fter the disappointment of so many months of lockdowns, Sydney’s arts community is putting its best feet forward with an extraordinary cavalcade of shows for every type of entertainment lover. This is a perfect excuse to use those new Dine and Discover vouchers from the NSW government arriving at our Service NSW apps this weekend.
The Sydney Festival is, as always, the springboard of summer activity with new director Olivia Ansell’s program, running from January 6 – 30 including a new hub, called Speakers Corner, in the square adjacent to St Mary’s Cathedral in College St, that will host comedy gala nights and music from a diverse array of talents including Gordi, Jaguar Jonze, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Barkaa, James Morrison and the Ausecuma Beats.
On Sundays, as a salute the Domain’s traditional Speakers’ Corner, there will be soapbox debates, hosted by Sydney identities James Valentine and Warren Fahey, tossing around the legacies of our rabble-rousers, razor gang-era queens Tilly Devine and Kate Leigh, Sydney vaudeville stars, most famous misogynists and more. Bec Charlwood and Aleks Milinkovic will even ponder: have boomers stuffed our world?
The Casula Powerhouse will host the seven-hour West Ball 3 on January 29, curated by Jamaica Moana and Father Xander Silky showcasing the craze for ballroom dancing in southwest Sydney, especially among the POC, Indigenous and LGBTQI+ communities. Can’t get to Casula? There is a viewing party at the Bearded Tit in Redfern and a free live stream for those at home on their couch.
For the fourth year, Sydneysiders can go to Barangaroo on the evening of January 25 and take part in The Vigil: Songs for Tomorrow, a moment for unity and reflection.
Most unusual spectacle: surely Legs on the Wall’s Thaw (January 14 to 16) in which a courageous performer will perch on a 2.7-tonne block of gradually melting ice, from 10am, while suspended 20 metres above the harbour at Circular Quay. There’s a score to listen to by the Alaskan composer Matthew Burtner who is clearly familiar with things icy. Clearly, there is a message here about climate change and melting ice caps. This is a free event: turn up at 7.30pm if you want to catch the final hour of dripping.
For full details of festival events, go to sydneyfestival.org.au
In the following seasonal round-up, our critics help you fill up your diary, naming their picks of the events at the festival and beyond.
by Harriet Cunningham
Plateé, Pinchgut Opera, City Recital Hall, December 4 – 8
Fugly water nymph-with-influencer ambitions meets high-rolling deity with a point to prove. A song and dance is sure to ensue. Pinchgut Opera presents Platée, a deeply serious comedy by 18th -century French master Jean-Philippe Rameau, starring Kanen Breen as a would-be queen and Australia’s operatic royalty Peter Coleman-Wright and Cheryl Barker as the Olympus gold. Stage legend Neil Armfield directs this dream cast, with the Orchestra of the Antipodes and Cantillation bringing Rameau’s revelatory score to life for its centuries overdue Australian premiere. Yes, that’s a solid recommendation from me. Go book now.
Mozart’s Prague, Australian Haydn Ensemble, City Recital Hall, December 16 and 18
After a COVID-19 enforced retreat for most of the year, Pinchgut Opera’s rather brilliant artistic director, Erin Helyard, is finishing 2021 with a mad rush of performances. Here he appears as soloist with the redoubtable Australian Haydn Ensemble in Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 21, the eponymous Elvira Madigan. The work is flanked by two other treats, Haydn’s Symphony No. 95 in C minor and Mozart’s Prague Symphony, performed by a band of specialists who bring the latest historical scholarship to their practice. Music for the mind and soul.
-barra, Nardi Simpson, Ensemble Offspring and Barayagal Choir, City Recital Hall, January 16
Barayagal is an unique collective of singers created by Yuwaalaraay songwriter Nardi Simpson and hosted by Sydney University and the Sydney Conservatorium of Music. The choir welcomes First Nations people and the wider Sydney University community to sing songs of culture and stories. Thus, in -barra, a collaborative new work presented by Sydney Festival, the choir comes together with Yuwaalaraay artists Lucy Simpson and Brendan Odee Welsh, jazz pianist Kevin Hunt, and the steely virtuosity of Ensemble Offspring to create a musical map of country. The work promises a night of immersive sounds and visuals that take you into the heart of our ever-changing landscape. Deep and dreamy.
