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Sid’s Waltzing Masquerade


This is the final work of the Sydney Dance Company in 2008. An intermediary year of three choreographers working with the dancers whilst in the hiatus of searching for a new Artistic leader. I personally feel the company has benefited much from the input and experience of the three guest choreographers: Meryl Tankard, Rafael Bonachela and now Aszure Barton.

This work has the feel of a deliberate choice that is as opposite to The Bonachela as possible. The Bonachela 360 Degrees was bombastically contemporary in every area of creativity. It’s stature has grown for me over time and is even further appreciated after this work. If the Bonachela was an example of the trend of contemporary Brutalism in performance art, then this work is Fairy Floss.

The stage area has been converted, Designed, (Gerard Manion) into a proscenium style space, even with a red velvet front curtain. The work has a pre-blurb in the program “SID’S WALTZING MASQUERADE IS A ROUSIN’, CAROUSIN’ ADVENTURE OF A GUY & HIS GANG… IT’S GOING TO BE HEAVEN.” The work begins with Bradley Chatfield been flown in from the flies, (presumably the GUY) in front of the curtain, on a chair, lip synching, sometimes to a song. He gets out of the chair and after a preamble dance, the curtains peel open to a drearily designed space. It has the dance wings on either side and has a full width rising staircase from off prompt to prompt (probably going to heaven.) across the back. They are very high risers and they are, like the wing maskers, black. After the imaginative use of all the elements of set design in the Bonachela work (Set pieces and digital and film techniques, this work looks as if it has suffered, as it seems it has had no budget to execute, even well. The floor is a white tarquet. If the set is to be so ugly and really, antithetical, to the spirit of the work, one presumes that the lighting will compensate and create the atmosphere of what seems to be a work that is intended as an end of year frolic of fun, in contrast to the rest of the season. Unfortunately, Trudy Dalgleish fails to keep us delighted with lighting, that is only sporadically interesting or beautiful. The costumes by a “fashionista” Michelle Jank are truly disastrous. Not only are they ugly on the dancers, particularly for the women, but they do not look as if they are very conducive to dance in. The male costumes are just unimaginative and dreary. The program notes tells us that Michelle Jank is attempting her first foray into costume design. (and they should be read to be believed that this is not some glossy magazine hype of a fashion figure rather than notes of a serious artist of the theatre. I paid $15 dollars to read such aggravating twaddle and spin. I could have bought a novel for that price or a better informed fashion magazine. What are the Marketing and/or the Publicity people doing in allowing this to be part of the statement on the work? Or is it doing what they want, some kind of groovy fame by association with a trendy fashion industry figure? How COOL is this company to have Michelle Jank design our costumes!!!! The photographs throughout the Program look like a fashion spread for Michelle Janks’ clothing, for I found it hard to recognise a single costume on stage from the images in the program, except for the men, maybe. I could list of a number of theatre/dance designers that would be very interested to work for this prestigious company.) The Sound design (George Gorga) is mostly just recordings of other people’s work and engineered for the space. In contrast to the dynamic invention of a similar task in the Bonachela work it is very uninspired and underwhelming. The program notes suggest that this combination of Design team “would produce a remarkable fusion of design ideas.” Well, it is remarkable, chiefly, for its aesthetic failure.

So all in all Ms Barton does not seem to have as a creative handle on all the elements of the theatre as it was, amazingly so, from Mr Bonachela. It was a comparative disappointment.

Now I am no expert, but what about the dance? Well, my impression is that Ms Barton has worked with each of the dancers and has “become fascinated with the history and inner life and eccentricities of the artists……I am,” Ms Barton states, “striving to bring their talents forward” Well, if slapping each other over the head, putting your fist in your mouth (which might be a suitable image for this work), or discovering the physical peculiarities of the dancers, such as an ability to rotate one’s head extraordinarily above one’s shoulders and repeating that gesture ad-nauseam, is bringing these dancers talents to the fore, it may not be enough. The work seemed to be made up of bits and pieces that ended up being itsy bitsy and added up to fairy floss. The work was almost an hour long and maybe there was a twenty minute piece here. The choreography began well with a Spring feel of breadth and width and cheeky naughtiness, the music seemed to be fun and promising in its choices, but gradually the work was ground down to repetitions and humour that was progressively tiresome because it was repetitive. The music, finally, just a collated list of somebodies favourite tunes. There did not seem to be any strong choreographic structure to the piece, just “lets do this next”. It led to stops and restarts. There was no evolution of form or narrative or anything much. I was bored by the end. The woman behind me refused even to applause. Her companion, and later I, berated her to at least acknowledge the effort of the dancers work.

