Triple treat: Lister pushes boundaries in ballet homecoming

The Australian premiere of A Brief Nostalgia is a sentimental homecoming on many levels for choreographer and former Queensland Ballet dancer Jack Lister.

Jun 15, 2023, updated Jun 15, 2023

His abstract homage to memory is part of Queensland Ballet’s newest triple bill Trilogy.

Lister first conceived the piece with the Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2019, and is proud to bring the work to Brisbane and finally overcome Covid disruptions.

It explores the inevitability of the memories we collect, and how we respond when they are all we have left.

“After space away from it, you kind of look at the jigsaw puzzle that these works are sometimes and the many pieces of puzzle that make it up, and I really wanted to inject some fresh movements, some fresh things for very different dancers working here at Queensland Ballet,” Lister said.

“So I wanted to bring the same ideas that were there to evoke, and I guess the same nature that the piece had, but I wanted to blow it out and find a new physicality to try and express that because we’ve got such a beautiful sort of stark world that has come together aesthetically for the work.

“There’s also the challenge that is always hard for me, and that’s just trying to inject a sense of joy and happiness into this because somehow nostalgia and the work itself really pigeonholed itself into being something more on heavy side of memory, but I wanted to find a lightness for it this time in places.”

Lister is now a world renowned choreographer known for his collaborative approach to creating new works. He joined the Australasian Dance Collective as a Company Artist in 2020, and in the same year was appointed as Queensland Ballet’s Associate choreographer, opening up the opportunity to bring this co-production with Birmingham Royal Ballet to the Brisbane stage.

He said he’s enjoyed seeing how A Brief Nostalgia has evolved in a different cultural context with the input of Queensland Ballet dancers.

“The melancholic nature of the subject matter I think is so beautiful and speaks to so many people and allows people to just interpret,” he said.

“It’s been really, it’s a credit to the dancers because they’re so amazing and adaptable, super collaborative.

“We’ve worked with them a lot and lots of them I’ve danced with in the past. So there’s a certain shorthand that I’ve been able to rely on and trust them on both sides that the collaborations that we’ve done before have given us a shorthand as artists when we step into the studio.

“So we worked crazy to get it on, but I think it was a worthwhile investment in restructuring the work for this company.”

He’s grateful for the vision of Queensland Ballet under the leadership of Artistic Director Li Cunxin to continue to nurture and perform challenging modern dance works.

“That’s important because they’re a company full of amazing technicians and there are huge traditionalist core values at the core of it,” he said.

“But I think there’s a certain sensibility to Queensland and Australia that lends itself to, we’re not really pigeonholed in the same way that Paris or New York or London have their lineage and histories where we can do what we want.

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“So I think that’s kind of my drive to keep working with the company.”

Lister is also exploring his own sense of nostalgia re-creating the work in the newly renovated Thomas Dixon Centre that was once the focus of his dancing world, and reflecting how much has changed for the performing arts since the pandemic.

“We can all sort of feel like things back now,” he said.

“We really are back, and that’s amazing, but everyone is in a different space and everyone’s still recovering in a certain way and understanding that you just, it’s kind of nice to just be.”

Li Cunxin said he’s excited to support bringing Lister’s work to the stage as part of the triple bill.

“Nostalgia means something different to everyone. Yet at such a young age, Lister brings an academic intensity to this production,” Cunxin said.

“That combined with Thomas Mika’s set design of huge concrete grey walls, grey costumes and augmented shadows gives it a dystopian look that will stay with the audience well after they’ve left the theatre.”

Trilogy features a range of choreography from music that is classical, neo-classical, and to high-energy rock n’ roll, bringing to life a dynamic range of passion and spirit.

Trilogy also includes the world premiere of My Brilliant Career, a newly created work by British Choreographer Cathy Marston, and Christopher Bruce’s work Rooster is an ironic look at the 60s and the attitudes of the times.

Queensland Ballet presents Trilogy from June 16 to 25 June at the Queensland Performing Arts Centre Playhouse Theatre.

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