The Australian Ballet Beyond 50 – Masterpiece Moves for 2013

After the year of celebration that was our 50th anniversary, the party continues in 2013 with a program dedicated to the jewels of classical ballet – Masterpieces*

Founded by Dame Peggy van Praagh, The Australian Ballet has gone from strength to strength over its fifty years, as each new Artistic Director has honoured her legacy and invigorated the world of dance with masterful programs and their vision for driving both its dancers and their success forward. 2012 has been a landmark year, with some of the most ravishing ballets ever danced on show and The Australian Ballet‘s brilliant international 50th Anniversary Gala will be danced in Melbourne from 31st October – 3rd November and a world premiere production of Swan Lake for its finale at Melbourne 2012 and at Sydney and Brisbane in 2013. This refreshed version has been created by former dancer and choreographer Stephen Baynes and it honours the traditional production and provides a tangible link back to the company’s first performance of Peggy Van Praagh’s Swan Lake in 1962.

Showcasing his dancers and highlighting master works from great choreographers and composers both classic and contemporary, David McAllister, Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet in 2013 will offer Australians an opportunity to celebrate the magnificence of a company that has been emboldened by all the challenges it has surmounted during its first half century. From the classical elegance of Giselle and its light and dark moments of dramatic intensity, to the power and energy in the world of Twyla Tharp’s The Upper Room it has wisely embraced and led change over that period, as well as pioneered new and exciting works to great acclaim and success.

The 2013 Masterpieces program includes a diverse range of contemporary works and some of the greatest jewels of the classical repertoire.

Great dance and great music go together like peaches and cream. For the classical works the music proportionately, along with the dance steps, help us to relate to the romantic and fantastic tales being told. In a contemporary idiom the music adds layers and textures to the beauty of human movement, often without contributing at all to a plot that is often complex and for many, too real and too confronting. But then isn’t life as well?

Exciting and innovative offstage projects on the 2013 program will also help to expand awareness and appreciation of what dance is and about and why it is important in the great scheme of life and the arts. Beyond 50 many factors will help David McCallister fulfill an important aim to ‘make sure that ballet is accessible to all Australians’ within the next five years.

The Australian Ballet currently has seasons operating in Sydney and Melbourne with select shows happening in Brisbane, Adelaide, Canberra and Perth. Then there is their regional tour arm, The Dancers Company founded in 1980 by the then Artistic Director and former dancer Marilyn Jones, which spends the year covering the countryside of South Australia, Victoria, NSW and the Northern Territory. They are reaching out far and wide to Australians everywhere wowing committed ballet buffs and seducing all-new audiences with much-loved favourites. They are also giving senior students of The Australian Ballet School valuable experience as part of their training and under the full rigour of a performance schedule. Many celebrated dancers began their professional careers with The Dancers Company and include the current Artistic David McAllister; ballet legend Steven Heathcote; and current principal artists Olivia Bell, Adam Bull, Madeleine Eastoe, Daniel Gaudiello, Kevin Jackson, Lana Jones, Andrew Killian and Amber Scott

Don Quixote, which acclaimed dancer Rudolph Nureyev (1938 – 1993) made so famous when he made a movie of it here in Australia with a delightful and fiery Lucette Aldous (1938-) and the wonderful theatrical style of Sir Robert Helpmann (1909-1986) as the Don, will commence the season.

The original version was conceived by the legendary choreographer Marius Pepita in 1869 and was first performed in Moscow at the fabled Bolshoi Theatre where its opportunities for virtuoso dancing by its principals, made it both a crowd please and a career maker.

When Rudolph Nureyev danced it he brought a new energy that ensured it became a favourite at the Kirov Ballet. When he defected to the west in Paris in 1961 creating headlines around the world, he brought to the west not only his incredible presence, but also a dance legacy that will never be forgotten.

He performed and staged works for many ballet companies including the Marseille Opera Ballet where in his production of Don Quixote Maina Gielgud danced the role of Kitri, who became artistic director of The Australian Ballet between 1983 – 1996 and the rest is history.

This is a perfect ballet for people who have not encountered the ballet world or the world of dance before and would like to expand both their knowledge and appreciation of what it is all about. As McAllister has noted ‘it has it all’. Jaw dropping and furiously fast footwork, Spanish fire, flamenco and lots of fun as we follow an eccentric old knight on a great quest to find the love of his life whom he lost.

DON QUIXOTE (1869)
Choreography Rudolf Nureyev after Marius Petipa
Music Ludwig Minkus

In May at Canberra alone, where everyone will be celebrating its Centenary year, a special program Symmetries will premiere Monument, a new work inspired by the 25th anniversary of Parliament House and as well, Harald Lander’s Études, an exhilarating display of classical technique from basics to bravura heights.

Vanguard is made up of three modern or ‘abstract’ works, including one by arguably one of the greatest choreographers of all time George Balanchine alongside two other colleagues of brilliance in their own time, Wayne McGregor and Jiri Kyliéan.

Many balletomaniacs will remember the Russian born New York City Ballet co-founder and balletmaster George Balanchine solely from a powerful scene in the movie White Nights (1985) when world famous dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing for Helen Mirren, dazzled everyone with his brilliant Balanchine dance moves.

His work The Four Temperaments was premiered in 1946 and was a modernist work, abstract, angular and very spare in its movement. Balanchine transformed the landscape of American dance creating modern ballets while developing a unique style for his dancers. Like ‘Kylián it was highlighted by brilliant speed, a lushness of modernity and flow, with great attack and technique.

