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The Adelaide Festival of the Arts is a biennial festival held in Autumn which showcases music, theatre, dance, new media events, literature and visual arts.
Modelled on the Edinburgh Festival, the Adelaide Festival is noted for innovation and exploration, a reputation that largely stems from the frequent turnover of the directorship and the appointment of artists as directors. The success of the Adelaide Festival has given rise to the South Australian identity as the 'Festival State' and was the catalyst for the creation of the iconic Adelaide Festival Centre.
The Adelaide Festival was established in 1960 by Sir Lloyd Dumas and Professor John Bishop, then Professor of Music at the University of Adelaide, under the patronage of the Queen Mother.
At the time of the Festival's inception there was limited dance infrastructure in South Australia. The inaugural festival opened with a Folk Festival of Song and Dance, but was criticised for its neglect of classical and modern dance forms. Dance had an increased presence at the second Festival with performances by the Bhaskar Dance Company from India and lunchtime ballet concerts by local groups.
However, it was not until the 1964 Festival that dance came to the forefront of the program with the world premiere of the Australian Ballet's The Display, choreographed by Adelaide's international dance celebrity, Robert Helpmann. Set to a score by Malcolm Williamson and with decor by Sidney Nolan, the premiere of The Display, elicited 20 curtain calls and a 15 minute ovation, with 5 500 people attending its four performances.
The Australian Ballet returned to the next Festival with a program of Lady and the Fool, Illyria, Elektra and Raymonda. 1966 also saw the debut of Adelaide's own modern dance company, Australian Dance Theatre, under the artistic direction of Elizabeth Dalman, as well as performances by the Kalakshetra dancers from India.
In 1970 Robert Helpmann was appointed as director of the Festival. He showcased an impressive international line-up of stars who captured the attention of the media, thrusting the Festival into the spotlight. The dance program included acclaimed performances by the Royal Thai Ballet, Georgian Dancers from Russia and the Balinese Dance Company. At the time, Helpmann was also co-director of The Australian Ballet and they featured with Rudolf Nureyev as guest principal and choreographer, and Helpmann himself dancing the title role in their performances of Don Quixote.
1974 saw the continuation of Helpmann's association with the Festival with the world premiere of his work Perisynthyon. In the same year, Australian Dance Theatre performed their first major evening season including in the program works by their newly appointed co-director, former Nederlands Dans Theater director Jaap Flier.
International artists that toured to the Festival in the coming years included Merce Cunningham(1976), Ballet of the Komische Oper (1980), Pina Bausch and the Wuppertaler Tanz Theater (1982), Nederlands Dans Theater (1986), Twyla Tharp (1988), Lyon Opera Ballet (1990) and Compagnie Maguy Marin (1992).
The 1994 Festival was a dance extravaganza, with performances by the Frankfurt Ballet, New York's Mark Morris Group and Bangarra Dance Theatre. An open roof space was specially designed and built to accommodate performance by a range of groups from the Asia Pacific region including the Thai National Dance Troupe, Cambodia National Dance Company, Cook Islands National Arts Theatre and Kanak Dancers of Wetr (New Caledonia).
In 1996, director Barrie Kosky exposed audiences to a completely different aesthetic with the Australian premiere of Israel's Batsheva Dance Company, The Whirling Dervishes from Turkey and a collaboration between Meryl Tankard and Indian dancer Padma Menon entitled Rasa.
Under the artistic direction of Robyn Archer, the 2000 Festival included New Moves Australia, in which seven Australian choreographers undertook a choreographic laboratory in Glasgow and a two week residency in Adelaide, with scheduled public drop-in sessions.
Amongst the local companies, Adelaide's Australian Dance Theatre has had a particularly strong presence at the Festival. They have premiered a multitude of works under varied artistic directorship including Stripsody and Incident at Bull Creek (1980), A Descent in to the Maelstrom (1986), Beyond the Flesh (1990), Possessed (1998), Birdbrain (2000) and Be Yourself (2010). Leigh Warren and Dancers have also appeared with Parallax (1998), Divining (2000) and Frame and Circle (2010).
In recent years, local audiences have continued to experience an eclectic range of dance sourced from around the globe including Taiwan's Cloud Gate Dance Theatre (1998), Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker & Les Ballets C de la B (2000), Conjunto di Nero & Ballet Nacional de Espana (2004), China's Jin Xing Dance Theatre (2010) and the French Montalvo-Hervien Company (2010).
Directors of the Festival include John Bishop (1960 -1964) ; Advisory Board (1966 -1968) ; Sir Robert Helpmann (1970) ; Louis van Eyssen (1972) ; Anthony Steel (1974 ? 1978, 1984 - 1986) ; Christopher Hunt (1980, 1994) ; Jim Sharman (1982) ; The Earl of Harewood (1988) ; Clifford Hocking (1990) ; Rob Brookman (1992) ; Barrie Kosky (1996) ; Robyn Archer (1998 -2000) ; Sue Nattrass (Peter Sellars resigned) (2002) ; Stephen Page (2004) ; Brett Sheehy (2006, 2008); Paul Grabowsky (2010).
'Festival! The Story of the Adelaide Festival of Arts', Derek Whitelock, 1980.
Graeme Murphy's After Venice, choreographed for his Sydney Dance Company, had its premiere at the Drama Theatre of the Sydney Opera House on 1 December 1984. Designed by Kristian Fredrikson and lit by John Drummond Montgomery, it was danced to Olivier Messiaen's Turangalila Symphony. The work's opening season featured Garth Welch as Aschenbach, Paul Mercurio as Tadzio, Janet Vernon as Tadzio's Mother, Bill Pengelly as Aschenbach the Younger, Nina Veretennikova as Mme Aschenbach, Kim Walker as Jashu, Tadzio's Friend, Francoise Philipbert as Tasdzio's Girl, Alfred Williams as Death, Shane Carroll as Love and Michael Hennessy as Lust. After Venice toured to the Festival of Perth early in 1985 and then was seen nationally and internationally until it was withdrawn as a result of restrictions placed on it by the Messiaen estate.
Jerome Robbins's Afternoon of a Faun was first performed in Australia by the New York City Ballet in 1958. This pas de deux, of a little over ten minutes, is performed to the Debussy score that accompanied Vaslav Nijinsky's 1912 L'apres-midi d'un faune. The content of the Nijinsky original, which incorporated themes of narcissism, sexuality and voyeurism, is also reflected in the Robbins version. It is set in a ballet studio, with the male and female dancer facing an imaginary mirror between them and the audience.
The Australian Ballet's premiere of Robbins's Afternoon of a Faun took place on May 15, 1978, in Sydney, featuring Marilyn Rowe and Gary Norman. This production was staged by Francisco Moncion, who danced the male role at both the world premiere in New York in 1953 and the Australian premiere by the New York City Ballet in 1958. At later performances Marilyn Jones and Michela Kirkaldie appeared as the girl, and David Burch and Craig Sterling performed the male role.
Afternoon of a Faun last featured in the Australian Ballet's 2008 season as part of the program 'Jerome Robbins - a celebration'. This production was staged by Bart Cook, and Carlos Acosta appeared as guest artist during the Melbourne season.
Choreographed by Stephen Page for the Australian Ballet, Alchemy premiered in Melbourne at the State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, on 13 September 1996. A commissioned work, it was part of Maina Gielgud's all Australian triple bill. The other works on that program were Meryl Tankard's The Deep End and Stanton Welch's Red Earth.
In four parts - 'Mercury', 'Salt', 'Lead' and 'Gold' - Alchemy was, in Stephen Page's words, 'a metaphor for mankind's propensity to quest for gold, versus our need to respect the spiritual essence of nature'. In his choreographer's notes, Page also explained the essence of each part:
Mercury: mother earth calls/a life force awakens/running hunger/she nurtures its journey
Salt: tears of salt/expose the soul/taste the earth/a sacred medicine
Lead: a storm brewing/industrial initiation/the harbinger of destruction/scars the earth
Gold: a morning star/abundant riches/earth's jewels/the power to corrupt
Alchemy was danced to music by David Page, created as a commissioned score. The score included vocals by David Page, Leah Purcell, Kirk Page, Connie Mitchell and Ningali with acoustic guitar by Steve Francis. Indigenous language groups represented in the vocals were Umpila, Yugambeh and Walmadjarri. Set design was by Fiona Foley, costume design by Jennifer Irwin and lighting design by Jo Mercurio. The opening night cast included principal artists Lisa Bolte, Miranda Coney, Steven Heathcote, Adam Marchant and David McAllister.
The Australian production of Annie Get your Gun, an enterprise of the J. C. Williamson organisation, opened in Melbourne on 19 July 1947. Its first season in Australia just over twelve months after its Broadway premiere heralded the arrival in this country of the new, post-World War II Broadway musical.
In 1947, as was common practice at the time, the J. C. Williamson organisation had endeavoured to find a leading lady overseas to play the role of Annie Oakley, the sharpshooter on whose life the musical was freely based. Instead they found the right person in Australia, local vaudeville star Evie Hayes. Born in America, Evie Hayes had been in Australia since 1938 with her husband Will Mahoney performing in vaudeville on the Tivoli Circuit. Together they had established the Cremorne Theatre in Brisbane as a famous variety venue. Hayes' success in Annie Get Your Gun was instant and she went on to play the role for six years and give over 3,500 performances. Other leading roles in Annie Get Your Gun were cast with imported actors most of whom returned home to America at the end of the run.
The original Australian production of 1947 saw, however, the arrival in Australia of Beth Dean and Victor Carell both of whom would remain in the country at the end of the season and go on, as husband and wife, to make a significant contribution to the development of dance in Australia. In Annie Get Your Gun Dean played the role of the Riding Mistress, and Carell that of Foster Wilson. 'Ladies of the ballet' for the 1947 production were from the Jennie Brenan Academy.
In the revival of the work in 1952 Dean's role was danced by Betty Pounder, who also reproduced the dances and ensembles from the original production. Pounder again reproduced the dances for the 1963 revival when she also directed the work.
For a holdings list and a brief performance history of the work in Australia see Annie get your gun - Australian seasons, 1947-1963.
Antique Forms in an Antique Sun was entered by Margaret Barr in the 1972 Ballet Australia Choreographic Competition. It premiered on 14 May 1972 at the Elizabethan Theatre, Newtown, and received second place in the competition behind Christine Koltai's Asylum. Barr's dance-drama was performed to Music for Percussionists by Xavier Benguerel, Jose Soler and Siegfried Fink. The original cast of fourteen included Kai Tai Chan, Maureen Acox, Joolie Eadie, Rhona Googan, Jillian Kelly, Genevieve Langtry, Deirdre Schofield, Anette Williams, Elizabeth Wills, Lindsay Anderson, Jim Carruthers, James McIntyre, and Glen Rosewell.
In her program notes for the competition performance Barr wrote: 'Chinese children in their Social Studies at school are taught to observe people as being typed as: Squares - dependable, inflexible; Circles - devious, pleasing by empty; Triangles - unpredictable.'
The Spanish dancer Antonio (Antonio Ruiz Soler) toured to Australia with his dance company, also known as Gran Antiono, in 1971. The tour was supported by Clifford Hocking by arrangement with Les Spectacles Lumbroso, Paris. The company's opening performance was at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne, on the 17 April, their only Australian venue.
Antonio and his company performed the following two part program:
Part 1: Suite de Sonatas, Romeras, Danza de la Gitana, Los Lagareteranos, Farruca, Zapateado, and Viva Navarra (Gran Jota).
Part 2: Suite - El Amor Brujo, Cana, "Puerta de Tierra", Soleares, Taranto, Martinete, and Fiesta Finale.
Dancers in the company included Estrella Morena, Luisa Aranda, Angela del Moral, Rosa Lugo, Maria Sali, Pastora Ruiz, Jose Antonio, Carlos Calvo, and Rafael Moreno. The company was accompanied by: singers Chano Lobato and Pepe de Luca; guitarists Manuel Morao, Nino Ricardo Jr., and Miguel Albacin; and pianists Rafael Urdapilleta and Rogelio Gavilanes.
Jose Greco noted in an accompanying program: 'I recruit my dancers everywhere - mostly in Madrid - and then train them in my personal style and in my choreography. I insist that my dancers have ballet training', and 'I improvise many parts of the flamenco when I dance alone - naturally you cannot do that with a partner. In the final number, the entire cast has a chance to improvise. Some nights we can be more emotional than on other nights - that depends on the response out front. The audiences differ so we are never the same way twice.'
George Balanchine choreographed his Apollon Musagete in 1928. His was the second ballet of that title to be created that year, both being choreographed to Igor Stravinsky's score of the same name, commissioned by Elizabeth Sprague Collidge in 1927. The first, by Adolph Bolm, premiered in Washington in April. Stravinsky, however, reserved the European rights to the score for Serge Diaghilev, whose Ballets Russes production, choreographed by the twenty-four year old Balanchine, opened at the Theatre Sarah Bernhardt, Paris, on June 12. While Bolm's ballet made little impact, Balanchine's Apollon Musagete, the title of which he shortened to Apollo in the 1950s, is hailed as a landmark work. His oldest surviving ballet and first great public success, it marked the beginning of his significant and enduring collaboration with Stravinsky and featured the neoclassical style for which Balanchine was to become renowned.
Scenery and costumes for the 1928 Ballet Russe production were by French artist Andre Bauchant, with new costumes designed by Coco Chanel in 1929. The libretto involved the birth of Apollo, his interactions the three muses, Terpsichore (dance), Polyhymnia (mime) and Calliope (poetry), and his ascent as a god to Mount Parnassus. This classical tableau proved a launching pad for Balanchine's extension and distortion of classical vocabulary. The original cast included Serge Lifar as Apollo, Alice Nikitina as Terpsichore (alternating with Alexandra Danilova), Lubov Tchernicheva as Polyhymnia, Felia Doubrovska as Calliope and Sophie Orlova as Leto, mother of Apollo.
Balanchine staged Apollon Musagete for the Royal Danish Ballet in 1931. Following his move to the United States two years later, the work was performed by his American Ballet in 1937, subsequently becoming a feature of Balanchine's New York company and of many other companies the world over. In 1978 Balanchine made major changes to the piece, discarding the ballet's prologue which depicts Apollo's birth. For a revival with Mikhail Baryshnikov as Apollo in 1979, he also omitted Apollo's first variation and rechoreographed the ending of the ballet. This revision saw the piece concluding not with Apollo's ascent to Mount Parnassus but rather with the earlier memorable tableau of the muses posing in ascending arabesques beside Apollo. In the 1980 staging for the New York City Ballet, Apollo's first variation was restored. Suzanne Farrell restored the birth scene for her company in 2001.
The Stravinsky score was used by Margaret Scott in creating her version of Apollon Musagete for the Ballet Guild in 1951, by Charles Lisner in his 1962 version for the Queensland Ballet, and by Robin Grove in his 1967 production for the Victorian Ballet Company. The first performance of the Balanchine work in Australia was by the Australian Ballet on May 3, 1991, when it was staged for the company by Karin von Aroldingen, former leading artist of New York City Ballet. On opening night, Steven Heathcote danced the role of Apollo with Justine Miles as Calliope, Miranda Coney as Polyhymnia and Lisa Pavane as Terpsichore. Lighting was by William Akers. A 1997 Australian Ballet staging again saw Heathcote in the title role, with Justine Summers dancing as Terpsichore, Lucinda Dunn as Polyhymnia and Simone Goldsmith as Calliope. Apollo was last presented by the flagship company in 2007 as part of the 'New Romantics' program. This was the first staging by the Australian Ballet to include the prologue of Apollo's birth. As in 1997, Francis Croese reproduced Akers' lighting. The opening cast was led by Robert Curren as Apollo, with Lucinda Dunn as Terpsichore.
Four summer schools, momentous occasions in the development of dance in Australia, were organised by the University of New England and held on its Armidale (New South Wales) campus in 1967, 1969, 1974 and 1976. The first school was strongly oriented towards classical ballet. Its press release stated its aim was 'to give to those who attend it insights into ballet as an art form and, by so doing, to create an informed public for ballet in Australia'. The second, presented under the title 'The Development of Dance in the Twentieth Century', looked at seminal figures and movements after 1900 and analysed modern dance as an art form in its own right as well as for the influence it had on classical ballet. The press release for this school stated: 'The aim of the school basically is to broaden people's knowledge of dance in the 20th Century and to introduce modern dance in its varied manifestations'. In both schools of the 1960s there was a strong emphasis on audience development, on giving status and credibility to dance within the wider community, and on international movements in the dance world.
Both the summer schools of the 1960s largely followed a lecture/discussion format with leading roles on both occasions being taken by Peggy van Praagh. In 1967 she lectured on topics such as the history of ballet, the great dance schools of the world, the training of the dancer and the art of the choreographer, and in 1969 on classical ballet of the Diaghilev era, the influence of Diaghilev, interactions between classical and modern dance, and postwar classical ballet. Nevertheless, while the format for the schools of the 1960s was very much an academic one, with a small number of dancers being made available to demonstrate the points made by lecturers, already the mix of disciplines that was to be a feature of the schools of the 1970s was in place.
With the first 1970s summer school the focus changed quite dramatically. In 1974 the school was billed as a choreographic workshop/dance school. Participation in the workshop was by invitation and 12 choreographers were invited including Ian Spink, John Meehan and Jacqui Carroll. The focus was on exploration and experiment and the interchange of ideas between tutors and choreographers. Classes in various dance techniques were given in the morning and participants in the dance school were available for choreographers to work with in afternoon workshop sessions.
By 1976 the 1960s stream had merged with the processes of 1974 and the fourth summer school consisted of a choreographic workshop with tutors from Australia, London and New York and, running parallel but with considerable crossover, a seminar/lecture series on the history of dance, dance aesthetics and dance criticism led by British academic and dance advocate, Peter Brinson. Among the choreographers participating in the workshop in 1976 was Graeme Murphy then freelancing and still to take on the directorship of Sydney Dance Company. His muse and partner, Janet Vernon, was also a participant - one of 30 dancers who worked with the choreographers.
Records show that the 1976 summer school ended with a deficit and the University of New England declined to commit to any further schools.
For more about the Armidale Summer Schools see The Armidale Summer Schools in National Library of Australia News, April 2002.
The single-act ballet Aurora's Wedding (Le Mariage d'Aurore) was first presented by Serge Diaghilev's Ballet Russe in Paris in 1922. This was the year following his company's London staging of The Sleeping Princess (Diaghilev's production of Petipa's Sleeping Beauty), the full-length work from which it is largely drawn. While Aurora's Wedding is generally based on the marriage feast in the third act of Sleeping Beauty, different productions have varied in their inclusion of a range of more widely sourced divertissements. A selection of fairy solos from the prologue, such as the 'Finger' variation and Lilac Fairy solo, are frequently included. The Rose Adagio from the first act also appears in many versions, and featured in productions by the Borovansky and Australian Ballet companies in the 1950s and 60s. Other frequently incorporated divertissements - such as the Chinese and Arabian dances - come from The Nutcracker.
The first performance of Aurora's Wedding in Australia was by the visiting Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, on 27 October 1936 in Adelaide. At the premiere, Valentina Blinova and Valentin Froman danced as Princess Aurora and her Prince, with Helene Kirsova and Roland Guerard as the Bluebirds and Leon Woizikowsky leading the Three Ivans. The company included the work in the opening program of its Melbourne season, which took place during a heatwave, when the performance of 28 November became renowned for Kirsova collapsing on stage during the Bluebird divertissement. She was carried off by Guerard, and Nina Golovina immediately took her place.
Aurora's Wedding also featured strongly in the following two de Basil Ballets Russes tours of 1938-39 and 1939-40, with both companies presenting it in their opening and closing performances. For all Ballets Russes productions in Australia, scenery was by Leon Bakst, with costumes by Alexandre Benois. The opening cast for the Covent Garden Russian Ballet included Irina Baronova as Aurora, Paul Petroff as her Prince, and Tatiana Riabouchinska and Roman Jasinsky in the Bluebird pas de deux. During this tour, Alexandra Denisova also performed as Aurora. The performances by the Original Ballet Russe featured Tamara Toumanova as Aurora, partnered by Paul Petroff, with Tatiana Riabouchinska and Roman Jasinsky as the Bluebirds.
The first Australian staging of Aurora's Wedding was by the First Australian Ballet during the war years following the Ballets Russes tours. In 1949 the National Theatre Ballet then performed the work in their debut. This production, with design by Kenneth Rowell, was staged by Joyce Graeme, who performed as Aurora, with Rex Reid as her Prince, Bruce Morrow leading the Three Ivans and Maxwell Collis and June Wood as the Bluebirds. Lynne Golding was promoted to the rank of Ballerina after her debut as a Bluebird with this company in Perth late in 1950.
In 1951, Miro Zloch staged his version for the Borovansky Ballet, with decor and costumes by William Constable. This production premiered in Sydney in May and was a prelude to the company's staging of the full length Sleeping Princess just months later in December 1951. On opening night of the Borovansky Ballet's production of Aurora's Wedding Peggy Sager and Charles Boyd danced the leading roles, with Kathleen Gorham and Zloch in the Bluebird pas de deux. During their 1957 Australian tour dancing with the Borovansky Ballet, Margot Fonteyn and Michael Somes danced as Princess Aurora and her Prince, with Peggy Sager and Robert Pomie as the Bluebirds.
The first production of the work by the Australian Ballet, staged by Peggy van Praagh with decor by Warwick Armstrong and costumes by Kristian Fredrikson, opened on 14 March 1964. At the premiere, Marilyn Jones and Bryan Lawrence performed the lead roles, with Karl Welander and Kathleen Geldard as the Bluebirds. During the season that year, visiting guest artist Royes Fernandez danced as the Prince, partnering Kathleen Gorham. Visiting Bolshoi artists performed the work in Australia in 1970, and in 1991 the Australian Ballet presented a new version based on Maina Gielgud's 1984 staging of Sleeping Beauty, with design by Hugh Colman, as part of a 'Tribute to Diaghilev' triple-bill. In the program notes, Gielgud expressed her pleasure at presenting Aurora's Wedding at the Sydney Opera House, which remained at the time unsuitable for her full length Sleeping Beauty that featured in other cities that year. This production of Aurora's Wedding opened with Lisa Pavane and Greg Horsman as Aurora and Prince Florimund, and Anna de Cardi and David McAllister as the Bluebirds. The work is also in the repertoire of the Dancers Company, and was a feature of the Australian Ballet School's 40th Anniversary performance in 2004.
Edward H. Pask, Enter the Colonies Dancing. A History of Dance in Australia 1835-1940 (Melbourne: OUP, 1979); Edward H. Pask, Ballet in Australia. The Second Act 1940-1980 (Melbourne: OUP, 1982).
Autumn Leaves, Anna Pavlova's single substantial choreographic work, was set in one act to various piano pieces by Chopin and depicted the fate of a chrysanthemum bloom which is lovingly tended by a poet and then buffeted and killed by the autumn wind. Subtitled A Choreographic Poem, it premiered in Rio de Janiero, probably in 1918, with Pavlova performing the role of the Chrysanthemum and Alexandre Volinine dancing as the Poet. The original design was by Konstantin Korovin.
Pavlova introduced Australian audiences to this ballet during her 1926 tour, when Pierre Vladimiroff performed as the Poet and Aubrey Hitchins as the Wind. She also included it in the repertoire of her 1929 Australian tour. In the early 1930s Louise Lightfoot and Mischa Burlakov then staged a version for their First Australian Ballet, based on recollections of the Pavlova seasons and on photographs and written accounts of the work.
Edouard Borovansky, who had toured with the Pavlova company to Australia in 1929, staged Autumn Leaves for the first major public appearance of his Borovansky Australian Ballet Company at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne in December 1940. Borovansky's version, which drew his on first hand recollections of the choreography, was designed by William Constable. Borovansky himself danced as the Poet, Rachel Cameron and Edna Busse alternated in Pavlova's role of the Chrysanthemum, and Serge Bousloff performed as the North Wind.
Keith Money, Anna Pavlova: Her Life and Art (London: Collins, 1982); Horst Koegler, The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Ballet (London: Oxford University Press, 1982).
In his biography, Money states that the earliest program he found for Autumn Leaves places the premiere in Rio de Janiero in September 1919. However The Concise Oxford Dictionary of Ballet dates the premiere as 1918.
See also Potter, Michelle, 'As Light as Air: Decorative Dancing', National Library of Australia News (February 2004).
Ballet Imperial has been performed in Australia solely by the Australian Ballet, its Australian premiere taking place at the Tivoli theatre, Sydney, on 26 October 1967. This work was created by George Balanchine for the American Ballet Caravan in 1941. Set to Tchaikovsky's Piano Concerto No 2 in G major, it is generally hailed as Balanchine's tribute to the environment of his early dance training in St Petersburg, paying homage to Marius Petipa and the Imperial Ballet School. While the choreography of Ballet Imperial is rooted in Russian classicism, it is overlaid with the clarity and speed associated with Balanchine's emerging American style and is particularly notable for the formations and constant motion of the corps de ballet. While evoking the aura of nineteenth century classical story ballets, Ballet Imperial is essentially a pure dance work. The original choreography did, however, include elements of mime which Balanchine excluded and then reinstated over the years.
The inaugural Australian production of Ballet Imperial was staged for the Australian Ballet by Victoria Simon who had toured to Australia nine years earlier with the New York City Ballet. Design was by Kenneth Rowell, using azure and gold draperies to evoke the colours of the Maryinsky Theatre. Marilyn Jones, Warren de Maria and Janet Karin led the opening cast, with Henri Penn performing the piano solo. Wendy Pomroy, the company's regular piano soloist, also played doing the premiere season. This production toured to the London Coliseum in 1973, featuring Lucette Aldous, Garth Welch and Gailene Stock. Two ballets created on the company were included in the program, Glen Tetley's Gemini and Robert Helpmann's Sun Music.
The Australian Ballet's 1980 revival used design created by Ben Benson for the New York City Ballet's 1979 season. This production opened at the Sydney Opera House on May 8, 1980, with Joanne Michelle, Martin Raistrick and Lois Strike in lead roles and with Garry Laycock the piano soloist.
Ballet Imperial was most recently programmed in the 2008 'French Connections' season in Adelaide and the 'Ballet Imperial' divertissements season in Melbourne. This production featured design by Hugh Colman.
The organisation that eventually became Ballet Rambert was founded by Marie Rambert in London in the 1920s initially as a vehicle for her students and as a means of fostering new choreography. The company toured Australia in association with the British Council beginning in Melbourne in October 1947 and concluding in Perth in January 1949. The company gave over 500 performances and appeared in Adelaide, Brisbane, Broken Hill, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney as well as undertaking a tour to New Zealand in May 1948.
As well as popular classics such as Giselle, Swan Lake Act II, and Les Sylphides, the company's repertoire for the Australian tour included contemporary choreography by English artists such as Frederick Ashton, Walter Gore, Andree Howard, Antony Tudor and Ninette de Valois. It also introduced Australian audiences to the work of English designers such as Nadia Benois and Sophie Fedorovitch. Walter Gore's Winter Night, designed by Australian Kenneth Rowell as his first professional commission for a ballet company, received its world premiere in Melbourne in November 1948.
A number of Australians were engaged by the company to perform in Australia, notably Kathleen Gorham who danced under the name Ann Somers and Charles Boyd who had performed with Ballet Rambert in England in the early 1940s. While some Australian dancers elected to travel to England with the company at the conclusion of the Australian engagement, others decided to remain in Australia, among them Margaret Scott who went on to make a singular contribution to the development of dance in Australia most notably as founding director of the Australian Ballet School, and Joyce Graeme who established the Melbourne-based National Theatre Ballet Company in 1949.
The Ballet Rambert tour to Australia is discussed in 'Ballet Rambert Creates a Splash' in National Library of Australia News, December 2002. A listing of Ballet Rambert's Australian repertoire is available as an online resource at Ballet Rambert Tour of Australia and New Zealand 1947-1949.
For further online resources relating to the Ballet Rambert tour see the National Library of Australia's online exhibition Dance people dance, especially 'Artistic impact (Item 6)' and 'Artistic impact (Item 7)'.
A number of Ballets Russes companies were formed in the wake of the dissolution of Serge Diaghilev's Ballet Russe following his death in 1929. Between 1936 and 1940 three of these companies visited Australia in tours orchestrated by the entrepreneur Colonel Wassily de Basil. The first, a company assembled in London by de Basil and billed as '(Colonel W. de Basil's) Monte Carlo Russian Ballet', toured for nine months between 1936 and 1937. Its sixty-two dancers were drawn largely from the Ballets de Leon Woizikowsky, augmented by artists from de Basil's own company, and from Rene Blum's Ballets de Monte Carlo.
The second tour, which took place over seven months between 1938 and 1939, was by the 'Covent Garden Russian Ballet, presented by Educational Ballets Ltd'. In essence, this was the de Basil company of the time. The use of the title 'Educational Ballets Ltd' related to the need for de Basil to formally distance himself from company management during a legal dispute with the Ballets de Monte Carlo, the company that had been founded by Rene Blum following his split with de Basil in 1935. By 1938, the Ballets de Monte Carlo was based in America under the direction of Sergei Denham with the financial backing of Universal Art. An attempted merger between this company and that of de Basil early in 1938 ended acrimoniously, with ensuing legal challenges by Universal Art over the copyright of particular works. Prior to this, legal challenges to de Basil over copyright had also been instigated by Leonide Massine during his 1937 move from the de Basil to the rival company as artistic director. Michel Fokine, originally ballet master and choreographer for Blum had, also in 1937, moved in the other direction, joining de Basil. A feature of this second Australian tour was the presence of Fokine, supervising the production of his own ballets.
For the third tour, Colonel de Basil assembled a company that, in addition to his English-based dancers, included a number who were stranded in America on the outbreak of war. These two groups were united in Australia, forming the company that was most commonly referred to as 'The Original Ballet Russe', although it was also billed as 'Colonel W. de Basil's Covent Garden Ballet' and 'Colonel W. de Basil's Ballet Company'. De Basil himself accompanied this tour, which began in December 1939 and, although originally planned to be of ten weeks duration, was, due to the complexities of the war, extended until September 1940.
The Ballets Russes companies brought with them a panorama of choreography, music and design of a kind not previously seen in Australia. Works such as Scheherazade and Le Spectre de la Rose linked directly back to the Diaghilev repertoire, with some, such as Aurora's Wedding, extending that link back to the Tsarist Russian period. Ballets such as Les Presages and Cotillon introduced Australian audiences to works that post-dated the Diaghilev era. Five ballets, including David Lichine's Graduation Ball, received world premieres in Australia. In all, a stunning range of forty-four works, most of them Australian premieres, was presented over the three tours.
The influence of the de Basil Ballets Russes on the development of the arts in Australia was important and long-lasting. The heightening of audience interest was significant. A more tangible impact resulted from the choice of a number of dancers, notably Edouard Borovansky, Helene Kirsova, Kira and Serge Bousloff, Tamara Tchinarova, and a group of Polish dancers - Raisse Kouznetsova, Valery Shaievsky and Edouard Sobishevsky, to stay in or return to Australia. Kirsova founded the Kirsova Ballet, Borovansky the Borovansky Ballet, Bousloff the West Australian Ballet and Kouznetsova and her colleagues the Polish Australian Ballet. A few Australians joined the Ballets Russes companies. Valrene Tweedie, for example, joined the Original Ballet Russe in 1940 and travelled overseas with the company, returning later after performing in North and South America to make a lasting contribution to Australian dance.
In 2006, the National Library of Australia, the Australian Ballet and the University of Adelaide embarked on a four-year collaborative project - Ballets Russes in Australia: Our Cultural Revolution. This project focused on the impact and legacy of the Ballets Russes Australian tours, and culminated in 2009, the centenary of the founding of Serge Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in Paris. The project's website includes details of events and performances that celebrate the tours as well as listing resources relating to the tours and their impact on Australian culture. A further brief discussion, with online resources, of the Ballets Russes tours to Australia and the context in which they occurred is contained in the National Library of Australia's exhibition Dance people dance. See 'Early touring companies' for an overview of the context in which the tours occurred, and 'Artistic impact' for a discussion of their influence.
A finding aid to the National Library's programs and ephemera material relating to the Ballets Russes is at 'Australian Performing Arts (PROMPT) Collection: The Ballets Russes in Australasia, 1936-1940'. This finding aid provides details of the Library's holdings of programs and other printed items, and includes a chronology of the three tours, a full listing of the ballets performed in Australia, and lists of the personnel involved in each tour. Digitised images of the programs, cast lists and related ephemera in the Prompt collection are available online at 'The Ballets Russes in Australasia, 1936-1940: a holdings list'.
For a listing of resources relating to the Ballets Russes tours to Australia and to the influence the tours had on the development of the arts in Australia see 'Ballets Russes Project: Resources'. A number of articles relating to the Ballets Russes Australian tours can also be viewed at the website 'Michelle Potter on dancing'.
Banshee premiered in Canberra at the Australian National Gallery Theatre (now the James O. Fairfax Theatre, National Gallery of Australia) on 27 May 1989. The work was inspired by the abstract forms and textures of early Celtic art and by the eerie magic of Irish folk tales. It was presented by the Meryl Tankard Company in conjunction with the National Gallery's exhibition Irish Gold and Silver.Banshee was conceived of and directed by Meryl Tankard and was performed to music composed by Colin Offord, who performed on stage with the dancers. Visual design was by Regis Lansac and costumes were designed by Dorothy Herel. The original cast was Alison Brazier, Julia Finkenauer, Roz Hervey, Alan Knoepfler and Patrick Maguire. Banshee has never been restaged.
The Baranggay Philippine Dancers, also presented as 'The Baranggay Dancers' and 'The Baranggay Folk Dance Troupe', first toured Australia in 1968. The company was initially brought to Australia by The Arts Council of Australia in association with the Adelaide Festival of the Arts by courtesy of the Philippine Normal College of Manila.
The 1968 program was broken into four parts, Canao (Igorot Mountain Dances), Los Bailes de los Anos Pasados (Dances of Yesterday), Muslim Dances (Dances from Mindanao), and Mga Saya Sa Kabukiran (Dances of our Countryside). The company began their Australian tour at the Adelaide Festival of Arts, before performing in country South Australia, Mildura, country New South Wales, and Canberra.
The Baranggay Philippine Dancers returned to Australia in 1972, supported by the Arts Council of Queensland and the Music Promotion Foundation of the Philippines, once again performing at the Adelaide Festival of the Arts, and later touring to Queensland and Tasmania.
A program for their 1968 tour notes: 'The name Baranggay … originally referred to the boats used by the Malays visiting the Philippines in pre-Spanish times. The dance troupe chose the name for its connotations of co-operation, friendly association and harmonious living, for the objectives of the troupe embody those things. It aims to develop the physical, mental and social life of the individual through the co-operative efforts of its members.'
The Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company's 1964 tour, presented by the Bayanihan Folk Arts Centre, the Bayanihan Folk Arts Association and the Philippine Women's University, was brought to Australia by J. C. Williamson Ltd. and Aztec Services Pty. Ltd.
The program for the 1964 tour comprised five parts:
Dances of the Mountain Region: included performances of Bontoc War Dance, Bankibang Funeral Dance, Benguet Bendean Victory Dance, Kalinga Weddings Dance, and Ifugao Festival Dance.
Fiesta Filipina: included performances of Polabal, Mazurka Boholana, Habernera Botolena, and Jota Moncadena.
Muslim Suite: included performances of Sultana, Tahing Baila, Sagayan-Sa Kulong, Asik, and Singkil.
Regional Variations: included performances of Maglalatik, Itik Itik, Binanog and Binaylan, Sakuting, Dugso, Harana, and Pandanggo Sa Ilaw.