Night of the Soul, Sydney Philharmonia Choirs, The Cutaway, January 21-22
The Cutaway is a concrete-lined space gouged from the dirt of Barangaroo, looking out on one side at a sandstone wall glowing with yellow and red ochre. Bunker or cathedral? You decide as you sit on yoga mats and cushions, listening the Sydney Philharmonia Choir singing luminous works from the ancients to now. This top-notch choir will fill the space with the lush sounds of Arvo Part, Eric Whitacre and Ola Gjeilo, book-ended by the haunting refrains of Gregorian Chant.
Sydney Symphony Orchestra, Speakers Corner, January 30
This is what happens when you let an orchestra out of the concert hall. A percussion-heavy splinter group from Sydney Symphony have smuggled so-called classical music into the spicy melange at Sydney Festival’s new Speakers Corner venue. Hear them play Swoop by Western Sydney composer Holly Harrison and Shaker Loops by American minimalist John Adams alongside the fascinating, infuriating adventure of Steve Reich’s Mallet Quartet and Tim Constable’s funky Last Waltz. Mesmerising riffs and addictive rhythms.
Ein Deutsche Requiem, The Song Company, City Recital Hall, February 19
For their first outing since forever, the Song Company presents Brahms’ mighty requiem for humanity in an intimate version for small choir and piano. The music of Brahms is more often associated with grand architecture and symphonic gestures, but this work, in particular, brings such a poignant and vulnerable investigation of the human condition that I’m intrigued to hear it in chamber mode. Artistic Director Antony Pitts conducts the ensemble while Francis Greep joins guest artist Gerard Willems for a rare performance of Brahms’s two-piano duet, the St Anthony Variations.
by John Shand
The catholics, Foundry 616, December 4
The catholics are like friends you don’t see for a while, but with whom you instantly pick up where you left off. Now three decades young, the band is an institution, unfailingly delivering the tonic of pick-you-up music. Bassist Lloyd Swanton has steered the septet through numerous personnel changes and countless guests, without ever losing his grasp on the peculiar allure of resourceful improvisers playing over catchy world-beat grooves. Having had saxophonist Sandy Evans and trombonist James Greening as regulars has certainly helped the cause, but the current incarnation is especially versatile and engaging.
Phil Slater Quintet, Venue 505 (Fringe HQ), December 8
This music slides into your consciousness rather than pummelling your ears. Trumpeter/composer Phil Slater, saxophonist Matt Keegan, pianist Matt McMahon, bassist Brett Hirst and drummer Simon Barker – collectively the absolute cream of Oz jazz – are brilliant at layering themselves in relation to each other: creating sonic lattices rather than walls of sound. Curling like a creeper through these lattices comes Slater’s trumpet: at once impossibly sad and almost ominously beautiful – as will be heard to full effect unamplified in this venue. The band can also attain staggering power, but the deployment of space is its default option.
Avgenicos Brothers/Waveteller , Lazy Bones, December 14
There’s nothing like growing up playing music together for the sort of rapport that makes magic happen. The Avgenicos brothers – saxophonist Michael and trumpeter Tom – are the latest in a long line of sibling collaborators in Sydney, and now have a band they co-lead that, reflecting two restless imaginations, keeps shifting in mood, texture and idiom. They will unveil new material as well as revisiting their promising debut LP Treading Water. They share the night with the rhythmic intricacy, playfulness and pastel-hued melodies of Waveteller, led by bassist Michael Mear, with Casey Golden (keys) and Ed Rodrigues (drums).
Nadya Sings Piaf, Django@Camelot, December 19
They called her the little sparrow because of her diminutive size, but there was certainly nothing small about Edith Piaf’s voice. Nor is there about Nadya Golski’s, usually heard shredding gypsy songs with her 101 Candles Orchestra. In this concert, she shines that voice upon the power, joy and aching sadness of Piaf’s material, which was backgrounded by a life that was almost as turbulent as Billie Holiday’s. Nadya, who spent many years in Paris, is joined by her dream band for this project of Leonid Beshlei (accordion, saxophone), Mark Harris (double bass, vocals) and Stan Valacos (guitar).
