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20 September 2012

A Transient Beauty

Gareth Belling in rehearsal Image: Gareth Belling in rehearsal  
© Christian Aas

Collusion's resident choreographer Gareth Belling looks back at his past work with Australian compositions and writes about the musical inspiration for his new full-length work A Transient Beauty, a collaborative dance and music piece presented by Collusion Music and Restrung New Chamber Festival on 26-27 October 2012 at the Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre.

After seven years forging a choreographic career at Queensland Ballet and independently with Collusion Music, I have taken a moment to look back on the choices I have made and the works I have created. I have predominately been drawn to music from the 20th century, and, more often than not, to Australian compositions. After a brief flirtation with Honegger for my debut solo in Collusion Music's first Evocations, I determinedly mined Collusion's repertoire, creating ballets for Queensland Ballet's Vis-a-Vis Seasons on pieces by Brophy, Stanhope, and Westlake, all performed alongside Collusion. I found a sound world that felt like my own voice, a personal 'accent' that helped develop my choreographic language.

While Gerard Brophy's trio Sheer Nylon Dances is imbued with the haze of Tunisian hookah pipes, it was the power and adulation of the feminine that drew me to this piece. 'Ballet is women,' said the choreographer George Balanchine, and I was inspired to create a ballet that showed the female soloist as powerfully beautiful, rather than delicately ethereal as in traditional ballets. This work was premiered with Collusion Music in Queensland Ballet's September 2005 Vis-a-Vis Season, my first work for the company.

My following two works with Collusion for Queensland Ballet were distinctly more Australian in sound and texture. Paul Stanhope's evocation of an Indigenous mourning song, Mullara, made a powerful duet for company dancers. This was followed by my ballet
Urban Myths to a piece of the same name by Nigel Westlake. Set on three couples, the ballet was inspired by the memoir Desirelines by Peter and Richard Wherett, and explored a violent marriage, and the hidden story behind a happy family portrait.

While all three ballets were very much early work, they formed the basis for an artistic practice firmly built on Australian sounds and stories. The concept of icons, of what we protect and hold dear, is increasingly fascinating. As a choreographer working within the framework of contemporary ballet, my artistic practice becomes in itself an exploration of cultural conservation. What from the past do I keep, and how can I use it to express my own choreographic vocabulary? In a broader sense, what do we as a society conserve of our natural resources and environmental heritage?

In late October I will premiere A Transient Beauty with Collusion Musical Arts and three leading contemporary/classical dancers at Restrung New Chamber Festival. The score for this full-length work will be entirely made up of Australian compositions, featuring works by Nigel Sabin, Gerard Brophy, Thomas Green, Carl Vine and original sound design by Susan Hawkins. Many of these works will feature on Collusion Music's upcoming CD release Flashpoint 2 of all-Australian chamber music.

For A Transient Beauty I have collected pieces which find beauty in everyday moments. A subtle beauty, like the fleeting smile of a stranger, or an unexpected kindness. 'The Meditation' from Nigel Sabin's Inner-city counterpoints is a work of delicate simplicity that
inspires a longing for touch, the simple act of holding someone we love. It was during the Swiss International Coaching Project for Choreographers in July 2011 that I really touched on what I feel is an underlying sadness in the work. In A Transient Beauty the longing for touch will be unrequited, the loved-one ultimately absent.

A Transient Beauty will see the return to the stage of Australian ballerina Janette Mulligan. After a career as Principal Dancer with English National Ballet making her name in classical roles as well as contemporary creations by renowned choreographers
Christopher Bruce and Glen Tetley, Janette brings a wealth of artistic and dramatic ability to this production. Her maturity will bring credibility to scenes exploring family relationships, and add weight to moments of loss and longing throughout the piece. I will
join her onstage, dancing in my own work, alongside Queensland Ballet Principal Dancer Rachael Walsh and former dancer Melissa Tattum.

I am incredibly excited to be collaborating with Susan Hawkins on A Transient Beauty. As confirmation of Restrung Festival's commitment to the promotion of Australian female composers, she will create original acoustic/electronic compositions that will bridge the existing works throughout the dance work. I am increasingly drawn to the rhythmic play and thematic material of Susan's work. Earlier this year we collaborated with Collusion Music and videographer Jonas Hill on a dance film I read the old dream slowly which premiered in May at the Queensland Conservatorium's Crossbow Festival.

Susan creates music which tightens the air surrounding the dance, giving a landscape in which to draw the broadest and most finely detailed movement language. Her practice of blending composition for classical instruments with electronic sound design and sampled material gives a musical basis for my intention to include Collusion members in the choreographic action of the piece. Susan's scoring will also give us the flexibility within the ensemble to make these interactions seamless, musically and dramatically.

A Transient Beauty will be a celebration and culmination of my extensive work with Australian composers and musicians, and an incredibly moving and beautiful tribute to human relationships.

Event details

A Transient Beauty
Restrung Festival and Collusion Music
• 26 & 27 October at 8:30pm, Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre - full details (AMC Calendar)
• 3 November at 4pm, The Byron Theatre, Byron Community Centre, Byron Bay - full details (AMC Calendar)

Further links

Restrung Festival 26-28 October 2012
'Collusion - 10 years in 2012' - blog article on Resonate by Benjamin Greaves (17 April 2012)


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