DANGEROUS LIAISONS AIN’T YOUR GRANDMA’S BALLET

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Queensland Ballet’s Dangerous Liaisons is sexy and not for the brief simulations of fornication on stage although that certainly proves inspiring, nor is it the sensual costumes made out of rich fabrics in royal colours, and nor is it the finely toned physiques of the dancers present some of them wearing pants so tight you would see less definition if their legs had been painted instead. All these things are sexy as hell but the sexiest thing of all is the attitude present in this text and those who have adapted it.

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Queensland Ballet‘s mantra for the 2019 Season is “Move Boldly” and in this production they have. In the first five minutes we are introduced to widow Marquise Isabelle de Merteuil getting busy with a lover on the coffin of her late husband. From there we meet a wealth of characters from the French aristocracy of the late 1700s living in decadence and luxury. It seems there’s not a lot to do except have your way with people one way or another as per the original novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos.

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The text has been adapted previously most famously in 1988 with Glenn Close, John Malkovich and Michelle Pfeiffer a film I’ve seen but can’t remember a lot about. My memories of the modern day set Cruel Intentions of 1999 (one of the best years of my life) which moved the setting to New York and high school served me far better although there seemed to be some extra characters I couldn’t recall here.

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Knowing the plot will serve you well in order to keep track of things, after all there’s no dialogue in ballet but the important stuff is clear. Isabelle challenges Vicomete Sebastien de Valmount to win over virginal Cecile Volanges as revenge for the fact that coffin boy Comte de Gercourt is now engaged to her. Well actually that might not be so clear but you get a good sense of who is a decent type, who’s in love, who’s innocent and who’s depraved and how that might change. There’s some sneaky humour and a tragic outcome. You might even surprise yourself with where your sympathies lie.

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Artistic Associate of the Royal Ballet continues his association with Queensland Ballet in choreographing this ballet. Beyond all the bold statements and sexy themes is some first rate dancing. I won’t pretend to know I’m an expert on such things but Cecille’s solo was breathtaking of a fragile unjaded soul expressing the joy of first love. Two couplings in particular were very evocative and on the night we went, Laura Hidalgo as Isabelle utterly owned the world as she strutted across stage in her underwear completely beating down the will of Valmount. Some of the lifts in the partnerships were breathtaking in their fluidity and strength.

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Under the stewardship of Artistic Director Li Cunxin continues to go from strength to strength with the entire team he has with him. If I was not as moved as I was two years earlier with their program Raw the sexiness of their Dangerous Liaisons certainly left me stirred.

-Lloyd Marken

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