Rural Philippines Suite: included performances of Ilocana A Nasudi, Musikong Bumbong, Awit-Sabis Ng Nayon-Condansoy, Binasuan-Pinandanggo, Pandanggo Sa Sambalilo, Sayaw Ed Tapew Na Bangko, Kuratsa, Tinikling, and Chorus.
Program notes for the production stated: 'Bayanihan … this word symbolises an ancient Filipino custom and means literally, "group work". The Bayanihan Philippine Dance Company, too, is a co-operative endeavour, supported by civic-minded persons for the purpose of making the rich cultural heritage of the Philippines known to Philippine and foreign audiences through the presentation of ethnic and folk dances, music and costume.'
Graeme Murphy's Beauty and the Beast premiered in Sydney at the Metro Theatre on 6 February 1993. The cast was led by Kathry Dunn, alternating with Anna de Cardi, as Beauty with Tristan Borrer as the Gothic Beast, Carl Plaisted as the Corporate Beast and Martin Lewis as the Rock Beast. Janet Vernon danced the role of the Rose, alternating with Georgia Shepherd, and Bill Pengelly performed as the Father.
Beauty and the Beast was designed by Kristian Fredrikson and lit by John Rayment. The musical director was Carl Vine and the work was danced to selections of Vine's compositions along with popular songs sung by the band Southern Sons.
The Berioska Dance Company of Moscow, also known as the Berioska Dance Company of Russia during its second tour to Australia in 1977, first toured to Australia in 1966. Initially brought to Australia by J. C. Williamson Theatres Ltd., Edgley & Dawe and Gosconcert Moscow, the company was accompanied by the Russian National Orchestra and maintained a cast of seventy dancers.
Under the artistic direction and choreography of Nazezhda Nadezhdina and the musical direction of Alexei Ilyin the company's 1966 tour commenced in Melbourne at the Her Majesty's Theatre. The program lists the following works: Berioska (a young birch tree), Topotoocha (Stamping Dance), The Girls' Ring Dance - The Chainlet (Tsepotshka), Qaudrille (Kaja), The Bachelors, Snow Flakes (Snieglok), Handkerchief Dance, Proschai Maslennitsa, The Old Russian Waltz - Berioska, Troika, The Merry-go-round (carousel), The Knitters (Pryalitsa), The Buffoons (Balagouri), Lebiodushka (Young Swan Girls), The Russian Souvenirs (Rousskiye Souveniri), and At the Autumn Fair (Na Ossennei Yarmarke). The company's tour included Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane, and Perth.
A promotional program for the tour notes: 'Madame Nadezhdina views her ethnic sources with a keen theatrical eye. "There is a long road," she observes, "from ethnography to art"… "I picked out the movement from Russian folk lore, and used it in the women's reels", she recalls. Madame maintains it is not taken exactly from folk dances, as it needs schooling to know what to do with the body'.
Beyond Bach, with choreography by Stephen Baynes, set design by Andrew Carter, costume design by Anna French and lighting by Kenneth Rayner, was given its world premiere at the State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne on 15 September 1995. A work commissioned by the Australian Ballet, it was danced to a selection of music by J. S. Bach including Sheep may safely graze, Adagio from Sonata for viola da gamba and harpsichord BWV 1028 and Suite no. 3 in D major BWV 1068.
In program notes Baynes wrote:
The particular music I've chosen is certainly not amongst Bach's most profound, but indeed these works are probably among his most accessible and eminently danceable. In the music of Bach classicism reached its apogee with regard to structure and form. His genius lies in the fact that within that discipline he was able to express such profound emotion. Far from inhibiting his voice, it liberated it. People study Bach because of the academic side, and yet beyond all that academia was some deeply felt lyricism and spirituality. It is this parallel with classical dance, having to express oneself through a very formal discipline, that I want to explore.
The cast for the opening night of Beyond Bach was led by Vicki Attard, Li Cunxin, Justine Summers and Steven Heathcote. The work has been revived by the Australian Ballet and was staged by the Royal Ballet in 2002 when the company was under the direction of Ross Stretton.
Stephen Baynes discusses the inspiration behind Beyond bach in Michelle Potter, A Passion for Dance (Canberra: National Library of Australia, 1997). The lighting of the work is analysed in detail by Kennth Rayner in 'Lighting Beyond Bach', Brolga 7 (December 1997), pp. 23-34.
Beyond Twelve, commissioned by the Australian Ballet from Graeme Murphy, opened on 8 May 1980 at the Sydney Opera House. Danced to Ravel's Piano Concerto in G Major it had designs by Alan Oldfield and was lit by Christopher Maver. The opening night cast was David Palmer as Beyond Twelve, David Burch as Beyond Eighteen, Kelvin Coe as Beyond Twenty-Five and Sheree da Costa as First Love.
In his program notes for that first season Murphy wrote: 'The storyline for Beyond Twelve is my own, though much inspiration comes from the artistry of Kelvin Coe, the exuberance of the unique David Burch and the freshness and energy of David Palmer. Sheree da Costa, with whom I have often worked, continues to delight this choreographer with her talent and understanding of my style'. The work was Murphy's look at the life and loves of a young boy growing up and maturing as a dancer. In 2002 it was the inspiration for the Australian Ballet's fortieth anniversary program Beyond 40.
Anton Dolin choreographed and first performed Bolero, a solo to the music of Ravel, when he was with the Vic-Wells Ballet in 1932. Dolin toured Australia with the Covent Garden Russian Ballet in 1938/39, and he performed the Australian premiere of the work with this company on October 27, 1938 in Melbourne. The following note appeared in the program:
'In this solo the steps are not all from the authentic Spanish dance. It is essentially a personal expression of the music embracing as it does the atmosphere of Spain. Many of the steps however are directly inspired by the "corida" (bull fight).
It is obviously impossible to dance to the full score of Ravel's Bolero as a solo. This is a shortened version of the original prepared with the approval of the composer.'
Chroeographed by Graeme Murphy for Sydney Dance Company, Boxes premiered on 5 November 1985. The cast was led by Kim Walker as Figure #1 Male, Janet Vernon as Figure #1 Female, and Paul Mercurio as Figure #2 Male. The work was danced to a commissioned score from Iva Davies and his associate, Robert Kretschmer. It had costumes by Anthony Jones, a set designed by Laurence Eastwood and it was lit by John Drummond Montgomery.
Program notes for the original production stated: 'BOXES reflects on a world where physical and emotional barriers are erected knowingly, and all too often unknowingly; a world where we strive to measure and analyse everything in our physical universe. It is a view through a window into an environment - a world of change'.
The local social dances held in rural Australia, which have come to be described as the bush dance, can be divided into two distinct phases. In the 19th century various popular dances such as the waltz, the schottische, the mazurka and the lancers, and the music and musical instruments that accompanied them, became established. These dances were popular in many Western countries and their colonies, and although often appropriated from peasant cultures rarely had a direct traditional link with their creators. However, some immigrants to Australia at this time brought with them traditional music and dances some of which were also incorporated into social gatherings.
The music associated with the resultant dances was creatively assembled from a number of sources, including traditional tunes known to musicians and modified to suit the new dances, compositions in the particular style, as well as from the burgeoning popular music publication industry. In the early part of the 19th century the dances in the cities were similar to those in the bush, though written reports suggest that the musical component in the cities was more formally organised around composers and bands.
The second phase correlates almost exactly with the new century, though it was particularly exacerbated by the First World War. New dances, while quickly replacing all the dances in the city, were no longer incorporated into the dance repertoire of many of the rural dances. The dances of the 19th century came to be described, somewhat pejoratively, as 'Old Time', with the 20th century dances eventually grouped under the name 'New Vogue'. Some dancers and musicians actively rejected the new music and dances. Bill McGlashan, mentor to Harry McQueen, whose bands both played in the district around Castlemaine, refused to play tunes for any of the new dances, and his protege carried on his wishes well into the 1960s. Other musicians, such as Charlie Batchelor from Bingara, motivated amongst other reasons by a foreboding of change, attempted to preserve the old traditions by learning the tunes. Still others managed to bridge both, such as John McKinnon who maintained the old tunes on his accordion, but learnt the new tunes on a saxophone.
In the early 1960s the interest in dance and dance music grew, with Shirley Andrews central to this development. Presentations of folk dances at an international youth festival in the 1950s apparently sparked Andrews' interest, and she began encouraging collectors to document dances and dance tunes. Travelling to country centres to learn the dances, she discovered in the memories of musicians and dancers a range of dances and in a few rural communities some of them still being danced, including the quadrilles, mazurkas, varsoviennas and schottisches.
The bush band, the bush dances they held, and the type of instrumentation that became so common in Australia from the 1960s, developed as a result of this folk revival. The ensemble with its mix of guitar, accordion, fiddle, lagerphone and various other instruments, is a clearly a recent innovation. The dances which were popular in this later revival tended to be drawn somewhat eclectically from published international sources. While some performers in the modern bush band tradition have worked diligently with collected materials, and met and learnt from older traditional musicians, and some dance callers and teachers have researched and taught the collected Australian dances, many more have learnt and performed for no other reason than the joy of participating, with little regard for historical accuracy, and both are part of the modern Australian bush music and dance revival.
This entry was written by Kevin Bradley, Curator of Oral History and Folklore at the National Library of Australia
Catalyst premiered at the Sydney Opera House on 4 May 1990. The work, which was designed by Andrew Carter and lit by Kenneth Rayner, was commissioned by the Australian Ballet from choreographer Stephen Baynes. The cast was led on opening night by Australian Ballet principals Lisa Pavane and Greg Horsman.
Baynes wrote in program notes for the opening season: 'This work was inspired by Francis Poulenc's Concerto for Two Pianos. ... I was particularly drawn to the sense of conflict throughout the piece. I feel there are really two moods alternating throughout the work ... The ballet depicts the way these opposing forces act as a catalyst to influence and dominate a group, causing a change within it and, eventually, in individual members. One force is violent and agressive which causes a division within the group and alienates individuals from each other. This force is challenged by an opposing one which offers the opportunity for individuals to come together in an atmosphere of serenity and calm which they all crave'.
Catalyst has been toured nationally and internationally and restaged on a number of occasions by the Australian Ballet. It was taken into the repertoire of the Royal Danish Ballet by Maina Gielgud in 1998.
The Cinderella fairy tale has inspired many notable ballets. Michel Fokine's Cendrillon, based on the 1697 version of the tale by Charles Perrault, was created for Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in July 1938 and brought to Australia by the touring Covent Garden Russian Ballet later that same year. Set to music by Frederic d'Erlanger, Fokine's one act production premiered on July 19, 1938 at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Natalia Gontcharova's elaborate pre-Renaissance design was executed by Prince A Schervachidze (set) and Mme Karinska (costumes). The ugly sisters were performed 'en travestie', a feature that Frederick Ashton would also include in his 1948 ballet to the Prokofiev score, and Fokine introduced a role for Cinderella's cat. The opening cast featured Tatiana Riabouchinska as Cinderella, David Lichine as the Prince, Tamara Grigorieva as the Good Fairy, Marian Ladre and Algeranoff as the Ugly Sisters and Raisse Kouznetsova as the Cat.
The Australian premiere of the work took place on the opening night of the Covent Garden Russian Ballet tour - September 28, 1938 at His Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne. Riabouchinska, Grigorieva, Ladre, Algeranoff and Kouznetsova all performed their original roles, with Paul Petroff as the Prince. Geoffrey Hutton's praise in The Argus the following day was muted, describing the work as 'mimed action decorated with dances and comic characterizations'. While claiming that 'the translation from literature into movement has not been as complete as in some of [Fokine's] earlier masterpieces', he did note that 'the audience enjoyed it mightily for its effective solos and complex groupings, its familiar humour, and its lavish decor'.
Fokine's son, Vitale, includes an insightful description of his father's Cendrillon in Fokine: memoirs of a ballet master.
'The ballet was beautiful in its naive setting, its choreographic inventiveness, its excellent dancing, and with its pure form was especially suited for the younger public. It carried no profound message, nor did it introduce any new form of the dance. But it did have some comedy in the interpretation of the roles of the two ugly sisters, by men with excessive make-up, making their features still coarser and uglier.
To sum up, it was a ballet spectacle, with the emphasis on charm and lightness.'
Fokine's Cendrillon was also performed by the de Basil Original Ballet Russe company which toured in 1939-40. It was last performed during the 1940-41 Ballets Russes tour of the United States.
Michel Fokine, Anatole Chujoy (ed), Fokine: memoirs of a ballet master (London: Constable & Company, 1961); Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes: Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo 1932-1952 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990) ; Geoffrey Hutton, 'Brilliant opening: Ballet Season', The Argus, 29 September, 1938, p.3
Danced by the Meryl Tankard Company, Chants de mariage premiered as part of the Australian Theatre Festival at the Playhouse, Canberra, on 5 November 1991. With choreography by Meryl Tankard, the work was a dialogue about ritual, secrets, deception and sacred vows. Its original cast was Meryl Tankard, Jennifer Barry, Rochelle Carmichael, Sarah Chifley, Paige Gordon and Tuula Roppola.
Tankard subsequently reworked the original piece and expanded the concept with a second section. The whole became Chants de mariage I & II. In this new form it premiered at the Adelaide Festival of Arts, at the Odeon Theatre on 15 March 1992. Part one presented a satirical and cutting view of marriage, part two looked at marriage as a spiritual union. Cast for the reworked production consisted of Meryl Tankard, Jennifer Barry, Rochelle Carmichael, Sarah Chifley, Paige Gordon, Tuula Roppola, Amanda Rogers and Michelle Ryan.
The work took its name from traditional wedding songs taken in particular from Chants de mariage et chants de danses rustiques by the Armenian composer Komitas. Other music included traditional music from Hungary, Brittany, Provence and Bulgaria. The work was designed by Tankard and Regis Lansac.
The one-act ballet Checkmate was choreographed by Ninette de Valois in 1937 to a score by, and at the suggestion of, composer Arthur Bliss. An allegorical tale of humanity's struggle between the opposing forces of love and death, Checkmate is now hailed as a pillar of contemporary British ballet and as one of de Valois' signature works. The premiere performance on June 15, 1937 at the Theatre des Champs-Elysees, Paris featured Robert Helpmann as the Red King, June Brae as the Black Queen, Harold Turner as the Red Knight, Frederick Ashton as Death, Pamela May as the Red Queen and Margot Fonteyn as the Leader of the Black Pawns. Design was by E McKnight Kauffer.
The Australian Ballet premiere of Checkmate took place at the Sydney Opera House on May 6, 1986. De Valois' choreography was "reproduced by Jacquie Hollander, assisted by Petal Miller Ashmole", and the McKnight Kauffer design was lit by William Akers. In program notes for this production, artistic director Maina Gielgud wrote:
"Dame Ninette de Valois' Checkmate is a very special gift from "Madam" as she is known throughout the ballet world, to Australian dance, in homage to our dancers' contribution to British ballet, and in particular that of Sir Robert Helpmann."
Helpmann reprised his original role as the Red King for the Australian premiere, with Lisa Pavane as the Black Queen, David Ashmole as the First Red Knight, Greg Horsman as the Second Red Knight, Kathleen Reid as the Red Queen, David McAllister and Adam Marchant as the Black Knights, Kathleen Sams as Love and Colin Peasley as Death.
Checkmate was performed in London during the 1992 Australian Ballet 30th anniversary tour, and has remained in the repertoire of the flagship company.
The Chitrasena Ballet first toured to Australia under the auspices of the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust in 1963. After their initial performance at the Festival of Perth, the company presented seasons in Sydney, Melbourne, Launceston and Hobart. Produced and directed by its founder, Chitrasena, and led by Chitrasena and his wife Vajira, the company presented two programs in their inaugural Australian tour:
Program 1: Included Karadiya (An Oriental Ballet in Two Acts), and Divertissements.
Program 2: Included Nala Damayanti (which also appeared in tour programs as Nala and Damayanti), and Divertissements.
The Divertissements within the first part of the program comprised 'traditional dances, music and songs', including Drums, Gajaga Vannama, Mask Dance, Kandyan Dance Duet, Folk Song, Leekeli, and Arjuna (Warrior's Dance). Part two of the program saw the performance of Chitrasena and Vajira's Karadiya (An Oriental Ballet in Two Acts). This second part was set to music by Amaradeva, with costume and set design by Somabandu and lighting by Mahinda Dias. The ballet is described in the program notes as follows: '"Karadiya" means "salt water" and the story is set in a fishing village. It tells of the men who go to sea in frail boats and the women who await their safe return … The theme is love, the joy and sorrow it brings and the human and natural forces that can thwart it'.
The Chitrasena Ballet was named after its founder, Chitrasena, an exponent of Kandyan dance form of Sri Lanka. Chitrasena was influential in reviving Kandyan dance through his Chitrasena Kalayathanaya dance school in Colombo, and through the creation and performance of new theatrical dance works with the Chitrasena Ballet.
In 1972 the Chitrasena Ballet returned to Australia, as the Chitrasena Ceylon Dance Ensemble, supported by the Arts Council of Australia and the Ceylon Tea Bureau. This second tour saw them perform at the Adelaide Festival, the Festival of Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Canberra. The company presented two programs in this tour:
Program 'A': Included Drum Invocation, Mask Dance, Gajaga Vannama (The Song and Dance of the Elephant), Devol, Kandayan Dance Duet, Udekki, Raban, Sinha, Leekeli, Warrior's Dance, Ves, Ukussa Vannama (The Dance of the Hawk), Suddha Mathraya, Pantheru, Thelme, Kolam (Nonchi Akka), Kandayan Dance Solo, Thalam, and Drum Orchestra.
Program 'B': Included Drum Invocation, Mask Dance, Mayuru Vannama (The Dance of the Peacock), Asipati (Sword Dance), Harvest Dance, Devadatta Hansa, Pathini Dance, Warrior's Dance, Savaran, Kolpadu, Thelme, Thalam, Rajaliya, The Tea Harvest, Kolam (Nonchi Akka), Asadissa Vannama, Raban, and Drum Orchestra.
Choreartium, choreographed for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo by Leonide Massine, was first performed on 24 October 1933 at the Alhambra Theatre, London, marking the first Ballets Russes premiere in that city. Set to Brahms' Symphony no 4 in E minor, this was Massine's second symphonic work. His first, Les Presages, had premiered earlier in the same year. Choreartium is generally hailed as 'the first abstract ballet'. While the abstract qualities of works such as Les Presages and Michel Fokine's earlier Les Sylphides had already made a strong impact with their absence of narrative, Choreartium was a landmark work in also displaying no reference to theme, characterisation, distinctive milieu or period. This unprecedented attempt to simply parallel the structure of abstract music with abstract movement caused heated public controversy, with notable music critics divided in their opinion. Constant Lambert considered it an unforgivable insult to the Brahms composition. Ernest Newman, on the other hand, hailed the work as a masterpiece.
The first performance of Choreartium in Australia was by the visiting Covent Garden Russian Ballet on 10 October 1938 in Melbourne. The innovative nature of thechoreography was not lost on Australian audiences, with the Argus noting the 'pure choreography, matching in visual design the auditory design of the music'. The Sydney Morning Herald reported 'a storm of enthusiasm, obviously directed toward Lichine as much as toward the work itself' when David Lichine made his Australian debut in the work on 6 January 1939. Choreartium was also performed by the Original Ballet Russe company during their 1939/1940 tour. During both tours design for the work was, as for the original 1933 production, by Konstantin Terechkovitch and Eugene Lourie, executed by Elizabeth Polunin.
Differences in movement styles between the genders was, for Massine, an important feature of the choreography of Choreartium. He wrote in his autobiography:
'I decided to do the choreography of the ballet, which I entitled Choreartium, according to the instrumentation of the score, using women dancers to accentuate the delicate phrases, while the men interpreted the heavier, more robust passages. The music, with its rich orchestration and its many contrasts, lent itself admirably to this kind of interplay between masculine and feminine movements.'
Strongly defined group formations were also a feature of the work, demonstrating the importance of both horizontal and vertical structure. The influence of German expressive movement on the choreographic style was also notable, with Fokine renowned for apparently dismissing Choreartium as 'Wigman sur les pointes'.
A revival of Choreartium was staged by Tatiana Leskova after Massine for the Birmingham Royal Ballet in 1991.
Leslie Norton, Leonide Massine and the 20th Century Ballet (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2004); Leonide Massine, My Life in Ballet (London: Macmillan, 1968); Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes (New York: Alfred A Knopf, 1990); Mark Carroll, ''Let's Stage a Fight!': Massine's symphonic ballets in Australia', Brolga 26 (June 2007), pp. 15-26.
Cimarosiana, a divertissement ballet by Leonide Massine, was originally extracted from the final act of Diaghilev's 1920 production of Domenico Cimarosa's opera Le Astuzie Femminile. The extract, with the score arranged by Ottorino Respighi and with an added pas de quatre by Bronislava Nijinska, was first presented as Cimarosiana on January 8, 1924. Design of scenery and costumes was by Jose-Marie Sert.
This work was revived by the de Basil Ballets Russes, premiering in New York on November 4, 1936. It was performed in Australia by the Original Ballet Russe, opening on January 12, 1940, with a cast of forty dancers.
The following description by Kathrine Sorley Walker, quoting from A.V. Coton's A Prejudice for Ballet, gives a feel for the style of the eight divertissements that comprised the work:
"Coton describes its stages - an opening pas de trois for 'a male dancer with unusual fluidity of line' and two girls with 'enough elevation to help create the illusion that the dancing is a transposition of music into water-forms, as in the counterpoint of fountains'. ..Then came a Sicilian pas de six followed by a Tarantelle... - 'one of Massine's best miniatures of speed and gaiety'. The pas de quatre... was an 'exercise in support work' and led to a second pas de trios, 'a beautiful demonstration piece of fine character work built around a maze of lifts'... The ensemble Contre-danse prefaced the leading pas de deux... which had a 'Petipa-like quality in its rigorous simplicities of pattern based on the circle and triangle and was followed by a joyous finale'."
The Sydney Morning Herald review of the Australian premiere gives a strong indication of the design of the work:
'Cimarosiana proved to be a slight but richly coloured work.
Jose-Maria Sert's scenery shows a moonlit rooftop, with a baroque dome, and lights of a city in the background. A crowd, attired in gay colours, stands about.
The dresses were all the purest fantastification. A pas de trios danced by Petroff, Jasinsky and Morosova suggested rustic Greek array. Another pas de trios was a pretty conceit in pale yellow and russet. Tatiana Riabouchinska wore a carnival dress with a high blue feather. Another dancer had on the silken knee-breeches and white hose of the eighteenth century. Some of the spectators boasted military accoutrements with high shakos. Others were crowned with Schubertian top hats.
Somewhere or other all this had a remote wild relationship with real places and periods. But in its true nature, Cimarosiana was a series of divertissements.'
Bibliography:Kathrine Sorley Walker, De Basil's Ballets Russes (London: Hutchinson, 1982), p. 65 ; 'The Ballet: An Enthusiastic Audience', The Sydney Morning Herald, 13 January 1940, p.19
The Cinderella fairytale written by Charles Perrault in 1697 has been portrayed on the Australian stage in a variety of ballets. Fokine's Cendrillon, set to music by Frederic d'Erlanger, was performed in the late 1930s during the second and third de Basil Ballets Russes tours. In 1971 another touring company, the Novosibirsk Ballet from Siberia, showed Australian audiences a version by Oleg Vinogradov, set to the score written by Sergei Prokofiev in the 1940s. Notable Australian productions have also been staged over the years. Two versions have been created for West Australian Ballet - the first in 1954 with choreography by Kira Bousloff and Marina Berezowsky to a score by James Penberthy, and another by Simon Dow in 2005 using the Prokofiev score. In the early 1960s the Victorian Ballet Guild performed a version by Maxwell Collis, to Prokofiev's music, and in 1975 the Queensland Ballet staged Walter Gore's production with a score adapted from the Rossini opera La Cenerentola. Harry Haythorne's adaptation of the libretto for this work maintained the opera's exclusion of supernatural elements such as fairies.
In 1972 the Australian Ballet premiere of Frederick Ashton's Cinderella, set to the Prokofiev score, marked the first occasion on which this work had been performed by any company other than the Royal Ballet. Ashton personally staged his ballet for the Australian company as well as performing alongside Robert Helpmann in the ugly Stepsister roles that they had created when the ballet was first performed in 1948. Set and costume design was by Kristian Fredrikson, and on opening night, 17 March 1972, at Sydney's Elizabeth Theatre, Lucette Aldous danced as Cinderella, Kelvin Coe as the Prince and Kathleen Geldard as the Fairy Godmother.
A new version of Cinderella was created for the flagship company by Stanton Welch in 1997. Welch set his ballet to the Prokofiev score and his adaptation of the libretto involved radical interpretations of the standard characters as well as the inclusion of the character Dandini from the Rossini opera. Design was again by Fredrikson, with lighting by John Rayment. In the world premiere in Melbourne on 21 February, 1997, Miranda Coney danced as Cinderella, with Marilyn Jones and Stephen Baynes as her Mother and Father, Paul de Masson as her Stepmother, Damien Welch as Dandini, Geon van de Wyst as the Prince, Steven Woodgate as Florinda, David McAllister as Grizabella and Marc Cassidy as Buttons.
Contes Heraldiques, choreographed by Laurel Martyn, was first performed by the Melbourne Ballet Club, the company that became known as the Ballet Guild following this first season which opened at the Repertory Theatre, Middle Park, on 5 November 1946. The program consisted of four new works choreographed by Martyn, the others being Ballade, Dithyramb and Ruritania. Contes Heraldiques, or 'The Witch's Whim', was performed to a commissioned score by Dorian le Gallienne and was designed by Alan McCulloch.
The Program Notes for Contes Heraldiques include the following description:
Once upon a time there was a FABULOUS kingdom. In this kingdom there lived a Witch and her Dragon. It was their business to shut Princesses in Towers. They were, however, a very small firm and had only one tower and no Princess… this made the Dragon very sad, so the Witch, who was very fond of the Dragon, decided to go, even to the farthest corner of the kingdom, to look for a Princess - and so the story begins with the Princess Anemone and her Ladies-in-Waiting doing their after-lunch round square dance… and… waiting.
The Listener-In recorded that:
It is a witty burlesque on some of the better-known characters of medieval fiction, in which a whimsical dragon and a flamboyant witch have leading roles. Dorian Le Galliene has composed delightful music for this ballet, and Alan McCulloch's décor and costumes were highly imaginative and colourful. Grace McLean as the Princess Anemone, Maxwell Collis as Sir Humboldt, Noel Murray as the Witch and Corrie Lodders as the Dragon danced their roles with a fresh and happy enthusiasm combined with undoubted technical ability.'
Contes Heraldiques remained in the popular repertoire of Martyn's company for the next two decades.
Edward H. Pask, Ballet in Australia. The Second Act 1940-1980 (Melbourne: OUP, 1982)
Contes russes ('Russian Tales', also presented as Children's Tales) was choreographed by Leonide Massine for the Diaghilev Ballets Russes. This work was revived by the de Basil Ballets Russes, premiering at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden on August 7, 1934, and was performed in Australia by de Basil's Monte Carlo Russian Ballet during its 1936/37 tour. The first Australian performance took place at His Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne on December 5, 1936.
Set to music by Anatol Liadoff, with vivid design of scenery and costumes by Mikhail Larionov, Contes russes was a popular ballet that drew on the fantasy of Russian folklore. With characters such as a witch, a cat, a swan princess, a prince, a dragon, a demon and a little house with legs, it was, in the words of original cast member Lydia Sokolova, 'full of fantasy, excitement and humour'. The first section, Kikimora, originally appeared as a short independent work in 1916, with the other two scenes, Bova Korolevich and the Swan Princess and Baba Yaga being added to create the Contes russes that premiered in the Paris season of 1917. For the ensuing London season, Massine added light hearted inserts to link the episodes.
The premiere Australian performance of the work was reviewed positively in The Age:
'Three naïve and charming Russian folk tales…form the basis of "Contes Russes". Grotesque, heroic, and sentimental by turn, they are overlaid thickly with a gruff humour that is the special property of the Russian peasant.'
'Fairy Tale Dances: Humour Lends Zest to New Ballets', The Age, 5 December 1936, p. 4; Richard Buckle (ed), Dancing for Diaghilev: the memoirs of Lydia Sokolova (London: John Murray, 1960).
Danish ballerina Adeline Genee and members of the Imperial Russian Ballet introduced Australian audiences to Coppelia in Melbourne on the opening night of their 1913 tour. This ballet premiered in Paris on May 25, 1870, choreographed by Arthur Saint-Leon to music by Leo Delibes. Its sentimental, comic libretto, based on a tale by E T A Hoffmann, was devised in collaboration with Charles Nuitter. Although Saint-Leon choreographed the ballet in three acts, the third has frequently been abbreviated or omitted from subsequent versions.
The version of Coppelia presented by Genee was produced by Alexandre Volonine, and included musical additions by C J M Glaser and designs by C Wilhelm. The first Australian production took place in 1931 in Sydney, designed and staged by Louise Lightfoot and performed by the First Australian Ballet with Mischa Burlakov dancing as Franz. The 1930s also saw a suite of dances from Coppelia presented by the Dandre-Levitoff Russian Ballet in a divertissement program during its 1934-35 Australian tour.
The next international company to perform the work in this country was the Original Ballet Russe which opened the brief Sydney season of its two-act production on August 12, 1940. This version was based on Petipa's 1884 revival and staged by Anatol Oboukhoff. Vera Nemtchinova, Tamara Toumanova and Tatiana Riabouchinska alternated as Swanilda, with the roles of Franz and Dr Coppelius performed throughout by Michel Panaieff and Sviatoslav Toumine. Design was by Olga Larose.
Melbourne audiences saw their first Coppelia since the 1913 Genee tour in 1946 when the Borovansky Ballet presented a two-act version with 'choreography by E Borovansky' featuring Edna Busse as Swanilda, Serge Bousloff as Franz and Edouard Borovansky as Dr Coppelius. This popular production remained in the company's repertoire with a revival in the 1950s. A new production, the first in three acts for the Borovansky Ballet, was created in 1960 by the company's new artistic director Peggy van Praagh, featuring designs by Kenneth Rowell. Choreography was credited to 'Lev Ivanov and Enrico Cecchetti' with 'general production revised by Peggy van Praagh'. Kathleen Gorham and Patricia Cox alternated as Swanilda, with Robert Pomie and Jeffrey Kovel as Franz and Algeranoff as Dr Coppelius. This landmark production was presented in the Borovansky Ballet's final performance in 1961 and the inaugural repertoire of the Australian Ballet in 1962. In the new company's opening season guest artists Erik Bruhn and Sonia Arova danced the leading roles. In the 1969 season, Robert Helpmann performed as Dr Coppelius, the role he had first performed in Australia during the 1958-9 Royal Ballet tour.
Van Praagh staged a new version of Coppelia in collaboration with theatre director George Ogilvie and using choreography based on her earlier production and designs by Kristian Fredrikson as her swansong for the Australian Ballet in 1979. Ann Jenner featured as Swanilda, with Kelvin Coe as Franz and Ray Powell as Dr Coppelius. Both of Van Praagh's productions marked important milestones in the history of the flagship company and proved extremely popular.
Coppelia has enjoyed a plethora of professional stagings by other Australian companies. In 1951, the Ballet Guild presented the second act, with designs by Elaine Haxton and with Laurel Martyn and Maxwell Collis in lead roles. The Kouznetsova Ballet also staged this act in the early 1950s, as did the Arts Council Ballet directed by Beth Dean in 1958. The National Theatre Ballet performed a three-act version by Valrene Tweedie in the early 1950s, in which Raymond Trickett and Tweedie danced the leading roles. In 1967, the Victorian Ballet Company, with Poul Gnatt as director, staged an abridged version of the Danish production choreographed by Glasemann and Hans Beck, with Gnatt as Dr Coppelius, Dianne Parrington as Swanilda and Laurence Bishop as Franz. Other productions of Coppelia over the years have been presented by the Sydney Festival Ballet, the North Queensland Ballet, the Tasmanian Ballet and the South Australian Ballet Company. The Queensland Ballet performed the second act in the 1960s, and Leslie White's three-act production in 1977. The West Australian Ballet's staging of the Australian Ballet three-act version, which premiered in 1975 with Ray Powell performing as Dr Coppelius, was a milestone production for this company.
Composer John Antill completed his monumental music score, Corroboree, in the mid 1940s. Antill based the piece on Aboriginal rhythms written down on visits to Aboriginal communities at La Perouse in Sydney. He always intended the work to be used for a ballet and annotations on the score indicate that he had a clear and well developed framework in mind for this ballet. The manuscript contains detailed bar by bar instructions for the unfolding of the storyline and even lists 'characteristic movements' that might be used.
In the 1940s Dorothy Helmrich of the Arts Council of Australia approached two choreographers then working in Australia, Gertrud Bodenwieser and Edouard Borovansky, and asked them to stage the work. Both declined. The score was first used for a ballet by Rex Reid who made his version of Corroboree for the Melbourne-based National Theatre Ballet in 1950. With a set by William Constable and costumes by Robin Lovejoy the Reid Corroboree premiered at Sydney's Empire Theatre on 3 July 1950. It featured John (Jack) Manuel as the Medicine Man. Others in the original world premiere cast included Margaret Scott, Alison Lee, Bruce Morrow, Marilyn Burr and Mary Duchesne. Reid's Corroboree toured Australia in 1951 under the auspices of the Arts Council of Australia as part of the Commonwealth Jubilee Celebrations. It was seen in Melbourne, Sydney, Launceston, Hobart, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide and Broken Hill.
A second version of Corroboree was made by Beth Dean in 1954. Her version was performed for the first time in Sydney by the Arts Council Ballet at a gala event in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II. Dean claimed anthropological authenticity for her version and she and her husband, Victor Carell, spent several months in Arnhem Land researching Aboriginal movement patterns, which she later incorporated into her work. Dean also added a narrative line that went beyond Antill's descriptions of the music and in the 1954 staging Dean herself danced the leading role of the Initiate. The Dean version was remounted during the 1970s, specifically for the Captain Cook Bicentennary, and for this staging the Initiate was danced by Ronne Arnold. Dean's Corroboree was taught to students of the Australian Ballet School in the 1990s when it was also notated in both Benesh and Laban notations.
A third dance work using a suite from the Antill score was made in 1995 by Stanton Welch on dancers of the Australian Ballet. Performed as part of UNited We Dance, a festival held in San Francisco to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the signing of the United Nations charter, Welch's Corroboree is a generalised ritual and, unlike the Reid and Dean versions, has no passages that attempt to imitate culturally specific aspects of Australian Aboriginal dance or life. His program notes state:
With the blazing Australian sun and a pride of ten painted dancers, a series of movements becomes a dance of life, of energy for all mankind.
A disclaimer on the program read: 'This piece is not a literal interpretation of an Australian Aboriginal corroboree.' Welch's production had a set designed by Kenneth Rowell and costumes designed by Welch. It was lit by Frank Croese and featured eleven dancers: Miranda Coney, Steven Heathcote, Justine Summers, Marc Cassidy, Geon van der Wyst, Nicole Rhodes, Jane Finnie, Felicia Palanca and Matthew Trent. In 2001 Welch restaged his production for Atlanta Ballet giving it the new name Wild Life.
Further information, including online resources, about the Reid production of Corroboree is contained in the National Library of Australia's online exhibition Dance people dance. See 'Australian vision' and follow the 'More' link. For more about all the various dance productions of Corroboree see 'Corroboree' in National Library of Australia News, March 2004.