Well, the dancers were at least athletic and displayed stamina. But mostly the work was fairly undisciplined and lacked care (again in contrast to the focus and committed effort of the last work). Now, Chen Wen may be a find, but unless somebody takes him to task and suggest that his speed and what looks like Peking opera acrobatics are not enough, that bodyline and dance finish might be included in the execution, then the audience may soon tire of him – a flash of surprise but not much to sustain us beyond that. There is no artistic care just ego flair in my reaction to Mr Wen’s offers. I did enjoy the work of Reed Luplau very much, but, still, enthusiasm or carelessness was also present that detracted from the overall impression. The guest artist and assistant to Ms Barton, Ian Robinson, was also interesting to watch. Maybe it is difficult to ensure the quality of the dancing if you are also featured as a dancer in the work?

This work if re-designed (scrap the set and especially the costumes) and refined to a twenty minute piece, might result in a great support divertissement to the contemporary thrill of 360Degrees, if the company toured this work. Otherwise thanks for the promise of a “ROUSIN’,CAROUSIN’ ADVENTURE”. It is a pity it didn’t work out this time. Certainly it was well short of your target: HEAVEN.

The Overture Series in the foyer of the CARRIAGEWORKS by Reed Luplau called GO was certainly more interesting and promising than the last one by Shaun Parker. The solo dances, duets, trios and quartets were choreographically evolving and involving. The dancers were well used. The biggest problem is the height of the platform that the piece was executed on. It was too low for a standing audience. Most of us had only obstructed views. Mr Luplau certainly should feel encouraged by his work effort.

Playing now until 25 October. Book online or call Ticketmaster on 136100.

7 replies to “Sid’s Waltzing Masquerade”

  1. Sorry Man. I have to strongly disagree with your comments. It is quite obvious that you are not an expert, or even in tune with any global contemporary dance scene. Ms. Bartons work which I also witnessed is a beauty. Full of life. It has so many levels, with in each dancer, with the entire structure of the work. Im sorry, if you are always looking for glitz or commercial style dance, but the best kinds are ones that challenge the eye and bring you somewhere. I thought the transitions in Ms. Bartons piece were incredible, no scene to scene blackouts like Mr. Bonachelas work. (which in my opinion was a wreckless mishmash of euro-poo) Thank you Ms. Barton to bringing some life to the stage.

  2. This is the funniest review i have ever read. good on ya. At least you hated it all the way . About the same amount of pain I went through with Mr. Bonnachelas work.

  3. I’m surprised you didn’t mention Annabel Knight’s performances – both in the main show and Luplau’s opening piece. I found her dancing to be both disciplined and mesmerising.
    My problem with the show was the section re Waltzing Matilda’s meaning. It dragged on and didn’t seem to further the story.

  4. I read your review so i was hesitant to go to the show BUT i was so pleasantly surprised! I LOVED IT! And I thought it was the best thing that has hit Sydney’s dance scene in years…. YEARS! We should definitely steal Ms. Barton’s passport. The performance was fresh, exciting, and new… And the dancers looked like they were having an incredible time. I spoke with one of the dancers after the show and he said they were all so delighted to work with Aszure and he was so thrilled to be finishing the season with this beautiful work. Season 3 was the strongest by far! Thanks SDC!

  5. Obviously you have no idea about dance, Aszure Barton was the best thing to happen to this company this year. When I watched this show I fell in love with the company all over again!!! Tankard and bonchela was nothing original or satisfying to the artistic eye! Reed Luplau, Bradly Chatfield and the great import of ian Robinson gave breathtaking performances!!!! Aszure took the company to another level. I must agree with marketing, chen wen and euro poo was a great call… I have been a fan of the company for a long time and Bradly Chatfield is such a great performer. Kevin I know u love bonacela but let’s hope he can deliver some more original work now that he is artistic director…

  6. Re:360– Ya I heard that Tony Assness created most of the piece and that the dancers made up all of their own ideas and moves. There was not much soul in Rafael’s piece and I had a hard time seeing the dancers because of all the lights … it was cool but not great. I still love the dancers in this company and have been following them for years. I miss Graham and let’s hope that Rafael steps it up high for Graham’s Company.

    I have to admit that i was crazy about Aszure Barton’s piece. Wow I loved it and it was so nice to see the dancers dance and the choreography felt very new, complex and exciting, and It also felt intimate which was wonderful. I went on the closing night at Carriageworks and they received a well deserved standing ovation. Bradley Chatfield is a star and I am glad that Azure featured him in her piece. I was kind of hoping that she would stay with the company! Maybe she will come back or perhaps make a ballet for aussi ballet. I hope to see more of her in Aus..

    Oh well, best of luck to Rafael.

  7. I agree with readers. I saw the show this evening. The audience went nuts… it was fantastic and emotional. I did not see Bonachela’s piece but some friends of mine went and didn’t like it so much, they thought it was too slick and about ego… who knows. Ya, I also like the intimacy of Aszure Barton’s piece… a huge work that felt personal. She has integrity.

    Perhaps ya should stick to theatre dude.

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