WA Ballet’s Giselle’s 2019 season played a significant role in inspiring choreographer Melanie Lane’s new work, Slow Haunt, which is part of the company’s new annual contemporary ballet bill, STATE, and which has fittingly followed an encore season of Giselle in May.
It was the first time the Melbourne-based WAAPA graduate had seen the company perform as a full ensemble, although he had collaborated with them and former Australian Ballet dancer Juliet Burnett on their gala tour in Jakarta in 2016.
“As soon as I saw the ballet (Giselle), all those memories came flooding back of when I had performed the work as a very young ballet student,” the Javanese-Australian choreographer said.
“I had been fascinated by these underworld figures, the wilis, and I thought the ghostly characters would be an interesting space to tap into with the idea of an underworld ballet.
“In movies we see stories of abandoned lovers hanging in the underworld and there are lots of folk tales in so many different cultures; it felt like a truly universal realm to be conjured up like a ballet.
It was also not lost on Lane – who has moved on to doing more choreography than acting since the onset of COVID-19 – that the ballet dance itself was somewhat supernatural, as the dancers defy the gravity with an ethereal quality while enduring intense training and pain.
She then simplified the concept by turning to the idea of being lovesick while portraying the themes of desire and revenge in the 25-minute piece featuring eight dancers.
“I kind of imagine the work as an army of lovesick bodies, oscillating between the search for desire and sensuality, but also resistance and rage at the same time,” said Lane, 43.
Lanes’ husband, British digital music creator Chris Clark (aka CLARK) composed the soundtrack to Slow Haunt, continuing the couple’s long collaborative relationship.
“He just composed the music for Stephen King’s new series Lisey’s Story (Apple TV),” she said.
“It’s kind of a similar field, so he came out with all the inspiration in this world to inject into this one; it’s a good time.
“Music always develops with choreography, so it’s not like he created the score and then I choreographed. He develops lots of fragments of ideas and then I work with him in the studio where we come and go and he adjusts as the choreography evolves.
“I want to leave the audience haunted, even after the show.”
Slow Haunt is part of a triple program that includes a 45-minute excerpt from Air and Other Invisible Forces by Australian choreographer Graeme Murphy as well as Gainsbourg by WA Ballet dancer Adam Alzaim, a regular contributor to the company’s choreographic showcase, Genesis.
STATE is at the Heath Ledger Theatre, State Theater Center of WA, from June 24 to July 3. More information at waballet.com.au.