AND CEILING AND WALLS: THE CURTAIN RISES ON 1904 NAGASAKI AND NAVAL OFFICER, PINKERTON, AS HE IS TO MARRY HIS TEENAGE BRIDE, BUTTERFLY. THE AUSTRALIAN BALLET BEGINS 2011 WITH ITS IMAGINING OF THE OPERA IMMORTAL, MADAME BUTTERFLY, AND LEAD DANCER RUDY HAWKES TAKES ROBERT LUKINS FOR A TURN.
|Rudy Hawkes in The Nutcracker. Photograph by Jeff Busby.|
“I don't really know, sorry, I don't have a TV.” Hawkes bats away a question about the impact and implications of dance in popular film and television with the ease it deserves. “But I do think those shows are good in that they bring dance into the lounge room of people who might not have the time, money or motivation to go to the theatre.” Recently announced as one of six finalists of the yet-to-be announced 2011 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award, he is rightly keen to give thought to more due topics.
Accepting the central role of Pinkerton in The Australian Ballet’s first outing for the year, Hawkes understands the canonical narrative into which he is to be a player. Conceived as an opera by Giacomo Puccini in the early years of the twentieth century, the story of a brutish West causing injury to an unready, brittle East has become an arts house staple. Having been on tour internationally for over a decade, Australian choreographer Stanton Welch’s transfigured production has returned to the shores of its birth.
“I’m extremely excited about performing the role of Pinkerton. It’s very challenging both technically and artistically.” This performance satisfies a lifelong desire for Hawkes and provides a challenge to more typical roles. “Growing up I always aspired to perform in full length story ballets with the beautiful pas de deux and tricky lifts. The only surprising thing I initially found about the character, Pinkerton, is that he is not your typical romantic lead. He’s not very respectful of the Japanese culture and he’s very naive about the consequences of his actions.”
|Rudy Hawkes. Photograbh by James Braund.|
Indeed, the character is something of a half-intended monster. Like the overgrown puppy that bounds into a room, smashing over vases with its ecstatic tail and tearing up the furniture and children of its loved master, Pinkerton is an embodiment of casual supremacy. In a cocoon of thought, regretful and doomed, his trajectory foresaw North America’s as the century unfurled. “Madame Butterfly is not just a tragic love story,” Hawkes is clear, “it is about the coming together of two very different cultures for the first time and its consequences.”
For Pinkerton, his tragedy is that of his bride’s, beauty’s, suicide. For Rudy, the task is to walk with his audience as we tread the line been sympathy and antipathy. This connection, this cotton thread between performer and the crowd, is a source of meaning for Hawkes.
|Madame Buterfly Production shot. Photograph by Paul Empson.|
When questioned on the very purpose of dance, on its facility to make any difference, he recalls moments of lives meeting. “Being on stage you get a feeling of what the audience is experiencing during a performance. We have witnessed them laugh out loud and cry, the theatre has been chillingly silent and we have received standing ovations. Personally, it is a huge part of who I am and it affects me and my friends and colleagues every day.”
WHERE & WHEN: The Arts Centre, State Theatre. Fri 25 Feb to Wednesday 9 March.