music / “Sticks and Stones”. The Song Company with Oday Al Khatib. At Wesley Uniting Church, March 24. Reviewed by GRAHAM McDONALD
Set in The Hall of the Portrait Gallery, “Dances for David” is a tribute to David McAllister – the dancer, artistic director of the Australian Ballet Company, mentor and many other roles in between. It is being performed to celebrate the unveiling of Peter Brew-Bevan’s portrait, “The Dance – David McAllister”.
The Quartet, comprised of four dancers with lengthy biographies, came together over a mutual fascination with McAllister, notably his career in images, and created this short program.
McAllister’s impact in the dance world has had a multi-generational pervasiveness, as demonstrated by the age range of these performers, who also choreographed this work.
The performance opened with Patrick Harding-Irmer dressed in a suit. He moved slowly, deliberately, creating shapes and postures and executing simple ballet steps in a manner only long-time dancers can. This piece felt simultaneously nostalgic and fortuitous considering McAllister’s past and potential future.
“Duet for David” was simply lovely. Julia Cotton and Elle Cahill performed this elegant duet in soft grey tunics. Danced to “Andante” from Dmitri’s Piano Concerto No. 2, the piece allowed reflection on some of the romantic ballets, such as “Giselle” and “Swan Lake” and leading ballerinas that McAllister has partnered. But it was just as easy to forget this was a tribute and be swept up in it as a stand-alone piece.Anca Frankenhaeuser is physically striking. She danced a graceful, thought-provoking piece focused around a suspended dress, with which she interacted. The dramatic music was sometimes juxtaposed with small, contained dance movements.
The final dance used Indian music, perhaps representative of McAllister’s travels and work all over the world and with many ballet companies. It was also representative of the universality of dance.
This dance playfully gave a salute to some of McAllister’s lead roles on stage, including “Swan Lake”. Harding-Irmer remained separated from the women for part of the dance, suggestive of McAllister the mentor and director. The audience gave a knowing chuckle as the dancers executed a sequence of stances and postures, instantly recognisable as those of McAllister.
“Dances for David” was a tender expression of gratitude and respect for McAllister’s oeuvre and for his enduring legacy on the Australian dance landscape.