Australian Ballet soloist Dimitry Azoury summons superhuman strength in preparation for a boundary-breaking triple bill
It’s well into the rehearsal period for the Australian Ballet’s 2016 season, and at the end of each day, Dimitry Azoury is mentally and physically exhausted. It’s her favourite time of the year. “At the moment it’s really important to get everything taught so we know it all. We’re learning 'In the Middle Somewhat Elevated','Forgotten Land', Cinderella, Swan Lake and Symphony in C. It’s been hard, but it’s going to get harder. We haven’t really been pushed yet.”
The first two pieces form part of Vitesse: a triple bill which, like last year’s 20:21, vaults the company out of its staple of classical pieces and into the challenging world of contemporary ballet. Azoury dances in two of the three pieces. The first is the Australian premiere of British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s 'Danse à Grande Vitesse' (2006), which evokes the high intensity of a train passing through a tunnel. The second is 'In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated': a highly influential and famously difficult piece by American visionary William Forsythe, which opened at the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1987.
Audiences who watched Azoury throw herself into the 40-minute marathon that is Twyla Tharp’s euphoric 'In the Upper Room' in 20:21 would have no doubt that she possesses the strength, grace and sheer athletic endurance to attack Vitesse head on. But on top of these qualities, the pieces demand a willingness to embrace an entirely new set of rules. “I’m finding 'In the Middle' hard to get my head around,” says Azoury. “It’s contemporary but classical. It was choreographed by the Paris Opéra, so it’s almost extreme classical ballet. You have to do everything beautifully and precisely and rigorously but it’s more than ballet. In ‘the Upper Room’, what mattered was the energy… but in 'In The Middle' you have to look good in pointe shoes and leotards.”
“It’s taken us three weeks to recognise the music and find things in it that are landmarks,” she continues. “'In the Middle' has bangs and clashes and wooshes, and it’s hard to identify those things.”
Incredibly tough as taking on 'In The Middle' is, Azoury is hungry to push herself. It’s this hunger that elevated her to her role as a soloist at the beginning of 2015. “I think I was on a bit of a high last year, but the goals always change,” she says. “Once you achieved something you always think, ‘how much more can I work, how much more can I improve?’ Let’s see what happens this year.”
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