Martha Marlow , City Recital Hall, January 14
Artifice is the obstacle lying between most performers and their art. Not Martha Marlow. She writes and sings her songs with such guileless candour as instantly enchants. Here she will present her debut album, Medicine Man, accompanied not just by the all-star band of Ben Hauptmann (guitar), Clayton Doley (keyboards), Jonathan Zwartz (bass) and Hamish Stuart (drums), but also a 17-piece chamber orchestra led by Veronique Serret. Fans of Joni Mitchell and Nick Drake will readily latch on to what Marlow does: her story-telling lyrics, variously reflecting knowingness and vulnerability, riding on pretty melodies and diaphanous singing.
Mike Nock Sextet/Hekka, Mary’s Underground, February 19
The first time I heard Hilary Geddes play guitar was with one of Mike Nock’s larger groups, and she instantly etched her name on to the list of players in town whom one should take very seriously. Nock’s expanded bands are like that: a mix of the established and the burgeoning, burning their way through his compositions, with Nock at the piano, lapping up every second. Geddes is back in a band also including trumpeter Tom Avgenicos, and they share night with the buzzing HEKKA: pianist Novak Manojlovic, bassist Jacques Emery (also with Nock) and drummer Tully Ryan.
by George Palathingal
Hiatus Kaiyote, Enmore Theatre, December 18
This year is the tenth since Hiatus Kaiyote formed in Melbourne yet – akin to their no-nonsense approach to music – they’re barely making a fuss of the anniversary. They would be well within their rights to do so. The four-piece, fronted by the riveting Nai Palm, have spent the past decade creating and evolving their own plush blend of modern soul, jazz and funk, consequently accruing a devoted international following. Better late than never, it took their first Grammy nomination in 2014 to make even their own country pay them more attention. Hiatus Kaiyote remain world-class.
I Know Leopard, Oxford Art Factory, December 23
That everything old is cool again, per the apparent circle of life, the universe and the mullet, is not always a bad thing. Enter I Know Leopard, a Sydney outfit with an unashamed fixation on the Electric Light Orchestra and other such synth-pop/rock adventurers from the ’70s and ‘80s. Like their heroes, IKL make glorious, beautifully produced tunes, such as the two on this year’s Day 2 Day single, though if they don’t get you, their dazzling 2019 debut album Love Is a Landmine will.
Amyl & the Sniffers, Speakers Corner, corner of College Street & William Street, January 6
Music has been all but overlooked in recent years of the Sydney Festival (yes, even before COVID) but it looks like they’re making up for that this year. There may be no hotter live Australian act right now than Melbourne four-piece Amyl & the Sniffers, who have been itching to get out on the road to perform blistering new album Comfort to Me since it came out in July. Finally uncaged, their punk-rock assault will kick things off on opening night, before the festival gives the stage to other exciting acts including Kiwi indie-pop types The Beths (January 18), rapper B Wise “and friends” (22) and Josh Cohen and his gorgeous-sounding show Radiohead for Solo Piano (27).
King St Carnival, Sydney Park Amphitheatre & Camperdown Memorial Rest Park, January 14-16
With so many festivals having fallen off the musical calendar since even before the pandemic, it’s thrilling that there’ll be such a strong one making its mark on the Inner West over a weekend in January. Beloved Sydney label Elefant Traks kicks it all off on Friday with a feast of hip-hop headlined by couldn’t-be-more-local heroes, Camperdown crew Horrorshow. Saturday is unmissable from an alt-rock perspective, with performances from the scorching likes of Amyl & the Sniffers, Shogun & the Sheets and the Buoys, not to mention Kaiit’s glorious take on R&B. And on Sunday, Confidence Man, Mildlife, Yothu Yindi and more will get you dancing.
Billy Bragg, Enmore Theatre, January 27-29
Billy Bragg hasn’t quite done it all, musically speaking, but the British singer-songwriter has had a successful crack at more than most. I can’t say I’m especially enamoured of his country-music leanings of recent years but the righteous folk-rock passion and indie-pop sensibilities of other Bragg iterations mean he’ll always turn up on a playlist or three. He’s a witty, immensely likeable fella, too. You can see this in track titles such as Full English Brexit and many a razor-sharp lyric, but it’s even better experienced when he’s just chatting between songs on stage.
