The day after their final Chroma performance, the Australian Ballet dives right into something completely different with an ultra classical evening, Imperial Suite. Bringing together two of the great showpieces of classical dance, Imperial Suite combines Balanchine’s Ballet Imperial and Lifar’s Suite en Blanc. Posted as “New York Style, Parisian Chic”, the Australian Ballet nails it with a performance dripping with glamour and stunning technique.

Suite en Blanc © The Australian Ballet
Suite en Blanc
© The Australian Ballet

Ballet Imperial is George Balanchine’s ode to the opulent Russia of his youth. It is overwhelming with sparkle and movement and beautiful things to look at, making it hard to imagine that the version we see today is actually very stripped down from the incredibly adorned original, which included more fluff in terms of costume and scenery. There are obvious nerves in the pas de trois near the beginning of the piece, but it is danced beautifully nonetheless and breaks the ice for the rest of the show.

Adam Bull and Lana Jones are a fantastic pair. Though there is something about Bull that irks me – maybe his slightly turtled posture or constantly open mouth – his ability as a dancer is undeniable. His clean lines, tight jumps and strong partnering are a wonder to watch. Jones is equally spectacular, a very fit dancer with beautiful expression and precision. Though there is no story per se in this ballet, their flirty interactions give glimpses of a plot for the audience to fill in.

The corps performed wonderfully in unforgiving tutus, fully utilizing their arms to give the illusion of total synchronicity. When the whole cast was on stage they danced as one, flowing through the speedy choreography that leaves no room for mistakes. Though one eager dancer was quick to rise to bow before her time on two occasions, her nervous slip ups were forgivable by a darling smile and otherwise fantastic performance.

Suite en Blanc © The Australian Ballet
Suite en Blanc
© The Australian Ballet

Suite en Blanc opens with a stunning tableau vivant, a full stage of posed dancers in classic black and white. Before they even move, we are already fully captivated. After Balanchine’s “New York Style”, Lifar’s “Parisian Chic” is classy and classic and a test for any ballet company’s technique.

The long skirted trio who open with La Sieste are are a good primer – pretty but unremarkable. The pas de trois is a little more exciting, but it is with Reiko Hombo’s Sérénade that Suite en Blanc really begins. Her incredible turnout and pinpoint turns are jaw-dropping. Such control! Again the corps is very strong in this piece, supporting all the soloists as a moving background on an otherwise stripped black set, and delivering on point, cheeky intervals between each variation and pas.

The famous variation de la Cigarette is danced by Laura Tong, whose stage presence is standout. Daniel Gaudiello is perfectly cast for the mazurka, truly utilising the strengths of this dancer who lacks in turnout but can spin like a top and jump above all the other men. Amber Scott and Rudy Hawkes’ pas de deux is the moment that finally brings a hush over the audience, expertly performed and then some. When Scott returns in the variation de la Flute, we are all under her spell.

Both Ballet Imperial and Suite en Blanc have been performed well enough times – 160 for the former and 254 for the latter to be precise – for any comment on the choreography to be needless. What we want to see in performances of these is the technical skill of those taking them on and their ability to move the crowd. This is not the first time the Australian Ballet has performed either of these pieces and it shows with their delivery which is completely spot on. After seeing Chroma the night before, it is clear that classical is where this company excels and it is such a joy to watch classical ballet performed with such appreciation and beauty.