Candice Bruce & Anita Callaway, 'Dancing in the Dark: Black Corroboree or White Spectacle?', Australian Journal of Art, 9 (1991), pp. 79-104; Amanda Card, 'From 'Aboriginal Dance' to Aboriginals Dancing: The Appropriation of the 'Primitive' in Australian Dance, 1950 to 1963', Heritage and Heresy: Green Mill Papers 1997 (Canberra: Australian Dance Council, c1998), pp. 40-46; Michelle Potter, 'Making Australian Dance: Themes and Variations', Voices, Winter 1996, pp. 10-20
Cotillon was the first example of George Balanchine's choreography to be seen in Australia, opening on 28 November 1936 during the inaugural Melbourne season by the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet. This single-act work had premiered in Monte Carlo four years earlier, during the the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo's opening season. Boris Kochno wrote the libretto for the piece, and collaborated with Balanchine in selecting pre-existing music by Emmanuel Chabrier and commissioning costumes and decor from Christian Berard. For the Australian premiere, Leon Woizikowsky appeared in the role created on him in 1932 as the Conductor of the Dance (Master of Ceremonies) with his daughter Sonia Woizikowska as the Conductress. The role of the Daughter of the House, originally created on the thirteen-year-old Tamara Toumanova, was performed by Tamara Tchinarova. Cotillon was well received in Australia by audiences and critics alike. It was also performed by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet during its 1938/9 tour, during which Tatiana Riabouchinska danced as the Conductress.
Cotillon (The Dance) is essentially a suite of dances taking place over eight scenes, depicting events taking place during an eighteenth century ball. While a light-hearted mood prevails at a surface level - with guests performing as harlequins, jockeys and Spaniards after receiving hats as party favours - an undercurrent of foreboding pervades the work. The haunting Hand of Fate pas de deux, for example, begins with a black-gloved hand mysteriously appearing from behind a drape to grab the wrist of a Cavalier. Such seemingly surreal elements are interwoven with surface joviality to create a charged atmosphere. Balanchine's choreography, while classically based, incorporated subtle twists, reflecting musical nuances and reinforcing the air of mystery. In the context of the late Diaghilev period, with its strong emphasis on design and mime, the primacy of dance in Cotillon can be viewed as representing a significant shift. Toumanova's technically demanding role, which was performed to great acclaim, drew particular attention to the female dancer. In general, however, it is the extraordinary atmosphere of the work, with its elusive air of doom, that is hailed as Cotillon's most outstanding feature.
The Tulsa Ballet Theatre, under direction of Roman Jasinsky and Moscelyne Larkin, revived the 'Hand of Fate' pas de deux for their company in 1983. The complete work was revived in 1989 by the Joffrey Ballet, with choreography after Balanchine by Millicent Hodson and Kenneth Archer.
Kathrine Sorley Walker, De Basil's Ballets Russes (London: Hutchinson, 1982) ; Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes: Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo 1932-1952 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990) ; Sarah C Woodcock, 'Cotillon', in Martha Bremser (ed.), International Dictionary of Ballet Vol 1, pp 305-307 (Detroit: St James Press)
Barry Moreland's Daisy Bates, choreographed for Sydney Dance Company to a commissioned score by Carl Vines, premiered at the Regent Theatre, Sydney, on November 4, 1982. Charles Blackman was responsible for the design which featured a one-dimensional shape resembling Uluru (Ayers Rock as it was commonly known at the time) on which colours and patterns were projected.
The dance-drama used three dancers to represent Daisy Bates in different eras of life - from her childhood in Ireland, through her secret marriage to Breaker Morant, to her years spent living with tribal Aborigines. While the work was thus rooted in biography, Moreland disclaimed it as a historical narrative, calling it a 'journey of the soul' in his program note.
In the premiere, Janet Vernon, Jennifer Barry and Mary Duchesne performed as Daisy Bates, with Kim Walker as the Shaman, Paul Mercurio as Bates' brother Jim, Michael Hennessy as Breaker Morant and Bill Pengelly as the Reverend and the Bishop.
The first production called Dance Clan was a double bill presented by Bangarra Dance Theatre in association with the City of Sydney's Streets Alive program. It opened on 10 November 1998 and consisted of two works, Laka Bunkul (Evening Star) and Bipotim (Before Time).
Laka Bunkul was directed by Djakapurra Munyarryun and his sister Guypunura. They also performed in the work along with five other members of the Munyarryun family and Boniyi Garrawurra, Jasmine Gulash and Russell Page. The work took the audience on a seven part spiritual journey through family territory and experiences. Program notes said:
'Like the river, tonight we follow the passage of Dreaming from its source to the ocean. We trace the Songline under the light of the evening star.'
Laka Bunkul was danced to a backing of traditonal songs and didgeridoo and was performed outdoors on a specially prepared area of Pier 4, Walsh Bay, Sydney.
Bipotim was choreographed by Albert David using Torres Strait Islander traditions as inspiration. In five parts - 'Roots', 'Tide', 'The Calling', 'Feasting Rhythms', and 'Bipotim (the Club dance)' - the work was danced to music composed by David Page and Stephen Francis and had costume designs by Jennifer Irwin. Performers included Albert David, Victor Bramich, Lea Francis, Djakapurra Munyarryun, Elma Kris and Sidney Saltner.
Since this inaugural Dance Clan season, other productions in the Dance Clan series continued to give Bangarra dancers the opportunity to choreograph and to work in collaboration with Indigenous artists. Dance Clan 2 was again a two part program, which was devised by Frances Rings and presented in the Bangarra studios, Sydney, in December 1999. The first part consisted of Minymaku Inma (Women's Dance and Song), choreographed by Rings to an original score by Peter Lawler, while the second part was Munikghay (Singing) and featured music from the Torres Strait Islands and songs in a contemporary mode sung by Archie Roach and Ruby Hunter, Jimmy Little, Lou Bennett, and the all female group the Stiff Gins.
2000 saw the third in the annual sell-out DanceClan series, featuring choreographic debuts by Bangarra dancers and unique collaborations with traditional Indigenous artists.
The Dandre-Levitoff Russian Ballet, which toured Australia from late 1934 to early 1935, was directed by Victor Dandre in conjunction with the impresario Alexander Levitoff. Dandre was Anna Pavlova's manager and this new company, formed after her death in 1931, featured a number of dancers from the earlier Pavlova company. The Dandre-Levitoff Ballet was brought to Australia by the J C Williamson organisation, and performed here as the 'Russian Ballet Company' and the 'Russian Classical Ballet'. Notable dancers included Olga Spessivtseva (billed as Olga Spessiva in Australia), Anatole Vilzak, Natasha Bojkovich, Stanley Judson, Dimitri Rostoff, Raisse Kouznetsova (appearing as Raia Kuznetzova), Algeranoff and Leon Kellaway (appearing as Jan Kowsky). The latter three settled in Australia at different times after the tour. The company's ballet master was the Russian Pavel (Paul) Nicholaievitch Petroff (not to be confused with the Danish Paul Petroff who became a principal Ballets Russes dancer).
The Australian repertoire of the Dandre-Levitoff company consisted of eleven ballets and numerous divertissements drawn mainly from the Pavlova company and Imperial Russian repertory. The first performance took place at His Majesty's theatre Brisbane on October 10, 1934, and comprised La Fille mal Gardee with Bojkovich as Lise, Swan Lake Act II with Spessivtseva and Vilzak in the lead roles, Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor, and a selection of divertissements. The company went on to perform in Sydney, Melbourne and Perth. Programs included the Australian premieres of Le Carnaval and Raymonda as well as Les Sylphides, The Magic Flute, Pavel Petroff's Promenade and Venusburg, two ballets by Ivan Clustine - Egyptian Ballet and Visions, and a number of divertissements including a suite of dances from Coppelia. Spessitseva's mental health deteriorated during this tour, and her final Australian performance on 28 November 1934 was one of her last public appearances.
The Dandre-Levitoff Russian Ballet tour ended in Perth, where it was presented by entrepreneur Benjamin Fuller as the 'Russian Classical Ballet' . The final Australian performance took place on January 19, 1935.
Further information on the Dandre-Levitoff Australian tour is available at the website 'Michelle Potter on dancing'.
Danses slaves et tziganes (also referred to as Gypsy Dances) was originally choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska in 1931 as an interlude in Alexsandr Dargomijsky's opera Roussalka. This two-part divertissement consisted of a slav dance and a bohemian/gypsy dance. It was revived for de Basil's company during its American tour, and when presented at Covent Garden on 14 July 1936 included two additional interpolated solos - a 'danse boyard' performed in a notable return to the stage by the 65 year old Mathilda Kschessinska and a 'danse russe' performed by Lydia Sokolova.
The two-part divertissement was performed in Australia by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet, premiering on October 20, 1938, in Melbourne. The lead role in the slav dance, for which Alexandra Danilova had been hailed in New York, was premiered in Australia by Galina Razoumova, with the leads in the gypsy dance performed by Lorand Andahazy and Marian Ladre.
Created by Graeme Murphy for Sydney Dance Company, Daphnis and Chloe premiered at the Sydney Opera House on 22 May 1980. Danced to the score by Maurice Ravel and with designs by Kristian Fredrikson, the opening night cast featured Carl Morrow as Daphnis, Victoria Taylor as Chloe, Janet Vernon as Lykanion and Kim Walker as Cupid.
In creating Daphnis and Chloe Murphy turned for inspiration to the ancient Greek story by Longus as had Fokine in his version made for Diaghilev in 1912. In working from the Longus scenario, Murphy restored, however, some aspects of the story that Fokine had not used. He reinstated, for example, the scene where Daphnis bathes and is watched by Chloe, told by Longus as follows:
'Chloe watched him, surprised to find him beautiful, and having never thought him beautiful before she imagined that it was the water in the cave that had conferred beauty upon him ... and from that time Chloe had no other thought in her mind but to see Daphnis bathing ... Very soon she had no thought and no remembrance of anything except Daphnis, and never spoke of anything but him.'
By restoring the scene where Daphnis bathes, Murphy changed what seemed in the Fokine version to be a relatively innocuous story about lost love regained into one that addressed the idea of sexual awakening, restoring in fact the crucial element of the Longus story.
Gertrud Bodenwieser's Demon Machine was first performed in Vienna in 1924. It was a work for five dancers and dealt with the effects on man of the machine age. It was danced to specially created music, which has not been published, by Lisa Maria Mayer. The work immediately attracted critical acclaim. The British critic Arnold Haskell wrote in 1926: 'These beautiful girls actually became a great powerful efficient machine, and the effect was as inspiring as a visit to the engine room of some great works'. In the early 1930s Demon Machine won a prize a both the Reunione internationale della danza in Florence and the Concours internationale de la danse in Paris.
One of the dancers on whom the work was created in Vienna in 1923, Hede Juer, has written about the creation of the work:
'The work fell into two parts. In the first part the dancers moved weightlessly, untroubled by any problems, in paradisial innocence, through space; while Bodenwieser, as the evil spirit of the machine, kept in the background squatting, staring, rigid. Suddenly a crashing chord and Bodenwieser's first abrupt, thumping movement shattered the innocence and peace. Now with ever-increasing force the demon drew the people closer, gradually overpowering their resistance, until they suddenly became grouped in front of the demon as parts of a dehumanised, soul-less mechanism, completely under the demonic compulsion. Now the machine began to work, as presses, pistons, wheels and seemingly with all the reciprocating motions that the observer sees who looks into the heart of moving machinery; and gathering speed as it worked, and exerting its unrelenting force and momentum. Music and movement stopped abruptly, the power switched off. No trace of humanity is left.'
In Australia Demon Machine became a staple item in the repertoire of the Bodenwieser Ballet. A version of it, called 'The machine', was performed by the Bodenwieser Troupe ('Seven Famous Dancing Viennese Girls') in two J. C. Williamson revues London Casino Revue: Folies d'Amour and Around the Clock in which some of Bodenwieser's dancers appeared shortly after their arrival in Australia in 1939. It also appeared on the program for the company's first Australian tour of of 1939-1940. Programs for those first Australian performances do not identify the cast other than 'Ballet group', which must have been selected from the six dancers of the group for that tour: Emmy Taussig, Evelyn Ippen, Melitta Melzer, Edith Shorter, Bettina Browne and Katja Georgiewa.
Australian program notes over the period that the work was performed gave the following explanation of the work: 'The machine gains ascendancy over the souls of the people instead of man dominating the machine. The vital problem of our age'.
Meg Abbie Denton and Genevieve Shaw, 'Gertrud Bodenwieser: The Demon Machine', Dance Notation Journal, 4 (No. 1, 1986), pp. 21-29.
Choreographed by Stanton Welch on twenty dancers of the Australian Ballet, Divergence premiered in Melbourne on 1 September 1994. With costumes by Vanessa Leyonhjelm, set by Ben Anderson and lighting by William Akers, the work was danced to Bizet's L'Arlesienne Suite. Divergence was dedicated to Welch's grandmother.
In his program notes for the inaugural season of the work Welch said '... It is a work of no literal meaning. Rather, I have suggested at a collage of emotions and situations'. Since its premiere season the work has been revived several times by the Australian Ballet and has toured nationally and internationally. Divergence entered the repertoire of Houston Ballet in 2004.
A ballet based on the novel Don Quixote by Cervantes first made its appearance in Australia on 5 April 1926. A two act version with choreography by Laurent Novikoff after Petipa was performed by Anna Pavlova's company, which was then touring Australia. The role of Kitri/Dulcinea was danced by Pavlova, Basilio by Novikoff and the Don by M. Domoslavski.
Perhaps the best known of the productions to have been performed in Australia since then is that of Rudolf Nureyev. Nureyev first staged an evening length Don Quixote in 1966 for the Vienna Staatsoper Ballett. Choreography was credited to Nureyev after Petipa and the production was firmly based on the one Nureyev knew from his days with the Kirov Ballet. He revised his Vienna production for the Australian Ballet in 1970 when, as guest artist, he danced Basilio partnering Lucette Aldous as Kitri. With sets and costumes by Barry Kay the inaugural performance also featured Robert Helpmann as the Don and Ray Powell as Sancho Panza. It premiered in Adelaide on 28 March. Nureyev returned to Australia in 1972 to direct a filmed version of his production, which was released in 1973. The Australian Ballet has toured its Don Quixote internationally on many occasions. New set designs were created by Anne Fraser for a restaging in 1993 although the costumes by Barry Kay were retained. Since its first performance by the Australian Ballet with Aldous and Nureyev in the leading roles, Nureyev's production has remained in the repertoire of the flagship company, with Kitri and Basilio danced by all the major principal artists. It was last performed in 2007, when guest artist Ethan Stiefel performed as Basilio during the Melbourne and Sydney seasons.
En Cirque was choreographed by Alison Lee for Laurel Martyn's Ballet Guild, receiving its premiere on 16 May 1953. The production was set to music by Nicholas Tcherepnin and designs by Ann Church. The opening night cast included Harry Leitch (Zany), Eric Brown (Clown), Alison Lee (Ring Mistress), Laurence Bishop (Black Panther), Laurel Martyn (Tight Rope Walker), Reginald Bartram (Spanish Knife Thrower), and Laurence Bishop (Strong Man).
On the day of the premiere the Age previewed the work as Lee's 'first venture into the field of choreography', describing Church's 'unusual decor in purples and blacks' and commenting on the 'striking effects [created] by putting the dancers into black tights, keeping costumes brief in front, then adding sweeping trains and bustles to give a hint of Paris in Edwardian times'. The performance was reviewed as a 'compact, witty dashing glimpse of circus folk…a ringside epitome of spirited horsemanship, of tense, perspiring performers straining to please a common humanity'. Church's set was acclaimed as a 'gem'.
En Cirque remained in the repertoire of the company through its transition to Ballet Victoria in the early 1970s.
'Women in the Theatre: Circus Setting for Ballet', The Age, 16 May 1953, p. 7; 'Wit and Elan in Circus Ballet', The Age, 18 May 1953, p. 2
Laurel Martyn first choreographed a version of En Saga to the Sibelius tone poem of the same name in London in 1937. It premiered at a charity matinee and was at first not considered a critical success. In interviews Martyn always recalls that this initial staging was seen by Frederick Ashton who told her she had made 'all the right mistakes'. Martyn reworked En Saga in Australia during her time with the Borovansky Ballet, retaining only the music from her original London version. Her Australian staging premiered in Melbourne at the Princess Theatre on 19 December 1941. The accompanying music was played on two pianos by Winifred McDonnell and Edna Bennet. The original cast comprised:
The Women: Dorothy Stevenson, Jonet Wilkie, Ann MacKintosh, Mara North, Keitha Ross-Munro.
The Men: Laurie Rentoul, Mick O'Neill, George Robinson, Reg Bartram, D. Barrie.
En Saga was performed many times in the ensuing years by the Borovansky Ballet and then by Martyn's own company, Ballet Guild. In some Ballet Guild productions Martyn herself danced the role of the Aggrieved Woman. In 1986 the work was taught by Martyn to students undertaking a Bachelor of Arts (Dance) course at the University of Adelaide as part of the Australian Choreographic Project. At that time it was notated in Labanotation by Cecil Bates.
The Australian En Saga had designs by William Constable although in her own listing of her choreography, published in Brolga, 4 (June 1996), Martyn also credits Norman Bicknell as designer. Set in a non-specific rural scene the work concerns women's attitudes to war. Notes from the program for the inaugural Australian production by the Borovansky Ballet state that the work was inspired by lines from a Finnish poem:
One woman works and waits for the soldiers to return:
Another holds resentment and injustice in her heart;
The end may be reunion or resignation,
But always means the beginning of a new cycle of life.
Martyn's choreography was based on the classical technique but there were many movements derived from character dancing and all the female dancers wore character shoes. Janet Karin danced the role of the Aggrieved Woman, which she inherited from Martyn, Dorothy Stevenson and Ruth Bergner, in a 1962 staging for Ballet Guild. In an article published in 1996 Karin says of that role: 'The Aggrieved Woman hated. She hated war; she hated the effect it had on her life; she hated her man for following the call of duty so blindly; she hated the women who could accept their fate and she hated herself for being so powerless. At the same time she loved desperately - she loved the threatened earth, her labour, her man and living. She was not right nor wrong she was human. With the dreadful frustration of conflicting passion this woman struggled against a life dominated by war'.
Bibliography:Meg Denton, 'Reviving Lost Works: The Australian Choreographic Project', Brolga 2 (June 1995), pp. 57-67; Janet Karin, 'Laurel Martyn, OBE: A Voyager Ahead of her Time', Brolga 4 (June 1996), pp. 7-17.
Helene Kirsova's Faust, a ballet in three acts choreographed for her Kirsova Ballet company, premiered in October 1941. Set to a score by Henry Krips, with decor and costumes by Loudon Sainthill, Faust was based on a theme by Heinrich Heine. The program notes state:
The story follows closely a theme of Faust, written by Heine and intended by him for ballet, but never produced as such. Satirising his own period, Heine makes Mephistopheles a woman, as the men of that age were weak and shallow, entirely dominated by women.
The 1941 cast featured Edouard Sobishevsky as Old Doctor Faust, Valery Shaevsky as Young Faust, Raisse Kousnetzova as Mephistophela, Tamara Tchinarova as Satana, Henry Legerton as 'a Premier Danseur' and Joyce Morgans as a Snake.
Choreographed by British choreographer Gillian Lynne, to a scenario by Lynne and Bob Hird, Fool on the Hill was created as a joint venture by the Australian Ballet and the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It was the first work created by the Australian Ballet expressly for television and was directed by Bryan Ashbridge. Inspired by the Beatles' song of the same name, the work employed a score based on compositions of the Beatles, arranged and orchestrated by John Lanchbery, Eric Cook and Neil Thurgoode. The production also featured costume and set designs by Tim Goodchild.
The television production of Fool on the Hill premiered by ABC-TV on Sunday 23 May 1975. The performance for television starred Kelvin Coe as the Fool, Paul Saliba as his Alter Ego, Ai-Gul Gaisina as Michelle, Marilyn Jones as Eleanor Rigby, Joseph Janusaitis as Father McKenzie, Lucette Aldous as Lucy in the Sky, and Robert Helpmann as Sergeant Pepper. The full-length production also features characters from the Beatles' lyrics, including 'green devils', 'sunflowers', 'rocking horses', 'heavies', and a 'rising sun'.
The production follows the Fool, and his his Alter Ego on a series of adventures through eleven scenes, including Opening, The Club, Strawberry Fields, Something in the Way She Moves, Eleanor Rigby, Blue Jay Way, Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, Yesterday, Circus Approach, The Circus, and Limbo.
The production was later revised for the stage, receiving its stage debut on 28 April 1976. The stage production retained the original television cast of leading characters, save for Robert Helpmann, whose role of Sergeant Pepper was taken by Jonathan Kelly.
Program notes for the stage production state: 'The Fool sits on his hill lonely and remote, unable to communicate with life and especially with people. His alter ego materialises to jolt the Fool out of his lethargy and tumbles him off the hill and into a series of adventures.'
Francesca da Rimini, with choreography by David Lichine, premiered in London on 15 July 1937. Danced to music by Tchaikovsky - his Fantasy after Dante, Francesca da Rimini - it had designs by Oliver Messel and was structured around a libretto jointly written by Lichine and art historian and curator Henry Clifford. Performed by de Basil's Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, the cast was led by Lubov Tchernicheva as Francesca, Mark Platoff as Malatesta, Paul Petroff as Paolo and Eleanora Marra as the Nurse. Edouard Borovansky created the role of Girolamo, Malatesta's spy.
The work was brought to Australia by the Original Ballet Russe and was first performed in Sydney at the Theatre Royal on 26 January 1940. Tchernicheva, Petroff and Borovansky all danced the roles they had created in London. Dimitri Rostoff took on the role Malatesta and Vera Nelidova danced the Nurse.
Lichine restaged the work for the Borovansky Ballet in 1955. New designs were commissioned from William Constable and the production opened in Sydney in a program beginning on 25 November. It featured Jocelyn Vollmar as Francesca, Arvids Fibigs as Malatesta and Royes Fernandez as Paolo. Borovansky's old role of Girolamo was danced by Frank Salter and that of the Nurse by Aina Reega.
Many other productions of Francesca da Rimini have been created including Fokine's version to the Tchaikovsky score in 1915 and an Australian production choreographed by Valrene Tweedie to music by Liszt for the National Theatre Ballet in 1955.
Furioso premiered on 8 July 1993 at the Playhouse, Adelaide Festival Centre. It was choreographed by Meryl Tankard for Meryl Tankard Australian Dance Theatre. The original cast was Prue Lang, Mia Mason, Rachel Roberts, Tuula Roppola, Michelle Ryan, Vincent Crowley, Grayson Millwood, Shaun Parker, Gavin Webber and Steev Zane. It was danced to music by Arvo Part, Elliot Sharp and Henryk Gorecki, and had designs by Regis Lansac.
Furioso was choreographed shortly after Tankard became director of Australian Dance Theatre, which occurred at the beginning of 1993. With its aerial choreography in which the dancers were attached to ropes and harnesses and were airborne for large sections of the piece, Furioso reflected Tankard's interest in the new space available to her in Adelaide after the small, confined area in which she had worked as director of the Meryl Tankard Company in Canberra.
Furioso was toured nationally and internationally between 1993 and 1999.
J. C. Williamson's Australian production of the three act operetta Gay Rosalinda opened in Melbourne at His Majesty's Theatre on 23 November 1946. The cast was led by Irish soprano Tara Barry as Rosalinda and Tasmanian-born Max Oldaker as Eisentstein. The Borovansky Ballet was listed as a 'special feature' and Edouard Borovansky choreographed a ballet, Minuit au bal, especially for the show. Minuit au bal, to music by Johann Strauss, consisted of a gypsy sequence, a Harlequin/Columbine section, a Can-Can and a finale. The gypsy lovers were danced by Jonet Wilkie and Vassilie Trunoff, Columbine by Edna Busse, Harlequin by Serge Bousloff and Pierrot by Leon Kellaway. The leading Can-Can dancers were Peggy Sager and Martin Rubinstein and the whole company danced in the finale.
Following an eleven week run in Melbourne Gay Rosalinda moved to Sydney where it opened on 15 February 1947 at the Theatre Royal. For the Sydney season Kathleen Gorham took over Sager's part in the Can-Can, Leon Kellaway was listed as ballet master and Tamara Tchinarova was an addition to the cast of dancers. Gay Rosalinda was produced in Australia by Leontine Sagan and the musical director was Gabriel Joffe.
The Georgian State Dance Company was founded, as the Georgian State Dancers, by Nino Ramishvili and her husband Iliko Sukhishvili in 1945. Directed by its founders since its inception the company has toured to Australia regularly since their inaugural Australian tour in 1963.
Organisations involved in bringing the company to Australia for these tours include J. C. Williamson Ltd., Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust, Edgley and Dawe, Edgley International, and Gosconcert Moscow.
Giselle was first produced at the Paris Opera in 1841 with Carlotta Grisi and Lucien Petipa in the leading roles of Giselle and Albrecht. With music by Adolphe Adam and choreography by Jean Coralli and Jules Perrot, Giselle had as its starting point a libretto by critic and poet Theophile Gautier, which he took from a story by Heinrich Heine. The plot outline was streamlined by playwright Jules-Henri Vernoy de Saint-Georges and tells of the betrayal of a peasant girl, Giselle, by the high-born Albrecht.
Giselle is commonly regarded as one of the most significant works of the Romantic era. It offers audiences many of those experiences now thought to be characteristic of Romanticism in ballet, from the desire to escape into a world of mystery and beauty to a fascination with the destructive and the tragic. It has been danced by most of the world's ballet companies and has been reproduced in many versions since its creation.
In Australia, Giselle was first performed at the Theatre Royal, Melbourne in 1855, just fourteen years after its Paris premiere. It was presented as part of a season by Therese Strebinger and Jerome Caradini and was based on a production by Henri Finart, in which Strebinger had performed in Madrid several years earlier. Since then the ballet has been successfully staged in Australia by many visiting and resident ballet companies. Anna Pavlova and her company presented Giselle in April 1929 in Brisbane with subsequent shows in Sydney and Melbourne. In these performances Giselle was danced by Pavlova, Albrecht by Pierre Vladimiroff and Myrthe by Ruth French. Edouard Borovansky (Borowanski in the program) appeared as Enrique, a Forester (Hilarion?). The next major production by a visiting company was that staged by Ballet Rambert on its Australian tour of 1947 to 1949. The Rambert tour in fact opened with Giselle in Melbourne on 17 October 1947 with Sally Gilmour, Walter Gore, and Joyce Graeme dancing the roles of Giselle, Albrecht and Myrthe respectively
The first production by an Australian company was in 1944 when the Borovansky Ballet staged the work, designed by William Constable, in Adelaide as part of the company's first professional season. Laurel Martyn danced the role of Giselle, Serge Bousloff that of Albrecht and Dorothy Stevenson that of Myrthe. Martyn's Ballet Guild presented Giselle for the first time on 22 September 1949 with Martyn in the title role, Graham Smith as Albrecht and Eve King as Myrthe. The Australian Ballet staged the work in 1964 with guest stars Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev in the leading roles, and with Janet Karin as Myrthe. The company toured this production by Peggy van Praagh with designs by Kenneth Rowell on its first overseas tour in 1965. It was awarded the Grand Prix of the City of Paris at the third International Festival of Dance in November 1965.
In 1986 Maina Gielgud mounted a new production for the Australian Ballet. With designs by Peter Farmer, it opened in Adelaide on 12 September 1986 with Christine Walsh and Kelvin Coe as Giselle and Albrecht and Joanne Michel as Myrthe. Gielgud's production has remained in the repertoire of the Australian Ballet ever since. Under Ross Stretton's direction, however, in 2001 the Australian Ballet restaged the van Praagh production, complete with its distinctive first act pas de deux for Giselle and Albrecht choreographed by van Praagh in 1973. The opening cast for this production included Miranda Coney and David McAllister as Giselle and Albrecht. In 2006, Gielgud returned as guest of the Australian Ballet to restage her own production twenty years after its premiere. On opening night at the Sydney Opera House on May 3, Rachel Rawlins and Matthew Lawrence performed the lead roles.
The roles of Giselle and Albrecht have been danced by all Australia's leading artists since the first Borovansky production in 1944. Guest artists who have made a significant contribution to the work's performance history in Australia include Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov, who danced Act II for Ballet Victoria in 1975, Carla Fracci who danced Giselle to Kelvin Coe's Albrecht with the Australian Ballet in 1976 and Narelle Benjamin who danced the title role with the Australian Ballet in 2001.
Cyril W. Beaumont, The Ballet Called Giselle (Dance Horizons: Princeton, NJ), 1987 and other editions; Edward H. Pask, Enter the Colonies Dancing. A History of Dance in Australia 1835-1940 (Melbourne: OUP, 1979); Edward H. Pask, Ballet in Australia. The Second Act 1940-1980 (Melbourne: OUP, 1982).
Graduation Ball was conceived and choreographed by David Lichine in Australia during the 1939-1940 tour by the Original Ballet Russe, receiving its world premiere in Sydney on 1 March 1940 at the Theatre Royal. Set in a Viennese girls' finishing school, this single-act ballet depicts the frolics of the excited young ladies and their partners, cadets from a local military college, at their annual ball. Their youthful romances are comically interwoven with a clumsy flirtation between the cadets' doddery old General and the girls' matronly Headmistress (danced 'en travestie'). The light-hearted style is complemented by a series of divertissements arranged as entertainment during the evening. Music by Johann Strauss was compiled, arranged and orchestrated by Anton Dorati for this ballet, and scenery and costumes by Alexandre Benois recreated the decorative style of mid-nineteenth century Vienna.
The work was an immediate success, with the Sydney Morning Herald reporting twenty-five curtain calls on opening night. The cast for this inaugural performance was led by Lichine and Tatiana Riabouchinska as the Junior Cadet and Junior Girl, with Borislav Runanine as the Headmistress and Igor Schwezoff as the General. Natasha Sobinova and Paul Petroff performed as La Sylphide and the Scotsman, with Alexandra Denisova and Genevieve Moulin in the Dance-step Competition, and Nicolas Orloff as the Drummer.
The charm of Graduation Ball has endeared it to audiences world-wide, and the work has enjoyed a long performance history in Australia. Following the Original Ballet Russe performances, it was presented by the National Theatre Ballet in 1952, featuring Leon Kellaway as the Headmistress and Ronald Reay as the General. This staging by Kira Bousloff replaced the Sylphide and Scotsman pas de deux with a duet entitled 'La Peri'.
In 1954, Kiril Vassilkovsky restaged the work for the Borovansky Ballet. On opening night, Claudie Algeranova and Vassilie Trunoff led as the Junior Cadet and Girl, with Paul Grinwis as the Headmistress, and John Auld as General. Lichine danced his original role as the Junior Cadet in a guest appearance with this company in 1956.
Phyllis Danaher reproduced Graduation Ball for the North Queensland Ballet opening season in 1970. The Australian Ballet premiere took place on 23 January 1980, as part of the triple-bill tribute to Edouard Borovansky presented under the directorship of Marilyn Jones. This staging was by guest artists Joan Potter and Vassilie Trunoff. Ken Whitmore performed on opening night as the Headmistress, with Joseph Janusaitis as the General, David Burch as the Leading Junior Cadet, Lynette Mann as the Junior Girl, Sheree Da Costa as the Pigtail Girl, and Dale Baker as the Drummer. Terese Power and Daniela Pantea featured in the Competition Dance, and Lois Strike and Gary Norman in the pas de deux of the Sylphide and the Scotsman. Jill Sykes commented in the Sydney Morning Herald that 'the painstaking work that Trunoff put into reproducing Graduation Ball was apparent in its loving detail and featherlight style'.
Graduation Ball has remained in the repertoire of the flagship company, notably being performed during the 1988 Bicentenary tour. It was most recently performed by the Dancers Company in 2006, as part of a Ballets Russes inspired program touring to regional areas.
Further information about the development and Australian production of Graduation Ball is available at the website 'Michelle Potter on dancing', see Potter, M, Graduation Ball
The Green Mill Dance Project, also know as the Melbourne Festival of Choreography and Dance, was founded in 1992 as an annual national dance forum. The project was named after the Green Mill dance hall, later called the Trocadero. The original Green Mill opened in 1926 on the site currently occupied the Victorian Arts Centre and was the height of technological achievement with rubber sprung flooring, and elaborate and atmospheric lighting. It was host to ballroom extravaganzas, private parties, dance classes, intimate dinners and cabarets.
The Green Mill Dance Project's main activity was the co-ordination of an annnual conference. Five festivals were held between 1993 and 1997. The festivals focused on the art of dance through choreography, performances and seminars and attracted a broad spectrum of practitioners, writers, teachers, academics and students from Australia and overseas. The five themes addressed in Green Mill's seminar component were Across Cultures, Across the Arts (1993), Dance and Narrative (1994), Dance and Technology (1995), New Dance from Old Cultures (1996), Heritage and Heresy (1997).
The Green Mill Dance Project ceased operations early in 1998 after the Victorian Government withdrew funding for the project.
HELD, a work uniting the mediums of photography and dance, was commisioned for the Adelaide Bank 2004 Festival of Arts. Choreographed by Garry Stewart for Australian Dance Theatre it opened at Her Majesty's Theatre, Adelaide, on 3 March 2004. Dancers in the original production were Shannon Anderson, Antony Hamilton, Sarah-Jayne Howard, Anastasia Humeniuk, Daniel Jaber, Lina Limosani, Ross McCormack, Larissa McGowan, Xiao-Xuan Yang and Paul Zivkovich. Photographer Lois Greenfield appeared on stage with the dancers and images captured during the performance were projected onto two onstage screens seconds after being shot. Her photography and Stewart's choreography created a synergy of imagery and movement.
In program notes Greenfield said:
... incorporating my abstracted and composed imagery back into the flow of choreography (from which of course all movement comes), allows me to examine the relationship of the photo to the dance, like throwing a caught fish back into the ocean and watching it swim.
Other program notes stated:
... HELD juxtaposes solidity with liquidity, heaviness with lightness, stillness with flow, clarity with illusion into an extraordinary live performance. Using electronic strobes to photograph the dramatic explosions and propulsions which are Garry's signature kamikaze style, Lois will create the illusion of weightlessness by freezing these dynamic moments at 1/2000 of a second, projected instantaneously, revealing to the audience a moment that exists beneath the threshold of perception.
HELD has toured nationally and internationally.
Serge Lifar's one-act ballet Icare was first performed by the Paris Opera Ballet at Palais Garnier on 9 July 1935. Lifar left Paris after the outbreak of war in Europe and toured to Australia with Colonel de Basil's Original Ballet Russe from 1939-40. He produced a new staging of Icare for this Australian tour which premiered at the Theatre Royal, Sydney on 16 February 1940. The theme of Icare was taken from the Greek myth of Icarus, the tragic hero who attempted to fly with wings attached with wax. As he flew higher the wax was melted by the sun's rays and Icarus fell to his death.
In the Original Ballet Russe production of Icare, Serge Lifar danced the role of Icarus and Dimitri Rostoff that of his father, Dedalus. Lifar was recalled to Paris a week after the premiere and the role of Icarus was taken up by Roman Jasinsky. The performances of both Lifar and Jasinsky were extremely well received.
In his Manifeste du choregraphe, published in 1935, Lifar declared the independence of dance from music. He described the creator-choreographer with his own term 'choreauteur' and explained that 'ballet music be before anything else danceable and borrow its rhythms from nowhere but find them in its own divine essence...' Lifar was eager to put his theory into practice and in the same year created Icare, the first of his works to have been choreographed before the music was composed. On his arrival in Australia, Lifar made the following comments about Icare: 'My main reform is that I put the musician in his place. In the past, the creators of ballets have been far too subservient to orchestral scores. They have fitted the steps, the motions, the gestures to the melodies a composer has provided for them. It should be the other way about. The choreographer should create the scheme of dancing and the musician should then be asked to provide a score to fit that scheme'.