Faith No More, Qudos Bank Arena, February 17
It’s nothing to be proud of but nearly 30 years ago I failed my first-ever university exam to see Faith No More support another band the day before. I didn’t regret the decision then and, given the San Fran alt-metal icons’ apparent inability to be anything short of phenomenal live, I’ve barely missed an opportunity to see them since. Their finest hour remains 1992 album Angel Dust but there have been numerous highlights either side of that. Throw in their predilection towards improbably faithful covers (The Commodores? Burt Bacharach? The Bee Gees?) and the magnetic charisma of frontman Mike Patton and you can’t go wrong.
by Nick Galvin
Black Brass, Performing Lines WA and Belvoir, Belvoir St Theatre, January 6 – 23
Black Brass was a hit at the Perth Festival and is set to be a standout in Sydney. Written and performed by Kenyan-born artist Mararo Wangai, the two-hander is set in a recording studio after hours. Wangai’s character explores the fate of migrants condemned always to be “in between”, against the backdrop of Mahamudo Selimane’s glorious guitar.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, State Theatre Company of South Australia, Sydney Opera House, January 13 – 23
Edward Albee’s classic tale of drunken suburban savagery is some 60 years old and the question we have to ask must be, why this play and why now? Director Margaret Harvey has answered both these questions and injected new life into the play with deliberate colour conscious casting. American accents are replaced with Australian and the power dynamics of race are brought to the fore.
Green Park, Griffin Theatre Company, Green Park, Darlinghurst, January 19 – 30
Elias Jamieson-Brown’s innovative drama makes a welcome return as part of Sydney Festival. Constrained by pandemic rules, Jamieson-Brown hit on the brilliant solution of staging the work in Green Park, Darlinghurst, with the audience eavesdropping via headphones on two characters discussing a Grindr hook-up. Herald reviewer Cassie Tongue praised director Declan Green for deftly walking the line between “humour and horror; nuance and depth; and connection and distance”.
Killing Katie: Confessions of A Book Club, Ensemble Theatre, Kirribilli, January 9 – February 26
Ensemble’s first play of the 2022 season is a black comedy that promises to lift the lid on the seething tensions and rivalries beneath the surface of a suburban book club. With a cracking all-female cast, including Kate Raison and Chantelle Jamieson, it’s deliciously dark fun that will have you thinking twice about that invitation to join a new book group.
Grand Horizons, Sydney Theatre Company, Roslyn Packer Theatre, February 21 – March 5
A joy from start to finish and with a stellar cast, including John Bell in the comedic form of his career, Grand Horizons takes perfect aim at the hypocrisy and selfishness of – at least some – adult children. The wordless opening scene between Bell and Linda Cropper is comedy gold.
Matisse: Life & Spirit: Masterpieces from the Centre Pompidou, Paris, Art Gallery of NSW, until March 13
Matisse! The very name conjures up thoughts of vividly coloured paintings and visions of the good life. How very different it was for the real Henri Matisse (1869-1954), who spent the first part of his career being reviled and mocked by le tout-Paris. By the time the French had changed their tune many of Matisse’s greatest paintings had departed for other countries, where they remain today. This summer blockbuster, drawn almost exclusively from the holdings of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, is mainly focused on the late work, but there are key pictures from all stages of the artist’s career. After months of lockdown, the AGNSW thinks this is the show to bring back the crowds.
Jeffrey Smart, National Gallery of Australia, December 11 – May 15
Jeffrey Smart (1921-2013), made his reputation by going against the grain of Australian art. Instead of gum trees and red desert, he painted the modern urban environment, both in his homeland and his adopted home, Italy, where he lived for more than 40 years. This exhibition is the first major Smart survey since 1999, and in that period his work has continued to grow in popularity. Uncanny images such as Cahill Expressway (1962), have printed themselves on the local psyche, their deadpan appearance concealing a bottomless fund of mystery. The NGA has chosen well in looking for an artist who will draw audiences to Canberra this summer.
