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I’m not qualified to review theatre productions but this show was so lovely that I wanted to share it. This show is the result of an unusual combination of two major Australian performing arts companies; Australian Chamber Orchestra (Artistic Director Richard Tognetti) and Sydney Dance Company (Artistic Director Rafael Bonachela). Tognetti and Bonachela are both fascinated by the music of Jean-Phillipe Rameau and this production is the result of imaginative choreography set to music by Rameau, Vivaldi and Bach.
It was truly delightful to see the dancers beautiful, powerful and muscular bodies lit by golden lighting, gracefully moving across the stage in perfect unison. The dancing varied from ballet to contemporary dance. Sometimes the choreography included playful moves to follow accents in the music, including some cute bottom wiggles but it was always beautiful and graceful, not like the kind of graceless contemporary dance full of flexed feet and leaping on one another that one can find on tv shows like So you think you can Dance. Interestingly, the chamber orchestra was placed on display on an elevated stage on top of the main stage and the string and wind instruments looked beautiful in the golden light. It was particularly exciting when the guitarist switched to playing the theorbo (a type of long-necked lute which was developed in Florence during the 1580s).
The baroque music of Rameau, Vivaldi and Bach was beautifully played by the chamber orchestra and the choreography perfectly matched the emphases of the music. The stage also had long white fluorescent light tubes placed around it that were turned on and off to provide emphasis and the background of the stage changed colour to indicate the change from one piece of music to another. My favourite of all the performances was a pas de deux that was accompanied by a solo by the lead violinist.
This performance contrasts starkly with the last contemporary dance performance that I saw this year by Australian Dance Theatre, called G. Apparently G is a contemporary version of the ballet Giselle but at times seemed to be a piece of improvisation where each dancer was encouraged to pass from one side of the stage to the other while doing something vaguely interesting. G lacked the grace, beauty and careful choreography that exemplifies Project Rameau. The dancers in G were at times unable to hold their poses, did not achieve full extensions whereas the dancing in Project Rameau was polished, coordinated and performed by accomplished dancers.
The contrast between the two performances highlights how varied and unpredictable creative enterprises can be. G, with its amateurish (and somewhat gratuitous) dancing, grating background industrial ‘music’, reliance on the electronic background with it’s display of random words and high-profile marketing (including on the side of buses) didn’t even approach the subtle elegance and refinement of Project Rameau, despite sharing the same venue and being similarly priced.