In keeping with this principle, the staging of Icare in Australia was accompanied by a percussive score orchestrated by Antal Dorati, which was based on rhythms devised by Lifar. Loudon Sainthill was initially approached to design the work in Australia, however the commission was eventually given to a 23 year-old Sidney Nolan. Nolan conceived a unified performance space that would blur the boundaries between the dancer and design. The backdrop was to be mainly black and white, with Lifar in a zebra-like costume in front of the striped background. Nolan's ideas were, however, contrary to Lifar's belief in the hegemony of dance over music and design. His first designs were rejected and Nolan had less than a week to redesign the work. The eventual design consisted of Grecian style costumes and a backcloth divided into two unequal parts, the lower in blue and the upper in red. The horizontal divisions were broken by a series of black bars and a rainbow on which a stylised image of Icarus was suspended. While the designs were received with some controversy they were successful in realising Lifar's ideals.
Lifar later commissioned Picasso to create new set and costume designs for a revival of Icare in 1962 by the Paris Opera Ballet. Picasso's design was of a striking yellow backdrop which rose climactically to reveal an image of Icarus hanging from the base of the sun. The Paris Opera Ballet staged Icare again in 1993 with Charles Jude in the title role. As artistic director of the Ballet de Bordeaux, Jude has since brought Icare into that company's current repertoire.
Michelle Potter, 'Spatial boundaries: Sidney Nolan's ballet designs', Brolga 3 (December 1995), pp. 53-67
Serge Lifar, 'Ma Vie: from Kiev to Kiev' (London : Hutchinson & Co., 1970)
'Serge Lifar arrives. A new style in Ballet', The Sydney Morning Herald, 29 December 1939, p. 11
Since the late 1940s Australian audiences have been exposed to the highly stylised features of Indian dance, themes of Hindu mythology and the epic legends of the Ramayana and Mahabharata that are commonly expressed through dance. Over time they have also experienced the full gamut of Indian classical dance forms including Bharatanatyam, Kathak, Kathakali, Kuchipudi, Odissi, Manipuri, Chhau and Mohiniattam.
Although Indian dance is known as the oldest classical dance tradition in the world, centuries of foreign rule in India had seen it almost completely neglected. The impetus of the Indian independence movement reignited interest in traditional art forms and brought about a renaissance of Indian dance during the 1930s.
Australian dancer Louise Lightfoot played a critical role in the revival of the Kathakali and Manipuri dance forms in and outside of India. She first visited India in 1938 and spent considerable time there studying dance. She organised tours by the Kathakali dancer Ananda Shivaram throughout India and also to Australia in 1947 and 1974. Billed as the first Indian dancer to visit Australia, Shivaram's performances were extremely influential, as were the classes he conducted with local dancers. Lightfoot also staged her own Indian inspired productions in Australia and was responsible for the Australian tour of a Manipuri troupe in 1957.
The interest sparked by Shivaram saw Australian tours by Indian dancers such as Tilakavati (1958), Indrani (1959), Bhaskar (1962), Chitrasena Ballet (1963 and 1972) and Kalakshetra (1966). A Government of India cultural delegation titled Indian Song and Dance Theatre also toured in 1962. Indian dancer Jyotikana Ray was also active in Australia during this time with productions titled Mystic Dances of India (1955) and Light of Asia (1957) involving dancers from the Bodenwieser company.
Indian dance artists have continued to tour to Australia, including Kalakshetra dancers Balagopalam (1978), V. Gayatri (1982) and Krishnaveni Lakshmanan (1987). The Kathakali Kerala Kalamandalam tour in 1970 included performances in regional New South Wales while the famous Bharatanatyam dancer and film star Vyjanthimala performed in Adelaide, Perth, Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney in 1975. Most remarkable was a tour by the 12 member Chhau troupe, Masked Dancers of Bengal in 1978, which included performances in Darwin, Alice Springs, Tennant Creek and Katherine.
More recently Australian audiences have experienced performances by renowned Indian dancers such as Daksha Sheth (Kathak/Chhau), Mallika Sarabhai (Bharatanatyam), Sonal Mansingh (Bharatanatyam /Odissi), Birju Maharaj (Kathak) and the late Sanjukta Panigrahi (Odissi). As well as performing traditional dance, Daksha Sheth has choreographed contemporary works in collaboration with Perth musicians and dancers in the ongoing Gilgamesh project. Mallika Sarabhai has also created contemporary works to the music of Australian composers Roger Smalley, Cathie Travers and David Pye.
In the 1970s and 80s increased migration from Asia saw a number of professional Indian dancers settling in Australia as well as exponential growth in the number of Indian classical dance schools.
Melbourne based dancer Chandrabhanu studied Odissi and Bharatanatyam in India. He has taught hundreds of students through his Bharatalaya School of Indian Classical Dance and toured Australia with his Bharatam Dance Company, performing full scale traditional dance productions such as Devi: Goddess Absolute (1985) and Navagraha (1991); and Indian inspired contemporary works including Medea (1992) and Electra (1996). Known for their exactness of technique, original choreography and the richness of their sets and costuming, Bharatam have been pioneers in their field, exerting considerable influence over Indian dancers in Australia.
Ramli Ibrahim is a unique figure as he studied ballet, modern dance and Indian classical dance. After working with the West Australian Ballet he received a scholarship with the Australian Ballet School and subsequently joined Sydney Dance Company. A meeting with Chandrabhanu inspired him to learn Indian dance and after study in India he performed Bharatanatyam and Odissi in Sydney and Melbourne under the name Ramachandra. He also performed his own choreography Adorations based on the guru-shishya (teacher/student) relationship. Ibrahim returned to Malaysia in 1982 and founded the acclaimed Sutra Dance Theatre.
Padma Menon trained in Kuchipudi in India and performed widely before settling in Canberra in 1988. She began performing traditional Kuchipudi works in Australia and later created works with local contemporary dancers such as Meryl Tankard. Menon established Kailash Dance Company in 1992 incorporating a school with a designed syllabus and teacher training and mounted productions such as Relations and Ramayana: a mother speaks. Later known as Padma Menon Dance Theatre her company staged The Woman is for Burning in 1997, commentating on the practice of sati or widow immolation.
Anandavalli Sivanathan moved to Sydney in 1985 after extensive training in Bharatanatyam and Kuchipudi in India. She established herself as a solo performer and started the Lingalayam Dance Academy in 1987. Working within a traditional framework she and her students staged productions such as Shakthi (1991), Dasavatharam (1993) and A Vision of India (1995). In 1996 she formed Lingalayam Dance Company performing works including Shiva Sthuthi (1996), The Divine Flautist (1997) and Earth and Fire (2003). The company's most recent production is Tempest (2004), a collaboration with famed Indian contemporary dancer, Astad Deboo.
Tara Rajkumar is an exponent of Kathakali and Mohinniattam. She founded the National Academy of Indian Dance (now Akademi: South Asian Dance) in London in 1979. After migrating to Australia she conducted numerous solo performances and established the Natya Sudha Dance Company in Melbourne. In 1997 she produced the work Temple Dreaming, which interweaves her own story with that of Louise Lightfoot.
Temple of Fine Arts was founded in Perth in 1981. Artistic directors Sukhi Shetty Krishnan and Sarasa Krishnan trained in Bharatanatyam, Odissi and Kathak as well as venturing into ballet and contemporary dance. The company has regular performances in Perth but is most well known for their huge productions with incredible sets and casts of fifty to one hundred dancers. To date they have staged sixteen such productions including Odissi Odyssey (1990), A Midsummer Night's Dream (1994), Shakuntala (1998) and Vishwa Vinayaka (2002).
Rakini Devi studied Bharatanatyam and Odissi in India. She continued her studies in Bharatanatyam from the Kalaivani School of Indian Classical Dance in Perth. From 1986 to 1990 she was a guest artist with Chandrabhanu's Bharatam Dance Company. The formation of her own group The Atman Project and later Kalika Dance Company saw the creation of works including Apsaras (1992), Kali Digambari (1995) and Yantra & Devadasis (1997), which incorporated text, live experimental music, film and her own visual art. Her solo productions include The Virtual Goddess (1998) and Mindimi (1999). Relocation to Sydney in 2001 has seen a continuation of her iconoclastic style of Indian influenced contemporary dance often with themes of women in society.
The Odissi Dance Company was founded in Sydney in 1992 by Nirmal Jena and Chitrita Mukerjee. Nirmal Jena is the son of Surendra Nath Jena, a recognised expert in the ancient Odissi dance form.
These professional artists all have common threads running through their careers. They have all received training from the great masters of India such as Adyar K. Lakshman, Vempati Chinna Satyam, Sanjukta Panigrahi, Birju Maharaj and Deba Prasad Das, ensuring a continuation of technique and style and an understanding grounded in a classical tradition. Their imagination along with the influence of contemporary dance has led to experimentation and the emergence of a fusion of styles. They teach and employ dancers from a diverse range of cultural backgrounds and many have toured their work back to India with critical acclaim. Each has been effective in articulating their art form, making Indian dance more accessible to western audiences. They convey stories of traditional mythology with a fresh, questioning perspective or explore socio-political themes such as cross-cultural relations and the status of women.
Today Indian dance in Australia is represented by numerous professional dance artists and companies, dance schools, amateur community groups and the increasing mainstream popularity of Bhangra and Bollywood. Dialogue between Indian dance artists and their contemporaries has meant the art form has not stagnated. These interactions continue to contribute to the development of contemporary dance in Australia.
Purushottama Bilimoria, 'Traditions and transition in South Asia performing arts in multicultural Australia', in Sneja Gunew and Fazal Rizvi (general ed.), Culture, difference and the arts (Sydney: Allen and Unwin, 1994); Purushottama Bilimoria, 'Indian dance', in John Whiteoak and Aline Scott-Maxwell (general ed.), Currency Companion to Music and Dance in Australia (Sydney: Currency House in association with Currency Press, 2003), p. 330.
In 1982 the International Dance Committee of the International Theatre Institute (ITI), UNESCO, initiated International Dance Day to be celebrated every year on the 29th of April. The date commemorates the birth of Jean-Georges Noverre (1727-1810), the French dancer and ballet master whose treatise Lettres sur la danse et les ballets is a foundation text for the study of the development of dance.
The intention of International Dance Day, as outlined by the International Dance Committee of ITI, is 'to bring all Dance together on this occasion, to celebrate this art form and revel in its universality, to cross all political, cultural and ethnic barriers and bring people together in peace and friendship with a common language - dance'.
A feature of the day is the circulation around the world of a message from a well-known dance personality. Prominent individuals who have provided International Dance Day messages include Henrik Neubauer (1982), Merce Cunningham (1990), Maurice Bejart (1997), Katherine Dunham (2002), and Mats Ek (2003). In 2004 the International Dance Day message was given by Australian dancer, choreographer and director Stephen Page. Page said:
'Dance is the original most ancient form of human expression. Through the body and physical language, dance has a powerful connection with the emotional and spiritual worlds. In traditional Aboriginal culture, dance is the core, like a kind of sacred medicine. Dance is grounded, connected to the spirit of Mother Earth. Unless you surrender to the dance you can't hunt quietly. It is an integral part of human existence. When I create a new dance work I ask the dancers to swallow and digest the traditional seed, to sense the innate code within so that we can transform the traditional essence to the contemporary world. Dance is the universal language. It represents human identity and a celebration of the human spirit. Dance is the artistic heart of kinship. It is a sacred universal remedy.'
The International Theatre Institute (ITI), an international non-governmental organization (NGO), was founded in Prague in 1948 by UNESCO and members of the international theatre community. In 1995, in an effort to unite dance, the International Dance Committee, ITI - UNESCO, entered into a collaborative effort for the celebration of International Dance Day with World Dance Alliance.
In Australia International Dance Day is commemorated within Ausdance Australian Dance Week - a week long celebration that 'raises the profile, and focuses on the values, importance, and the many cultural contributions of dance to the Australian community'.
This one act ballet with choreography by Leonide Massine was premiered by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in Monte Carlo on 14 April 1932. It was Massine's first work for Colonel de Basil and he set it on Tatiana Riabouchinska as the Child and David Lichine as the Traveller. The ballet follows the activities of toys and games that come to life, and the adventures of a child who, awakened by the noise the toys make, tries to take part in their secret life. The libretto was by Boris Kochno who worked closely with Massine on a variation of a theme that Massine had used before in his Boutique fantasque - that of toys coming to life. Massine avoided using toy-like movements in his choreography for Jeux d'enfants, however, and gave the toys human qualities and choreography based on the balletic vocabulary. In his book A Prejudice for Ballet the British critic A. V. Coton wrote:
Massine had abandoned all reference to the "unnatural" toy movement idiom of Boutique fantasque in composing this work. All the toys and games ... danced perfectly balletic and athletic measures as against the entirely derivative movement idiom of the toys in Boutique fantasque.
Jeux d'enfants was inspired by and adapted to the structure of Bizet's twelve-part suite for four handed piano of 1871, in the composer's orchestration.
The work was designed by Spanish surrealist Joan Miro, although the commission had first been offered to Alberto Giacometti. When Giacometti declined the commission Kochno approached Miro, having seen examples of Miro's work in a Paris exhibition, and having been fascinated by the naive qualities of many of the paintings and collages in the show. Miro designed a front curtain, a series of geometrical shapes and a backcloth to represent the child's nursery, and costumes many of which were unitards, an unusual item of dance clothing for the 1930s. The Child wore a short blue dress, white socks, black pointe shoes with black bows and a red leather bow on her head. The Traveller was dressed in a brown jumpsuit with a scarf and skull cap.
Jeux d'enfants had its first Australian performance in Melbourne on 10 October 1938 on an all Massine program, which also included Choreartium and Scuola di Ballo. At the Australian premiere the Child was danced by Riabouchinska, the Traveller by Anton Dolin. Reviewing the evening for The Herald (Melbourne) Basil Burdett wrote of the work's 'air of fantastic modernity' and singled out Riabouchinska's performance:
Riabouchinska's exquisitely human and delicate child is the outstanding individual performance. She dances with that airy grace of hers ... at the same time building up the character with small, deft touches.
Jeux d'enfants was seen in Australia only in Melbourne and Sydney and was performed around 30 times over two tours, that by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet in 1938-1939 and that by the Original Ballet Russe in 1939-1940. Massine revived the work in 1955 in Buenos Aires.
Basil Burdett, 'An Evening with Massine', The Herald (Melbourne), 11 October 1938, p. 16; Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes (New York: Knopf, 1990), pp. 28-37.
The Jose Greco Company, also known as the Jose Greco Flamenco or Spanish Dance Company, toured Australia in 1974-1975. The company was presented by Variety Artists (Aust) Pty. Ltd. and the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust under the auspices of the Jose Greco Foundation for Hispanic Dance Inc.
With Jose Greco and Nana Lorca principal dancers, the company performed the following program:
Part 1: included performances of Introduction, Farruca, El Vito (Danza Espanola), Seguidillas Realas (Don Quixote's Land), Alegrias (Dance of Joy), Nobleza Andaluza (Encounter), Solea (Solitude), and Escenas Madrilenas (Dances of Goya Times).
Part 2: included performances of Bolero, Romance Gitanno, Zapateado de Camperos (The Ranchers), Castellana (Folk Dance), Jota (Popular Regional Dance), Piano Solo, and Adalucia Flamenca (The Fiesta).
Just for Fun was choreographed and designed by Ray Powell for the Australian Ballet's inaugural season. It premiered in Sydney on 18 December 1962. Danced to a selection of music by Shostakovitch, the cast for the first Sydney performance was Barbara Chambers, Kathleen Geldard, Lexie Kunze, Leonie Leahy, Heather Macrae, Jan Melvin, Suzanne Musitz, Gailene Stock, Kelvin Coe, Peter Condon, Warren de Maria, Douglas Gilchrist, Robert Olup, Colin Peasley, Kenneth Tillson and Karl Welander.
Kikimora, with choreography by Meryl Tankard, premiered in Canberra at Gorman House Arts Centre on 30 June 1990. The original cast consisted of dancers of the Meryl Tankard Company: Alison Brazier, Carmela Care, Paige Gordon, Roz Hervey and Leisa Shelton. Visual design and photography was by Regis Lansac, costumes by Gaelle Mellis and lighting by Geoff Cobham. Music was drawn from 16th and 17th century English and French court music, featuring in particular My Lady Carey's Dompe, and ancient and traditional music from Hungary and Transylvania.
The intitial inspiration for Tankard's Kikimora came from Mikhail Larionov's make-up for Bronislava Nijinska in Leonide Massine's ballet Kikimora, which was made for Serge Diaghilev in 1916, and from photographs by Regis Lansac of dolls in James Warwick's Old Curiosity Shop in Ballarat, Victoria. The Tankard work drew parallels between the Russian folklore character, the kikimora (tiny witches with a cruel sense of humour), and little girls.
Kikimora was reworked for a larger cast for the Meryl Tankard Australian Dance Theatre. The work toured, in both its original form until 1992, and in its reworked form from 1993 onwards, throughout Australia and to Asia and Europe.
Kooree and the Mists was choreographed by Kira Bousloff for West Australian Ballet (at the time the W.A. State Ballet Company) in 1960. It was set to a commissioned score by James Penberthy, as were a number of the company's other Australian themed ballets of the time - The Beach Inspector and the Mermaid (1958), the two-act Fire at Ross' Farm (1961), after Henry Lawson's famous poem, and Death of a Kangaroo Paw (1964). Design for Kooree and the Mists was by Michael Page.
The 1960 program, 'A Season of Ballet', contains the following description of the 'story of the ballet':
A young girl comes to a swamp in the evening and sees the white mists rising like spirits. These shapes and airy forms seem like spirits of all that is beautiful and good to the girl. She dances as if aspiring to join in their elevated movements. The mists swirl or float around her. No matter how hard she tries she remains earth bound. She believes that the other baser side of her human nature binds her to the earth. She notices gnarled trees with their roots delving into the slimy mud. Strange grotesque shapes seem to move from the darkness. Their movements easy to follow [sic] and soon she is dancing with the figures the darkness of the night and her mind have conjured. Gradually the monsters take on an evil and menacing nature. When she fully realises that this terrifying manifestation of her own nature is destructive and the imagined creatures become real and terrifying she loses control of her mind and escapes by throwing herself into the dark waters of the swamp. The monsters are now seen no more: only the white mists rising from the surface of the water, up through the still branches of the trees.
Mary Miller, possibly Australia's first indigenous ballet dancer, danced as the Girl, a role described in the program as 'specially created for her with her great sensitivity to the atmosphere and drama created by the music'. The role of the Spirit of the Mist was performed by Gerard Sibbritt.
Leon Woizikowsky's L'amour sorcier was performed in Australia by the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, opening at His Majesty's theatre Melbourne on November 21, 1936. This ballet was the revival of a work performed by the Ballets de Leon Woizikowsky, the company from which a number of the dancers in de Basil's Monte Carlo Russian Ballet were drawn. L'amour sorcier was set to music of the same title by Manuel de Falla and based on a libretto by Gregorio Martinez Sierra. Design was by Natalia Gontcharova. On opening night, Nina Raievska performed as the Bride, Leon Woizikowsky as the Groom, and Helene Kirsova as the Widow. The Argus described the ballet as 'a series of exciting Spanish dances welded into an artistic unity by a somewhat tenuous story', and noted the 'stirring interpretation by Helene Kirsova of the tragic widow'. The following Sydney season was positively reviewed by the Sydney Morning Herald, claiming that 'Woizikowsky has expressed the inmost spirit of the Spanish dance'. Gontcharova's design was also noted:
'The blackcloth displayed a single blasted, branchless tree, silhouetted against hill after hill of yellowish-brown desert. The gipsies, sitting in a bodeful circle, all wore costumes of brown and rust-colour similar in general design, but different in detail'.
Earlier ballets using the same title, libretto and music include that popularised by the ballet of Argentina in Paris in 1928 and that choreographed by Boris Romanov for the Ballets Russes in 1932. Another version was created by Serge Lifar in 1943.
'Brightest Programme of the Ballet Season', The Argus, 23 November 1936, p.4; 'Les Cents Baisers, L'Amour sorcier', The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 February 1937, p.3
L'Apres-midi d'un faune was choreographed by Vaslav Nijinsky for the Diaghilev Ballets Russes and was first performed in Paris on May 29, 1912, with Nijinsky dancing the role of the Faun. Both the ballet and score to which it was set, Claude Debussy's 'Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un faune', were inspired by the poem of the same title by Stephane Malarme. Design was by Leon Bakst. Choreographic features of the work include a frieze-like archaic design, profiled stance, and alternation of movement and pose. The spare libretto centres on the faun's meeting and flirtation with nymphs, and the piece concludes with a scene of simulated masturbation that scandalized early audiences.
The de Basil Ballets Russes revival of L'Apres-midi d'un faune premiered in London on 2 October 1933, and Australian audiences first saw the work during the 1936-1937 tour by the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet. Its first performance was in Adelaide on 20 October 1936. The review in The Advertiser the following day noted that the work 'struck a new note in ballet', and hailed Leon Woizikowsy as 'magnetis[ing] the audience with his amazing delineation of the part of The Faun'. The ballet was subsequently seen in Sydney and Melbourne. During the second Ballets Russes tour by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet a truncated solo version was performed by David Lichine in a 'principals only' farewell gala in Sydney on 27 April 1939. During the third Australian tour by the Original Ballet Russe the full production returned to the Australian stage.
L'Apres-midi d'un faun was also performed in Australia by Ballet Rambert during the Ballet Rambert 1947 tour. This production was billed as having the original Nijinsky choreography and Bakst design, and featured Frank Staff as the Faun. In 1951, a version was staged by Paul Grinwis for the Borovansky Ballet, with Grinwis performing in the title role.
Graeme Murphy choreographed his Late Afternoon of a Faun to the Debussy score in 1987. Australian audiences are also familiar with Jerome Robbins' Afternoon of a Faun choreographed in 1958, and the version choreographed by Barry Moreland for the West Australian Ballet in 1985.
Bibliography:Joanne Priest & H Brewster-Jones, 'Woizikowsky's Triumph', The Advertiser, October 21, 1936.
La Bayadere (The Temple Dancer) premiered at the Maryinsky Theatre, St Petersburg on 4 February 1877. It heralded choreographer Marius Petipa's trademark fusion of European Romanticism, evident in the exotic setting and supernatural elements, with Tsarist Russian classical style. Petipa set the ballet in four acts to music by Ludwig Minkus.
Audiences outside Russia were not introduced to the work until 1961 when the Kirov Ballet performed an excerpt at the Palais Garnier, Paris. Rudolf Nureyev made his Western debut in the role of Solor in this season, during which he famously defected from the Soviet Union. The scene performed, 'The Kingdom of the Shades' from the second act, depicts the opium inspired vision of the warrior Solor. It is now frequently presented independently by companies throughout the world. The first full-length staging of the ballet outside Russia was by Natalia Makarova for America Ballet Theatre in 1980. Her production had its roots in the revival for the Kirov Ballet by Vakhtang Chabukiani and Vladimir Ponomarev in 1941, and she reconstructed Petipa's final apocalyptic act that had disappeared from the Kirov version when the scenery was destroyed during the Russian Revolution.
Australian audiences were introduced to La Bayadere when the Leningrad Kirov Ballet performed 'The Kingdom of the Shades' in 1973. This excerpt was then staged for the Australian Ballet in 1987 by the Rumanian ballerina Magdalena Popa who was ballet mistress of the National Ballet of Canada at the time. The music for this production was arranged by John Lanchbery, and lighting was by William Akers. At the premiere, Christine Walsh danced the role of Nikiya, David Ashmole as Solor, and Elizabeth Toohey, Sian Stokes and Ulrike Lytton as the Shadows. 'The Kingdom of the Shades' has remained in the company's repertoire, most recently being staged as part of the 'White' program in 2005.
The first full-length staging of La Bayadere in Australia was presented by the Bolshoi Ballet in 1994. In 1998 the Australian Ballet invited Natalia Makarova to stage her latest production for the company. The set, costume and lighting design for this production (by PierLuigi Samaritani, Theoni V Aldredge and Brad Fields) were all courtesy of the American Ballet Theatre, and the musical arrangement of the Minkus score was by John Lanchbery. On opening night at the State Theatre on 20 February 1998, Nikiya was danced by Nicole Rhodes, Solor by Li Cunxin, Gamzatti by Miranda Coney and the Bronze Idol by David McAllister. Royal Ballet principal Darcey Bussell appeared as a guest in some performances dancing Nikiya during this Melbourne season.
Rudolf Nureyev produced La Bayadere for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1992. This was his last choreographic work for the company, with its premiere just four months before his death. Nureyev's production was performed by the Paris Opera Ballet in Brisbane in 2009.
La Boutique fantasque was the first of Leonide Massine's works to be seen in Australia. The inaugural Australian performance took place at the Theatre Royal Adelaide on opening night of the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet tour, 13 October 1936. Choreographed to a Gioacchino Rossini score arranged by Ottorino Respighi, the work had received its world premiere by the Diaghilev Ballet Russe in London on 5 June 1919. Massine was responsible for both the choreography and the libretto, with its notable links to Die Puppenfee (The Fairy Doll), an old German ballet that had been revived by Serge and Nicholas Legat in St Petersburg early in the twentieth century. Australian audiences had been charmed by The Fairy Doll, a tale of toys coming to life, during Anna Pavlova's 1926 tour. They again responded positively to Massine's take on this toyshop theme with its gently satirical style and strong characterisation incorporating elements of comedy, mime, national character dance and classically-based divertissements. Valentina Blinova and Leon Woizikowsky were particularly celebrated as the Can-Can Dancers, the roles originally taken by Lydia Lopokova and Massine himself. Design for this production was, as for the original 1919 staging, by Andre Derain.
La Boutique fantasque was one of the works involved in a dispute over copyright following Massine's decision to leave the company of Colonel de Basil in 1937. A legal ruling dictated that de Basil lost the right to perform Massine's pre-1932 ballets following the departure of the choreographer. The work was not presented in Australia by the following two de Basil Ballets Russes tours of 1938 - 40.
The Borovansky Ballet staging of La Boutique fantasque, with designs by William Constable, premiered in 1951. The cameo role of the Shopkeeper, originally performed by Enrico Cecchetti, was performed by Edouard Borovansky, with Kathleen Gorham and Paul Grinwis performing as the the Can-Can Dancers. In the following year, 1952, Gorham was partnered in this role by Poul Gnatt in his first performance with the company.
The single act ballet La concurrence (The Competition) was choreographed by George Balanchine for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo's opening program in 1932. Unlike this season's other new productions, which used pre-existing scores, the music for La concurrence was collaboratively composed by Georges Auric. Set and costumes were created by Andre Derain, who was also responsible for the libretto.
Set in the late 1890s, the narrative of La concurrence depicts the rivalry between two tailors with shops facing each other on a town square. Customers emerge wearing costumes created by each tailor in his attempt to outdo the other - creating an amusing exploration of the influence of clothing on personality. While the work depends heavily on mime and detailed characterisation, technical virtuosity is also required in elements such as the crowd-pleasing fouette competition. The lead role of the Young Girl, which can be seen as forming a vital link between the two stage groupings of the adults and children, was created on thirteen year-old Tamara Toumanova. She was joined in the fouette competition by the two other adolescent girls who, along with Toumanova, were to become known as the 'baby ballerinas' - Tatiana Riabouchinska and Irina Baronova. Balanchine's fine eye for characterisation was augmented by Leon Woizikowsky's acclaimed interpretation in creating the role of the Tramp.
Despite its immediate popularity, La concurrence was viewed by some critics as a shallow return to pantomime. Apparently Balanchine, after viewing the work from the front of house for the first time, commented that he was 'through forever with that kind of stuff'. It was, however, very well received by the press in Australia, where it was performed by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet, premiering in Melbourne on October 6, 1938. Baronova danced in this production as the Young Girl, Edouard Borovansky and Yura Lazovsky as the Tailors, and Yurek Shabelevsky as the Vagabond. The review of this 'witty and sophisticated character ballet' appeared in the Argus on October 7, hailing Balanchine as 'the most individual choreographer after Massine', and asserting that 'Balanchine's humour does not lie in the incidents of the story, but in his freakish sense of the grotesque, his witty burlesques of character, and his surprising angular line.' Photographs of eight-year old June Mackay, selected to dance a child role in the ballet, had featured in the Argus the previous day.
Following the Australian tour, the role of the Young Girl was performed by Natasha Sobovina (Rosemary Deveson), who later recounted learning the role in a hotel bathroom with Baronova humming the music. La concurrence then disappeared from the Ballets Russes repertoire. The Derain decor, noted for its sophisticated focus on flat surface, was never seen again - although some maquettes do exist in private collections. Various theories account for its disappearance - that it was shipped to Germany for the Berlin season and never returned, that it was used by de Basil as collateral for his debts, and, perhaps the most widely accepted, that it was among the decors destroyed in a Montreal warehouse following the 1941 tour.
Kathrine Sorley Walker, De Basil's Ballets Russes (London: Hutchinson, 1982); Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes: Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo 1932-1952 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990); 'Brilliant Dancing: Ballet season', The Argus, 7 October 1938, p. 2 ; 'For the Ballet', The Argus, 6 October 1938; Richard Buckle, George Balanchine: Ballet Master (London: Hamish Hamilton, 1988); Leland Windreich (comp & ed), Dancing for de Basil: Letters to her Parents from Rosemary Deveson (Toronto: Dance Collection Press/es, 1996)
The Royal Ballet premiered Frederick Ashton's version of La Fille mal gardee at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, London, on 26 January 1960. The opening night cast was led by Nadia Nerina as Lise, David Blair as Colas, Stanley Holden as the Widow Simone, Alexander Grant as Alain, Leslie Edwards as Thomas and Franklin White as the Notary. The score by Herold had been arranged by John Lanchbery, who also conducted the first performance. Designs were by Osbert Lancaster. The first performance in Australia of Ashton's Fille took place at the Tivoli Theatre in Sydney on 12 October 1967. The Australian Ballet cast included Marilyn Jones as Lise, Bryan Lawrence as Colas, Ray Powell as the Widow Simone, Alan Alder as Alain, Roger Myers as Thomas and Colin Peasley as the Notary. Ashton's Fille has been revived on many occasions over the life of the Australian Ballet.
La Fille mal gardee has, however, a long history that predates the Ashton production. The very first production was staged by Jean Dauberval in July 1789 in Bordeaux, France. Two years later this work, which had been inspired by an engraving by Pierre-Antoine Baudouin of an angry mother scolding her daughter, was staged in London at the Pantheon Theatre when the work received its current name of La Fille mal gardee. From then on it was revived over and over again and seen across Europe. Australian audiences first saw this early staging in 1855 in Sydney and Melbourne when the role of Lise was danced by Aurelia Dimier. Until Ashton created his production the work was known in several choreographic versions and was danced to a variety of scores.
August Bournonville's La Sylphide (Sylfiden), set to a commissioned score by Herman Lovenskjold, premiered in Copenhagen in 1836, and has remained in the repertoire of the Royal Danish Ballet to this day. It was not seen in Australia until well over a century after its creation, when Dame Margot Fonteyn and Ivan Nagy danced the leads as guest artists during the 1974 Scottish Ballet tour. The first production by an Australian company was by the Queensland Ballet in 1978. At the premiere performance Caroline Douglas danced the title role, with Harold Collins as James, William Pengelly as Gurn, and Madonna Mabry as Effie. Harry Haythorne performed as the witch Madge, the role he had also taken in the Scottish Ballet 1974 season when returning to Australia after twenty-five years abroad.
The Australian Ballet first staged La Sylphide in 1985, with choreography 'reproduced and staged by Erik Bruhn after August Bournonville', and set and costume design by Anne Fraser. Bruhn was Director of the National Ballet of Canada at the time, and his production of the work was well-known internationally. Constantin Patsalas was his assistant for the Australian staging. At the premiere, Christine Walsh danced as La Sylphide, David Ashmole as James, Kathleen Reid as Effie, and Steven Heathcote as Gurn. Paul de Masson performed as the witch Madge, with Laurel Martyn as James' Mother. Bruhn himself performed as Madge in one acclaimed performance. The 1989 revival of the work was dedicated to his memory, following his premature death within months of the 1985 season. On opening night in 1989, Christine Walsh again danced the title role, partnered by Steven Heathcote, with Justine Miles as Effie, and Adam Marchant as Gurn. Colin Peasley took the role of the witch Madge, and Laurel Martyn again appeared as James' Mother. The work also featured in the 1996 Australian Ballet season, with the program including an article by Blazenka Brysha in which Maina Gielgud, Lisa Bolte, and Adam Marchant discuss their appreciation of Bournonville's work. A distinctive body carriage, buoyant elevation, lightness and strong use of mime are noted as valued characteristics of the Bournonville style, with Gielgud likening the importance of its preservation to the possession by national galleries of works by great masters. La Sylphide most recently featured in the Australian Ballet's 2005 commemorative program for Bournonville's 200th anniversary. For this staging, Lisa Bolte, who retired from full-time performing in 2002, returned to the company as guest artist to dance the role of the Sylphide, partnered by Robert Curran.
In creating La Sylphide, Bournonville used the Adolph Nourrit libretto that had underpinned Filippo Taglioni's earlier version of this ballet, with music by Jean Schneitzhoeffer, which had premiered in Paris in 1832. Taglioni's La Sylphide is often hailed as a landmark work which heralded the Romantic era. There are, however, indications that the frequently attributed innovations in costume and style were developments of pre-existing elements. While, for example, Eugene Lami is generally credited with introducing the Romantic tutu in his designs for this work, similar costumes existed well before the first production of La Sylphide, the original costume designs for which have in fact disappeared. Similarly, while Marie Taglioni's performance on pointe throughout thrilled audiences, dance on pointe was not, as such, an innovation.
Taglioni's La Sylphide is also significant in Australian dance history, being the first ballet of the international repertoire to be staged in this country. Renamed The Mountain Sylph, the ballet was staged at the Queen's Theatre, Melbourne, on 25 September 1845 by George Coppins' Launceston-based 'company'. Charles Young was responsible for the reproduction, and danced the role of James with his wife, Elizabeth, as La Sylphide. Taglioni's La Sylphide continued to be staged in Australia during the 1850s and 60s, both by international touring artists and by local 'companies'. It has not been performed in Australia since, despite Joyce Graeme's plan to stage it for the National Theatre Ballet in the early 1950s. The work also disappeared from the international stage for many years, however Pierre Lacotte reconstructed it for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1972, and it remains in their repertoire.
Edward H. Pask, Enter the Colonies Dancing. A History of Dance in Australia 1835-1940 (Melbourne: OUP, 1979); Edward H. Pask, Ballet in Australia. The Second Act 1940-1980 (Melbourne: OUP, 1982); Lynn Garafola (ed.), Rethinking the Sylph: New Perspectives on the Romantic Ballet (Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1997).
Graeme Murphy's Late Afternoon of a Faun, with a cast consisting of Garth Welch, dancing as a guest artists with the company, Graeme Murphy, Stephen Page, Janet Vernon, Nina Veretennikova and Victoria Taylor, premiered in Sydney in 1987. The work was designed by Kristian Fredrikson and danced to Debussy's Prelude a l'apres-midi d'une faune.
In program notes Murphy wrote: 'To me the Faun has always represented that spirit which is unbound by conventional morals, discplines or social and political conditionings. The Faun is poetic and instinctive. He is an endangered species - threatened by shrinking Arcadia, expanding social taboos and a distressing belief in his very existence.
