G by Garry Stewart

G by Garry Stewart 2021Australian Dance Theatre in association with Adelaide Festival Centre. Her Majesty’s Theatre. 25 Nov 2021


G is for Giselle. This classical ballet was an instant success in 1841 after its first run in Paris. G is also for Garry. Garry Stewart is the outgoing artistic director of ADT and this is his swan song. Garry conceived G in 2008 as a reinterpretation of the famous ballet – he stripped it of its unessential sentimentals and brutalised it with the blunt weapon of body-warping physicality. After all, the Wilis* dance two-timing men to exhaustion. Except Giselle’s forgiveness allows her to rest in peace. So there is a lot to transmit – love, death, sex, vengeance, ghosts, grace, syphilis even.


Though there are large type crypto-word puzzles on the upstage wall to help guide you through the narrative, you’re doing well to match Garry’s abstraction to the storyline. But the more you’ve prepared yourself with Giselle, the more you would get out of G. And if you know nuttin’ about nuttin’ – it’s still a visual and aural overload that borders on hallucinogenic.


G is for Green. Not a calming forest green, but a lurid, vibrant green unseen in nature. The dancers wear it, and the floor and wall are nearly always bathed in it. Geoff Cobham’s lighting punctuates the space with the precision of laser. We meet the dancers one by one as if on a conveyor belt moving from stage right to stage left. A sort of G string. Indeed, this motif continues through the whole dance with surprising and highly kinetic and mobile variations each representing a new aspect of first, earthly desire and betrayal, and then, a dance of the damned and their victims. The driving consistence of the conveyor design is matched with Luke Smiles’s composition. The heartbeat base never lets up – and it’s loud from the get-go. It’s solid and entrancing. The dancers transit each conniption in various styles but frenetic would describe the overall effect. It never lets up.  


After 22 years at ADT, Garry knows his dancers. Kimball Wong was a dancer in the 2008 production and his acrobatics still stand out. Jill Ogai’s ballet background is another green light. The dozen dancers with diverse training histories are melded into a disciplined whole that generates marvel and awe.      


G stands for Great! And Good-bye, Garry, thanks.


*The Wilis are ghosts of maidens betrayed by their lovers. The Queen of the Wilis commands these spirits to dance with the betrayers until they die of exhaustion. Every feminist’s dream!


PS Don’t waste your money on a program. The font is too small for older people and cannot be read under the dim lighting of the stalls. An additional challenge is that a lot of text comprises black lettering on a green background, which is difficult to read anywhere. Big format pages with lots of emptiness. The names of the dancers should be online anyways – everyone else’s is. Honestly…


David Grybowski


When: 25 to 29 Nov 2021

Where: Her Majesty’s Theatre

Bookings: ticketek.com.au