultural mash-up, or an impressionistic reinterpretation of those things, of that culture,” says Korine. “It’s a meshing and a melding and a blending and a kind of mutating of all of those things.” Korine’s entry point was his passion for the trap and drill subgenres of rap (he worked with Skrillex on the soundtrack, and cast one of his all-time favourite rappers, Gucci Mane – “I just called him in prison and asked him to do it.”).

This violence and consumerism, he says, “is something that’s completely linked to American culture; it’s part of the fabric here, it’s part of the mythology [of America].”

In this respect, Korine follows in the footsteps of Brian De Palma’s American nightmare Scarface (explicitly referenced in the film), in which Cuban immigrant-on-the-make and wannabe gangster Tony Montana, assessing ‘80s Florida, says: “In this country, you gotta make the money first. Then when you get the money, you get the power. Then when you get the power, you get the women.” But while Spring Breakers features another Tony, in the form of white-boy rapper, dealer and wannabe gangster Alien (James Franco), the action belongs to the four party-hard girls who arrive on his patch of turf for spring break. In the real world and in the movie world, some terrible violence would befall these girls; but in Korine’s world, they cut through the scene like a

razor through butter, moving with a sinister kind of amorality; untouchable, unreal. What does it say about the American dream that these girls are the ultimate predators? But Korine is reluctant to engage in deep analysis, insisting that his film “is not an indictment or an essay”. “I don’t ask myself any questions. I just make movies, make things, mind my own business, play basketball, eat tacos. I do what I want to do. I entertain myself. I just don’t want to know anything about why I do anything.” What: Spring Breakers When: In cinemas May 9 More:

Ty King-Wall photo by Georges Antoni

Closest to home of the three is Dyad 1929, created in 2009 for The Australian Ballet by UK-born Wayne McGregor, founder of Random Dance and resident choreographer of the Royal Ballet. “Dyad is a whole other kettle of fish,” says King Wall. “When that was choreographed about ten years ago in the company none of us had ever encountered anything like that before. It was almost like being slapped in the face really, in a good way. It really tested us, pushed us to our limits.”


he surf gods, Mother Nature, sheer luck – whatever you want to call it – was firmly on the side of actor/producer Myles Pollard and his Drift co-creators when they shot the film two years ago in just 32 days.

The Brag #511  

SYDNEY’S HOTTEST INDEPENDENT WEEKLY STREET PRESS Hitting the streets with the best music, culture and events, every Monday. This week: Local...

The Brag #511  

SYDNEY’S HOTTEST INDEPENDENT WEEKLY STREET PRESS Hitting the streets with the best music, culture and events, every Monday. This week: Local...