Le Beau Danube, a one-act ballet created by Leonide Massine, premiered in Australia in October 1936 during the second program by the first of the de Basil Ballets Russes companies to visit Australia. Its world premiere in Monte Carlo, by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, had taken place three years earlier. The work, with both choreography and libretto by Massine, was a revised revival of a ballet created by Massine in 1924 for Count Etienne de Beaumont's Les Soirees de Paris. The music, by Johann Strauss, was arranged and orchestrated by Roger Desormiere, and set design was by Vladimir Polunine, based on paintings by Constantin Guys. The combination of drama and humour in Le Beau Danube, and its exhilarating choreography, had already made it one of the most popular works in the Ballets Russes repertoire in Europe, and Australian audiences responded with equal enthusiasm.
In the Australian premiere season, the role of the Hussar, originally performed by Massine himself, was danced by Leon Woizikowsky. Helene Kirsova performed as the Street Dancer, a role that had become associated with the dancing of Alexandra Danilova. The First Hand, a demanding role with the thirty-two foutees for which Irina Baronova had become celebrated, was danced by Tamara Tchinarova, and was also performed by the fifteen year old Sonia Woizikowska during the Australian opening season. The role of the Daughter, originally danced by Tatiana Riabouchinska, was performed by the American dancer Mira Dimina (Madeleine Parker) who died tragically during this Australian tour.
During the tour by the Original Ballet Russe in 1939-40, the work was restaged and performed as Le Danube Bleu, without choreographic reference to Massine, and with 'scenes and dances arranged by Serge Lifar'. This version premiered in Sydney on 9 February 1940. Its altered title and lack of choreographic attribution apparently related to a legal dispute over the right of de Basil to produce certain works by Massine, including Le Beau Danube, following the choreographer's departure from de Basil's company.
Le Beau Danube entered the repertoire of the Borovansky Ballet in 1945, with Borovansky delighting audiences by performing the cameo role of the Athlete which had originally been created on him in 1933. Tchinarova's performance as the Street Dancer in this production was also much admired. The work remained in the repertoire of the Borovansky company through to its final 1960 season. Le Beau Danube was the work in which Laurel Martyn and Dorothy Stevenson gave their farewell performances with the company in 1946, and Kathleen Gorham performed as the First Hand following her promotion to the rank of junior ballerina during the 1947 season. In the 1950s, Paul Grinwis and Poul Gnatt were both acclaimed in the role of the Hussar.
Laurel Martyn produced Le Beau Danube for Ballet Victoria in 1969, when it was performed at the Kooyong Stadium, Melbourne, in the 'Ballet for the People' program. In 1978 it was staged from Labanotation by Ray Cook for the Queensland Ballet.
Footage, filmed by Ewan Murray-Will, of Helene Kirsova performing with the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet as the Street Dancer in Le Beau Danube is available online at the australianscreen site 'Monte Carlo Russian Ballet. Original Ballet Russe Clip 1: Hélène Kirsova on stage'
Michel Fokine's ballet Le Carnaval was first seen in Australia in 1934 when it was presented by the touring Dandre-Levitoff Russian Ballet. The production opened on 13 October in Brisbane with Olga Spessivtseva as Columbine and Anatole Vilzak as Harlequin. Carnaval also featured in all three tours to Australia by the Ballets Russes companies. During the first tour by the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet from 1936 to 1937 Helene Kirsova and Igor Youskevitch scored major personal successes as Columbine and Harlequin. Fokine came to Australia to supervise the staging of the work during the second of the tours, that of the Covent Garden Russian Ballet between 1938 and 1939, when Tatiana Riabouchinska and Yura Lazovsky led the cast.
The first production by an Australian company took place in Sydney in 1937 when Moya Beaver and Gordon Hamilton appeared as Columbine and Harlequin with the First Australian Ballet. It was first danced by the Borovansky Ballet in 1945 with Laurel Martyn as Columbine, Edouard Sobishevsky as Harlequin and Edouard Borovansky as Pierrot, a role which Borovansky had also performed in Australia with the Covent Garden Russian Ballet. Martyn later produced the work over many seasons for her Ballet Guild and it was first staged by the Australian Ballet in 1964 when Elaine Fifield danced Columbine, Karl Welander Harlequin and Alan Alder Pierrot. It was revived for the flagship company in 1991 as part of the company's 'Tribute to Diaghilev' program.
Le Carnaval was created by Fokine on members of St Petersburg's Imperial Ballet for a charity ball for the magazine Satyricon. The first performance was held at the Pavlova Hall in St Petersburg on 5 March 1910. The cast was led by Tamara Karsarvina as Columbine and Leonid Leontiev as Harlequin.
Le Conservatoire (Konservatoriet) was first presented by the Royal Danish Ballet at the Royal Theatre Copenhagen on 6 May 1849. In creating this work, August Bournonville drew on his formative experiences as a ballet student of Auguste Vestris at the Paris Conservatoire during the 1820s. Set to music by Holger Simon Paulli, Le Conservatoire was originally a strongly narrative piece in two acts, its light-hearted plot reflected in the alternative title 'A Marriage by Advertisement'. The second act disappeared in 1934, and although it was reconstructed in 1995, the practice of presenting the first act excerpt 'The Dancing School' as an independent work has been an enduring feature of the performance history of Le Conservatoire. 'The Dancing School' is essentially a presentation piece, displaying both the Bournonville style and an insight into its important formative influence, the French classical method of the early nineteenth century. The charm of the nineteenth-century ballet studio, familiar to modern audiences through the art of Edgar Degas, sets the scene for Bournonville's graceful choreography, with its distinctive buoyancy, intricacy, and use of epaulement.
The Australian Ballet holds the honour of being the first company outside Scandinavia to receive permission to perform Le Conservatoire. This occurred in 1965, when Poul Gnatt staged the work for the company. In his reproduction, Gnatt followed a tradition of integrating additional pieces from the Bournonville canon into the work. He added an introduction and three dances taken from Bournonville classes, set to excerpts of Kuhlau's score to Elf Hill. The opening cast featured Elaine Fifield as Miss Eliza, Barbara Chambers as Miss Victoria, Bryan Lawrence as Mr Alexis and Barry Kitcher as the Musician. Gnatt himself took the role of the Ballet Master. Decor and costumes were by Desmond Digby.
Le Conservatoire was part of the repertoire for the Australian Ballet's first overseas tour in 1965. This tour included the Baalbak International Festival and the Commonwealth Arts Festival, during which Le Conservatoire was performed at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, where Elaine Fifield, Barbara Chambers and Barry Kitcher were joined by Douglas Gilchrist as the Ballet Master and Karl Welander as Mr Alexis.
The work was revived for the flagship company's twenty-first anniversary season in 1983 and an excerpt, the pas de trois between Miss Eliza, Miss Victoria and Mr Alexis, was performed during the 2005 season as part of the commemoration of Bournonville's 200th anniversary.
The ballet Le Coq d'or (The Golden Cockerel) was originally staged in 1914 by Michel Fokine for Serge Diaghilev's Ballet Russe. This work was an opera-ballet, a danced interpretation of the Rimsky-Korsakov epic opera of the same name, with the dancers accompanied by a chorus and solo singers. In 1937, Fokine revised the work for the Ballet Russe company of Colonel W de Basil, creating a single-act ballet in three scenes which premiered at Covent Garden on 23 September 1937. For this straight-dance version, the Rimsky-Korsakov score was adapted and arranged by Nicolas Tcherepnin, and Fokine condensed the original opera libretto, which Vladimir Bielsky had adapted from a Pushkin poem. Natalia Gontcharova based her neo-primitive set and costume designs on those she had made for the 1914 version, recreating the original curtain and modifying other elements to produce a brilliantly colourful tableau. Her costume for the Cockerel, using real gold thread, was introduced in the 1937 production, the 1914 version having used a prop to represent this character.
The story of Le Coq d'or concerns the fate of the lazy King Dodon when he renegs on his promise to reward an astrologer with anything he desires in exchange for the gift of a magical golden cockerel. Dodon is seduced by the beautiful Queen of Shemakhan, against whom he has been waging war, and brings her home as his bride. When the astrologer claims the Queen as his reward, the King kills him in a fit of rage and is, in turn, killed by the cockerel. Despite the surface naivety and humour, the story has strong undercurrents of both sensuality and satire. There is an emphasis in the 1937 version on the contrast between fantasy and reality, with the Astrologer reminding the audience at the end that, apart from himself and the Queen, all was illusion. The Golden Cockerel and the Queen are the only roles danced on pointe. Both are technically demanding, and provide strong balletic highlights amid the mime and burlesque elements.
Early in 1938, the right of de Basil to stage particular works including, notably, Le Coq d'or, was the subject of a legal challenge by the Ballets de Monte Carlo, the company that had been founded by Rene Blum following his split with de Basil in 1935. The title 'Covent Garden Russian Ballet, presented by Educational Ballets Ltd', used by the de Basil company which brought the work to Australia later that year, reflected the need for de Basil to legally distance himself from the management of a company performing these works. The inaugural Australian performance took place on 17 October 1938. Australian audiences saw a significant number of the original 1937 cast including Tatiana Riabouchinska as the Golden Cockerel, Irina Baronova as the Queen, Algeranoff as the Astrologer, Serge Ismailoff as Prince Aphron and Edouard Borovansky as Polkan. Riabouchinska and Baronova were both particularly renowned in these roles, Riabouchinska for her virtuosity, and Baronova for the characterisation that overlay her technical mastery. Le Coq d'or also featured in the 1939/40 tour by de Basil's Original Ballet Russe, again offering audiences the opportunity to view a number of dancers in their original roles. Serge Grigoriev, who had created the role of Guidone in the original 1914 version, accompanied both tours as regisseur-general.In 1955, Le Coq d'or was staged by Valrene Tweedie for the National Theatre Ballet. For this production, Gayrie MacSween and Janet Keyte alternated in the title role, with William Carse as the Astrologer and Tweedie herself as the Queen.
David Lichine's Le pavillon premiered at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on August 11, 1936, performed by the de Basil Ballets Russes. Lichine choreographed this ballet to an arrangement by Antal Dorati of piano pieces by Alexander Borodin, and Cecil Beaton was responsible for conceiving the design. The simple libretto, a slight story about a poet, a young girl and the spirits of the garden, was by Boris Kochno, whose guidance was an important influence on Lichine at this early stage of his choreographic career. The opening night cast featured Lichine himself as the Poet, Tatiana Riabouchinska as the Chief Spirit, and, somewhat unexpectedly, Irina Baronova as the Young Lady - Alexandra Danilova also having been rehearsed in this role.
Le pavillon was performed in Australia by the Original Ballet Russe, opening at His Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne, on May 20, 1940, with Tatiana Stepanova as the Young Lady, Tatiana Leskova as the Chief Spirit and Roman Jasinsky as the Poet. For the Australian staging, scenery was by Nicolas Benois and costumes executed by B. Karinska. The Australian performances also saw Tamara Toumanova dancing as the Young Lady, and marked the last stagings of this work by the company.
Kathrine Sorley Walker, De Basil's Ballets Russes (London: Hutchinson, 1982); Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes: Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo 1932-1952 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990)
With choreography by Michel Fokine, music by Carl Maria von Weber (Invitation to the Dance in an orchestration by Hector Berlioz) and designs by Leon Bakst, Le Spectre de la rose premiered on 19 April 1911 in Monte Carlo by Diaghilev's Ballet Russe. Dancers at the premiere were Vaslav Nijinsky as the Spirit of the Rose and Tamara Karsarvina as the Young Girl. The ballet tells the story of a young woman who returns from a ball and brings home a rose. She falls asleep in a chair and dreams of dancing with the spirit of the rose until the spirit disappears with a spectacular leap through the window and she awakes. This libretto was by Jean-Louis Vaudoyer based on lines from a poem by Theophile Gautier:
Open up your sleeping eyes
that are brushed lightly by a virginal dream
I am the spectre of a rose
you wore last night at a ball.
Australian audiences first saw the Fokine version as part of the very first performance by the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet on its 1936-1937 tour to Australia. It opened on 13 October in Adelaide's Theatre Royal and featured Valentina Blinova and Igor Youskevitch. Spectre was subsequently performed by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet on its 1938-1939 tour to Australia and by the Original Ballet Russe on the tour of 1939-1940. It was given over 120 performances during the three Ballets Russes tours and seen in every Australian city visited by these companies. Prior to these Ballets Russes performances, Anna Pavlova had used the von Weber music in Australia for a ballet she called Invitation to the Dance, which had a storyline about the meeting and parting of two young people at a ball. Louise Lightfoot had also staged a work called Le Spectre de la rose for her First Australian Ballet.
The Ballets Russes performances of Fokine's Le Spectre de la rose were followed in the 1940s by those of the Borovansky company, initially during their first Australian tour in 1944. In 1947, Kathleen Gorham performed as the Young Girl after her promotion to the rank of junior ballerina with this company. The work entered the repertoire of the Ballet Guild in 1953, featuring Laurel Martyn and Raymond Trickett. Australian audiences also saw Ballet Rambert performing Fokine's Spectre during their 1947-9 tour, and, in 1962, Margot Fonteyn performing as the Young Girl while touring with an ensemble of 8 dancers from the Royal Ballet. Fonteyn was personally coached in this role by Karsavina.
The Australian Ballet first performed the work in 2006 as part of the 'Revolutions' triple-bill tribute to Fokine, presented with the support of the research and performance project Ballets Russes in Australia: Our cultural revolution. Irina Baronova advised on this production, which was staged by John Auld. At the premiere in Melbourne on June 23, Matthew Lawrence danced as the Spirit of the Rose, with Rachel Rawlins as the Young Girl.
A contemporary reading of Le Spectre de la rose, conceived as a psycho-sexual drama by Albanian-born choreographer Angelin Preljocaj, was presented in Australia by Preljocaj and his company in 1993 as part of their program Hommage aux Ballets Russes. In this production the von Weber music was interrupted periodically by a contemporary soundscape. Another contemporary piece inspired by Le Spectre de la rose and entitled Rose Spirit was presented by West Australian Ballet in 1999 as part of its season entitled The Source - Tribute to the Ballets Russes. This work was choreographed by Ted Brandsen using von Weber's music. In the program notes, Brandsen describes the original Spectre as 'really a showcase for the male dancer'. In choreographing Rose Spirit, he 'wanted to look at this piece more through today's eyes - to have the male and female parts be equally demanding and to add a touch of humour to the wonderful Weber waltz'.
Les cent baisers or The hundred kisses was first staged in Australia by de Basil's Ballets Russes on 5 December 1936 at Melbourne's His Majesty's Theatre. The premiere provided Australian audiences with their first opportunity to experience the choreography of Bronislava Nijinska, the sister of famed dancer and choreographer Vaslav Nijinsky. Nijinska had built her own reputation creating works such as Les Noces (1923) and Les Biches (1924) for Diaghilev's Ballet Russe.
The production of Les cent baisers was financed by Baron Frederic d'Erlanger, who also composed the score, while set and costumes were designed by Jean Hugo. The libretto by Boris Kochno was based on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale, The Swineherd and the Princess, which tells the story of an arrogant princess who rejects a princely suitor and his humble gifts. Disguised as a swineherd, the prince returns and delights the princess with a magical musical instrument which he trades with her for a hundred kisses. The story ends unhappily with the princess scorned by both her father and the disillusioned prince.
Les cent baisers was first seen on 18 July 1935 at Covent Garden in London, featuring Irina Baronova as the Princess and David Lichine as the Prince. The work was Nijinska's only choreography for de Basil's Ballets Russes and was considered one of her most classical compositions, with strong links to academic technique. Both Nijinska's choreography and perfectionism placed exceptional demands on the dancers but the experience was felt to be artistically and technically rewarding, particularly impacting on the development of the 16 year-old Baronova.
In the first Australian performances Nina Youchkevitch and Tamara Tchinarova alternated in the role of the Princess alongside Igor Youskevitch as the Prince. The work received glowing reviews in the press:
'In Les cent baisers [Nijinska] is seen using all the conventional movements of the Russian tradition ... the point of her accomplishment lies in the wit and the eloquence with which she illustrates a fanciful plot ... scenery, costume, music and dancing combined perfectly to achieve an air of glowing, fantastic elegance.'
The Covent Garden Russian Ballet staged Les cent baisers on their 1938-39 Australian tour, with Paul Petroff appearing as the Prince and Irina Baronova reprising her original role as the Princess. The Argus acclaimed the work, pronouncing it to be 'one ballet as near perfect as anyone could wish.'
'Dance flows into dance naturally and inevitably. The conventional exercises of the corps de ballet have been replaced by a complex but expertly woven series of patterns which repeat and develop the line of the solo dances ... we have not previously seen the princess danced with the technical brilliance and subtle wit given to the part by Baronova. Petroff's light miming as the prince has the same polish'.
Alexandra Denisova appeared as the Princess later in the tour and alternated in the role with Tamara Toumanova on the 1939-40 tour to Australia by de Basil's Original Ballet Russe. Les cent baisers received its final performances during the company's 1940-41 tour of the United States.
Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes: Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo 1932-1952 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990) ; 'The Ballet : Les Cents Baisers, L'Amour Sorcier', The Sydney Morning Herald, 1 February 1937, p. 3 ; 'Polished work: new ballet', The Argus, 8 November 1938, p. 2
David Lichine's Les Dieux mendiants (The gods go a-begging) premiered at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on September 17, 1937. Based on a pastorale by Boris Kochno (under the pseudonym Sobeka), the work was set to an arrangement by Sir Thomas Beecham of music by Handel, with costume and scenery design by Juan Gris.
An earlier Les Dieux mendiants had been choreographed in 1928 by George Balanchine for the Diaghilev Ballets Russes. Lichine's work, created for the de Basil company, reused the 1928 libretto, music and design. The costumes were those Gris had created for Les Tanatations de la bergere, with new designs for the gods, and the scenery was based on Bakst's designs for Daphnis and Chloe. While Lichine's choreography did not mirror Balanchine's, it did retain certain elements, with Alexandra Danilova dancing the role of the Serving Maid in both premieres.
Les Dieux mendiants was performed in Australia by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet and the Original Ballet Russe during their tours of 1938-9 and 1939-40. Its premiere at His Majesty's Melbourne on October 6, 1938, was the first opportunity to view Lichine's choreography in this country and featured Tatiana Riabouchinska and Yurek Shabelevesky in the lead roles of the Divinities - the Serving Maid and the Shepherd. The Argus review of the premiere described the work as a 'rococo vision of lords and ladies dancing on the greensward in elegant costumes', deeming it 'a very slight confection with some strikingly effective dances'. While the choreography was considered 'thin' and the 'climax perfuctory', Riabouchinska was praised for her 'lyrical qualities' and Shabelevsky for his 'virile grace' in 'the part Lichine obviously designed for himself'.
In 1966, Robin Grove also staged a version of The Gods Go A-Begging to the Handel-Beecham score for the Victorian Ballet Company.
Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes: Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo 1932-1952 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990); 'Brilliant Dancing: Ballet season', The Argus, 7 October 1938, p. 2.
Les femmes de bonne humeur (The Good-Humoured Ladies) was choreographed by twenty-one year old Leonide Massine for the Diaghilev Ballets Russes in 1917. Music by Domenico Scarlatti was arranged and orchestrated for the ballet by Vincenzo Tommasini, who was also responsible for the libretto based on Carlo Goldoni's Le Donne di Buon Umore. Design was by Leon Bakst. The choreography of this ballet was in keeping with the commedia dell'arte style of Goldini's drama, displaying stylish wit in its use of idiosyncratic movement and gesture to create strongly individual characterisation. Janet Sinclair credits Les femmes de bonne humeur with introducing 'an entirely new strand into the choreographic fabric of the twentieth century: a strand which was developed not only in the creation of many more works by Massine himself (Le Tricorne, La Boutique fantasque, Pulcinella, Les Matelots, Le Beau Danube, Gaite parisienne, Mam'zelle Angot, etc), but also in a whole series of ballets in the same genre by other choreographers, of which perhaps the most successful have been Lichine's Graduation Ball, Cranko's Pineapple Poll, and more recently David Bintley's Hobson's Choice'. The original cast included Lydia Lopokova, Lubov Tchernicheva, Enrico Cecchetti and his wife Guiseppina, Stanislas Idzikowski, Leon Woizikowsky, Sigmund Novak and Massine himself.
The work was restaged by Massine for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo, and was performed in Australia by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet and the Original Ballet Russe during their tours of 1938-39 and 1939-40.. The Australian premiere took place on October 13, 1938, featuring Tamara Grigorieva in Thernicheva's original role as Constanza and Irina Baronova as Mariuccia, the role originally performed by Lopokova.
Les femmes de bonne humeur has been restaged by a number of companies since the Ballets Russes performances, most notably by the Royal Ballet in 1962.
Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes: Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo 1932-1952 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990); Janet Sinclair, 'Les Femmes de bonne humeur', in Martha Bremser (ed.),International Dictionary of Ballet Vol 1, pp 305-307 (Detroit: St James Press)
Les Presages, the first of Leonide Massine's symphonic ballets, was given its inaugural performance in Australia by the visiting Monte Carlo Russian Ballet on 23 October 1936 in Adelaide. Danced to Tchaikovsky's Fifth Symphony and designed by Andre Masson, it was one of the most popular and enduring works during the three tours by the Ballets Russes companies, receiving over 100 performances between 1936 and 1940. The 1936 opening night cast consisted of Leon Woizikowski as Fate, Nina Youchkevitch as Action, Valentina Blinova and Valentin Froman as Passion and Mira Dimina as Frivolity. At various times between 1936 and 1940 the leading roles were taken by Nina Verchinina and Tamara Tchinarova (Action), Irina Baronova and David Lichine (Passion) and Tatiana Riabouchinska (Frivolity).
In 1955 Yurek Shabelevsky choreographed a work entitled Fifth Symphony: Les Presages for the Borovansky Ballet. Some sources suggest that this work, which premiered in Melbourne on 22 July 1955, was 'little more than a carbon copy' of the Massine work and in fact Massine is reputed to have sued Shabelevsky and Borovansky for non-payment of royalities. Program notes for the Borovansky production, which was designed by William Constable, read: 'Shabelewski's choreographic interpretation is based on the composer's own initial idea and notes. As the latest addition to the Borovansky Ballet repertoire, it is an entirely new production wholly created by Shabelewski for the Australian theatre'. The press, however, referred to it as a 'revival'. Opening night leads were Jocelyn Vollmar as Action, Kathleen Gorham and Royes Fernandez as Passion, Eve King as Volatility (as the role of Frivolity was named in this production) and Paul Grinwis as Fate.
Les Presages received its world premiere in Monte Carlo on 13 April 1933 when the cast was led by Nina Verchinina as Action, Irina Baronova and David Lichine as Passion, Tatiana Riabouchinska as Frivolity and Leon Woizikowsky as Fate. It was revived in 1989 for the Paris Opera Ballet by Tatiana Leskova, who came to Australia to stage the Australian Ballet premiere of the work in 2007. This production was a feature of the 'Destiny' programme which, reflecting the company's involvement in the project Ballets Russes in Australia: Our cultural revolution, was presented as a tribute to Massine. On opening night, August 30, the role of Action was performed by Danielle Rowe, Passion by Olivia Bell and Adam Bull, Frivolity by Lucinda Dunn and Destiny by Damien Welch. This production was then performed by the company in London during its 2008 international tour.
Mark Carroll, ''Let's Stage a Fight!': Massine's symphonic ballets in Australia', Brolga 26 (June 2007), pp. 15-26.
Footage of the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet performing Les Presages, filmed by Ewan Murray-Will, is available on line at the australianscreen site 'Monte Carlo Russian Ballet. Original Ballet Russe Clip 2: Les Presages'.
Chopiniana, which eventually became Les Sylphides, was first staged at a charity matinee in St Petersburg on 10 Feburary 1907. Choreographed by Michel Fokine to Glazunov's orchestration of piano pieces by Chopin, it was a suite of individual tableaux representing national dances. It opened with a Polonaise in court costumes and was followed by a Polish Mazurka, a Nocturne and a Waltz in classical tutus. It concluded with a Tarantella. Fokine reshaped the work for two years prior to its 1909 staging as Les Sylphides for Serge Diaghilev's Ballet Russe at the Chatelet Theatre in Paris. The work continued to evolve, but retained its essence as a one-act ballet evoking the Romantic spirit of the sylph in an abstract work described by dance historian John Gregory as 'a visual meditation on beauty - a reverie of the soul'.
Australian audiences first saw Les Sylphides in 1913 when it was performed in Melbourne by dancers of the visiting Imperial Russian Ballet led by Alexander Volinine and Adeline Genee. Volinine reproduced the choreography from the 1909 version. International companies have continued to present the work to Australian audiences over the years. In 1926 and 1929 Anna Pavlova's company staged Chopiniana, arranged by Ivan Clustine and led by Pavlova and Laurent Novikoff in 1926 and by Pavlova and Pierre Vladimiroff in 1929. The work was performed during the Dandre-Levitoff Russian Ballet tour of 1934-35, and was featured by the three Ballets Russes companies that toured Australia during the late 1930s, following its inclusion in the premiere performance by the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet in Adelaide on 13 October 1936. It was staged by Ballet Rambert during its 1947-48 tour, and by the Royal Ballet on its first Australian tour in 1958. Both the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballets have included Chopaniana in their Australian tour repertoires. The version presented by the Kirov company during its 1973 tour reintroduced elements of Fokine's 1908 version, and was hailed as a particularly fine production.
Les Sylphides is also familiar to Australian audiences through its inclusion in the repertoire of Australian classical companies, as well as through numerous stagings by semi-professional and amateur organisations. The First Australian Ballet was performing the work early in the 1930s, and it was presented by both the Kirsova and Borovansky companies in the early 1940s. In 1947 it appeared in programs of the Ballet Guild, remaining in the repertoire of that company through to its Ballet Victoria performances in the 1970s. The work was also performed by the National Theatre Ballet in the early 1950s, and by the Queensland Ballet in the late 1960s.
The Borovansky Ballet continued to perform Les Sylphides throughout the life of the company, foreshadowing its inclusion in the inaugural repertoire of the Australian Ballet. It was first performed by the flagship company in its second program, on 16 November 1962, with Marilyn Jones, Caj Selling, Leonie Leahy and Rosemary Mildner in lead roles. A number of international artists featured in the Australian Ballet's early performances of the work: Sonia Arova and Erik Bruhn in 1962, Tatiana Zimina and Nikita Dolgushin in 1963, and Lupe Serrano and Royes Fernandez in 1964. Les Sylphides was next performed by the company in 1976, when it was staged by Dame Alicia Markova, whose reproduction was also included in the 1979 season. In 1986, it was reproduced for the company by Irina Baronova, who, with Anna Volkova and Valrene Tweedie, was again involved in the most recent staging by the Australian Ballet. This opened in 2006 as part of the triple-bill tribute to Fokine entitled 'Revolutions', presented with the support of the four-year research and performance project Ballets Russes in Australia: Our cultural revolution. On opening night Lucinda Dunn, Olivia Bell, Damien Welch and Kirsty Martin featured in the lead roles. Les Sylphides is also in the repertoire of the Dancers Company.
Luisillo and his Spanish Dance Theatre came to Australia under the banner of the J. C. Williamson organisation on four tours, initially in 1958 and again in 1962, 1967 and 1976. The company toured Australia extensively on each of these occasions.
The company's first Australian tour began at the Theatre Royal, Adelaide, on 30 January 1958 with subsequent shows in Sydney, Brisbane, Newcastle, and Melbourne. The company then toured to Christchurch, New Zealand, before returning to Australia for further performances in Adelaide, Melbourne, Geelong, Ballarat, Brisbane and Sydney. The 1958 Australian tour included performances of Sinfonia Sevillana, Gitanos de la Alpujarra, Polo, El Ciego, Ronda Huertana, Pregones Madrilenos, Nocturno Flamenco, Sonatas, Gigantes y Cabezudos, and Café Flamenco. All works on the program had choreography, lighting and artistic direction attributed to Luisillo.
Dancers who appeared in the first tour included Mercedes Ramos billed as the 'star ballerina', Maria Vivo a principal dancer and singer, Teresa Amaya a 'gypsy dancer', Carmen Aracena, Marino Morijo, Fina Vivo, Jose Altamira, Hernando Monroy, Flor Arauz, Manolo Robles, Antonia Mena, Enrique Cagigal, Pablo Canas, Serafin de Andres a dancer and flamenco guitarist, Francisco-Melendez, and Alicia Fernandez.
The company's second Australian tour of 1962, which saw them occasionally billed as Luisillo y su Teatro de Danza Espanola, included performances in Adelaide, Melbourne, Sydney, a second Melbourne season, Newcastle, before finishing with a second Sydney season. The company travelled on to perform in Wellington, New Zealand. The company performed two programs of works, the first included Sanclucar de Barrameda, Sierra Bermeja, Romance Cordobes, Rias Baixas, Homenaje a la Seguiriya, and Gigantes y Cabezudos. The second program included Sinfonia Sevillana, Trigales de Trebujena, Polo, El Ciego, Ronda Huertana, Pregones Madrilenos, Gran Fandango, and Venta de los Pinares.
In 1967 Luisillo and his Spanish Dance Company retuned to Australia, brought by J. C. Williamson Ltd. and Edgley and Dawe. The company's tour, billed as Festival of Spain, included performances in Bundaberg, Rockhamton, Mackay, Innisfail, Cairns and Townsville, as well as Adelaide, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra. The program for the company included performances of Capricho Espanol, Tu y Yo, Bolero, Fantasia Gallega and Flamenco del Rocio.
The fourth Australian tour in 1976 saw the company perform a series of works, including Evocacion, Nocturno, Requium Para un Terero, Gigantes y Cabezudos, Coreortimos, and Flamenco.
The world premiere of Igor Schwezoff's ballet La Lutte eternelle, or The Eternal Struggle, was staged in Sydney at the Theatre Royal on 29 July 1940, during the third Australian tour of the Ballets Russes.
Having left Soviet Russia in the late 1920s, Schwezoff travelled widely, briefly running ballet schools in Amsterdam and London. He joined de Basil's Ballets Russes in 1939 as a soloist and worked with the company for two years. Lutte eternelle was the first of his works to be danced by the de Basil company. This one act ballet was a revision of an earlier work by Schwezoff that was originally staged in Amsterdam by the performing group from his ballet school. Both the earlier production and Lutte eternelle were well received by both critics and the public alike.
Lutte eternelle was described by critics as being 'symphonic in character'. Influenced by Massine's Les Presages and Symphonie fantastique, Schwezoff's ballet illustrated his originality and flair. One critic went so far as to call Lutte eternelle 'a work of wholly perfect dancing in which splendid movement is guided by great music'. Schwezoff's choreography was set to Schumann's Etudes symphoniques, orchestrated for the production by the Hungarian conductor Antal Dorati. Lutte eternelle's theme of 'man's progress towards an ideal beyond worldly things' was explored through allegory: key roles in the ballet included Truth, Illusion, Beauty and Will.
Kathleen and Florence Martin, sisters from Melbourne, designed the scenery and costumes for Lutte eternelle. The sisters' work on the production was praised by the press as being a 'first-class success' which carried through the symbolism of Schwezoff's choreography. The costumes were executed by Olga Larose, the company's wardrobe mistress, and the scenery by G. Upward.
The Australian staging of Lutte eternelle featured Georges Skibine in the role of Man, while Nina Verchinina, whose own work, Etude, also debuted during the third tour, performed the part of Woman. Tamara Toumanova danced the role of Illusion with Sono Osato featuring as Beauty, Marina Svetlova as Truth, and Borislav Runanine as Will.
Bibliography:Kathrine Sorley Walker, De Basil's Ballets Russes (London: Hutchinson, 1982); Michelle Potter, 'Igor Schwezoff: the Australian interlude, 1939-1940' from the website 'Michelle Potter on dancing'.
Stanton Welch's Madame Butterfly received its world premiere performance in Melbourne at the State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, on 24 February 1995. Commisioned by the Australian Ballet, the opening night cast featured Vicki Attard as Madame Butterfly, Miranda Coney as Suzuki, Steven Heathcote as Lieutenant Pinkerton, Justine Summers as Kate, and Adam Marchant as Sharpless. The work was danced to Puccini's music arranged for the ballet by John Lanchbery. Designs were by Peter Farmer and the work was lit by William Akers.
Since its premiere Madame Butterfly has been restaged on several occasions by the Australian Ballet. It is also in the repertoire of many companies around the world including Atlanta Ballet, Boston Ballet, Houston Ballet, National Ballet of Canada, Royal New Zealand Ballet and Singapore Dance Theatre.
The choreographer's program notes for the world premiere season stated: 'I have tried to follow closely the opera's storyline, changing only what I thought necessary to achieve the same dramatic effect through movement ... I would like to dedicate this ballet to Maina Gielgud through whose determination and encouragement I was lucky enough to have this opportunity. I would also like to thank ... my father for the passion that burns in my soul'.
Kenneth MacMillan's Manon, a ballet based on Abbe Prevost's novel Manon Lescaut and set to the music of Jules Massenet, was created in 1974 when MacMillan was artistic director of the Royal Ballet. It was first performed by the Australian Ballet in 1994, staged by Monica Parker and Patricia Ruanne, with design by Peter Farmer and lighting by William Akers.
Set in eighteenth-century French society, Manon is a large-scale dramatic and emotional work, a tale of romance and betrayal that explores the conflicting forces of money and love on the central character, Manon. Her fall from Parisian courtesan, through deportation to America, to her final tragic end in the swamps of Louisiana is expressed through MacMillan's distinctive choreographic style, with trademark pas de deux sequences a particular feature. The arrangement of music by Leighton Lucas is taken from Massenet's songs, piano pieces and arias, although none is from his opera Manon.
For the Australian premiere, February 25, 1994 at the State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, Lisa Pavane danced the title role, with Greg Horsman as her lover Des Grieux, Steven Heathcote as her brother Lescaut and Sian Stokes as his mistress. During the ensuing Sydney season, Alessandra Ferri appeared as guest artist in the title role. In 2001 four performances of Manon were presented in association with the Melbourne festival and featured guest artists Sylvie Guillem and Laurent Hilaire dancing with the Australian Ballet. Manon has remained in the repertoire of the flagship company and featured Kirsty Martin as Manon and Robert Curran as Des Grieux in the opening performance of the 2008 season, with Steven Heathcote and Sian Stokes appearing as guest artists in the roles of Monsieur GM and Madame.
Adapted from a radio play by Margaret Murray, Mathinna, was choreographed by Laurel Martyn for the Ballet Guild. The production was set to a commissioned score by Esther Rofe, with scenery and costumes designed by Nina Brabant.
The program included the following historical note:
In 1843 Sir John Franklin, Governor of Van Dieman's Land, was recalled to England as a result of intrigue. The news of the recall was published in the Hobart Town Press before Sir John received his despatch, and it became public knowledge at a ball given by the Franklins at Government House. Sir John and Lady Franklin's progressive ideas were resented by certain sections of the community, especially the adoption by Lady Franklin of a little aboriginal girl, Mathinna. Mathinna was brought up as the Governor's daughter and became as charming and accomplished as her white contemporaries. On medical advice Mathinna did not travel to England with her benefactors, but was placed in a home for orphan girls. At twenty-one she was sent to live in the aboriginal reserve. Neither the whites nor the blacks would accept her, and her eventual degradation with the aid of rum was inevitable. One morning timber-getters found her body in a bushland creek.
The ballet was structured in two scenes:
Scene 1: The ballroom at Government House, Hobart Town. It is Mathinna's first ball, and the ball at which news of the Franklin's recall becomes known.
Scene 2: The ballroom as it appears to Mathinna when her world has crumbled. Deprived of the protection of the Franklins, life becomes very different for Mathinna. Only with the help of rum can she imagine she is still the Governor's daughter. Eventually even rum becomes her enemy, and she decides to end her misery.
