Tuesday , November 19 2019
Home / World News / ‘Courageous, unique’: Why London is lauding this creative Australian

‘Courageous, unique’: Why London is lauding this creative Australian

Jack Lister, Australian choreographer of the ballet <i>A Brief Nostalgia</i>.

Jack Lister, Australian choreographer of the ballet A Brief Nostalgia.

“I’m super-green on the scene, I’m not getting ahead of myself,” the Brisbane-born dancer said. “The opportunity came about, in my head, almost prematurely.”

Lister’s debut has been well-received in London but is a far cry from how his career looked when he was starting out at the barre.

When Lister began ballet at the age of four, following his older sister into the studio, he was most interested in contemporary forms of dance. When he was eight, his teacher told him to resume ballet to give his other styles of dancing more foundation and structure.

And he never looked back.

“We spent our childhood just growing up dancing, every night we’d dance until 9pm and go home,” he recalls.

There was no barre installed in the Lister home, but “we had a kitchen bench”, Lister’s sister, Holly, said.

Shadows and light provide an almost comic visual experience in <i>A Brief Nostalgia</i>.

Shadows and light provide an almost comic visual experience in A Brief Nostalgia. Credit:Ty Singleton

Growing up, dance was a serious dream for Holly, who only stopped dancing five years ago. Remarkably, she said there was no sibling rivalry.

“The benefit of being a male and female in the family was that it was never competitive for us, it was just an opportunity for us to grow together,” she said.

It was around the time that Holly stopped dancing that her brother – aged 15 and always a “creative kid” – became more serious about choreography.

Dancer Delia Mathews is one of the stars of <i>A Brief Nostalgia</i>, choreographed by Australia's Jack Lister.

Dancer Delia Mathews is one of the stars of A Brief Nostalgia, choreographed by Australia’s Jack Lister.Credit:Bill Cooper

That pursuit culminated in the London premiere of A Brief Nostalgia – a wistful, dramatic, 25-minute piece of contemporary ballet set against bare slabs of concrete that project the dancer’s shadows in miniature and enlarged form.

Part ballet, part Scandi noir in style, A Brief Nostalgia is set to a dark and melodramatic score by 28-year-old Scottish composer Tom Harrold. It is vividly lit, with the dancers’ faces shadowed and their torsos and shadows illuminated. Alexander Berlage’s black-and-grey lighting is at times so exaggerated it verges on comic.

It’s impossible to detect a storyline from the performance. That’s something Lister said is deliberate. He said Nostalgia is about capturing a mood, not a narrative.

Lister's choreography has made him the toast of the London arts scene.

Lister’s choreography has made him the toast of the London arts scene.Credit:Bill Cooper

“The piece is as vague as anything and I like it that way – I think it’s interpretable to anyone, I think people find it really confronting, I think people find it quite stark.”

While the piece was inspired by a death, Lister said it was not about how loss occurs but the sense of loss.

“It’s this weird apex of it not being loss in a negative sense and not being an incompleteness in a depressive way, almost a happiness that you had this once,” he said.

Lister invited the dancers performing his ballet to recall their own childhood memories to apply to their dance.

“I spent this weird amount of time not focusing on myself as a dancer – recently I’ve been focusing on my mouth and how to use my brain to get someone to do something and feel something.”

Lister is the second high-profile name to bring Queensland Ballet, where he has worked for seven years, into the international spotlight. ​Li Cunxin, the star of the autobiographical Mao’s Last Dancer, has long been forging the company’s domestic and international reputation since becoming artistic director in 2013.

During the event at Stoke Lodge, Li told ballet’s elite what he thought of Lister’s achievements.

“From the very beginning I saw something quite special in his creativity and his uniqueness and I was very proud to see somebody so young, so courageous but also just someone who does have unique talent in his choreography and I couldn’t be more proud of what he has achieved with the dancers, with the company of Birmingham Royal Ballet,” Li said.

The plaudits are not just home-grown.

Dancers rehearse ahead of a performance at London's Sadler's Wells Theatre.

Dancers rehearse ahead of a performance at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre.Credit:Caroline Holden

Marion Tate, the Olivier-nominated retired ballerina, a doyenne of Britain’s ballet scene and acting director at the BRB, was among those at the London premiere of Lister’s work.

“Jack has shown an extraordinary maturity, both in his choreographic vocabulary and his ability to create a large-scale piece of work, fully engaging his dancers and coordinating his entire creative team to make a strong, striking piece of work,” she said.

“He has been a pleasure to work with and I feel sure that his creative talent is one that will go from strength to strength.”

If Lister has global ambitions, he is coy about where they lie. “Maybe moving on somewhere,” he said with feigned nonchalance. “I’m in the mood to do anything creative. It doesn’t need to be in the studio.”

He insists he does not have a career goal in terms of a company he aspires to join: “As long as it’s edifying, that’s the only important thing.”

But he doesn’t deny there’s a prestige to being able to list certain ballet companies on your CV. “There is,” he agrees, “but that’s also a whole lot of shit as well.”

Nostalgia received mixed reviews in the British press but if Lister was bothered, he didn’t show it.

“It’s people’s opinions,” he said. “I can’t get hung up on that.

“People like it or they hate it, that’s cool.”

Most Viewed in World


About admin

Check Also

Mass shooting at Fresno home during football party

Dooley said victims were rushed to Community Regional Medical Centre in conditions ranging from “critical” to …