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Ballet: Mario Schröder’s Van Gogh

in Dance/O & P Highlights by

If you have a vision of Vincent Van Gogh as dark and broody, you’ll not be disappointed by Mario Schröder’s new ballet, Van Gogh. But in his version, it’s no surprise the legendary painter turned out this way, when you see him constantly shunned by those who were supposed to have his back.

First up, his dad.

Mario’s rigid German Expressionist-like choreography combines with the severe cloaks worn by all and bound by what feels like gaffer tape. Piran Scott makes the perfect Theodorus van Gogh. He towers over everyone with his tall figure, and his shoulders flare out to form a cross-like silhouette even when he is not wielding his Bible like a rail gun.

Van Gogh’s mom stays painfully thin and eternally pregnant. She just keeps popping them out, Vincent being the oldest of the six who survive. She is a good wife, but Vincent is not his father’s son. He can never measure up, no matter how hard he tries.


Van Gogh Premiere 03.02.2017 Oliver Preiss (Vincent) & Lou Thabart (Theo) detail © Ida Zenna
It is during childhood that he and his brother, Theo, come to a meeting of the minds. This very literal choreography will be repeated as the brothers continue to be each other’s support network throughout their lives. The choreography where Theo (Lou Thabart) defends Vincent against their father (Piran Scott) is a beautiful exchange. It is clear that Theo respects and loves his father, and that it pains him to go against him, but cannot allow this abuse against Vincent to continue.

The choreography is wonderful – superbly executed.

I have to say the highlight is the solo of Clasina, the drunk pregnant woman Vincent tries to rescue. Urania Lobo Garcia goes in and out of states of drunkenness and grace. She dances with her bottle more than she dances with Vincent (Oliver Preiss). In my opinion, Urania is by far the most versatile dancer in the company. I have so many images in my head of past performances. Oliver has long been one of my favourites too, but I felt in this role that the choreography did not accentuate his abilities.

True to form, another star of the show is the music. Mainly using 20th century composers, it feels very film score-like to me. StravinskiJanáček, Britten, IvesBerg,Webern, Humperdinck and Bach. We are taken around the world and back again. The music and the choreography keep the tension building as Van Gogh faces rejection after rejection.

I found the work fresh. I particularly liked the easels attached to the dancers, which showed off their skills and also gave a direct connection with the audience through the generation of sound. With a couple of exceptions, Schröder stayed away from the cliché and familiar. He chose to show us the sensitive and caring man behind the brush instead of the insane guy who cut off his ear.


Mario Schröder’s Van Gogh

Sun 26 Feb 6.00 pm
Fri 03 Mar 7.30 pm
Fri 19 May 7.30 pm
Tue 20 June 7.30 pm

Maeshelle West-Davies gleans her varied life experiences to expose a personal perspective through a multitude of mediums. Sound, video, photography, dance, performance and public art are the tools she uses to convey her message. Her work is a response not only to a physical journey, but an emotional one, as with all of us who walk along or beside our individual paths.

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