In the 1956 season, the role of Mathinna was danced by Margaret Grey, with Josie Seymour as the Head Assigned Servant, Harry Leitch as Sir John Frankin, and Laurel Martyn and Valma Payne alternating as Lady Franklin. When performed in the presence of Margot Fonteyn and her associates from the Royal Ballet on June 20, 1957, Nina Brabant danced as Mathinna, Valma Payne as Lady Franklin and Jack Manuel as Sir John, with Josie Seymour remaining the Head Servant.
Stephen Pages's Mathinna, choreographed for Bangarra Dance Theatre in 2008, was also based on the historical story of the Franklins and their adopted daughter, taking further inspiration from the 1842 portrait of Mathinna by Thomas Bock. Set to music by David Page, this production premiered in Melbourne on May 16, 2008, with Elma Kris performing the title role. This production won 2009 Helpmann awards for Best Ballet or Dance Work and for Best Original Score.
Melbourne Cup was commissioned for the inaugural season of the Australian Ballet. It premiered in Sydney on 16 November 1962. Its choreography was by Rex Reid who, with Geoffrey Ingram, also created a libretto centring on the running of the first Melbourne Cup, which was won by Archer in 1860. With designs by Ann Church Melbourne Cup was danced to a collage of nineteenth-century music arranged by Harold Badger. The opening night cast featured Kathleen Gorham as Archer, Karl Welander as Archer's Jockey, Leonie Leahy as the Debutante and Garth Welch as the Jackeroo.
The company led by American modern dance pioneer Merce Cunningham first toured Australia in March 1976 under the name Merce Cunningham and Dance Company. The tour began in Sydney, continued on to Adelaide, where the company performed as part of the Adelaide Festival of Arts, and concluded in Canberra. The repertoire for each city was drawn from the following works: Rebus, Rune, Signals, Solo, Sounddance, Squaregame, which received its world premiere in Adelaide, Summerspace, Torse, T.V Rerun and Winterbranch.
The company came to Australia again in 2001 under its current name, Merce Cunningham Dance Company (MCDC). On this occasion MCDC performed only in Perth as part of the Perth International Arts Festival. The program for each evening was drawn from the following works: BIPED, Event, Interscape, Pond Way, RainForest and Summerspace. In addition the company performed at a special outdoor event at North Cottesloe beach. During this tour Merce Cunningham received an honorary degree from Edith Cowan University for outstanding international achievements in dance.
In 2007, the Melbourne International Arts Festival featured a Merce Cunningham Residency. MCDC performed in two programs during the Festival, Program A consisting of Suite for Five, eyeSpace and BIPED, and Program B of Views on Stage and Split Sides. The Festival also featured a new site specific MCDC Event created at Federation Square on October 21, two Music Committee concerts, films and visual arts installations. Lee Christofis, Curator of Dance at the National Libary of Australia and David Vaughan, MCDC archivist, conducted an onstage interview with Cunningham, discussing his life, influences and work.
Morris Dancing is basically a brisk, lively and often boisterous form of English folk dancing. The exact origins of the dance are lost in the depths of time but it is clear that Morris dances have been performed as annual rituals by costumed dancers in England for many centuries.
The term 'morris' today covers a whole range of styles of dancing, as well as having connections with other art forms such as mumming (a form of theatre). Its survival into the twentieth century and beyond is largely the result of the collecting of folklorist Cecil Sharp, who recorded morris and sword dances still being danced in the early 1900s and possibly saved them from extinction in the process.
The best-known form of morris dancing derives from the villages of the Cotswolds in England, and is danced mainly by groups of six men in formation, in costumes consisting of white clothing with crossed baldricks (strips of cloths over the shoulders and joined at the hips) in the colours of the 'side' and sporting their emblem on the chest, hats covered in flowers, bell pads attached to the calves and brandishing either handkerchiefs or sticks. Women's groups commonly follow the North West tradition, with colourful costumes usually including wooden clogs and bearing shortened sticks and/or garlands (open-ended hoops covered in cloth or flowers). A third type of morris is border morris, featuring costumes made of tatters (strips of cloth sewn onto an undershirt) and blackened faces and dances using mostly sticks.
Given the origins of Australia's first white populations there must have been dancers of morris amongst early immigrants and convicts in Australia, and at least one legend of a convict being flogged for dancing on a Sunday is still in circulation today. Rowan Webb recalls evidence provided by Shirley Andrews of a morris side (mixed gender) operating in Beaumaris, Melbourne, around 1938. However it was not until the folk revival of the 1970s that a vibrant morris tradition in Australia began to emerge, including all three styles and the related arts (mummers plays and sword and rapper dance).
Warren Fahey has compiled anecdotal evidence of these early beginnings. Some dances were performed by individuals as part of a mummers play on the streets of Melbourne in 1973. Contenders for the first complete and performing side are Perth Morris Men and Plenty Morris in Melbourne in early 1974. Two women's sides appeared in 1978: Fair Maids of Perth (North West) and Maids of the Mill (Cotswold) in Sydney. In Australia the traditional gender division of Cotswold dances being performed only by men has been challenged by many sides, with Plenty Morris the first mixed group. At least one North West side, Brandragon, has included men.
In the 1970s Australian morris sides for the most part adopted the structure and types of activities of their UK counterparts, with officeholders consisting of a squire, bagman (treasurer) and annual meetings called 'ales' were held, at which official business along with eating, drinking, dancing and entertainment were on the agenda. A culture of fun, profanity and drinking predominated, which in some situations extended into competition, particularly at large gatherings of different sides, for example at festivals.
The 1990s and early 2000s have seen the waning of many longstanding sides, with older members leaving and few being replaced by younger dancers. New groups spring up occasionally however and the National Folk Festival features a healthy number each year to showcase the various styles of morris that are still danced throughout Australia.
Keith Chandler, Ribbons, Bells and Squeaking Fiddles: Social History of Morris Dancing in the English South Midlands (Enfield Lock: Hisarlik Press, 1993). Available on CD-ROM from Country Dance and Song Society Sales Catalog, English Dance Catalog.
This article was originally uploaded onto the Australia Dancing 'Take Part' website by Dr Michelle Potter on June 20, 2006 with page editors: Alexander Johannesen, Donna Vaughan, Dr Bill Parker, Michele Huston, Michelle Potter and Paul Livingston.
My Name is Edward Kelly premiered at the Sydney Opera House on 4 May 1990. A commissioned work with choreography by Timothy Gordon, designs by Kenneth Rowell and lighting by William Akers, My Name is Edward Kelly was danced to Peter Sculthorpe's Port Essington, String Quartet No. 8, Earth Cry.
The work dealt with events in the life of Ned Kelly and his gang. In program notes for the inaugural season, Gordon stated that 'The ballet focuses on Ned and his personal vendetta against the constabulary who he felt had persecuted him and his family from early childhood; his retaliation led to his eventual arrest and trial on 28th October, 1880'. My Name is Edward Kelly featured Marilyn Jones as guest artist in the cameo role of Mrs Kelly, and Steven Heathcote as Ned.
The National Capital DanceSport Championships began as a small regional competition, which was known for the first years of its existence as the National Capital Ballroom Championships. The event has since grown to a major championship event of DanceSport Australia. The championships are open to amateur and professional dancers in Latin American, ballroom and new vogue dance styles.
DanceSport made its Olympic debut at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games. As a competitive event it encompasses the full range of ballroom dancing styles.
New York City Ballet made its first tour to Australia in 1958. Appearing in Sydney and Melbourne the company was brought to Australia by the J. C. Williamson organisation whose advertising asserted:
The visit of the entire New York City Ballet Company, with its principals, soloists and corps de ballet, plus artistic directors, stage and executive staff, is one of the outstanding events in Australian theatre history.
It was the first American classsical ballet company to be seen in Australia. Leading female dancers were Diana Adams, Melissa Hayden, Allegra Kent and Patricia Wilde. The male ranks were led by Jacques d'Amboise, Nicholas Magallanes, Francisco Moncion and Roy Tobias. The company of forty-six dancers brought a repertoire of twenty-six works including Bourree fantasque, Concerto Barocco, Firebird, Four Temperaments, Scotch Symphony, Serenade, Square Dance, Stars and Stripes, Symphony in C and Western Symphony by George Balanchine; Afternoon of a Faun, The Cage, and Interplay by Jerome Robbins; and Souvenirs by Todd Bollender.
New York City Ballet made its second visit to Australia as part of the 1997 Melbourne International Festival of the Arts. The tour by fifty of the company's dancers was part of a Pacific Rim tour, which in turn was part of New York City Ballet's fiftieth anniversary initiative to appear in all fifty of the United States and six continents by the year 2000. The group was led by Helene Alexopoulos, Peter Boal, Albert Evans, Darci Kistler, Philip Neal, Margaret Tracey and Miranda Weese in a repertoire of works by George Balanchine, Peter Martins and Jerome Robbins.
The first production of Nutcracker by an Australian company was staged by Laurel Martyn and Alison Lee for Ballet Guild in 1953. This two-act version designed by Leonard French featured Martyn as both Clara and the Sugar Plum Fairy and Laurence Bishop as the Nutcracker Prince. Prior to the Guild production, the Chinese Dance from the ballet was presented as a divertissement during the tour by Adeline Genee and members of the Imperial Russian Ballet in 1913, and excerpts were also performed by Pavlova during her tours to Australia in 1926 and 1929. Divertissements from Nutcracker were presented as interpolations into Aurora's Wedding by the Ballets Russes companies during their tours of Australia between 1936 and 1940, and Ballet Rambert staged Act II during its Australian tour of 1947-1949.
In 1955 David Lichine was invited to Australia to stage a full-length Nutcracker for the Borovansky Ballet. The world premiere performance took place in Sydney at the Empire Theatre on 6 December 1955. This Borovansky production was designed by Elaine Haxton and the opening night cast included Peggy Sager as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Royes Fernandez as the Nutcracker Prince. The Borovansky Nutcracker was a Christmas favourite in Australia and remained in the repertoire until the Borovansky Ballet folded in 1961. A slightly revised version was produced by Peggy van Praagh for the Australian Ballet's 1962-1963 season when Kathleen Gorham and Marilyn Jones shared the role of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Garth Welch danced the Nutcracker Prince.
In 1982 while the Australian Ballet was under the directorship of Marilyn Rowe, the company staged its first commissioned Nutcracker. This production was choreographed by Leonid Kozlov and Valentina Kozlova, designed by Hugh Oliveiro and lit by Francis Croese. It opened at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne on 8 October and featured Kozlova and Simon Dow in the leading roles.
In 1992 the Australian Ballet commissioned its second Nutcracker. The concept for the new work was created jointly by Graeme Murphy and Kristian Fredrikson. Together they reinterpreted the traditional story giving it an Australian context while retaining enough elements to make it recognisably a version of Nutcracker. With choreography by Murphy, design by Fredrikson, lighting by John Montgomery and film collage by Phillipe Charluet, Nutcracker - the Story of Clara opened at the Opera Theatre of the Sydney Opera House on 12 March 1992. The opening night featured Margaret Scott as Clara the Elder, Miranda Coney as Clara the Ballerina, Kellie-Ann Farrugia as Clara the Child, Steven Heathcote as the Doctor/Beloved Officer and Greg Horsman as the Nutcracker Prince. Later casts included Vicki Attard as Clara the Ballerina, Valrene Tweedie as Clara the Elder and David McAllister as the Doctor/Beloved Officer. The work has been revived twice by the Australian Ballet since its premiere season, once in 1994 when it was filmed, and once in 2000 when Murphy revised it slightly. It was most recently performed in the 2009 season.
The Australian Ballet performed the Australian premiere of British choreographer Peter Wright's Nutcracker in 2007. In 2008, Ivan Cavallari created a new version for the West Australian Ballet. This radical reworking, set to the Tchaikovsky score, harnesses the underlying theme of the transition from childhood to maturity but brings it firmly into the twenty first century, with the new setting embracing cyberspace.
Nuti, choreographed by Meryl Tankard, with visual projections by Regis Lansac and music by Colin Offord, premiered in Canberra at the National Gallery of Australia on 30 March 1990. Performed by members of the Meryl Tankard Company Nuti was presented in conjunction with the Gallery's exhibition Civilization: Ancient Treasures from the British Museum and drew on the Egyptian elements in that exhibition. The work was an exploration of opposite forces - light and dark, life and death, creation and destruction. Tankard later restaged Nuti for her Meryl Tankard Australian Dance Theatre and, since its creation, the work has been widely performed in various venues in Australia, Asia and elsewhere. Original cast: Alison Brazier, Carmela Care, Paige Gordon, Roz Hervey, Leisa Shelton.
Choreographed by Stephen Page and Bernadette Walong for Bangarra Dance Theatre, Ochres is a work in four parts. It premiered in Sydney in 1995 and then toured extensively. It explores the mystical significance of ochre, and is inspired by its spiritual and medicinal power. After a prologue the work's four parts are: Yellow, Black, Red and White. Program notes for the 1995 season explained the way in which the four colours are interpreted:
Yellow: I believe the landscape to be Mother. Its flowing rivers she cleanses in, the yellow ochre she dresses in, the sun and seasons she nourishes gathering, nesting and birthing along her travels.
Black: An ash storm has blown over, the call and pain of initiation can only be viewed from a distance ... Men's Business.
Red: Custom, Law and Values placed on the relationships between women and men who have been on a path of change since time began. In each of these relationships: the youth, the obsession, the poison, the pain, there is struggle.
White: At dawn Mother Earth yawns, her call engulfs the white ochre spirits to spiritually bathe them in preparation for the day's journey.
Dancers who performed in early productions of Ochres include Albert David, Gary Lang, Marilyn Miller, Djakapurra Munyarryun, Russell Page, Kirk Page, Jan Pinkerton, Frances Rings, Gina Rings and Bernadette Walong. Music was composed by David Page, lighting was by Jo Mercurio, and costume design was by Jennifer Irwin.
Of Blessed Memory received its world premiere performance at the State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne on 18 October 1991. Given the subtitle Beatae Memoriae it was choreographed by Stanton Welch, designed by Kristian Fredrikson, lit by William Akers and danced to selections from Joseph Canteloube's Chants d'Auvergne.
Welch dedicated the ballet to his mother, Marilyn Jones, and his program notes included the following: 'For some time the theme of mother and child has been very important to me. I wished to explore the relationship between a child and the giver of life, a bonding that is so deep and natural and which comes from the sharing of the same body'.
The opening night cast featured Marilyn Jones, Fiona Tonkin, Miranda Coney, Justine Summers, Greg Horsman, Steven Heathcote, David McAllister, artists of the Australian Ballet and soprano Miriam Gormley.
The ballet Onegin was first performed in Australia in 1974 by the Stuttgart Ballet, the company for whom John Cranko had created the work in 1965. A large-scale dramatic and emotional work in three-acts, Onegin is one of Cranko's most popular ballets, particularly acclaimed for its pas de deux choreography. Its libretto, an epic tale of love and revenge, is based on the Alexander Pushkin novel-in-verse that also inspired the 1879 Tchaikovsky opera of the same name. While not using music from the opera, Cranko set his ballet to a number of Tchaikovsky's piano and orchestral works, arranged and orchestrated by Kurt-Heinz Stolze. At the Australian premiere, which was greeted with a standing ovation, Heinz Clauss danced in the title role, with Marcia Haydee as Tatiana.
Artistic director Anne Woolliams first staged Onegin for the Australian Ballet. It premiered on December 1, 1976 at the Sydney Opera House, with John Meehan in the title role, Marilyn Rowe as Tatiana, Kelvin Coe as Lensky, Maria Lang as Olga, Mary Duchesne as Madame Larina and Joseph Janusaitis as Prince Gremin. Scenery and costumes for the Australian staging were, as for the original production, by Jurgen Rose. During the opening season, the role of Tatiana was also danced by Michela Kirlaldie and by Gerd Andersson, guest artist from the Royal Swedish Ballet. Marilyn Jones danced in this role for the Melbourne premiere.
Onegin has remained in the repertoire of the flagship company, with a notable revival in 1996 staged by Reid Anderson. Miranda Coney and Adam Marchant danced as Tatiana and Onegin for the premiere of this production, with Justine Summers being promoted to principal artist after dancing the lead role with Steven Heathcote on the Melbourne opening night.
The ballet Paganini emerged from a close collaboration between choreographer Michel Fokine and composer Sergei Rachmaninoff, who together co-wrote the libretto. Created for de Basil's Ballets Russes, the ballet was set to Rachmaninoff's 1934 work Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini. Scenery and costumes were designed by Serge Soudeikine.
The libretto evoked the legend surrounding the virtuosic violinist Niccolo Paganini, whose playing was so extraordinary that he was rumoured to have sold his soul to the devil in return for perfection in art. Fokine is said to have personally identified with Paganini as an artist who displayed genius, yet was heavily criticised.
The ballet is in three scenes. In the first the gaunt figure of Paganini performs on stage. As he plays, the allegorical figures of Guile, Scandal, Gossip and Envy weave through the audience and an evil spirit seems to guide his hand. Scene two is set in a Florentine landscape where a young girl is bewitched by Paganini's playing and dances as though possessed. In scene three Paganini is tormented by enemies who appear in his likeness. At the conclusion a Divine Genius guides his spirit to heaven and his talent is vindicated at last. A significant component of the choreography is mime, particularly in the role of Paganini, while the roles of Guile, The Florentine Beauty and The Divine Genius execute highly technical episodes of pure dance.
Fokine choreographed and rehearsed Paganini while touring Australia between September 1938 and April 1939 with de Basil's Covent Garden Russian Ballet. Theatrical entrepreneurs, the Taits, arranged a stage rehearsal of the work in Melbourne and hoped to also stage the world premiere however this did not eventuate. In correspondence to Rachmaninoff, Fokine elaborates:
'The dances and scenes are being rehearsed. The ballet was completely choreographed and very well performed in Australia. There was such a demonstration of interest that the management evolved the mad idea of presenting the ballet without costumes and scenery! ... in this particular ballet, many dances, if given without the necessary masks and props, without lighting effects, without the platform, and so on, could not possibly be understood. Therefore I declined this suggestion ...'
Paganini premiered at Covent Garden Opera House in London a few months later on 30 June 1939, celebrating the 50th anniversary of Fokine's theatrical debut. Dimitri Rostoff featured as Paganini alongside Irina Baronova as The Divine Genius and Tatiana Riabouchinska as The Florentine Beauty. Rachmaninoff was not able to attend the premiere and Fokine reported on its success to him:
'Congratulations on the newborn! Our first ballet met with an enthusiastic reception. There were endless curtain calls, which were acknowledged in most colourful combinations of evening clothes, angels and devils ...'
The work was first performed in Australia on 30 December 1939 by the Original Ballet Russe at Sydney's Theatre Royal. The original cast reprised their roles, with the exception of The Divine Genius, which was danced by Alexandra Denisova. A review in The Courier Mail described the ballet thus:
'It is on a tremendous scale, grandiose in conception, of great vitality in the quality of dancing. It represents a new development in Fokine's art ... One feels that the theme was chosen not because of its dramatic possibilities in the story itself but because it was a suitable framework for his own meditations ... The second act in which Paganini enters a group of Italian peasants is one of the most electrifying pieces of theatre in all ballets. The appearance of the so-called Divine Spirits in the last act is surely one of the greatest moments on the stage.'
Paganini was the last ballet Fokine created for de Basil's Ballets Russes. It remained in the company's repertory until it disbanded in 1952. It was restaged by the Tulsa Ballet Theatre in 1986.
Michel Fokine, Fokine: memoirs of a ballet master, (London: Constable & Company, 1961) ; Kathrine Sorley Walker, De Basil's Ballets Russes (London: Hutchinson, 1982) ; Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes: Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo 1932-1952 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990) ; 'Paganini new phase of Fokine's art', The Courier Mail, 2 July 1940, p. 6
For a more detailed discussion of the development and reception of Paganini in Australia see the website 'Michelle Potter on dancing'.
Papillons, a ballet in one act choreographed by Michel Fokine to an arrangement by N. Tcherepnine of music by Robert Schumann, was first performed at the Maryinsky Theatre St Petersburg on March 10, 1912. This divertissement-style work entered the repertoire of the Diaghilev Ballets Russes on April 16, 1914 in Monte Carlo with Tamara Karsavina, Ludmilla Schollar and Fokine in the lead roles. Sets designed and executed by M. Doboujinsky were used in the 1914 revival, replacing the originals by Piotr Lambine, while costumes designed by Leon Bakst were used in both productions.
The de Basil Ballets Russes revival of Papillons, using the Bakst costume design and Doboujinsky set, premiered in Chicago on December 17, 1936. The work was included in the repertoire of the second and third de Basil companies to tour Australia in the late 1930s - the Covent Garden Russian Ballet and the Original Ballet Russe. Its Australian premiere took place on November 10, 1938, at His Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne, with Tatiana Riabouchinska as the First Young Girl, Anna Volkova as the Second Young Girl and Paul Petroff as Pierrot.
Inspired by Velazquez's famous painting 'Las Meninas', Serge Lifar's Pavane was an arrangement of an earlier Massine ballet created in 1916 for the Diaghilev Ballets Russes. The international premiere of Lifar's Pavane took place in Sydney on February 23, 1940 during the Original Ballet Russe tour. It was a divertissement style piece, only eight minutes in length, set to Gabriel Faure's Opus 50 with costume design by Jose-Maria Sert and scenery executed by Prince A Schervachidze.
On opening night, the cast of five consisted of Tamara Grigorieva and Irina Zarova as the Maids of Honour, Nicholas Ivangine and Georges Skibine as the Gentlemen, and Yura Lazovsky as the Dwarf. A review of the ensuing Melbourne season described the work as 'a shadow of a ballet - a stately an[sic] formal Spanish dance offset by the disturbing counter-theme of a cringing and pathetic beggar'.
'New Ballet's Success: Rich offering', The Argus, 26 March 1940, p.2
Robert Helpmann's Perisynthyon, created on dancers of the Australian Ballet, premiered on 21 March 1974 at the Adelaide Festival of Arts. It was designed by Kenneth Rowell and danced to the Sibelius First Symphony although Helpmann had first commissioned Richard Meale and then Malcolm Williamson but neither had been able to deliver a score. The work was set on John Meehan and Francis Croese and artists of the Australian Ballet including Gail Ferguson, Ross Stretton, Ai-Gul Gaisina and Christine Walsh. Program notes explained: 'Perisynthyon is the period when the moon is at its strongest'.
Perth International Arts Festival (PIAF) is the longest running arts festival in Australia, beginning in 1953 at the University of Western Australia. The Director of Adult Education, Fred Alexander, was inspired to expand the activities of the University summer school program after a visit to the Edinburgh Festival in 1951. He aimed for West Australians to experience world class cultural events in spite of their geographic and cultural isolation.
Formerly known as the Festival of Perth, the event runs annually in February and encompasses music, dance, theatre, literature, visual arts and film. It has become the premier cultural event in Perth, attracting some of the biggest names in the arts world while also providing a platform for local companies to showcase their works and talent. The Festival has also presented many Australian premieres, exclusives and commissions. While venues have traditionally been in Perth, the Festival has recently expanded its reach to include regional areas with the Mandurah International Opera Festival and events in the Goldfields and Kimberley regions.
Since its inception the Festival has introduced Perth audiences to a diverse range of dance forms. The first international dance performance was by a Manipuri troupe from India in 1957. This was followed by the Chitrasena Ballet from Ceylon in 1963. The early years of the festival saw performances by Dances of Singapore, Royal Thai Ballet, National Ballet of Senegal and the Kalakshetra Dancers from Madras, India. For over twenty years the Festival also hosted an annual Ballroom Dance Pageant that was regarded as one of the major ballroom events in the Southern Hemisphere.
Australian companies that featured during this time include the Australian Ballet, making its Festival debut in 1963 with a program of Swan Lake, Melbourne Cup, Les Sylphides and Lady and the Fool. In 1970, audiences witnessed the Australian Contemporary Dance Company perform Beth Dean's choreography of John Antill's Corroboree, and in 1981, the Australian Dance Theatre with Maina Gielgud's Steps, Notes and Squeaks.
The 1987 Festival was a milestone as for the first time the program focussed primarily on dance. This was in part due to the establishment of the Quarry Amphitheatre, a dedicated outdoor dance venue. The festival featured five international companies: Limbs (New Zealand); Les Ballets Jazz de Montreal (Canada); Phoenix (England); Desrosiers Dance Theatre (Canada); and Trisha Brown Dance Company (USA).
Contemporary dance companies from interstate have continued to tour to Perth through the Festival, such as the Meryl Tankard Company with VX18504 (1991); Bangarra Dance Theatre with Ochres (1996); Chunky Move with Bonehead (1997) and Tense Dave (2004); The Splinter Group with Lawn (2006); and Lucy Guerin Inc with Structure and Sadness (2008). The 2007 Festival featured a performance of dreamtime stories, Turlku, by singers and dancers from the Ngaanyatjarra lands in central Australia.
The Festival has also commissioned a number of international collaborations. In 1995 Indian choreographer Mallika Sarabhai created new dance works with music by West Australian composers Roger Smalley, Cathie Travers and David Pye under the title Worlds Within and Without. A partnership between Montreal's Jean-Pierre Perreault and Perth's Chrissie Parrot Dance Company resulted in the work, Eironos, which premiered at the Festival in 1996.
In recent years audiences have experienced the work of internationally renowned choreographers and companies such as Jiri Kylian and the Netherlands Dance Theatre (2000); the Merce Cunningham Dance Company (2001); Mats Ek's production of Swan Lake for the Cullberg Ballet (2002); Akram Khan's Ma (2005); Moses Pendleton's Opus Cactus for Momix (2005); the Aditi Mangaldas Dance Company (2005); Cloud Gate Dance Theatre of Taiwan (2007); and the Tero Saarinen Company (2008).
Other international dance artists who have appeared at the Festival include Garth Fagan Dance Company, Groupe Emile Dubois, Robert Kovich Company, Grupo Corpo Brazilian Dance Theatre, Twyla Tharp, Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker & Rosas Dance Company, La la la Human Steps, Les Ballets C de la B, Lyon Opera Ballet, Compagnie Boris Charmatz, Josef Nadj Company and Black Grace Dance Company. Collaboration with other Australian festivals and organizations has often made it feasible for international artists to make their way to Australia, with the Perth Festival as the starting point for performances in other Australian venues.
Exposure to these national and international artists has helped cultivate dance in Perth by providing a stimulus to local artists. PIAF has also been instrumental in supporting the local dance scene by promoting classical and contemporary dance to the wider community and commissioning works by local choreographers and companies.
The West Australian Ballet Company made its Festival debut in 1954 and has since been a regular fixture. Early Festival commissions include Woman of Andros, Bokhara, Tancredi and Clorinda and Ray Powell's production of Sea Drift to a score by James Penberthy. The company now performs an annual season at the Quarry Amphitheatre as part of the Festival. World premieres within these seasons include works by Jorma Uotinen (2005), Adrian Burnett (2005) and Matjash Mrozewski (2006). The 2008 Festival featured works by Petr Zuska and Paul Lightfoot / Sol Leon.The Chrissie Parrott Dance Company has also been a regular contributor, performing commissions such as Mirror Coda (1989), Off the Wall (1991) and Satu Langit (1994). Parrott's Metadance in Resonant Light was presented in 2008. Other local companies that have featured in the festival include Youth Arts Incorporated with 'Scapes (1997), Buzz Dance Theatre with Snaphappy (2001), STRUT Dance and STEPS Youth Dance Company. Co.loaded presented its premiere season at the 2005 Festival.
Directors of the Festival include John Birman (1955 - 1974) ; David Blenkinsop (1975 -1999) ; Sean Doran (2000 - 2003) ; Lindy Hume (2004 - 2007) and Shelagh Magadza (2008 - ).
John Birman, 'Festival of Perth: a festival of the arts (1953 - 1976), Part One' Studies in Continuing Education, (No. 5, December 1980), pp. 10-32; John Birman, 'Festival of Perth: a festival of the arts (1953-1976), Part Two' Studies in Continuing Education, (No. 6, June 1981), pp. 47-65.
Petrouchka premiered in Paris at the Chatelet Theatre on 13 June 1911. The work was created for Diaghilev's Ballet Russe and the opening night featured Vaslav Nijinsky as Petrouchka, Tamara Karsarvina as the Ballerina, Alexandre Orlov as the Blackamoor and Enrico Cecchetti as the Showman. It was danced to a score by Igor Stravinsky, its choreography was by Michel Fokine and it was designed by Alexandre Benois. Stravinsky and Benois were responsible for the libretto.
The first performance of Petrouchka in Australia was produced by Louise Lightfoot for the First Australian Ballet. Lightfoot choreographed her version (called Petrouschka on the program) without ever having seen the Fokine original or any other version. It featured Trafford Whitelock as Petrouchka, Moya Beaver as the Ballerina and Mischa Burlakov as the Blackamoor. It was presented on 18 and 20 July 1936 at the Conservatorium of Music, Sydney.
A few months afterwards, on 14 November 1936, the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, on tour in Australia, opened its production of Petrouchka in Melbourne. Helene Kirsova starred as the Ballerina, Leon Woizikowsky as Petrouchka and Thadee Slavinsky as the Blackamoor. Between 1936 and 1940 the work was performed over 70 times in Australia by three touring Russian Ballet companies, the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, the Covent Garden Russian Ballet and the Original Ballet Russe.
In 1951 Edouard Borovansky staged his production of Petrouchka for his Borovansky Ballet. It opened on 6 April in Sydney at the Empire Theatre with Peggy Sager as the Ballerina, Charles Boyd as the Blackamoor and Miro Zloch, replacing an injured Martin Rubinstein, as Petrouchka. The production featured designs by William Constable.
Since the Borovansky Ballet production Petrouchka has been staged by several major Australian companies. It entered the repertoire of the Australian Ballet in 1970, opening in Sydney at Her Majesty's Theatre on 24 April with Alan Alder as Petrouchka, Kathleen Geldard as the Ballerina and Garth Welch as the Blackamoor. It was also staged by Ballet Victoria in 1976 with Galina and Valery Panov and Garth Welch dancing the leading roles. A new interpretation of the work was commissioned of Leigh Warren by Australian Dance Theatre in 1992. With designs by Meredith Russell, it premiered in Adelaide in April 1993 and was danced by Warren's newly constituted company, Leigh Warren and Dancers. In 2004 Australian choreographer Meryl Tankard premiered her new version for NDT1 in The Hague.
In 2009, Petrouchka was revived by the Australian Ballet for the first time since its entry into the company repertoire almost forty years prior. The 2009 production opened on February 24 in Adelaide, featuring Marc Cassidy as Petrouchka, Leanne Stojmenov as the Ballerina and Luke Ingham as the Moor.
Footage by Ewan Murray-Will of the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet performing Petrouchka is available on line at the australianscreen site Murray-Will, Ewan: Ballets Russes: Petrouchka: Carnaval: Aurora's Wedding: Home Movie Clip 1: Petrouchka
Note: also known as 'Petrushka'
John Cranko's Pineapple Poll was first staged in Australia by the Borovansky Ballet, premiering on 8 May 1954. This was the first production of the work by a company other than the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet on whom it had been created three years earlier. Cranko adapted the libretto for Pineapple Poll from W S Gilbert's Bab Ballad The Bumboat Woman's Story, and set the ballet in three scenes to an arrangement by Charles Mackerras of music by Arthur Sullivan. For the London premiere, 13 March 1951, Australian ballerina Elaine Fifield danced the title role, with David Blair as Captain Belaye.
Edouard Borovansky arranged for Cranko to stage the ballet in Australia with reproductions of Osbert Lancaster's original decor and costumes. The Australian premiere featured Kathleen Gorham as Pineapple Poll, Paul Grinwis as Captain Belaye, Tom Merrifield as Jasper, Christiane Hubert as Blanche and June Florenz as Mrs Dimple. At the conclusion of the performance, Cranko took to the stage to criticise Australian critics, none of whom, he said, knew anything at all about ballet. He concluded, 'But this is MY ballet and…I'd like to say that [this performance] was better than any performance of Pineapple Poll I have ever seen, and this company is really rather marvellous'.
In the 1957 season in which Margot Fonteyn and other principals of the Royal Ballet performed with the Borovansky company as guest artists, Gorham and Vassilie Trunoff danced the lead roles in Pineapple Poll. Fifield appeared with the company in her original title role later that year. In the following year, the Royal Ballet performed the work during its Australian tour, with Patricia Cox as Poll and Blair in his original role as Captain Belaye.
The Australian Ballet first performed Pineapple Poll in 1966, with Fifield and Barbara Chambers as Poll and Bryan Lawrence and Warren de Maria as Captain Belaye. Kelvin Coe performed his first individual solo role with the company as Jasper during this season. In 1976, Maria Lang and Walter Bourke led the cast, with Alan Alder as Jasper. The Australian Ballet's 1980 production, under the directorship of Marilyn Jones, was part of a program that paid tribute to Borovansky and included Graduation Ball and Scheherazade. Ann Jenner and Dale Baker danced as Poll and Captain Belaye in this season's opening performance.
The charm and broad humour of Pineapple Poll have contributed to its significant popularity. It has been performed by a number of international companies and remains in the repertoire of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Within Australia, it was reproduced by Bryan Ashbridge for the West Australian Ballet in 1971, and is also in the repertoire of the Dancers Company.
Edward H. Pask, Ballet in Australia: the second act 1840-1980 (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1982)
Polish dance heritage has contributed significantly to Australian dance culture. From early colonial years, dances of Polish origin, such as the mazurka, were an influence on both social and stage dance. A more tangible impact came with the decision by a number of Polish dancers to remain in Australia after the Ballets Russes tours of the 1930s. Their expertise, and the subsequent founding of the Polish-Australian Ballet, influenced the development of classical ballet in this country.
Another important contribution has come through folkloric ensembles, generally established since the 1950s by Polish immigrants aiming to preserve and promote their culture. These groups have both contributed to and influenced Australian dance through their recreation of traditional Polish dance, music and cultural traditions. Some of the numerous folkloric ensembles established all around Australia in the last 50 years or so are listed below.
The earliest such folk dancing group may have been formed on the ship M S Fairsea during its voyage to Australia in 1949. Early ensembles to be formally established include Krakowiacy in Melbourne in 1950, Krakowiak in Geelong, Victoria, and Oberek, in Hobart, Tasmania, both founded in 1952.
In 1958, Michal Mordvinow in Adelaide founded the Polish Dance Group, which was renamed the Polish Folklore Ensemble Tatry in 1965. Henryk Duszynski was the artistic director of Tatry for thirty years. For a time the group was accompanied by the Polish Youth Orchestra and Lowiczanki choir, and much of the music for the ensemble was arranged by Tadeusz Mikucki.
Other early ensembles which, like Tatry, are still active today include Polonez in Melbourne, Syrenka in Sydney and Mazowsze in Western Australia. Polonez was founded in 1965 by Zbigniew Czech, with Janina Czech as artistic director. Many of its original members came from Zacheta, an ensemble that had formed following the dissolution of Krakowiak. Syrenka grew from a Folkloric Dance Group formed in 1968, and was officially established 1971. It performed its debut at the National Shell Folkloric Festival for the Opening of the Opera House in 1973. Mazowsze was established in 1970 by Longin Szymanski, and toured Western Australia and the Eastern States in the late 1970s with the support of the Australia Council.
