WA Ballet dances through Milky Way at Quarry Amphitheatre with Gary Lang


Matt Lehmann and Gary Lang (both centre) in the WA Ballet rehearsal room.
Matt Lehmann and Gary Lang (both centre) in the WA Ballet rehearsal room.

WA Ballet principal Matt Lehmann has enjoyed a well-deserved end of year break following his starring role as Captain Hook in Peter Pan.

“I’m a Melbourne boy so I’m headed over to see family before coming back to Perth and going down south with my fiance to spend time with her big South African family,” Lehmann said.

“For me, I just had to make sure it’s still a pretty active couple of weeks because we only have four weeks when we get back to put Ballet at the Quarry together.

“We hit the ground running so you have to come back fighting fit; if you take a week to get back in to shape, you’ve lost too much time.

“I used to be able to do that when I was younger, but can’t get away with it any more. My body ain’t what it used to be.”

The dancer will be a lead in choreographer and Larrakia man Gary Lang’s world premiere of Milngia, Milky Way – River of Stars, one of four works presented at Ballet at the Quarry in 2018.

The collaboration between Gary Lang NT Dance Company and WA Ballet will be danced to a live performance by soprano and Yorta Yorta woman Deborah Cheetham.

It is based on the indigenous story about two fishermen whose spirits go to the sky to create the Milky Way.

“I’ve danced to a live opera singer before when I was in Canada and it’s an amazing experience to have that added art form on stage; it’s very cool,” Lehmann said.

“When the dancers are connected emotionally and spiritually to the piece, it’s easier for the audience to connect too.

“This piece has a very deep and spiritual undertone to it. Gary himself is very spiritual and he wants us to connect to our own spiritual side, whatever it is that we relate to, bringing what we believe forward to the work.

“And I think the Quarry itself has that natural spiritual sense to it.”

Lang did a two-week creative development at WA Ballet in October following months of whispers around the company about the potential collaboration.

Lehmann said the two-week rehearsal was great to lay the groundwork before Lang’s return this month.

“It was the first time I’d worked with Gary, he’s so passionate and always has a story about something,” he said.

“It was great to do something different although it made the body a bit sore because the movement vocabulary has elements of the traditional Aboriginal dance in it, which is very grounded. The body wasn’t used to it, so it was a bit sore for a couple of days.

“We’ve technically finished the ballet but Gary has gone away and I’m sure he’ll have a look at the video and tweak some things, which is natural and always happens.”

Milngia, Milky Way – River of Stars will be joined on the bill by Les Indomptes by French choreographer Claude Brumachon, another French work by choreographer Patrick Delcroix and Ghost Gum, created by WA Ballet demi-solist Christopher Hill.

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Milky Way: Ballet at the Quarry

Where: Quarry Amphitheatre

When: February 9 to March 3

Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com.au