“How has no one ever thought of doing this before?”
It’s a question often asked by those experiencing a work of art that is, at once, both innovative and, in hindsight, such an obviously good idea that it almost defies belief to think it hasn’t been thought of previously.
That alone makes Le Sacré, a history-making performance developed by the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA) and The Australian Ballet School (the ABS), worth attending. Yet it is not the only reason that the performance is so captivating.
In the intimate theatre at NICA’s National Circus Centre, 44 performers – 18 second year students from NICA, and 26 level seven ballet students from the ABS – open the show in a mound of bodies. The moment is beautiful, almost tranquil, but such peace is not destined to last.
Indeed, it is quickly vanquished by a palpable dynamism that rarely relents throughout the show’s 90 minutes, much to the audience’s delight. When the pace does slow, it is to explore the emotional core of Le Sacré, and its reflections on the duality of creation and destruction that is the human experience.
The elements of ballet and circus art blend effortlessly, and as a result, Le Sacré does not feel as much an experiment between the two forms as a hybridisation, a total union. In one sequence, acrobats perform in the roué cyr, while dancers pirouette beneath them. Seeing it unfold, it’s easy to forget that this is not a traditional experience, for it feels so natural.
This feeling undoubtedly benefits from the fact that each performer brings something unique and memorable to the work. Troy Griffiths’ sleek contortion on the straps is spellbinding. William Anton’s monologue – which he wrote himself – is a touching moment of direct storytelling in an otherwise abstract performance. Other standouts include Easa Min-Swe, who dazzles on the rope, and divine dancer Alexandra Cramer. They may still be students, but the calibre of technique and professionalism on display is a credit to both schools.
Co-directors Simon Dow, the ABS’ Artistic Teacher and Resident Choreographer, and NICA’s Movement and Performance Coordinators, Zebastian Hunter and Meredith Kitchen, must be congratulated for their accomplishments here, as well as the conquering of the risks that such a project represents. Their magnificent choreography reinforces the strength of Le Sacré‘s complex and challenging narrative, which is inspired by composer Igor Stravinsky and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky’s The Rite of Spring.
Credit as well goes to set and costume designer Stephanie Howe, who injects the production with vibrancy and potency. When the entire cast is on stage, Le Sacré is a visual treat.
It is not just what Le Sacré sets out to accomplish that makes it such an intriguing performance; it is that it accomplishes it with subtlety and grace. As Dow writes in the program, “We dare to tread in great footsteps by doing what we must, exploring what is possible and impossible, taking risks within our individual disciplines and placing perceived boundaries further and further away”.
Le Sacré does all that in a way that feels not only inspired, but completely organic. And that is worth celebrating.