Kylián in worshiping the human body and celebrating its diversity of race and cultural traditions calls on the past to reflect his future. At The Nederlands Dans Theater’s Jiri Kyliéan also raised the bar for abstract ballet and his work Bella Figura was created in 1995 and as they dance naked to the waist in flowing red skirts at the end, in as Kylian noted at the time “A journey in time, light and space, addressing the ambiguity of aesthetics, performances and dreams…”

Wayne McGregor created his random dance Dyad in 1929, a demanding work in the collaborative spirit of Diaghilev, the entrepreneur whose Ballets Russes (or Russian Ballet) revolutionised ballet between 1909 and 1940 with its sensational fusion of art, movement and music that challenged social norms, scandalized society and seduced everyone who fell under the spell of ballet as art.

Wayne McGregor, crafted choreographic responses to the costume, music and lighting, each element of the design important in its own right and reflecting his ideas of an abstract universe as his world moved away from tradition as it embraced a new sense of adventure and exploration that knew no bounds.

THE FOUR TEMPERAMENTS (1946)
Choreography George Balanchine
Music Paul Hindemith The Four Temperaments

BELLA FIGURA (1995)
Choreography Jir?í Kylián
Music Lukas Foss Salomon Rossi Suite

DYAD 1929 (2009)
Choreography Wayne McGregor
Music Steve Reich Double Sextet

Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake will play in a Melbourne only season with Stephen Baynes’ Swan Lake in Brisbane and Adelaide both offering different experiences. Australian choreographer Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake has had its narrative re-conceived and provides a more powerful, dramatic development of this original and most popular tale told by ballet.

His staging is masterly, as he slows down and freezes the action when he wants to highlight a particularly poignant moment, engaging all our emotions. It also helps us to sort out who’s who in the pecking order of a palace society with a confused, and often conflicted prince, trying to work out just who he wants for his wife; the out of this world lovely and gracious Odette or the possessive, seductive Odile, who threatens to break his heart and to destroy his soul.

The dance narrative is superb and the stunning pas de deux between the Prince and Odette, totally sublime and it’s already a jewel in the company’s repertoire. It will only be seen in Melbourne in 2013 so a travel choice from all the other states needs to be made. If you decide to make the journey it will be more than worth it.

GRAEME MURPHY’S SWAN LAKE (2002)
Choreography Graeme Murphy with Creative Associate Janet Vernon
Music Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

La Sylphide is of another world altogether, one set in a land where mists, spirits and fairies abound and Scottish tartan features gloriously. This is the oldest romantic ballet and it premiered originally in Paris in 1832, leaving the audience dumbstruck by its special effects, where some ballerinas fly across the stage with ‘supernatural grace’ as a beautiful sylph lures a young Scottish lad away from achieving earthly happiness by marrying, and instead choose to be free. Full of fleet footwork, filigree design and luscious leaps it is completely irresistible.

It is paired with a one act gem of Marius Petipa, Paquita (1847) which highlights the brilliance of solo dance.

LA SYLPHIDE (1836)
Choreography Erik Bruhn after August Bournonville
Music Herman Løvenskjold

PAQUITA (1847)
Choreography Marius Petipa
Music Ludwig Minkus

Cinderella by the Russian born artist in residence from the American Ballet Theatre and former director of the Bolshoi Ballet Alexei Ratmansky is also a re-invention of the classical tale of Cinderella danced to Russian composer Prokofiev’s glorious original score features sets and costumes by French designer Jérome Kaplan and has been created especially for the Australian Ballet. It is still set to Prokofiev’s beautiful score and so will no doubt satisfy those enjoy the ‘happy ever after story’.

CINDERELLA (2013)
Choreography Alexei Ratmansky
Music Sergei Prokofiev

Bodytorque will provide a platform for a new crop of choreographers to try out new ideas, test the mettle of the dancers and their skills and develop new themes associated with developing and maintaining technique.

As David McAllister notes in the program “Every year Bodytorque punches above its weight and delivers some really energising works. Often the creation and rehearsal process is quite fast, so you have this fresh and exciting piece that comes to life on stage, and the choreographers really put themselves out there, which I find incredibly brave.”

BODYTORQUE Technique
Five new works to be announced!

Stephen Bayne’s Swan Lake will also provide the finale of the 2013 year with its lyrical touch and wonderful sense of musical phrasing which is both accessible and pleasing as well as being complex as David McCallister noted when he was describing the work in 2012.

Swan Lake made its debut originally in Moscow in 1877 and would be the most performed ballet in the world. Tchaikovsky’s wonderful score is integral to this work, which offers white and black swan characters in classic tulle tutu’s as its centrepiece.

SWAN LAKE
Choreography Stephen Baynes
Music Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The Australian Ballet’s commitment to ‘caring for tradition and daring to be different’ is ongoing. With a masterful education program already established in schools, which is expanding rapidly with both government and philanthropic support, and a highly responsive online community, the company is well placed to continue to offer traditional and thought provoking works in the future.

2013 will be the year to experience all the jewels of classical ballet, magnificent story ballets, works that challenged and changed the art form and new works that may become the masterpieces of the future. You can subscribe to The Australian Ballet and celebrate all that is good about life and its many opportunities for enjoying the magic of music and movement here in Australia.

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle 2012

*David McAllister AM, Artistic Director The Australian Ballet

The Australian Ballet Masterpieces 2013

The Australian Ballet is a national full-time ensemble company employing dancers whose talents are showcased in both classical and contemporary repertoire. The principal artists’ exceptional qualities are well-known and loved, and they proudly lead a company that has an abundance of talent throughout its ranks.

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