Doug Aitken: New Era, Museum of Contemporary Art, until February 6
You may not be familiar with Doug Aitken (b.1968), but this Californian artist is one of the biggest names in international contemporary art. This MCA survey is Aitken’s first major solo exhibition in Australia, bringing together a range of ambitious multimedia works, some so vast they can only be experienced as video and photo documentation. Aitken has placed sculptures under the ocean, built pavilions in the Brazilian rainforest and the Colorado Desert. One work used a train to travel across the United States, carrying artists and musicians in 12 studio carriages, stopping to stage happenings at various stations. It may not be everybody’s idea of art, but it’s amazing.
Les Sculptures Refusées 2021, Q Station, Mosman, until January 27
Sculpture by the Sea has been waiting almost two years to resume its ever-popular Bondi exhibition. In the meantime, Les Sculptures Refusées, an independent satellite show that features work rejected from SXS, has launched a second instalment at Q Station, North Head – which is still “by the sea”. One can walk around the grounds and sample 23 works by 20 artists, chosen for quality and variety. Featured artists include Orest Keywan, Tania McMurtry, Simon Hodgson, and the winner of this year’s award, Anna Dudek. If you’ve never been to Q Station, this beautifully restored piece of history is worth a visit any time. You can even stay overnight.
Big in China, White Rabbit Gallery, 11 December – 22 May
What happens to White Rabbit – Judith Neilson’s extraordinary private gallery of contemporary Chinese art – as Australia’s relationship with China turns sour? It seems the show must go on! Over the past decade, Neilson has accumulated such a vast treasure trove there is enough to keep the gallery in new exhibitions for years to come. Big in China brings together an array of startling works by Chinese artists such as Xu Zhen, Tang Nannan, Lin Yan, Feng Mengbo and others. They may not be household names in Australia, but they make unforgettable art. To be ‘big in China’ one has to do something that captures eyes and minds, and these artists know how.
Five Hundred Arhats, Powerhouse Museum, Ultimo, Until May 15
At last, the poor besieged Powerhouse Museum in Ultimo is beginning to hold exhibitions again. The most fascinating of a new group of shows is Five Hundred Arhats, a set of ancient stone figures discovered in 2001-02, in the ruins of a Buddhist temple, in Gangwon-do Province, South Korea. The arhat is a saint who has attained enlightenment but has chosen to remain on earth and help others. They are generally seen as of lesser rank than the Bodhisattvas, which fulfil a similar role. These sculptures date from the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). Individually, they appear worn and humble, but put them together and the cumulative impact is extremely powerful.
by Garry Maddox
Don’t Look Up, on Netflix December 24
As Red Notice showed, Netflix is happy to throw money around to attract A-list stars. That will help writer-director Adam McKay (The Big Short, Vice) attract viewers to this dark comedy over Christmas. The story has an astronomy professor (Leonardo DiCaprio) and one of his students (Jennifer Lawrence) discovering that a “planet killer” comet is heading towards earth. They try to alert the world but discover no-one believes them, including the US president Orlean (Meryl Streep) and her sycophantic son and chief of staff (Jonah Hill). The impressive cast includes Cate Blanchett, Tyler Perry, Timothee Chalamet, Ariana Grande, Kid Cudi and Mark Rylance.
The Matrix Resurrections, in cinemas on December 26
Long-delayed sequels are always a worry, not least when earlier sequels have disappointed. But there is a genuine hope that the fourth Matrix movie lives up to its dazzling, high-energy trailer. Resurrections is directed by Lana Wachowski – without sister Lilly this time – and stars the returning Keanu Reeves as Neo and Carrie-Anne Moss as Trinity, as well as Matrix newcomers Neil Patrick Harris, Christina Ricci, Priyanka Chopra Jonas and Yahya Abdul-Mateen II. This time round it was shot in Berlin and California rather than Sydney. It is one summer movie you really want to be good.
