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Ballet Review: Diamonds
Andre Santos as the joker in Jeu de cartes. Picture: Jon Green.

What do Michel Fokine, John Cranko, Barry Moreland, Petr Zuska and Ivan Cavallari have in common? They are all choreographers whose works appear in West Australian Ballet's (WAB) Diamonds program.

Watching Diamonds, named in honour of the company's 60th anniversary, there are thematic or historical links between several of the works.

There is, however, no obvious thread weaving together all six items on the bill. Although program notes and pre-show publicity indicate that this is intentional, it gives the evening a disparate quality.

The upside of this variety is that there is "something for everyone". The program is well-balanced in terms of humour versus pathos, with a handful of sensuality for good measure.

For me, the highlights were Cranko's Jeu de cartes and Moreland's Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune.

Jeu de cartes (1965) is set to the Stravinsky score of the same name, based on a game of poker. The work is infused with Cranko's trademark slapstick humour. Firecracker Andre Santos was delightfully naughty as the wily joker. Cavorting about the stage, he was the ultimate cartoon character, with his comic-book facial expressions and magic elevation.

It's not often that the first mention of a dance work goes to the design but the lattice-like backdrop, through which light falls in gentle beams, is central to the beauty of Moreland's Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune. The abstract pattern created by the fall of the light on the floor pays clever homage to Bakst's original design for Nijinsky's 1912 interpretation of Debussy's score.

Moreland's choreography, too, references the Nijinsky version, with its moments of bas-relief style choreography. As the faun, David Mack was gorgeously sensual, his bare back rippling through Moreland's enticing choreography. In contrast the three nymphs, Claire Hill, Victoria Maughan and Alessandra D'Arbe, were coolly aloof, statuesque and elegant.

Fishy, a duet by WAB artistic director Ivan Cavallari, is another work in which design plays a crucial role. Aquamarine lighting on a silky drape takes us deep under the sea. Dancer Brooke Widdison-Jacobs was in her element - every inch the slippery mer-creature.

Unsurprisingly, Maria's Dream, which pokes gentle fun at the classical ballet genre, was an audience favourite, with its tutu-clad men and suited swan. Fiona Evans' interpretation of Fokine's Dying Swan was also warmly received.

With its top billing, Cranko's 1970 work Poeme de l'extase was evidently meant to be a highlight. It was beautifully performed and Yu Takayama, in the lead role of The Lady, was a pleasure to watch. This work, however, which is about a woman rejecting the advances of a much younger suitor, is heavy in every sense. With its opulent design and melodramatic story line, it felt too weighty to be the last of six works.

Finally, mention must be made of the West Australian Symphony Orchestra. From Saint-Saens to Stravinsky, the orchestra delighted the audience.