Legendary New Zealand choreographer Douglas Wright told the Star he’d rather read a book than see a dance performance. Tim Rushton said he refused to work with the Danish Ballet because he loved dance too much and started New Danish Dance Theatre instead.

One would be forgiven for thinking there’d been yet another wave of revolt against ballet, the dance world’s maiden aunt.

If this means war, then Australian choreographer Adrian Burnett is ready for battle. His latest work Aesthetic Arrest is part of a triple bill for the Australian Ballet, an evening of 21st century works by young choreographers intended to attract new audiences and stretch the form.

The program includes Christopher Wheeldon’s Continuum (San Francisco Ballet) and Nicolo Fonte’s Almost Tango (Pacific Northwest Ballet) as well as Burnett’s piece, which is contemporary and young, but definitely ballet.

In classical ballet, the foundations are beautiful, the beautiful technique has a language of its own anyway, but it’s the context that you do it in as well that can completely change the way it looks, Burnett said.

But for me it’s a point of departure. And I like that. It’s nice to know when you’re really breaking the rules of deconstructing something -¦ And I love that I have that knowledge and background that’s backing everything up, Burnett said.

Burnett’s first broken rule is perhaps his choice of music: Fearful Symmetries by minimalist composer John Adams. (Wheeldon chose Gyorgi Ligeti, while Fonte’s score includes Laurie Anderson.)

I guess I’m drawn to the sparseness that a lot of these musicians use, Burnett said, having previously used music by Phillip Glass. It’s almost like it leaves space for me to make my own statement. There are some pieces of music that I just love listening to -¦ but I can’t actually see what I can add to that.

So what is Aesthetic Arrest about?

It’s about a whole lot of [space] opening to larger and larger and larger black spaces, which sounds very boring, Burnett said. But massive scrims come out and you keep thinking you’re going to be taken into another space, but it just becomes this larger black box.

Is it an allegory for attempting to find new spaces for expression in a dance tradition with constricted dimensions? Or a prescient comment on the difficulties his dancers faced on the narrow dimensions of the Opera Theatre stage?

Yes and no. For Burnett it’s simply about exploring the way space impacts on how we move, and says the piece is actually optimistic.

It’s really invigorating, he said. It builds and builds and builds and at the very end is this very peaceful, quiet continuation, like a cycle at the end -¦ where this huge tension has built up and then it just sort of falls away.

Red Hot And New runs until 22 December at the Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House. Phone 9250 7777.

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