In 1975, the Federation of Polish Women organised the first Pol-Art Festival in Sydney, culminating in a concert by folkloric groups at the Sydney Opera House. This sharing of Polish cultural heritage became an ongoing celebration, taking place every three years. Many ensembles that took part in the original 1975 festival have maintained their involvement. As new ensembles have been established, they have also participated in this important triennial event. Groups established around the time of the first Pol-Art Festival include Lowicz in Melbourne, formed in 1975, and Kujawy in Sydney, established in 1976. Canberra's Wielkopolska Dance Group was initiated in 1981 by artistic director Krystyna Mikolajczak. Obertas in Brisbane was founded by its current choreographer Henryk Kurylewski in 1982, originally for the purpose of performing in the Opening Ceremony of the Commonwealth Games. Other ensembles of note include Wesole Nutki (Melbourne) established in 1985, Lajkonik (Sydney) in1990, Kukuleczka (Perth) in1991 and Beskidy (Melbourne) in 1992.
Many Polish dance ensembles not only perform in local community celebrations, but also tour widely and take part in high-profile national events, such as the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games in 2000. They receive significant community support, and are united in their endeavour to preserve traditional Polish dance and music.
Dance Nova, which was established in 1982 as Taniec Polish Dance Group, is an example of a company which, while having a wider focus than the recreation of traditional Polish dance forms, still brings the influence of Polish dance heritage to Australian dance culture. Dance Nova's principal artists, Mark and Carmen Voynich, trained at the Polish National Ballet School. The company currently tours Australia with performances and teaching programs for primary schools, celebrating cross-cultural dance forms and promoting the spiritual, expressive, physical, relaxing and social benefits of dance.
The Polovtsian Dances from Prince Igor was choreographed by Michel Fokine for the first Paris season of the Diaghilev Ballets Russes in 1909. Based on the second act of the opera Prince Igor by Alexander Borodin and set in the camp of wild Polovtsi warriors, Prince Igor fed the popular Western conception of Russia as exotic and primitive. Nicholas Roehrich's design combined a desolate landscape and mud-smeared faces with vibrantly coloured costumes evocative of Russian folk art. Fokine's stated choreographic goal was the creation of 'an excitement-arousing dance for the corps' - a goal he clearly achieved on opening night when the audience stormed the stage.
The visiting Dandre-Levitoff Russian Ballet introduced Australian audiences to Prince Igor, featuring the work in the opening program of the 1934-35 tour. It was also a popular inclusion in the repertoire of all three de Basil companies that toured Australia in the late 1930s. The Advertiser described the opening performance by the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet on October 20, 1936 as 'a most thrilling spectacle' that 'swept the audience off its feet'. Leon Woizikowsky's performance as the Warrior was hailed as 'electrical'.
Significant Australian companies have also staged Prince Igor. Serge Bousloff and Kira Abricossova's reproduction for the inaugural repertoire of the National Theatre Ballet in 1949 featured Joyce Graeme, Eve King and Rex Reid. Ballet Guild also staged the work in that year. In 1952, it was performed by the Polish-Australian Ballet in a production that included the opera chorus and in 1954 was staged by Vassilie Trunoff for the Borovansky Ballet, with decor and costumes by William Constable and featuring Trunoff, Anna Mariya and Christiane Hubert in leading roles. Trunoff's production again featured in the 1957/58 season of this company, with Trunoff continuing to dance the role of the lead warrior.
Prince Igor was performed by the Australian Ballet in its 1964 season, when Poul Gnatt's staging incorporated the Elizabethan Trust Opera chorus and Bryan Lawrence featured as the Polvtsian Warrior, Elaine Fifield as the Princess and Barbara Chambers as the Polovtsian Maiden.
Michel Fokine, Anatole Chujoy (ed), Fokine: memoirs of a ballet master (London: Constable & Company, 1961)
Poppy premiered on 12 April 1978 at Sydney's Theatre Royal and was Graeme Murphy's first full-length work for Sydney Dance Company. Performed to a score by Carl Vine its original production had visuals and set design by George Gittoes and Gabrielle Dalton and puppets by Joe Gladwin. Subsequent revivals have featured additional designs by Kristian Fredrikson.
Based loosely on events in the life of Jean Cocteau, the work featured in its original cast Graeme Murphy as Cocteau and Janet Vernon as Madame Cocteau. Murphy has called the work 'a Cocteau-esque poem' and in program notes for Poppy's first season he wrote: 'I have been asked why I chose Cocteau, which may seem odd for an Australian choreographer. My only reply is that I am unable to resist a source of imagination so rich and original that it transcends patriotism'.
Michelle Potter (ed), 'Growing in Australian Soil: An Interview with Graeme Murphy Recorded by Hazel de Berg.' Brolga 1 (December 1994), pp. 18-29.
The ballet Port Said was choreographed by Leon Woizikowsky in 1935 for his company the Ballets de Leon Woizikowsky. It was first performed by the de Basil Ballet Russes during the Australian tour by the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, premiering at His Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne, on December 12, 1936. The work had a 'sailor-ashore' libretto by A Shaikevitch, and was set to a score by K Konstantinov. Design was by Mikhail Larionov.
The Argus review of the premiere described Port Said as 'a playful pantomime, a queer mixture of artistry and vulgarity…The sailors who frequent M. Woizikowsky's cosmopolitan cafe are a besotted scrubby crew, led by that clever eccentric dancer Jean Hoyer, whose gauche antics are skilfully designed to amuse the groundlings. M. Woizikowsky, in the role originated by him in London, sets the mood of the piece with curious marionette-like postures and a Chaplinesque walk that might have been derived from the music hall rather than the exalted school of ballet, but it is an amusing study, moulded like the rest of the choreography in this droll ballet, in crisp staccato steps and gestures. Irena Bondireva and Elizabeth Souvorova dance with their customary grace, but the highlights are the frenzied Dervish dance of Nina Raievska and the brilliant rhodomontade of Helene Kirsova, whose work as the French dancer is as showy and finished as anything she has done during the season. It is a richly mixed compound of humour and gaiety, coquetry and conquest.'
'Humour in Ballet', The Argus, 14 December 1936, p. 4
Choreographed by Stephen Page, Praying Mantis Dreaming premiered in 1992 as Bangarra Dance Theatre's first full-length work. In the original program notes, Stephen Page commented that the production was significant in giving him 'the opportunity to merge 3 distinct and different styles of dance - Traditional Aboriginal, Torres Strait Island and contemporary dance'.
The work, set to an original score by David Page, is based around the dreaming of a young woman whose mother is Aboriginal and whose father is of European descent. After 17 years of living in a Western culture, the woman learns about her traditional roots through the spirit of the Praying Mantis, the totem she inherited from her mother.
The cast for the premier performance included Russell Page as the Praying Mantis Spirit, Stephen Page as Father Charlie, Monica Stevens as Mother Lili, Patricia Handy as the daughter, and Djakapurra Munyarryun as Bindinmara. Lighting was by Shane Stevens, costume design by Linda Bobongie and set design by Joe Hurst.
Protee received its inaugural Australian performance, danced by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet, on 20 October 1938 in Melbourne. The work, with choreography by David Lichine, had premiered just three months earlier in July 1938 in London at Covent Garden. The libretto was a joint endeavour by Lichine and Henry Clifford, who had previously collaborated with Lichine on Francesca da Rimini and Le Lion amoureux. The scenario was intended as the basis for a choreographic essay on Greek classicism and centred on five nymphs who come to a temple by the sea to invoke the god Proteus. The work was danced to Claude Debussy's Danse sacree et danse profane and had set and costumes by Giorgio de Chirico.
In Australia the work, described as a 'choreographic tableau', was danced by Anton Dolin as Protee (Lichine had danced the leading role in London and although in Australia at the time of the Australian premiere was injured) with Sono Osato, Lisa Serova, Alexandra Denisova, Natasha Sobinova and Lina Lerina as the Maidens. Australian programs carried the following note:
Scene: A temple by the sea. A group of maidens offer [sic] prayers for the appearance of the God Protee, Prophet of the Sea. Protee appears and dances. The maidens try to catch him to learn their destiny. But the God disappoints them by changing his movements and leaping back into the sea.
The work was well received during its Australian season. Basil Burdett, writing in The Herald (Melbourne), called it 'one of the most perfect small ballets in the ballet repertoire'. He continued: 'The close identification of style and subject-matter is the real secret of its artistic success'. Protee was also performed in Australia in 1940 during the tour by the Original Ballet Russe. On opening night in Sydney in January 1940 the leading role was danced by Lichine and the Maidens by Osato, Denisova, Sobinova, Genevieve Moulin and Marina Svetlova. Later Roman Jasinsky danced Lichine's part.
In 1952 Kira Bousloff re-staged Protee for the Melbourne-based National Theatre Ballet then under the direction of Walter Gore and Paul Hinton. Henry Danton danced the leading role of Protee. The work was staged again for the National in 1953 while the company was under the direction of Valrene Tweedie. At that time Ronald Reay danced Protee.
Basil Burdett, 'Success of "Protee" is triumph for Lichine', The Herald (Melbourne), 21 October 1938, p. 15; Vicente Garcia-Marquez The Ballets Russes (New York: Knopf, 1990).
Raymonda, the last of Marius Petipa's three-act works remaining in today's classical repertoire, premiered in St Petersburg in 1898. Alexander Glazunov's fine score and Petipa's choreography are often credited with ensuring the success of the work despite a weak and convoluted libretto devised by society columnist Lydia Pashkova in collaboration with Petipa. The story, a medieval tale set in Hungary during the crusades, tells of the battle between a Christian knight and a Saracen warrior to win the heart of the noble maiden Raymonda. In effect this scenario serves as a pretext for some renowned bravura dance sequences, originally displaying the technical brilliance of ballerina Pierina Legnani. The role of Jean de Brienne, the victorious Christian, was created on Sergei Legat, with Pavel Gerdt in the originally mimed role of the Saracen Abderakhman.
Raymonda has remained in the Kirov repertoire, with numerous revisions over the years. Divertissements from the work were included in Diaghilev's first Paris season in 1909, and a two-act version was presented by the Pavlova company in 1914. Other notable productions include a shortened version staged by George Balanchine and Alexandra Danilova for the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo in 1946.
The Australian public was introduced to Raymonda when the Dandre-Levitoff Russian Ballet performed the Grand Pas Hongrois divertissement from the ballet in Brisbane on 23 October 1934. Pavil Petroff's four-scened staging of the complete work for this company followed, its Australia premiere taking place in Sydney on November 17, 1934, with Olga Spessivtseva dancing the title role, Anatole Vilzak as Jean de Brienne and Pavel Petroff as Abderachman.
In 1964, Rudolf Nureyev was commissioned by the touring company of the Royal Ballet to reconstruct Raymonda. His production, which simplified the libretto, was restaged for the Australian Ballet during its tour to the United Kingdom in 1965. Nureyev continued to restage the work over the years, for the Zurich Ballet in 1972, American Ballet Theatre in 1975, and the Paris Opera Ballet in 1983.
Nureyev's landmark production for the Australian Ballet opened in Birmingham in November 1965, with Margot Fonteyn as Raymonda, Nureyev as Jean de Brienne and Bryan Lawrence as Abderakhman. Design was by Ralph Koltai with costumes by Nadine Baylis. The production was included in the company's following European tour and was first seen in Australia in excerpts presented at a 'welcome home' performance at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl on March 7, 1966. The Australian premiere took place on March 25, with Marilyn Jones in the title role, Garth Welch as Jean and Bryan Lawrence performing his original role as Abderakhman. Nureyev's Raymonda has remained an important feature of the repertoire, with Act III included in the company's tour to the United States in 1970/71, and a revival of the full length work in 1971 with Fonteyn partnered by Garth Welch. Anne Woolliams staged a revival of Act III in 1977, and in 1980 Marilyn Jones reproduced Nureyev's full length version for the company.
Raymonda has also featured in the repertoire of other Australian companies. Ballet Victoria performed an abridged version in 1974, a version was included in the Tasmanian Ballet's repertoire in 1974, and the West Australian Ballet has presented the grand pas de deux from Act III.
In 2006, resident choreographer Stephen Baynes created a new version of Raymonda for the Australian Ballet. Baynes' Raymonda is set in the 1950s, with the original libretto loosely referenced through the central theme of a love triangle. Bringing to mind several twentieth-century celebrity scenarios, a glamorous Hollywood film star gives up her career to marry a European prince. The original Glazunov score is used with some cuts, with sequences from The Seasons, another Glazunov ballet score, inserted. Costumes are by Anna French, with set design by Richard Roberts. This production premiered on September 19, 2006, in Melbourne. On opening night, Kirsty Martin danced as Raymonda, Damien Welch as Adam Drake, and Steven Heathcote as the European Prince.
In 2000 One Extra Dance launched the inaugural ReelDance, International Dance on Screen Festival. The festival, an initiative of One Extra Dance, presented short dance films from around the world and held a competition for new Australian work. The inaugural festival showcased the work of film makers Philippe Decouflé, Pascal Magnin, and Stephen Burstow, choreographers Wim Vandekeybus, Douglas Wright, and Graeme Watson, and companies such as William Forsythe's Ballet Frankfurt and Les Ballets C. de la B.
In 2001 One Extra Dance, in collaboration with the Theatre, Film and Dance Department of the University of NSW, presented the first ReelDance Workshop. The second ReelDance International Dance on Screen Festival, held in 2002, was presented by One Extra Dance and the Studio at the Sydney Opera House. In this same year ReelDance toured nationally to Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Lismore. In 2003 ReelDance, in conjunction with the British Council, presented screenings of short films by British film makers Miranda Pennell and John Smith. Both Smith and Pennell also showed recent installation work as part of the December 2003 One Extra performance season.
The Festival is now a biennial event which aims to present and promote both local and international dance screen work from a broad variety of dance genres. It encompasses interactive installations, participatory events and workshops in addition to film screenings, and each Festival tours Australia and New Zealand. In 2008, after eight years of being a project of One Extra and then the Performance Space, ReelDance became an Incorporated Association. This year also marked the departure of Erin Brannigan, director of Reeldance since its inception, and the appointment of Tracie Mitchell as the incoming director.
Rites, a joint production by Bangarra Dance Theatre and the Australian Ballet, premiered at the Melbourne Festival on 29 October 1997 at the State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre. Commissioned by Ross Stretton in his first year as artistic director of the Australian Ballet, the work was choreographed by Stephen Page to the Stravinsky score The Rite of Spring and performed by dancers from both Bangarra and the Australian Ballet. It had designs by Jennifer Irwin (costumes) and Peter England (sets) and was lit by Mark Howett.
The work is in six parts: 'Awakening', 'Earth', 'Wind', 'Fire', 'Water' and 'Dreaming'. In program notes for the inaugural season Page wrote: 'Rites is an exploration of the natural forces which determine our ancient landscape'. He also clearly saw the work a step towards reconciliation by writing: 'I hope this work challenges some of the current preconceptions about indigenous peoples and propels us all along the path of reconcilation'.
Rites was performed by the Australian Ballet and Bangarra at New York's City Centre in 1999, and at the Chatelet, Paris and Sadler's Wells, London in 2008.
For more about the production of Rites see Getting Together: Bangarra Dance Theatre and the Australian Ballet' in National Library of Australia News, August 2001.
Australian audiences are familiar with a number of ballets drawing on Shakespeare's 'tale of woe' Romeo and Juliet. In 1951, the Borovansky company premiered Paul Grinwis' The Eternal Lovers, set to Tchaikovsky's 'Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture' and referencing the Shakespearean libretto thematically rather than literally. During the 1960s, artists of the Paris Opera Ballet and the Grand Ballet Classique de France introduced Australians to the more literal interpretation of Serge Lifar's Romeo and Juliet, again set to the Tchaikovsky score. Nureyev's production, set to the eponymous score composed by Prokofiev in 1935 for a Soviet staging, was presented in this country in 1977 by the London Festival Ballet with Nureyev as Romeo. Ted Brandsen's version created for the West Australian Ballet in 2000 also features the Prokofiev 'tone poem', as do various international versions that have since been brought to Australia - such as Derek Deane's popular arena production, presented here by the English National Ballet in 2001, and Christopher Hampson's 2003 version for the Royal New Zealand Ballet which toured in 2010.
The Romeo and Juliet familiar to many Australians is that which entered the Australian Ballet's repertoire in 1974. This ballet, again set to the Prokofiev score, was created by John Cranko for La Scala in 1958 and refined for his own Stuttgart Ballet in 1962. The Australian premiere took place at the Sydney Opera House on November 28, 1974, featuring Kelvin Coe as Romeo, Lucette Aldous as Juliet, Edna Edgley as Juliet's Nurse, Alan Alder as Tybalt, Paul Saliba as Mercutio, Peter Mallek as Benvolio, Mary Duchesne as Lady Capulet, Francis Croese as Lord Capulet, Rex McNeill as Paris, Michela Kirkaldie as Rosaline and Colin Peasley as Friar Laurence. Jurgen Rose personally supervised the recreation of his original design for this production which toured internationally (Moscow and Leningrad 1988, Taipai 1989) and has remained in the repertoire of the flagship company.
A new production commissioned by Graeme Murphy for the Australian Ballet will premiere in 2011.
Graeme Murphy's three part work, Rumours, premiered at the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, on 28 March 1979. What became the second part of the full-length Rumours had been staged as a one act work the previous year for the Ballet '78 festival at the Opera House. This one act piece, also called Rumours, was a witty comment on the obssession for nude bathing that had developed in Sydney, especially at Lady Jayne Beach. Its success inspired Murphy to expand the piece into a evening length work.
Each of the three sections of the full-length Rumours explored different facets of Australian life. Part one, called 'Week-Day Dreaming', dealt with the Australian preoccupation with outdoor life, enjoyed to the fullest on the weekend with sunshine, sailing, tennis and night cricket. The second part, the nude bathing sequence, was called 'Bare Facts and Fantasies'. Part three looked at growing old and the relationships between generations. It was called 'Last Dreams' and featured a moving duet between Murphy and Robert Olup as the Old Couple.
Rumours was designed by Alan Oldfield and was performed to four separate compositions by Barry Conyngham - Sky for part one, Five Windows for part two and Snowflake and Ice Carving for part three.
Alan Oldfield's designs for Rumours are held by the National Gallery of Australia.
Choreographed by Michel Fokine to the symphonic poem by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov, with design by Leon Bakst, Scheherazade received its world premiere by the Ballet Russe de Serge Diaghilev at the Theatre National de l'Opera, Paris, on 4 June 1910. With its narrative based on the first tale of the Thousand and One Nights, this exotic ballet exemplified Fokine's revolutionary integration of theme with dance, music and design. Australian audiences were introduced to the work in the early 1930s, when Louise Lightfoot produced her version for the First Australian Ballet. Programs for the Lightfoot production acknowledge both Fokine and Baskt as original creators but credit the choreography for this version to Lightfoot herself.
The First Australian Ballet venture was followed by authoritative productions by all three of the de Basil Ballets Russes companies that toured Australia later in the1930s. The first, the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, included Scheherazade in its Australian premiere performance at the Theatre Royal Adelaide on 13 October 1936. Leon Woizikowsky performed in the role of the Golden Slave, originally created on Vaslav Nijinsky, with Nina Raievska as Zobeide and Valentin Froman as Shah Sharyar. Fokine himself staged the production by the visiting Covent Garden Russian Ballet in 1938-9. In performances by the Original Ballet Russe during their 1939-40 tour, Serge Grigoriev danced as Shah Sharyar and Lubov Tchernicheva, his wife, as Zobeide, a role for which her dramatic interpretation had earned her international renown. Australian audiences were thrilled by the Ballets Russes performances of this dramatic and sensual ballet, with Bakst's lavish set and costume designs.
William Constable designed the production that entered the repertoire of the Borovansky Ballet on 9 May 1946. On opening night, Tamara Tchinarova danced as Zobeide and Martin Rubinstein as the Golden Slave. Borovansky himself performed as the Chief Eunuch, and during the opening season Kathleen Gorham made her first appearances with the company as a 'youth' in this ballet. Vassilie Trunoff's portrayal of the Golden Slave with the Borovansky company was particularly acclaimed, with his performances following his return from London in 1954 being described by Edward Pask as a 'yardstick for all subsequent performers, both in Australia and overseas'.
In 1980 the Australian Ballet, under the artistic directorship of Marilyn Jones, performed Scheherazade as part of a triple bill tribute to Edouard Borovansky. Joan Potter and Vassilie Trunoff staged this production which was designed by Greg Irvine. On opening night on 21 March, Michela Kirkaldie performed as Zobeide, Kelvin Coe as the Golden Slave, Joseph Janusaitis as Shah Sharyar, and Ken Whitmore as the Chief Eunuch. The work was next performed by the flagship company in 2006 as part of the 'Revolutions' triple-bill tribute to Fokine that was presented with the support of the research and performance project Ballets Russes in Australia: Our cultural revolution. Irina Baronova advised on this production which was staged by John Auld and featured new set and costume design by Gabriela Tylesova and lighting by Nick Schlieper. On opening night, June 23 in Melbourne, Olivia Bell danced as Zobeide, Nobuo Fujino as the Golden Slave, Steven Heathcote as the Shah and Marc Cassidy as the Chief Eunuch.
An Australian production with looser ties to the original narrative was staged by the West Australian Ballet as part of their The Source - Tribute to the Ballets Russes season in 1999. Entitled Sheherazade, this piece was choreographed by Chrissie Parrott to a score by Cathie Travers, with costume design by Francois-Noel Cherpin and lighting design by Kenneth Rayner. In the program notes, both Parrott and Travers discuss the influence of Fokine's Scheherazade on this work.
Bibliography:Edward H. Pask, Ballet in Australia. The Second Act 1940-1980 (Melbourne: OUP, 1982).
In creating Scuola di ballo (The school of dance) for the Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo in 1933, Leonide Massine drew, as he had sixteen years earlier in creating Les Femmes de bonne humeur for the Diaghilev company, on the work of the eighteenth century Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni. Scuola di ballo depicted the underhand attempts by Rigadon, the professor of a dance school, to trick the impresario Fabrizio into sponsoring the school's worst student - the beautiful but untalented Felicita. The single act ballet premiered in Monte Carlo on April 25, 1933, with music by Luigi Boccherini, orchestrated by Jean Francaix, and scenery and costumes by Count Etienne de Beaumont.
Scuola di ballo contributed to that distinctive stream of Massine's choreography that drew on the commedia dell'arte tradition, and featured Massine's masterly depiction of characterisation through movement and gesture. This choreographic style also, as pointed out by Vicente Garcia-Marquez, drew on eighteenth century Italian opera - with 'dramatic conflict carried out by expressive gesture (corresponding to the recitatives), while the dance numbers (corresponding to arias) expressed the emotional result'. Massine's demand on the dancers to imbue their roles with individual gestural expression resulted in a trademark air of spontaneity. The comedy of Felicita's clumsy dancing was offset by the virtuosity of the best students, and divertissements such as romantic duets added a layer of emotional depth to the farce. Classroom ballets are renowned for their appeal, and the work was immediately popular - although perhaps overshadowed by Massine's most renowned crowd pleaser in this style - Le Beau Danube.
The Australian premiere of Scuola di Ballo took place on November 21, 1936 in Melbourne during the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet tour. On opening night, Leon Woizikowsky performed as Rigadon, as he had for the original 1933 performance. Helene Kirsova danced as Rosine (the talented new comer), Nina Raievska as Felicita (the bad pupil), and Marija Korjinska as Josephine (the star pupil). The work was performed by all three Ballets Russes companies touring Australia between 1936 and 1940. In performances by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet in 1938-1939, Tatiana Riabouchinska and Edouard Borovansky performed in the roles originally created on them, with Riabouchinska as Rosine and Borovansky as Fabrizio.
Alexei Ratmansky created a new production of Scuola di ballo for the Australian Ballet's Concord programme in 2009. With choreography 'by Ratmansky after Leonide Massine, based on Carlo Goldoni's comedy' and design by Hugh Colman, this production opened at the State Theatre, Melbourne on 21 August, with Ben Davis performing as Rigadon, Lana Jones as Josephina, Jane Casson as Felicita and Leanne Stojmenov as Rosina.
Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes: Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo 1932-1952 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990);
Choreographed by Dorothy Stevenson with a score by Esther Rofe and designs by Alan McCulloch, Sea Legend premiered at Melbourne's Comedy Theatre during a season by the Borovansky Australian Ballet in November 1943. The work was restaged by Stevenson for the International Ballet in London in 1948. Rofe had written the music in London while studying at the Royal College of Music. When plans to produce it as a ballet had fallen through, Rofe offered the music to Borovansky who in turn gave it to Stevenson. Rofe's original title for the music was Sea Ballet.
Stevenson had, earlier, choreographed a ballet about a half-drowned mortal, which was set to Claude Debussy's piano work, The Submerged Cathedral, and which had been performed at an early Borovansky studio performance. She reworked this piece into Sea Legend. Its story centres on a mortal man, created by Martin Rubinstein, who falls in love with a creature of the deep, danced by Stevenson herself. A corps de ballet represented the sea which, enraged by the love between the mortal and the sea creature, drew the woman back into the sea. The man followed to his doom.
Sea Legend was notated in Labanotation in 1986 as part of the Australian Choreographic Project. While without a distinctively Australian theme, its all Australian creative team of Stevenson, Rofe and McCulloch make it a very early, perhaps the first, all Australian production.
George Balanchine's Serenade was first seen in Australia in Sydney on 17 April 1958 when it was the opening work on opening night of New York City Ballet's first Australian tour. It entered the repertoire of the Australian Ballet in 1970. Most recently it featured on the Australian Ballet's 2004 Balanchine tribute program, Mr B. Its various stagings in Australia have been by Victoria Simon.
Balanchine wrote of Serenade that it had no concealed story. It was, he said, simply dancers in motion to beautiful music - 'a serenade, a dance, if you like, in the light of the moon'. It premiered on 8 December 1934 by students of the School of American Ballet, at the Avery Memorial Theatre, Hartford, Connecticut. The stage premiere was preceded by an outdoor performance in June 1934 by students of the School of American Ballet at the estate of Felix M. Warburg, White Plains, New York. Named after the music that accompanies it, Tchaikovsky's Serenade in C major for String Orchestra, the work is in four movements danced without interruption. It was the first ballet Balanchine made after arriving in the United States and it has become a kind of talisman, a piece of magic that even from its first performances held within it the promise of the riches that Balanchine would go on to create in his new country.
Graeme Murphy's Sheherazade premiered at a Gala Performance on 9 August 1979 and was then performed as part of the immediately following Signature Season at the Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House. For this season Murphy's company performed under the banner of The Dance Company - without the added descriptor (NSW), which had been part of the original company name. The new name, Sydney Dance Company, was adopted at the end of this season.
The cast for the original Murphy production of Sheherazade comprised Graeme Murphy, Janet Vernon, Sheree da Costa and Ross Philip. The work was performed to a score by Ravel, his Sheherazade a piece for voice and orchestra inspired by three poems by Tristan Klingsor. The first song, 'Asie', was danced by Janet Vernon and Graeme Murphy, the second song, 'La Flute enchantee', was a solo for Sheree da Costa, and the third song, 'L'Indifferent', was danced by Janet Vernon, Graeme Murphy, Sheree da Costa and Ross Philip.
Sheherazade was designed by Kristian Fredrikson who was inspired by the art of Gustav Klimt. Fredrikson wote in program notes: 'Maurice Ravel, in his music, coveted that which Gustav Klimt reveals in his painting, the quivering light and dark of the human heart'. A Christian Dior perfume, Diorissimo, was used as an added component during the performance.
The work was highly regarded by critics. Brian Hoad, writing in The Bulletin said: 'Sheherazade is choreographic mood painting at its most luscious'.
Sheherazade remained in the Sydney Dance company repertoire for a number of years and in 2000 the the duet originally danced by Murphy and Vernon was revived for Murphy's celebratory Body of Works season when it was danced by Josef Brown and Katherine Griffiths.
Kristian Fredrikson's designs for Sheherazade are held by the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra.
Shining was choreographed by Graeme Murphy for his tenth anniversary season as director of Sydney Dance Company. In program notes Murphy wrote:
'Shining celebrates my gratitude for ten wonderfully exciting years with the Sydney Dance Company. Years affording me association with established and blossoming talents from varied areas of the arts, introduction to new audiences in Australia and overseas and, above all, the joy of working in uncompromising proximity to the dancers. Ten years has seen the consolidation of the Company team in a magnificant home and we have gathered a power of friends that give Janet Vernon and myself an unfaltering belief in the future- a future shining with promise.'
Set to a selection of music by Karol Szymanowski, with set design by Andrew Carter, costume design by Jennifer Irwin and lighting by John Drummond Montgomery, the work premiered in the Opera Theatre, Sydney Opera House on 6 November 1986. Its three acts unfolded backwards in time beginning with 'Dawn', moving to Pre-Dawn and concluding with events of the previous evening in 'Night'. Both Murphy and his associate Janet Vernon performed in Shining. The work was toured extensively in 1987.
Sid's Waltzing Masquerade was created for Sydney Dance Company by Canadian born guest choreographer Aszure Barton in 2008, the year in which the company was without an artistic director following the death of Tanja Liedtke. The world premiere of Sid's, Barton's Australian choreographic debut, took place at Carriageworks, Sydney, on October 8, 2008.
In program notes, Barton described Sid's Waltzing Masquerade as 'a result of the impact that the dancers, collaborators and the country' made on her during the six weeks she spent in Australia creating the work. 'I am fascinated with the history, inner life and eccentricities of the artists. My goal was to create a world based on them, as individuals and as a family.' Bradley Chatfield's pivotal role in the work reflected his seventeen year history with the Sydney Dance Company 'family'.
The creative team for Sid's included Barton's collaborative assistant Ian Robinson, who also danced in the premiere season, set designer Gerard Manion, costume designer Michelle Jank, lighting designer Trudy Dalgleish and sound designer George Gorga. Barton's musical arrangement for the work incorporates an eclectic mix that ranges from Beethoven to Rolf Harris and includes a spoken and musical rendition of Waltzing Matilda.
Dancers in the premiere season were: Bradley Chatfield, Chylie Cooper, Emmie Dillon, Connor Dowling, Annabel Knight, Johanna Lee, Teagan Lowe, Reed Luplau, Rani Luther, Veronica Mahon, Ian Robinson, Simon Turner, Kalman Warhaft, Chen Wen, Jason Wilcock and Angus Woodyard.
Sydney Dance Company toured Sid's Waltzing Masquerade within Australia in 2009. The closing performance of the Canberra season on September 5 marked Bradley Chatfield's farewell appearance with the company.
Sigrid premiered at the Rudolf Steiner Hall, London, on 27 July 1935 as an entry in the Pavlova Casket competition. Designed by Hugh Stevenson and danced to music by Grieg, the work won second prize for its choreographer, Laurel Martyn. In this first performance Martyn danced the role of Sigrid and Jean Bedells that of the Guardian Spirit of Sigrid's soul.
The first Australian performance of Sigrid was on 17 April 1940 in Toowoomba, Queensland, as part of the first of a series of ballet recitals put together by Laurel Martyn and Dorothy Stevenson. Martyn danced the title role and Stevenson that of the Guardian Spirit. It was performed later that same year on 10 and 17 August in Melbourne for a Melbourne Ballet Club performance in the studio of the Borovansky Ballet Academy. For those performances Kenneth Rowell designed a backcloth and Martyn and Stevenson again danced the leading roles, supported by Mara North, Keith Ross-Munro, Jonet Wilkie, Corrie Lodders and Ann MacKintosh as the four young girls of the village. It entered the repertoire of the Borovansky Australian Ballet in 1942 with Edna Busse as Sigrid and Martin Rubinstein as the Guardian Spirit. Others in this original Borovansky Australian Ballet cast were Corrie Lodders, Mara North, Ann MacKintosh, and Keitha Ross-Munro, again dancing the young girls of the village. Music for this first Borovansky staging was played by pianist Eric Clapham.
Sigrid was subsequently performed in Australia and New Zealand by the Borovansky Ballet until 1945 and then in many seasons by Martyn's Ballet Guild.
Simple Symphony was choreographed by Walter Gore to the Benjamin Britten composition of the same name for Ballet Rambert in London in 1944. It was brought to Australia by the Rambert company on its tour of 1947 to 1949 and was given its Australian premiere in Melbourne on 24 October 1947. It had designs by Ronald Wilson and Gore dedicated the ballet to D.M. The cast for the opening night comprised Sally Gilmour, Elizabeth Schooling, Paula Hinton, Margaret Scott, Walter Gore, Frank Staff, Harry Cordwell and John Gilpin with Barbara Grimes, Eileen Ward, Pamela Vincent and Margaret Hill. Rambert program notes described the ballet as 'an exuberant choreographic thank-offering created by Walter Gore, Ballet Rambert's premier danseur, a few months after he was twice torpedoed on D-Day. The ballet portrays the different moods of the fisher-folk of a seaside village - a whirlwind frolic by the seashore, overflowing with the gay abandon of youth ...'. During the Rambert tour the work was filmed on the Gold Coast by the Queensland Department of Public Instruction.
Simple Symphony was subsequently restaged by Cecil Bates for the South Australian Ballet Company in 1963 and by Gore for Ballet Victoria in 1974. The Bates restaging opened on 23 May and featured Susan Pegler, Helen Beinke, Heather Deen, Gaynor Maxwell, Cecil Bates, George Dubowsky, Donald Lugg and William Stuart with Jane Ballantyne, Barbara Dickeson, Charmaine Spencer and Janet Winkley. The Ballet Victoria production opened in July 1974. It had designs by Miranda Hurley and was dedicated to D.M. It featured Dianne Parrington, Belinda Mitchell, Pamela Buckman, Gaye Sinclair, Johanna Harper, Christine Babinskas, Jane Beckett, Susan Mikkelsen and Karl Welander, Gary Hill, Phillip Hurley-Warrell and Leszek Kuligowski.
Program notes by Gore for the Ballet Victoria production state:
The hurly-burly of the Sea
Has the tang of the salt-sea waves
The return of the fishermen from the sea.
So spoke the Press, but it was not my intention that this ballet should be sea-style. Although, as I started thinking it out on duty watch during my time in the Navy while we were swinging round a buoy, I expect this had some effect. The sweeping seagulls played a part in it too, I suppose.
Soleil de nuit (The Midnight Sun) was Leonide Massine's choreographic debut for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes, with Massine himself dancing in the 1915 premiere. Based on a Russian folk tale, this ballet was set to part of Rimsky-Korsakov's score for the opera The Snow Maiden, and featured bold design by Michel Larionov.
Australian audiences were introduced to the work by the first of the de Basil Ballets Russes companies to tour Australia, the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet, and it was also a popular inclusion in the repertoire of the following two de Basil tours by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet and the Original Ballet Russe. The Australian premiere took place at His Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne, on December 19, 1936, with Leon Woizikowsky performing as the Midnight Sun, Irina Bondireva as the Snow Maiden and Thadee Slavinsky as Bobyl (The Innocent). The Argus review of December 21 described the work as 'pagan Russian dances, hearty, good-natured and primitive…They match the tempestuous music of Rimsky-Korsakoff perfectly and breathe that peculiar air of boisterous gaiety that makes Russian folk dancing so fascinating to Western eyes. Larionoff's peasant costumes are a riot of colour and when the ensemble is on the warpath, leaping and whirling in a frenzy of physical animation, the effect is intoxicating'.
'Ballet's Last Performances', The Argus, 21 December 1936, p. 4
Some Rooms premiered in Sydney in the Drama Theatre of the Sydney Opera House on 22 November 1983. Choreographed by Graeme Murphy, with film and slide environment by Michelle Mahrer and Brett Cabot, set design by Murphy and Graham Johnson, costumes by Anthony Jones and lighting by David Malacari, the work was danced to music selected from the works of Keith Jarrett, Joseph Canteloube, Francis Poulenc, Benjamin Britten and Samuel Barber.
