"Unveiled"... an inspired deconstruction of the romantic classical ballet “Giselle”. Photo: ES Fotografi

Dance / "Unveiled". Produced, directed and choreographed by Bonnie Neate and Suzy Piani. At Erindale Theatre, until July 17. Reviewed by BILL STEPHENS.

CANBERRA is fortunate to have many excellent dance schools that, over the years, have produced dancers who have gone on to significant national and international careers. 

For those dancers wishing to forge a professional career as a dancer, the leap from dance school to a dance company or professional employment as a dancer, usually requires that they leave Canberra to undertake further training to bring them to professional level. 

Enter Bonnie Neate and Suzy Piani, two passionate professional dance educators who, having observed the high calibre of the dancers being produced by local dance schools, identified a need for a local transitional program. 

With that in mind they instituted this self-funded project for which they held open auditions to select 20 young, aspiring dancers aged between 15 and 23 years from dance schools around Canberra to work at a professional level on an original, full-length contemporary work entitled “Unveiled”. 

An inspired deconstruction of the romantic classical ballet “Giselle”, “Unveiled” incorporates none of the music or choreography from that ballet. Instead, Neate and Piani have compiled a superbly recorded soundtrack of contemporary and classical music and songs.

"Unveiled"... a compelling argument for the benefits of pre-professional training.
Photo: ES Fotografi

Eschewing traditional scenery, the work is presented on a bare stage enhanced by striking lighting effects, with a huge screen providing a background for atmospheric video images and shadows. 

Elegant, sophisticated modern dancewear with only occasional references to the classical inspirations of the piece focused full attention on the meticulously groomed dancers as they skilfully executed the demanding choreography with impressive attention to mood, characterisation and detail. 

The choreography, devised by Neate and Piani, is complex, inventive and continually interesting, embracing classical, acrobatic and contemporary dance elements. 

The brilliantly executed ensemble sequences demanded and received precise, committed execution, bringing to mind lavish Busby Berkeley extravaganzas, but cleverly incorporated in this production for particular effect, as in an early sequence when Giselle and Albrecht desperately maintain eye contact as the dancers swirl around them. 

Anna Hosking, as Giselle, already possesses a brilliant technique. Her beautiful line and extraordinary extensions and flexibility are showcased in complex acrobatic choreography for moody solos and expressive duets for which she is sensitively partnered by Joshua Walsh as Albrecht. 

As the only male in the production, Walsh partnered with distinction while evoking a charming blokey characterisation that provided an excellent focal point for the ire of the wills, led by Alice Collins as the Queen of Girlfriends past, when his roving eye finally brought about his comeuppance.

Holly Hilder, as Albrecht’s jilted fiancé Bathilde, Sarah Duffy and Ali Mayes as Giselle’s friends, Bertha and Hilaria, and Olivia Smith as the Temptress, all provided sharply delineated characterisations that kept the storyline focused throughout the many cleverly choreographed and superbly executed ensemble sequences.

Delightfully entertaining as well as brilliantly choreographed and performed, “Unveiled” provides a compelling argument for the benefits of pre-professional training. 

One hopes that it is seen by decision makers who could provide the funding to make a reality of the ambition of Neate and Piani to provide talented Canberra dancers with such a resource.

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Thank you,

Ian Meikle, editor