Those who saw The Sixth Borough in WA Ballet's Neon Lights season last year may recall that it has a cinematic quality, with its short and moody scenes set in a New York-style loft.
The movement style is athletic yet unashamedly sexy, referencing American dance movies. Add music from Daft Punk's soundtrack to Tron: Legacy and there's more than a touch of the silver screen to be seen in this work, which will be reprised for the Ballet at the Quarry outdoor season.
The man behind the cinematic moves is WA's own Reed Luplau, who is now based in New York. The son of Perth dance studio principal Jody Marshall, Luplau grew up surrounded by dance.
"I always knew that I wanted to be involved with dancing but I thought that I would go into musical theatre," he says. "I saw my first ballet when I was in high school - Chrissie Parrott's Coppelia, by WA Ballet. It appealed to me enormously because it was very current, very contemporary."
Luplau also was influenced by WA Ballet principal dancer Jayne Smeulders, who had trained initially at his mother's studio.
"Jayne came back to Perth from dancing with Netherlands Dance Theatre at that time and she inspired me so much to focus on ballet," he remembers. "I trained hard and got into the Australian Ballet School."
Once in the Melbourne-based school, however, Luplau's dreams shifted again.
"I started to realise that I wasn't going to be a 'ballet' dancer. Australian Ballet artistic director David McAllister recommended me to Graeme Murphy and I got a job at Sydney Dance Company in 2005.
"Graeme gave me so many opportunities. In my second year I was given a solo in The Director's Cut. That blew me away after only being with the company one year."
Murphy wasn't the only one who recognised Luplau's talent. The young dancer was the recipient of the 2009 Australian Dance Award for outstanding performance by a male dancer for his role in Aszure Barton's Sid's Waltzing Masquerade.
Shortly after that, however, Luplau left for New York to try his hand as a freelance dancer and choreographer. "Life with SDC was fantastic but by my fourth year I wasn't enjoying the fact that I had this lifestyle that was the same every day. I was given time off to work with Aszure in New York and I was inspired."
Luplau has been based in New York since 2010 and is in no doubt that the move was the right one. "The thing that I love is that I fight to be seen in New York," he explains.
Luplau is certainly "being seen". Having danced with Stephen Petronio and Barton, he is currently working with prominent choreographer Lar Lubovitch. Now he is also facing an exciting new challenge. "I've been cast in a film by Alan Brown, so I am making my acting debut in a new dance film called Seven Dancers," he says with a grin.
And so to The Sixth Borough, the name of which comes from a New York urban legend about the existence of a mythical sixth borough in addition to the five real boroughs that make up New York City. "I was reading a story in the New York Times about the sixth borough," Luplau recalls. "It made me think, imagine if there was this place that existed that we didn't know about, but the people that lived in this area knew about us. What would these people take from us? What would they change?"
Is the work inspired by Luplau's own experiences in New York? "There's a difference between being a tourist in New York and living there and I wanted to focus on the latter. It's less to do with New York specifically, though, and more about being in a place that is different to home."
And the sexy nature of the work? "I think that ballet has evolved so much in terms of what we can get away with," Luplau says. "I wanted to create something that's human and natural, rather than something in tutus and tights. If people saw what happens in rehearsal, they'd be like 'Isn't that sexual harassment?' But as dancers it's normal. In partnering work you have to touch people and that's the way it goes." <div class="endnote">