West Side Story, in cinemas on December 26
The bar has been raised so high with Hamilton that Steven Spielberg will do well to impress with his new version of this classic New York musical. Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner, who worked with him on Munich and Lincoln, has updated the story and set the familiar songs in a more realistic cityscape. And instead of white actors in brown makeup (as in the classic 1961 movie that won 10 Oscars including best picture) he cast performers with Hispanic backgrounds as Hispanic characters. Newcomer Rachel Zegler plays pure-hearted Maria with Ansel Elgort (Baby Driver) as Tony. Spielberg comes to it as a longtime fan, having loved the cast album from the hit 1957 Broadway musical as a boy.
House Of Gucci, in cinemas January 1
High fashion, corporate intrigue, family infighting, murder and extreme wealth. This true-crime drama from director Ridley Scott has more than enough elements to be entertaining, as well as a seriously impressive cast headed by Lady Gaga. She plays Patrizia Reggiani, who went to jail after being convicted of the 1995 assassination of her ex-husband, the fashion trailblazer Maurizio Gucci (Adam Driver). The movie is based on a book by Sara Gay Forden with the over-the-top title The House of Gucci: A Sensational Story of Murder, Madness, Glamour and Greed. The cast includes Jared Leto, Jeremy Irons, Salma Hayek and Al Pacino. The social media responses to early overseas screenings suggests it’s a wild ride.
Belfast, in cinemas February 3
Kenneth Branagh looks back to his childhood in Northern Ireland in a drama that is widely seen as a contender for best picture and director at the Oscars. Set during emerging sectarian tensions in 1969, it is a family tale told largely through the eyes of nine-year-old Buddy (Jude Hill). Branagh, who wrote the script as well as directing, shoots it in black-and-white with bursts of colour. While admitting the thick accents are challenging to understand, The Hollywood Reporter said Branagh “brings off moments of humour and pathos that leave a lasting impact”. The cast includes Jamie Dornan, Caitriona Balfe, Lewis McAskie, Judi Dench and Ciaran Hinds.
Loveland, in cinemas on February 10
Australian director Ivan Sen broke through with the tender Indigenous drama Beneath Clouds almost 20 years ago. He has gone on to make Mystery Road, Toomelah, Goldstone and now what shapes as a visually stunning sci-fi film with Blade Runner vibes. Sen started writing it while living in Sichuan with his Chinese wife. The story is set in futuristic Hong Kong, where an assassin (Ryan Kwanten) is drawn to a nightclub singer (Jillian Nguyen). Finding his body mysteriously deteriorating, he tracks down a reclusive life extension scientist (Hugo Weaving). The multi-talented Sen also produced, shot, edited and scored the film.
by Valerie Lawson
A Chorus Line, Darlinghurst Theatre Company, Parramatta Riverside Theatre, January 6-16 and Sydney Opera House, February 11 for a 4-week season.
One of the best musicals ever? I think so. Directed and choreographed by Michael Bennett who began his career as a dancer in West Side Story, A Chorus Line premiered on Broadway in July 1975.
Following the famous musicals of the 40s, 50s and 60s – Kiss Me Kate, South Pacific, Guys and Dolls, The King and I, My Fair Lady and West Side Story, A Chorus Line changed musical theatre. No fancy costumes and upbeat endings but a musical that was known as “the first reality show”.
Nevertheless, A Chorus Line was a remarkable success winning the Pulitzer Prize and nine Tony Awards. Set on a stage, 17 dancers audition for a spot in a musical. As if an audition is not enough, director Zach asks them to describe their early life and why they want to be a dancer. Any dancer, their family or anyone at all who think they’re not good enough can understand the tension. A Chorus Line’s lyrics tell it all especially in two of the songs, I Can Do That and I Hope I Get It.
More than 40 years later A Chorus Line still resonates. Now a new generation can watch Darlinghurst Theatre Company’s A Chorus Line with new choreography by Amy Campbell.
Wudjang: Not the Past, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Roslyn Packer Theatre, January 14 – February 12
Directed and choreographed by Bangarra’s artistic director, Stephen Page and co-written with the playwright, Alana Valentine, Wudjang: Not the Past –Bangarra’s co-production with the Sydney Theatre Company – is a blend of dance, spoken storytelling and live music with a cast of 17 dancers, four musicians and five actors.
