Dance is the hidden language of the soul – Martha Graham
We love the arts in all of its forms. We have spent many enjoyable hours experiencing live performances at the Empire Theatre, listening to music, and visiting art galleries and museums. In our spare time we enjoy dabbling in art and craft activities. There’s something quite therapeutic about doing something with your hands. And as you know well by now, we are avid readers, collecting and devouring books, as well as enjoying the occasional writers festival too.
The arts play such an important role in the life of a community. It is how we express ourselves, tell our stories, remember our history and look toward the future. The arts can be provocative, challenging long held ideas and values, pushing the boundaries of what some think is appropriate and at times, making us feel uncomfortable. It also inspires joy, laughter and hope. The arts comprise a very large part of our entertainment, leisure and learning.
So the recent cancelling of shows has struck a blow to our hearts. Shows that we were looking forward to, have been cancelled. Writers festivals and author tours have been cancelled. It is disappointing for us, but it is devastating for the arts community. Months of work for artists and performers is just gone. If there is anytime that artists needed our support, it is now.
Every year Bec and I look forward to the Queensland Ballet regional tour. We have seen quite a few of their performances, including Swan Lake, A Midsummer Nights Dream, La Fille Mal Gardée and Dangerous Liaisons. This year they were going to bring Tutus On Tour. It would have been especially memorable as they are celebrating their 60th anniversary. But thanks to covid 19 this won’t be happening. At least, not yet.
Li Cunxin, Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet says, “Ballet is a gift, and it’s our job to unwrap its many layers.” I think all art is a gift and artists, being an innovative and creative bunch, are finding ways to bring their art and audiences together. With the benefit of technology they are playing, performing, entertaining, and connecting with their audiences. Orchestras have performed from the comfort of their homes. Music festivals and book tours have gone online. But how do you take ballet online?
The Australian Ballet Company, based in Melbourne, are offering a digital season for Australian audiences. They are streaming some of their most popular performances – for free. Performances started on April 5 with Sleeping Beauty, and two more ballets have been announced, Cinderella and Romeo and Juliet. Each ballet will be available for two weeks.
Last night we sat down to watch Sleeping Beauty from the comfort of our lounge room. “Gleaming with baroque golds and creams, glowing with vivid colour and spilling over with fairies, princes, woodland nymphs and story-book charm,” the costumes were lavish and Tchaikovsky’s score, performed by Orchestra Victoria, soared. To be clear, a televised or streamed performance is never quite the same as seeing a live performance, however it was still a delight to watch. There is a reason that the ballets composed by Tchaikovsky (1840-1893), Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Sleeping Beauty, are the most loved ballets of all time. If you only ever get to see one live ballet in your lifetime, make it Swan Lake – my favourite of all time.
I have never seen Cinderella or Romeo and Juliet performed as a ballet so I am eagerly looking forward to those too. Both were composed by Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). Cinderella starts on 17 April and will be followed by Romeo and Juliet. Further performances are likely to be announced as the digital season and the impact of the pandemic progresses.
As the days confined within our own four walls merge into one another and anxiety about the future take holds, we need something to lift our spirits and help us escape the monotony of life in lockdown. We look to the arts.
“Ballet is powerful magic. It can draw you out of your lounge room and into forests and castles and starry skies. It can make you forget your worries and feel the freedom and exhilaration of unbridled leaps and lifts. “ (Australian Ballet)
If you have never been to the ballet and are wondering what it’s all about and whether it might be your thing, I encourage you to check out one of the digital performances. You can find out more about them here. Perhaps you too will be captivated by the magic of ballet.
Due to copyright restrictions the free streaming is only available to Australian audiences but Australian Ballet’s full length productions are available via iTunes for international arts lovers.