REVIEW | Le Sacré

All photos by Aaron Walker

Compelling Fusion of Ballet and Circus in Le Sacré

NICA, Melbourne, June 14

Reviewed by Caterina Kuljis

In a creative first, Le Sacré is an exclusive premiere collaboration between The National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) and The Australian Ballet School cleverly fusing the two distinct art forms to create a en entirely new dance theatre experience for the audience.

Le Sacré brings the tale of torment, superstition and sacrifice together. As the introduction commences, the cast of long lean bodies walked out one-by-one in 80s eclectic attire and laid themselves in a mound of meshed bodies. Pulsing actions then brought the characters to life. Eight pieces rolling from one to another encompassed the First Act, portraying an underworld of confusion; dark, erratic, tortured struggling souls; a mental and physical battle between light and dark, good and evil, inclusion or exclusion. There was a lot of turmoil going on, and at times the storyline was difficult to follow and became confusing.

The accompanying music was all instrumental and worked well with the acts. The whipping sounds of the skipping ropes, echo of the pointe shoes, the slapping of the arms on the floor increased the eeriness of the underworld. The end of the First Act it left you feeling bewildered, lost, confused and vulnerable, stripping back your normality, barriers and bringing out raw emotion.

They say curiosity killed the cat, well this was the case with the Second Act, as you are lured into this cult-like underworld. A creepy, eerie place with intrigue. Seven pieces blended together to bring out a different level of performance; power and fire from the cast leaving most of the audience on the edge of their seats.

These later pieces in the Second Act showcased more integration of the two skill sets with incredible acrobatics/circus performance and dancing skills. The formations and use of the stage area added another incredible layer into the emerging story. The soft elegance and precision of the ballet dancers, as they floated through the movements, contrasted strongly with the edgy acrobatics and worked well together. It was quite powerful and moving, culminating in a dramatic ending with the ultimate sacrifice. For such young talent on stage (all still students), they were able to portrait that level of anger and gang rivalry, with the leader powering over them and the pack following.

This show is directed by Meredith Kitchen, Zebastian Hunter and Simon Dow with Costume Design by Stephanie Howe and Lighting Design by Matthew Scott.

In my opinion the top acts in Le Sacré were:

  1. Chinese Pole/Maypole – The Chinese Pole performers are amazing and they made it look so easy, complimented with the flow of the ribbons around the Maypole fused beautifully. Rueben Pedlar and Eric Quest were incredible, with William Anton the true standout.
  2. Glorification of the Chosen One-Crowning (Roue Cyr) – Showcasing true talent and the use of the Roue Cyr not only as an acrobatic tool but meshed cleverly into the storyline was an audience favourite.
  3. Procession of the Wise Elders – great combination of adagio and pas de deux showcasing strength, skill and good use of the stage area. Even though the acrobatic artists performed beside the ballet dancers it felt as one.
  4. Evocation of the Ancestors (Dance Slings/straps/Narrative of ‘I’m Here’) – Simply, what a moving piece! The narrative of Will Anton and the random words thrown out added a dimension of power to the mix – ‘I’m Here’, ‘You’re beautiful’, ‘Chose One’ was quite moving.
  5. Pick Me – was such a great take on fashion parade/beauty pageantry with each of the cast going to great lengths to be chosen and sharing the fear of missing out; it was highly entertaining. Briana McAllen was a burst of fresh air and very entertaining in character in trying to steal the spotlight.

Le Sacré definitely pushed the envelope fusing contemporary modern balletic movements and a cocktail of dance languages with a myriad of circus acts including Skipping Ropes, Aerial works, Chinese Pole, Roué Cyr, Tissu, Hula Hoops and Group Acrobatics. The cast comprised of young multi-cultural emerging artists ranging in age from 16 -28, representing 18 second year NICA students and 26 level seven ballet students from The Australian Ballet School.

At a time when the performing arts and circus worlds are striving to reinvent themselves, Le Sacré achieves this by pushing the conceptual boundaries and showcasing impressive precision and skill levels of all disciplines displayed in this collaboration.

This is the type of production that will consume your mind and emotions for many days afterwards, so much so that it is worth watching again.