Ballet at the Quarry, West Australian Ballet’s summer season, is eagerly anticipated by dance aficionados and the wider public alike, and this year’s program has drawn full houses and standing ovations. The Milky Way of the season’s title represents one of the most significant moves that Aurelian Scannella, the company’s artistic director, has made since arriving in Perth five years ago. The key work on the program is Milnjiya, Milky Way – River of Stars, a collaboration with Darwin-based Larrakia choreographer Gary Lang and his company Gary Lang NT Dance Company. Three of Lang’s dancers – Michele Dott, Darren Edwards, and Catherine Young – join the impressive ballet artists, while Yorta Yorta soprano Deborah Cheetham brings noble presence and spirit to Milnjiya.
An alumnus of NAISDA Dance College, and former member of Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre and Bangarra Dance Theatre, Lang draws on his grandparent’s Yolngu stories about spirits making their journey to the ‘river of stars’ in the heavens. In brief interruptions to the broad narrative, traditional Bungul dancers Ngalkbuy Munungurr and Loretta Yunupingu, song man Banula Marika, and yikadi player Malngay Yunupingu represent the earth and continuous time. As the ballet unfolds, Cheetham plays the ‘spirit guide’ witnessing the spirits’ restless waiting for permission to leave the earth as she majestically sings Gorecki’s Symphony No. 2, ‘Sorrowful Songs’, played and recorded with intense feeling by the West Australian Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Jon Tooby.