Tutus and trauma: a delicious slice
By Talia Carlisle

It’s never too late to join the ballet bandwagon, unless that wagon is the Tempest season of Dying Swanologues at BATS Theatre, in which case you have sorely missed out.

The short and sweet season from July 5-9 was made shorter with two last minute cancellations due to illness, but nevertheless, made a spectacular leap to the stage following their 2022 Fringe Festival postponement and a successful Boosted Campaign.

The emotionally-fueled passion project was the genius of performer, writer and producer Bea Lee-Smith, and supported by a multi-talented and enthusiastic cast and crew. This included El Yule’s inspired directing, studio-perfect lighting by Janis C.Y Cheng, and captivating choreography by Tabitha Dombroski.

Thank you to the brightness and creativity of Lee-Smith as Lou, the passion of Otto Kosok as Joe, the joyful spark that is Felicity Cozens as Mary, and the courageous ambition portrayed by Lorna Rosevear. The leads jumped swiftly to and from supporting characters, brought wildly to life with the guidance of assistant director and accent coach Hilary Norris.

This treasure chest of relatable and rhythmical characters leaped onto stage and into my heart. Sandra Norman’s role as the nurturing ballet master was filled in by Patrick Davies, but I heard great excitement from the audience about her previous performances.

It was set on the simple yet elegantly set Stage by set designer Becky Sees. I have no doubt producer and musical theatre great Jo Marsh’s talents contributed greatly to the flow of the show, as did the jukebox soundtrack designed by Lee-Smith. Just like a chocolate box, there is a favourite song in there for everyone, and that is a delicious element that lifted the energy and emotion of the show up into the rafters.

Rehearsal stage manager and sound designer Patrick Davies stepped in to read the role of Patrice for the final Friday performance I attended, and fitted in like a glove with his significant prior experience with the role.

For such a character-filled and digestible show, it barely filled the stage time it deserved – or fulfilled the happy endings and beginnings I would have liked to see elaborated. I feel lucky however that my own timing was impeccable and I was able to experience Dying Swanologues when I know so many more Wellingtonians who would have been touched by its performance if not for the cancellations or limited season.

The show centers around an adult ballet class as its pupils, aged mid 20s to late 50s, maneuver life’s ups and downs through dance, dialogue and friendship.

Just like their characters, the performers are clearly connected through a love of dance, demonstrated in their well-practised choreography and stability in the roles, despite the many date changes, roles filled in and the threat of covid cancellations at any moment.

The idea is to create a place for people to comfortably connect with themselves and each other on a soul level. This is very much needed at a time of instability and disconnect due to covid, technology and political divide.

The fact these characters can show up to class, and the audience to the theatre reconnects us to what’s important – showing up as we are. And that’s just what Dying Swanologues does best and in full resilient strength.

For a relaxing Friday at the theatre, I was filled with wonder, courage and strength to see these incredible characters embracing ballet as it frames their perfectly drawn storylines of new relationships, travels and career aspirations, encouraging us all to tackle our own demons or adventures when we are ready. It is never too early or late to start.