The production has a close connection with Stephen as he is a descendant of the Nunukul people and the Munaldjali clan of the Yugambeh Nation from south-east Queensland.
The story of Wudjang: Not the Past begins just before dawn when workmen find bones while excavating for a dam. Among the workers is Bilin, a Yugambeh man, who convinces his colleagues to let him keep the ancestral remains. This ancestor is Wudjang, who longs to be reburied the proper way. With her young companion spirit, Gurai, she dances and teaches and sings of the past, of the earth, of songlines.
Wudjang: Not the Past follows the journey to honour Wudjang with a traditional resting place on Country and a new generation is taught how to listen, learn and carry their ancestral energy into the future.
New Breed, Sydney Dance Company, Carriageworks to December 11
The annual Sydney Dance Company showcase of new choreography will mark the company’s first live, on-stage performance since Sydney’s 2021 lockdown began in June.
This year’s choreographers are Jacopo Grabar – a dancer in the Sydney Dance Company whose work in New Breed will be his first choreographic engagement with the company – Jasmin Shepperd – a contemporary dancer who spent 12 years with Bangarra Dance Theatre – Lilian Steiner – a long-term performer-collaborator with the Melbourne-based company Lucy Guerin Inc and Rhiannon Newton – an Australian dancer and choreographer who developed her practice through residencies and commissions in Australia, Europe and North America.
Decadance, Sydney Dance Company, Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, January 6 – 9.
Roslyn Sulcas, the dance critic at The New York Times, once described the dancers’ moves in Ohad Naharin’s Decadance as “body twitches and bursts into a buckling, convulsive dance, arms and legs lashing and flailing to the rhythms of Habib Alla Jamal’s music. Each of the dancers is compelled into dance until they all join in a fist-shaking crouch, no longer individuals but part of a tribal crowd”. This sequence, she wrote, “makes you want to jump on stage and dance, not analyse. Some audience members do get a chance to dance, in a beautifully choreographed sequence that magically combines formal structure for the dancers with space for the amateurs onstage to play”.
You can’t beat that review as a five-star show, but you can watch it at the Sydney Opera House in January when Sydney Dance Company dancers move to an eclectic soundtrack ranging from Dick Dale to John Zorn, Goldfrapp to The Beach Boys.
Ballet movies, Palace Cinemas, various dates and locations
Two ballets, one new and one much loved at Christmas. The Red and the Black a ballet in three acts is the Paris Opera Ballet’s first new full-length, narrative classical ballet in a decade. Based on Stendhal’s novel of the same name, it’s a story of a tumultuous life in which love turns out to be dangerous when the main character Julien Sorel – an irresistible 18-year-old – claws his way up the social ladder. The choreographer, Pierre Lacotte, has adapted from Stendhal’s novel into a grand narrative ballet with sumptuous sets and costumes. Filmed in the Palais Garnier, Paris, the leading roles are danced by three of the company’s principal dancers, Mathieu Ganio, Amandine Albisson and Myriam Ould-Braham. Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona, Palace Central, December 4, 5 and 8
There are many Nutcrackers, but then there’s Peter Wright’s Nutcracker. It’s not only “sugar and spice and all things nice” but the best Nutcracker production ever. Premiered in 1984 it was first staged in Birmingham, then in London.
With Tchaikovsky’s music, a Christmas tree that gets wider and bigger, a revolving fireplace and the beloved Sugar Plum Fairy, the ruler of the Kingdom of Sweets, who couldn’t love the ballet just before Christmas. Palace Norton Street, Palace Verona, Palace Central, Palace Byron Bay, December 23 and 24
The Sleeping Beauty, Queensland Ballet, HOTA, Gold Coast, February 25 and 26
First performed in 1890 at the legendary Mariinsky Theatre in St Petersburg, this ballet is a classic.
This latest interpretation is conceived by Greg Horsman, the Queensland Ballet’s ballet master whose changes include the christening scene with cream gothic architecture and arches soaring upwards and hung with heraldic flags.
With Queensland opening up, it’s definitely the perfect excuse for a trip to check our the new Home of the Arts on the Gold Coast, which also has an exciting gallery).
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