David Hallberg announces new festival called DanceX
As the saying goes, when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. David Hallberg rose to the challenge.
In Hallberg’s first year as artistic director – and David McAllister’s final year of work – the Australian Ballet’s path has been fraught with disappointments as the COVID-19 pandemic has grown, diminished, and rose again, causing the heart-wrenching cancellation of many shows. But Hallberg is not the type to back down in the face of adversity. He announced an exciting new addition to the Australian dance calendar, a short and sharp festival called DanceX which will take place at the Arts Center Melbourne in late September and early October.
Hallberg started thinking about the project last year in September or October, while still in New York City, preparing to move to Australia. The pandemic had closed theaters and “the dancers were in their living rooms”. Hallberg hit the phones.
The Australian Ballet will be joined for DanceX by seven other major Australian dance companies – Australian Dance Theater, Bangarra Dance Theater, Chunky Move, Lucy Guerin Inc, Queensland Ballet, Sydney Dance Company and West Australian Ballet. TAB will run twice; the others will be seen once in program one or in program two. “I want to spread the love and showcase companies and other artists who are doing great things,” Hallberg said. Spotlight.
He agrees that under normal circumstances a business like this would be like raising kittens, but these are not usual times and companies have been able to make themselves available. “Everyone was excited to get together. It’s so rare, anywhere.
In an open-hearted gesture, TAB has commissioned new works from contemporary Melbourne companies Chunky Move and Lucy Guerin Inc. TAB will bring a third Australian premiere to the mix with I new then by Swedish choreographer Johan Inger. It is described as a “comedic and romantic dance piece” performed to songs by Van Morrison.
The other companies will perform the existing repertoire of choreographers Stephen Page, Bernadette Walong-Sene, Greg Horsman, Natalie Weir, Rafael Bonachela and Garry Stewart, who is leaving ADT this year after 22 years as artistic director.
The Chunky Move and Lucy Guerin Inc commissions “arose out of my desire to involve both. I didn’t just want the big ballet companies. I wanted diversity in programming and inclusiveness, ”said Hallberg. Chunky Move art director Antony Hamilton didn’t have a work suitable for staging at the Melbourne Center for the Arts, but Hallberg was not deterred. In what he calls a bit of “blue sky reflection,” he asked Hamilton if it would make a difference if Hallberg was able to secure funding for a new piece. It would. Ditto for Guérin.
TAB will be seen in a different light with I new then, which is stylistically unlike anything the company’s dancers have ever performed and includes spoken word. “We’re starting to take the audience on a different kind of ride,” Hallberg said. “There is such a thirst among dancers to do a job like this and it’s not the last time we will tackle a job like this.” Hallberg emphasizes that TAB is not abandoning the classics but adding to the mix. “We have to be a lot like the Paris Opera Ballet – a very diverse company in terms of repertoire. “
Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin said he was determined to make QB’s participation in DanceX work, even though the company Tailored New choreography program does not open until about a week after the festival. Fortunately, QB is now of a size that allows it to work in both directions at the same time. “It’s such a fantastic initiative,” Li said. He chose Greg Horsman’s. Glass Concerto for several reasons. He was keen to present an Australian choreographer and felt Glass Concerto would feature the classic style in a program (Program One) that also features Bangarra, SDC, Lucy Guerin Inc and TAB.
In a statement, WAB Artistic Director Aurélien Scannella said: “It is exciting to see the Australian dance industry come together and celebrate our strength, creativity and diversity. DanceX will reinforce the importance of the arts and the need to invest more in our critical sector. “
Rafael Bonachela of the Sydney Dance Company makes a similar point. “Culture and the arts underpin society and humanity and enrich our souls. After what we have been through for the past 18 months and the profound impact it has had, I hope it will make us realize the value of the arts. Artists are those who imagine a different and better world. We bring people together. But we must continue to justify what we do. Really?”
He is “absolutely thrilled and excited” that SDC is able to participate in DanceX, and not just because the companies can perform together. “It’s wonderful that new works are created and I’m so happy Melbourne has it. They have suffered enough!
Hallberg would love to see DanceX continue after this year in one form or another. “It may take different iterations, but I think the DanceX umbrella will be an arm of the Australian Ballet. It’s not always just the Australian Ballet. It’s about presenting the dance, collaborating with others. art forms and giving audience members a really solid experience – by which I mean not only what we do, but what others are doing really well.
DanceX will take place at the Arts Center Melbourne, with program 1 from September 24-27 and program 2 from September 30 to October 2