Some Rooms is in four sections: 'Bedroom', 'Bathroom', 'Changing Room' and 'Reading Room' with each room being a metaphor for a stage in the the unfolding of interpersonal relationships. Murphy's program notes for the opening season explained: 'The first room, the bedroom, is a dwelling place of youthful dreams where the voyager creates his fantasy of idealised love. The second - the bathroom - belongs to a harsher, more sophisticated world where he in turn becomes the object of another's fantasy. In the confusion of the changing room the voyager encounters conflictions of sexuality and persona - and in the reading room there is a feeling of calm as the physical gives way to the spiritual. The voyager gains a perspective of his own tenuous world'.
The cast for the premiere performance was led by Paul Mercurio as the Voyager, Tonia Kelly as his Dream Love, Janet Vernon as the Woman and Ross Philip as the Man. Susan Barling took the lead role in the Changing Room section. Some Rooms toured nationally and internationally, notably to New York where it premiered at the City Center Theatre on 26 March 1985.
Murphy's restaging of Some Rooms opened on 27 September 2004 at Sydney Theatre at Walsh Bay. This production was relit by Damien Cooper and had new video footage by Jason Lam. The cast was led by Bradley Chatfield as the Voyager, Tracey Carrodus as his Dream Love, Katherine Griffiths as the Woman and Simon Turner as the Man. Wakako Asano took the leading role in the Changing Room.
Songs with Mara premiered on 23 July 1992 at the Gorman House Arts Centre, Canberra, where it was performed by the Meryl Tankard Company. With choreography and direction by Meryl Tankard and set design by Regis Lansac, the work's initial season was dedicated to the memory of Kelvin Coe. The piece featured Bulgarian songs sung by the company and led by Mara Kiek. The original cast featured five female dancers, Meryl Tankard, Paige Gordon, Amanda Rogers, Tuula Roppola and Michelle Ryan who were joined by musicians Mara and Lew Kiek. Through its fusion of dance, song and imagery Songs with Mara evoked the spirits and traditions of Eastern Europe. The work was revived in 1995 for Meryl Tankard Australian Dance Theatre when it featured an enlarged cast of both male and female dancers.
Laszlo Seregi's Spartacus was the first full-length ballet by a Central-European choreographer to be staged for an Australian company. Choreographed for the Hungarian State Ballet in 1968, it entered the repertoire of the Australian Ballet on October 26, 1978. Seregi came to Melbourne to stage the work, and was accompanied by his assistant Ildiko Kaszas, ballerina of the Hungarian State Ballet, and by the production designer Gabor Forray and costume designer Tivadar Mark.
In the Australian Ballet program notes Seregi states that in creating his ballet he used 'an original libretto built on [his] memory of Howard Fast's novel' which is a fictionalised account of the Roman gladiator Spartacus who led a slave uprising against the Roman republic. While the story is thus based on the historical event of the Third Servile War of 73-71 BC, it has wider resonance in its depiction of an oppressed people struggling against a ruling aristocracy. Seregi told the tale on a grand scale in three acts and set it to an edited version of an existing score by Aram Khachaturian.
The Australian premiere of the ballet took place at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne, with Gary Norman performing the title role and Marilyn Rowe as his wife Flavia. The large cast incorporated members of the Australian Ballet School and featured Ross Stretton as Crassus, David Burch as Gad, Alan Alder as Crixus, Martin Raistrick as the African, Ken Whitmore as Batiatus and Michela Kirkaldie and Christine Walsh as Julia and Claudia. Norman and Rowe also danced the lead roles when the ballet was performed in Athens during the company's international tour the following year.
Steven Heathcote danced as Spartacus during the Australian Ballet's 1990 United States tour that included a season at the Metropolitan Opera, New York. He also performed the title role in the 2002 production which featured guest artist Albert David as the African gladiator Oenomaus.
Stamping Ground Dance Festival was held annually in January from 1997 to 2005 in Bellingen, New South Wales. Founded by Peter Stock, the Festival was a celebration of male dance and the action arts. Stamping Ground functioned on artistic, social, ritualistic, mentoring and educational levels and was billed as 'a gathering for all men and youths illuminating the athletic and creative qualities of the movement arts... questioning the ownership of the dance and challenging destructive ideas, fears and compulsory attitudes which inhibit the personal development of men.'
The Festival incorporated public performances, workshops, courses, events, ceremonies and revelry across a range of dance forms including ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap, funk, street dance - and a broad range of other movement arts such as contact improvisation, experiential movement, martial arts, fire working skills, circus acrobatics, stunt and sword work. Stamping Ground presented courses and workshops by Australian dance professionals including Patrick Harding-Irmer, John Utans and Gerard van Dyck. These resulted in a series of performance works shown throughout the festival.
Following the final Stamping Ground Festival in 2005, Travers Ross instigated a festival in Coffs Harbour that developed initially into the Intensive Festival and more recently into the Utopian Dream Festival, taking place from January 2009. Ross was a participant in every Stamping Ground Festival, initially as a young dancer and later as a teacher. He featured in the ABC television documentary Australian Story based on the 2002 Stamping Ground Festival. Utopian Dream is conceived as a multicultural dance festival with international professional choreographers of diverse dance styles ranging across ballet, contemporary, jazz, tap, Latin, Bollywood, street styles, indigenous dance styles and circus skills.
Suite en blanc is internationally acclaimed as a neoclassical showpiece, a one-act ballet designed to display the technical virtuosity of a company. Choreographed by Serge Lifar for the Paris Opera Ballet, it premiered in Zurich in 1943 with Yvette Chauvire and Lifar himself dancing principal roles. Lifar largely extracted the music for Suite en blanc from Edouard Lalo's score for Namouna, a short-lived ballet choreographed by Petipa in 1882. Many of the names for musical episodes were carried over from the original score, resulting in such titles as 'Variation de la Cigarette' which, while referring to the plot of Namouna, appear irrelevant to the 'pure dance' of Suite en blanc.
The 1943 production used pure white costumes against a stark, monumental, black setting. A 1946 revival for the Nouveau Ballet de Monte Carlo was entitled Noir et Blanc, reflecting the costuming of the males in black tights. Lifar staged a second version of the work, also entitled Noir et Blanc, in 1963. This was the version first seen in Australia, danced by the Grand Ballet Classique de France in 1965, with Maina Gielgud performing the 'Cigarette' solo. Two years later an ensemble from the Paris Opera company performed the original Suite en blanc in Australia, with Yvette Chauvire dancing in her 1943 premiere role.
Attribution of the first performance of the work by an Australian company is complicated by the controversy surrounding Robert Pomie's piece for the Borovansky Ballet in 1958 which, although entitled Serenade classique, was reportedly a non-credited version of Suite en blanc. The first endorsed staging by an Australian company came when Lifar, renowned in Australia from his performances with the Original Ballet Russe in 1939/40, returned in 1981 to personally stage Suite en blanc for the Australian Ballet. This production opened at the Sydney Opera House on 18 March 1981. Suite en blanc was also performed in the 1988 season, featuring in the Bicentennial Gala and the Bicentennial international tour. It has remained in the repertoire of the Australian Ballet.
The following description, from 'Ballet and Dance' by Clement Crisp and Peter Brinson, highlights significant style features of the piece: 'It bears all the hallmarks of the Lifarian style: dancers working in parallel formation; feet placed in Lifar's own applied sixth and seventh positions; arabesque delie; sharply held bodies; brilliant use of beaten steps.' Stanton Welch, commenting in a press release for the Houston Ballet in May 2003, describes it as 'based on French technique, with typical Lifaresque off-balance virtuosity, all done with humor behind it. It's an extremely difficult ballet that shows off the entire company; only the best companies attempt it. Dancers need to do this ballet to prove their worth as dancers.'
Robert Helpmann's Sun Music premiered in Sydney on 2 August 1968 at Her Majesty's Theatre. With a score by Peter Sculthorpe and designs by Kenneth Rowell, the work was danced by artists of the Australian Ballet led by Karl Welander, Kelvin Coe and Josephine Jason. Helpmann dedicated Sun Music to Dame Zara Holt, widow of the former prime minister, Harold Holt, who had been instrumental in gaining government support for the Australian Ballet when it began operations in 1962.
Sun Music was in five sections: 'Soil', 'Mirage', 'Growth', 'Energy' and 'Destruction'. In program notes Helpmann explained the theme behind the work: 'The effect of the sun on different elements is the overall theme of this work. The five movements have no connection dramatically'. Other notes included the following verse:
Whose energy can stir the soil
and man to grow and love
Whose power can create and can destroy.
Elsewhere Helpmann wrote: 'The ballet is ... at a universal level. Its various sections show the effect of the sun on the earth; on man, in whom its fierceness produces thirst and madness; on the growth of plants and (here symbolism is employed) on the man-woman relationship. It shows the effects of the sun in supplying energy, and in the destruction brought about by drought and fire'.
Julia Cotton's Super Man premiered on 29 July, 1974, as part of the Australian Ballet's 'Ballet 74' program, one of an ongoing series presenting short works by new or emerging choreographers. Also on the program were three other premieres, Couple by Ian Spink, Continuum by Paul Saliba, and Night Episode, for which John Meehan received the Canberra Times Outstanding Choreographer award. Super Man was awarded special commendation for its originality. It was danced to songs by Australian jazz band Galapagos Duck, who also performed on the night. Design concept was by Ron Radford, and scenery and costumes were by the Melbourne Theatre Company and J. C. Williamson Theatres Ltd. The cast consisted of Leigh Mathews, Rebecca Morrow, William Pepper, Olga Tamara, Mark Brinkley, Nina Felear, Leigh Chambers, Suzanne Way, Angus Lugsdin, Susan Dains, Ross Stretton, Deborah Lerine, Simon Dow, Robert Olup, Francis Croese, Jak Callick, Dennis Trinder, John Meehan, and Wendy Thompson.
The program notes describe Super Man as a 'nostalgic', 'reflective', and 'gentle send-up of the '70's sentimental notion of the immediate past', also exploring 'the hero worship of the non-existent ideal.' Hilary Trotter, a judge of the competition, described the work as 'a sort of Who's Who of the old movie musicals and gangster films, and a tribute to Miss Cotton's powers of comic characterisation'. Jill Sykes, also a judge, found it 'a very enjoyable romp which, sharpened up, may well find a place in the repertoire'.
Hilary Trotter, 'Choreographers…Ask No More', The Canberra Times, 30 July 1974; Jill Sykes, 'Free Hand Succeeds', The Canberra Times, 30 July 1974.
The first full-length staging of Swan Lake on Australian soil took place in 1951, presented by the National Theatre Ballet and opening at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne, on 7 February with Lynne Golding and Henry Danton in the leading roles. Prior to this, Australian audiences had become familiar with various stagings based on Act II of the work. As early as 1934, Olga Spessivtseva and Anatole Vilzak danced the leading Act II roles during the Dandre-Levitoff Russian Ballet tour. An abridged one-act version, based on Act II, also appeared (billed as Le lac des cygnes) on programs of the touring de Basil Russian Ballet companies between 1936 and 1940 when glamorous stars like Tamara Toumanova, Irina Baronova, Helene Kirsova, Anton Dolin, Paul Petroff and Serge Lifar danced the leading roles. After the Ballets Russes stagings, a version of Act II was performed in the 1940s by the Kirsova Ballet with Peggy Sager and Paul Hammond in the lead and then by the Borovansky Ballet when artists like Edna Busse, Laurel Martyn and Serge Bousloff had starring roles. But the National's full-length production in 1951 marked the beginning of a succession of Australian versions of the full-length ballet.
Edouard Borovansky staged his full-length version in 1957. Program notes indicate that the 'present choreography' and production were by Charles Dickson and that designs were by Anne Fraser. The Borovansky Swan Lake opened in Adelaide on 5 April. The role of Odette/Odile was shared during the season by the company's top dancers including ballerinas Kathleen Gorham, Peggy Sager and Mary Gelder and male artists Robert Pomie and Vassilie Trunoff.
Then Peggy van Praagh produced a full-length Swan Lake for the inaugural season of the Australian Ballet in 1962. Choreography was credited to Marius Petipa and Lev Ivanov with the production referred to as having been revised by van Praagh and Ray Powell. Designs were those of Anne Fraser and were those used in the Borovansky Ballet production. Opening night was in Sydney at Her Majesty's Theatre on 2 November. In the lead were guest artists Sonia Arova and Erik Bruhn with Australian dancers Marilyn Jones and Kathleen Gorham alternating with Arova in subsequent shows and Garth Welch and Caj Selling alternating with Bruhn. The van Praagh production remained in the repertoire for a decade and a half. Over that period it served as a vehicle for the technical and dramatic talents of the Australian Ballet's finest artists, and frequently showcased the company's guest stars, including Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev who danced van Praagh's full-length production in 1964.
Anne Woolliams, the third artistic director of the Australian Ballet, produced a new version of Swan Lake in 1977. Designed by Tom Lingwood it opened on 19 October at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne, with Marilyn Rowe and Kelvin Coe in the lead. Woolliams created new choreography for Acts I and IV of this production, retained the Ivanov choreography for Act II and had Ray Powell create new character dances for Act III. In her program notes Woolliams wrote: 'This production tries to avoid the trend of changing traditional ballets solely in order to be different. On the other hand, any attempt to reproduce what is believed to be an authentic version usually has a museum quality of interest only to historians'. The Woolliams production, with its dramatic logic, brooding designs and clearly patterned choreography for the corps de ballet remained in the repertoire for twenty-five years.
Graeme Murphy's radical and hugely successful reworking of Swan Lake for the Australian Ballet opened on 17 September 2002 at the State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre, Melbourne. Leading the cast were Simone Goldsmith as Odette, Steven Heathcote as Siegfried and Margaret Illmann as the Baroness von Rothbart. The concept, which moved the story beyond its traditional Gothic narrative, was developed by the creative team of Murphy, Janet Vernon and Kristian Fredrikson, who also designed the work. The Murphy Swan Lake, its production team and cast won several awards in 2003. They included a Green Room Award for concept and realisation, two Helpmann Awards, one for choreography and one for design, and two Australian Dance Awards, one for choreography and one for best performance by a female dancer (Simone Goldsmith). The work was restaged for an 'encore season' in 2004, opening at the Sydney Opera House on 27 April with Madeleine Eastoe as Odette, Steven Heathcote as Siegfried and Lynette Wills as the Baroness von Rothbart. It was performed by the Australian Ballet in London and Cardiff in 2005, earning the company the 2005 UK Critics' Circle Award for 'Best Foreign Dance Company', and to critical acclaim in Shanghai in 2006, Tokyo in 2007, and Paris and Manchester in 2008.
Bibliography:The making of the Anne Woolliams production of Swan Lake is documented in Michael Cook, Swan Lake: the making of a ballet (Sydney: Golden Press, 1978). Graeme Murphy's 2002 reworking of Swan Lake for the Australian Ballet is discussed in depth by Lee Christofis in 'Odette's evolving nightmare', Brolga 18 (June 2003), pp. 7-19. This article includes a detailed synopsis.
The Sydney 2000 Olympic Games were complemented by a major arts festival - the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival. Officially named Harbour of Life, the 2000 festival was the culmination of a series of annual festivals that began in 1997. The earlier festivals were Festival of the Dreaming (1997), A Sea Change (1998), and Reaching the World (1999).
The 2000 festival, Harbour of Life, was officially opened at dawn on 18 August, almost a month prior to the start of the Games, with Tubowgule (Meeting of the Waters) devised by Stephen Page and Rhoda Roberts. This event progressed throughout the day with a series of performances by Bangarra Dance Theatre and Doonooch Dance Company. Components of the performance were staged around and near Sydney Harbour, at Congwong Bay Beach, the Botanical Gardens, and in the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point.
Harbour of Life featured a significant number of dance performances by both Australian and invited international companies. Newly created works included Stephen Page's Skin for Bangarra Dance Theatre, Graeme Murphy's Mythologia for Sydney Dance Company and Stephen Baynes' Personal Best for the Australian Ballet. Established works performed by the Australian Ballet during to 2000 festival included William Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated; Nacho Duato's Por Vos Muero, Twyla Tharp's In the Upper Room, Ronald Hynd's The Merry Widow, Jiri Kylian's Bella Figura, and Maurice Bejart's Bolero, which featured guest artist Sylvie Guillem. Productions from international companies included Lloyd Newson's Can we Afford This for DV8, Pina Bausch's Masurca Fogo for Tanztheater Wuppertal, Lin Hwai-min's Nine Songs and Moon Water for Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, and Bill T. Jones's You Walk for Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Company.
Festival of the Dreaming (1997), directed by Rhoda Roberts, opened the Sydney Olympic Arts Festival series with a celebration of Australia's indigenous peoples. It also 'welcomed other first nations' peoples of the world'. The 1997 festival encompassed traditional dance, song, story-telling, painting and craft as well as contemporary indigenous arts such as music, theatre, dance, painting and literature. Dance companies performing in the Festival of the Dreaming included the Aboriginal Islander Dance Theatre, Bangarra Dance Theatre, and Marrugeku from Australia, as well as Chang Mu Dance Company from Korea, and Silamiut from Greenland.
The second festival, Sea Change (1998), was directed by Andrea Stretton. It focused on 'transformations in Australian culture', and celebrated Australia's development into a multicultural society and the impact of immigration. Dance events featured in this festival included performances by Bangarra Dance Theatre, Chunky Move, Dance North, Mornington Island Dancers, Nadoya Music and Dance Company, Expressions Dance Company, City Contemporary Dance Company from Hong Kong, Kate Champion, and Aku Kadogo.
The third festival, Reaching the World (1999) was also directed by Andrea Stretton. It sought to take Australian visual and performing arts to the rest of the world. Australian dance companies who toured overseas with this festival included the Sydney Dance Company who toured throughout North America, Marrugeku Company who toured to New Caledonia, and Bangarra Dance Theatre who toured to Woman USA in Seattle.
Karen van Ulzen, 'Olympian Dance', Dance Australia, 104, (October/November 1999), pp. 47-48.
Leonide Massine's ballet Symphonie fantastique was first performed at Covent Garden, London, on 24 July 1936 by Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes. Massine danced the role of the Young Musician and Tamara Toumanova that of the Beloved. The ballet was set to the symphonic work composed by Hector Berlioz in 1830 and featured designs by Christian Berard.
Berlioz's composition told the story of a lovelorn young musician driven by despair to an overdose of opium. It consisted of five movements, each representing a distinct hallucination ranging from a pastoral scene to a witches' sabbath. The work was an example of program music, that is, music composed with the intention of representing a particular theme or narrative.
The pre-defined narrative of Symphonie fantastique distinguished it from Massine's earlier symphonic ballets, Les Presages and Choreartium, and in his autobiography Massine remarked on the challenge of integrating abstract choreographic passages with a melodramatic plot. He utilised the music's romantic symbolism in his choreography, particularly in the first movement where dancers appeared as allegorical representations of different phases in the Young Musician's hallucination - melancholy, reverie, gaiety and passion. The recurring melody, or idee fixe, representing the Young Musician's romantic obsession, accompanied each entrance of the Beloved, providing a sense of continuity throughout the ballet.
Symphonie fantastique was first performed in Australia by de Basil's Covent Garden Russian Ballet at His Majesty's Theatre, Melbourne, on 1 October 1938. Yurek Shabelevsky appeared as the Young Musician and Irina Baronova as the Beloved. Shortly after the opening, Shabelevsky left for America suddenly (for personal reasons) and Anton Dolin danced the role of the Young Musician at later dates on the tour. The ballet was received with acclaim, with The Age reporting it to be a 'tremendous choreographic conception'. Ballet critic, Geoffrey Hutton, wrote:
'A company armed at all points is needed to do justice to the Symphonie fantastique, in which Massine has set himself the Herculean task of translating into movement, line and colour the teeming images which crowd the most romantic of symphonies ... the imaginative daring of the work may detract attention from its remarkable qualities as ballet'.
The success and popularity of Symphonie fantastique with audiences was clear after it was chosen by public ballot to be among the ballets in the final performance of the Melbourne season. The work was seen again on the Original Ballet Russe tour to Australia, premiering in Sydney on February 23 1940, with Tamara Toumanova reprising her role as the Beloved and Paul Petroff appearing as the Young Musician.
Symphonie fantastique was restaged in Australia in 1954-56 by Kiril Vassilkovsky for the Borovansky Ballet with designs by William Constable. Yurek Shabelevsky returned to Australia as a guest artist for the 1956 season and again performed the role of the Young Musician.
The Australian Ballet commissioned Polish choreographer Krzysztof Pastor to create a new Symphonie fantastique in 2007. Using the Berlioz score and with design by Tanyana van Walsum, this premiered in Melbourne on August 30, 2007 with Robert Curran as the Artist and Kirsty Martin as the Idee Fix. This work was presented within the 'Destiny' programme, a tribute to Massine reflecting the Australian Ballet's involvement in the project Ballets Russes in Australia: Our cultural revolution. Pastor's Symphonie fantastique was presented in Paris during the company's 2008 international tour.
Kathrine Sorley Walker, De Basil's Ballets Russes (London: Hutchinson, 1982) ; Edward H. Pask, Enter the colonies dancing: a history of dance in Australia 1835-1940 (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1979) ; Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes: Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo 1932-1952 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990) ; Geoffrey Hutton, 'Great Symphonic Ballet', The Argus, 3 October 1938, p. 10 ; Leonide Massine, My Life in Ballet (London: Macmillian, 1968); Mark Carroll, ''Let's Stage a Fight!': Massine's symphonic ballets in Australia', Brolga 26 (June 2007), pp. 15-26.
Tap Dogs premiered at the Starfish Club, Sydney Theatre Company, on 7 January 1995 as part of the 10th anniversary celebrations for Sydney Theatre Company's headquarters at Walsh Bay, Sydney. The Tap Dogs cast was led by Dein Perry, who also choreographed the work. Perry was joined by six other performers, Darren Disney, Drew Kaluski, Ben Mayne, Ben Read, Nathan Sheens and Gerry Symonds. The work, which was originally produced by Sydney Theatre Company, was directed and designed by Nigel Triffit. Its composer and musical director was Andrew Wilkie and it was lit originally by David Murray.
Tap Dogs was created by Perry around themes that developed from his experiences as an industrial machinist in Newcastle, New South Wales, where the majority of the dancers also trained. The work unfolds on a building site of scaffolding, girders, ladders and ropes. The dancers wear work clothes and the music combines the rhythms of boots on metal and wood with an original percussion score.
Since its first performance the show has toured continuously both in Australia and overseas and at times there have been up to four groups of dancers performing the work in different parts of the world. The name Tap Dogs has come to be used for both the show of that name and for the group of people who perform in it. Tap Dogs, the show, has received several awards in Australia and overseas. For his choreography for Tap Dogs Perry has also been the recipient of several awards including Olivier Awards in 1995 and 1996 and an Australian Dance Award in 1998.
What was perhaps the first all-Australian ballet, Terra Australis, premiered in Melbourne on 25 May 1946. Performed by the Borovansky Ballet it was choreographed by Edouard Borovansky, newly naturalised as an Australian, to a libretto by Tom Rothfield and a commissioned score by Esther Rofe. The ballet dealt with the colonisation of Australia by white explorers. Australia was represented by a young virgin, the Spirit of Australia, who was courted by an Aboriginal lover but drawn to a white explorer. The original cast included Peggy Sager as the Spirit of Australia, Martin Rubinstein as the Explorer and Vassilie Trunoff as the Aborigine. Designs for the 1946 production were by Eve Harris.
Terra Australis was restaged by the Borovansky Ballet in 1947 when Kathleen Gorham danced the role of the Spirit of Australia. At this time the work was partly redesigned by William Constable who made a new backcloth. The original costumes by Eve Harris were retained.
For a further discussion of Terra Australis and its creation see 'Terra Australis' in National Library of Australia News, October 2003.
Keith Parker, 'An Australian Ballet is Made', Ballet (London: Ballet Publications), 2, (No. 3, August, 1946), pp. 57-59.
Choreographed by Michel Fokine, Thamar was first performed by Diaghilev's Ballet Russe at Theatre du Chatelet in Paris on 20 May 1912, featuring Tamara Karsavina as Queen Thamar and Adolph Bolm as the Prince. Thamar was set to the symphonic poem of the same name by composer, Mily Balakirev, which in turn was based on the literary work by Mikhail Lermontov.
The one act ballet begins as Thamar, Queen of Georgia, waves a scarf through her window to entice a passing suitor into her castle. When the Prince arrives she initially rejects his advances, however fervent dancing ensues and the pair kiss. They leave the room and the Queen's followers continue dancing wildly. When the Queen and Prince re-enter she suddenly stabs him and he falls through a secret panel into the river below. The Queen returns to the window to signal a new victim with her scarf.
The ballet was the last of six Orientalist ballets premiered by Diaghilev's Ballet Russe between 1909 and 1912 from a list that includes Scheherazade, Le Dieu Bleu and Cleopatra. These ballets, set in locations ranging from Central Asia to Egypt, depicted scenarios filled with forbidden sex, high drama and violent death. They portrayed the East as wild and sensuous, violent and decadent.
This vision of the East was captured spectacularly in the designs of Leon Bakst, who, in Thamar, drew on Georgian architecture for his design of the castle and created vibrant costumes and sumptuous sets. The Orientalist ballets and Bakst designs were hugely influential on fashion, art and interior design of the time. See the National Gallery of Australia's de Basil's Ballets Russes on their 1940 Australian tour.
Footage of the Ballets Russes performing Thamar in Australia, filmed by Ewan Murray-Will, is available online at the australianscreen site 'Monte Carlo Russian Ballet. Original Ballet Russe Clip 3: Thamar'
'Humour in ballet and more Oriental splendour', The Argus, 14 December 1936, p. 4 ; 'Thamar presented: last week of season', The Sydney Morning Herald, 22 February 1937, p. 5 ; Cyril Beaumont, Complete book of ballets (New York: Grosset & Dunlop, 1938)
The Australian Dance Awards were established to acknowledge and honour excellence in dance throughout Australia. The awards identify Australian dance professionals who have made a distinguished contribution to the art form in performance, choreography, design, dance writing, teaching and the many other related professions inextricably woven into dance. They are managed by Ausdance and overseen and judged by a governing council of dance professionals with a national reputation and a broad dance experience and knowledge acquired over a lengthy involvement with the art form.
The Awards grew from the Dancers' Picnic, an informal, community event founded by Keith Bain. The picnic was first held in 1986 when the dance community gathered in Sydney to celebrate International Dance Day and to celebrate the dance achievements of the year.The first award ceremony was held in 1997 in Sydney.
A list of award winners is available over the Ausdance website. See Australian Dance Awards.
The Borovansky Ballet temporarily disbanded in 1948 when financial assistance from the J. C. Williamson organisation was withdrawn. The company did not reform until 1951 and Edouard Borovansky returned to Melbourne, joining his wife Xenia in teaching at their school. In 1949, during this lay-off period, Borovansky's Educational Ballet Club was formed in celebration of ten years of Borovansky productions. The Club presented its first program in the studio theatre at the Borovanskys' Roma House studio in Melbourne. On the program was a revival of Frederick Ashton's Facade, a work choreographed by Xenia Borovansky, Impressions, and the premiere of a new ballet by Edouard Borovansky, The Black Swan.
The Black Swan was Borovansky's second ballet on an Australian theme, following on from his of 1946. Danced to music by Sibelius and with designs by William Constable, The Black Swan was based on an historical incident in 1697 when a Captain Vlaming from the Dutch East India Company discovered and named Rottnest Island and the river on which the city of Perth now stands. He was particularly struck by the number of black swans on the river and his crew captured several and took them back to Java. A libretto, written round this incident by M. Millet, told the story of the Captain entranced by a black swan, symbol of a new land.
In the 1949 performances Eve Gordon danced the Black Swan, Kenneth Gillespie performed as Lieutenant Brandt of Captain Vlaming's crew, Ole Nielsen was Captain Vlaming and Joy MacPherson Villemine the Captain's daughter. The work was restaged in 1950, both in the Roma House studio and at the Union Theatre of the University of Melbourne, when Edna Busse took the role of the Black Swan. When the Borovansky Ballet reformed for its 1951 season The Black Swan was revived and presented on the program of 1 June with Busse as the Black Swan, Gillespie as Brandt, John Auld as the Captain and Dorothy Stevenson as Villemine.
Choreographed by Gertrud Bodenwieser to Johann Strauss' waltz, The Blue Danube featured consistently in programs of the Bodenwieser Ballet, both within Australia and on international tours. While an earlier 'Blue Danube' had been performed by Bodenwieser's dancers in the 1930s, the version performed by Bodenwieser Ballet was choreographed in Australia in 1940, soon after the establishment of the company. Programs indicate that this version was usually performed by six dancers, with the number at times reduced to four or five. Evelyn Ippen's costumes for the Australian production were a slight modification of her design for the earlier ballet, with blue velvet bodices and full, flowing organdie skirts and sleeves. Eileen Kramer credited these 'billowing' costumes and 'the lovely waltz itself' with inspiring her to join the Bodenwieser studio.
Following the death of Gertrud Bodenwieser in November 1959, a tribute performance was held at the Sydney Conservatorium on the 28th of September 1960. Blue Danube was danced on this occasion by Joan Barrie, Margaret Chapple, Moira Claux, Helen Lisle, Eva Nadas and Anne Pitsch.
The Display was the first ballet that Robert Helpmann choreographed for the Australian Ballet. With original music by Malcolm Williamson and costumes and set by Sidney Nolan, it premiered at the Adelaide Festival on 14 March 1964 with Kathleen Gorham as the Female, Garth Welch as the Outsider, Bryan Lawrence as the Leader, and Barry Kitcher as the Male (the Lyrebird). Helpmann conceived the idea for a ballet based on the habits of the lyrebird on a visit to Sherbrooke Forest in the Dandenong Ranges when Katharine Hepburn, in Australia in 1955 on tour with the Old Vic company, took him there because she wanted to see a lyrebird dancing. Helpmann eventually dedicated the ballet to Hepburn.
The Display explored ideas of hostility and aggression in Australian society and its name refers to the mating dance of the lyrebird, for which the ornithological term is 'display'. The work was an important milestone for the Australian Ballet and the Australian-ness of the work was the source of much positive comment. Nolan's designs were particularly successful. One contemporary reviewer remarked: 'The ballet's decor, by the painter Sidney Nolan, not merely recreates the haunt of the lyrebird. It is the deep, rich mysterious gloom of a sunlight shafted Australian rainforest with the pillars of its ghostly white gums rising through its depths'.
The Display was a staple in the Australian Ballet repertoire in the early years of the company's history and it was toured extensively in Australia and overseas. The work was revived by the Australian Ballet in 1983 when new costumes were created for it by fashion designer Adele Weiss.
The Eternal Lovers (Les Amants Eternels) was choreographed by Paul Grinwis in 1951. Set to Tchaikovsky's Romeo and Juliet Fantasy Overture, this was Grinwis' first ballet and was created while he was a principal dancer in the Borovansky Ballet. Grinwis conceived his one-act work as a continuation of the story of two lovers, when they awake in an after-life - 'we shall call them Romeo and Juliet', he wrote, 'because we always think of theirs as one of the greatest of all loves'. Its focal point was a struggle for the Lovers' souls between the spirits of Love and Death, Love, not unexpectedly, being finally victorious. The composer's musical depiction of the conflict between the two families now supported the fight between Love and Death and their followers. William Constable's surrealistic decor of an endless plain merging into a sky of flared clouds diminishing to a central point was an excellent foil for the cast's Renaissance costumes - Juliet in simple white embroidered with silver, Romeo in cream and blue jerkin and blue tights, Death in purple and silver with a dark cloak and helmet, his servants in black, with black gauntlets, Love in cerise and her retinue in blue, with elbow-length cream gloves. Grinwis devised a number of unusual lifts in this work, at the beginning, for example, to give a feeling of weightlessness as the Lovers awake in the spirit world, and two arched rostrums midway on either side were significant for the action. To effect the final reunion of the Lovers, Juliet, outstretched as though in flight, was taken from stage to rostrum level by a series of lifts by Death's minions.
The Eternal Lovers has been described as the most artistically successful ballet created for the Borovansky company. At the premiere, on 1 December 1951 at His Majesty's Theatre Melbourne, Paul Grinwis and Kathleen Gorham danced as the Lovers with Bruce Morrow as the Spirit of Death and Helene Ffrance as the Spirit of Love. The only original work produced in 1951 to be included in subsequent seasons, it was revised in 1954, and had its last performance with the Borovansky company in 1960 when Garth Welch and Iovanka Biegovic danced as the Lovers. It was subsequently staged by Grinwis outside Australia.
This entry is based on an article written by Alan Brissenden in 2006.
L'Oiseau de feu (The Firebird) premiered during the second Paris season of Serge Diaghilev's Ballet Russe in 1910, presenting a landmark synthesis of dance, design and music. Diaghilev commissioned Igor Stravinsky to write the score, his first for ballet, and Michel Fokine was responsible for the libretto and choreography of the one-act work. Collaboration between choreographer and composer was integral to the ballet, with innovations in both dance and music astonishing audiences. The production featured the early Diaghilev trademark of drawing on the traditions and folklore of the company's native Russia. The libretto, a classic tale of love conquering evil, was based on a blend of Russian fairy tales; the exotic designs of Alexander Golovin and Leon Bakst featured traditional Russian craft motifs; and the choreography integrated elements of the Russian folk style. The Firebird, the only role danced on pointe, was created on Tamara Karsavina, although it is said to have been originally conceived for Anna Pavlova, who apparently refused to dance to Stavinsky's score.
L'Oiseau de feu was revived by the de Basil Ballet Russe company in 1934. This production used the decor and costumes that Natalia Gontcharova had designed for the restaging of the work by the Diaghilev company in 1926, and featured Alexandra Danilova as the Firebird. Two years later, de Basil orchestrated the Monte Carlo Russian Ballet tour which brought the work to Australia, premiering in Melbourne on 28 November 1936, with Valentina Blinova dancing as the Firebird, and Valentin Froman and Nathalie Branitzka as Ivan Tsarevitch and his lover, the beautiful Tsarevna. The work was immediately successful with Australian audiences, and Helene Kirsova became renowned for her portrayal of the Firebird in future performances by this company. While this staging used the Bakst decor, the next de Basil company to bring the work to Australia, the Original Ballet Russe which toured in 1939/40, used the Gontcharova designs. During this tour, Tamara Toumanova and Vera Nemtchinova alternated as the Firebird, both to great applause.
L'Oiseau de feu was staged as The Firebird by Serge Grigoriev and Lubov Tchernicheva, with choreography after Fokine, for Sadler's Wells Ballet in 1954, and featured Margot Fonteyn as the Firebird, personally coached in the role by Karsavina. Over the years the work has been recreated in numerous other versions, with varying adherence to Fokine's scenario. George Balanchine's production, with decor by Marc Chagall, was brought to Australia by the New York City Ballet during their 1958 tour.
There have been a number of notable Australian productions of The Firebird. Garth Welch's version, choreographed for the Australian Ballet, opened on 27 April 1972, with Lucette Aldous as the Firebird, and Kelvin Coe and Carolyn Rappel as the noble lovers. Set and costume design was by Greg Irvine. In the following year, Walter Gore staged a version for Perth City Ballet, featuring Paula Hinton in the title role. Other Australian productions include the version choreographed in 1986 by Lambros Lambrou for the West Australian Ballet, and that by Jaqui Carroll for the Queensland Ballet in 1987. The West Australian Ballet performed another Firebird in 1999, this time with choreography by Krzysztof Pastor and design by Francois-Noel Cherpin. This production, which premiered on 11 February 1999, as part of the company's The Source - Tribute to the Ballets Russes season, was also performed in 2001 during the Russian Romance season. While Pastor based his contemporary work on the Fokine synopsis, other choreographers have further distanced their versions from the original. Lucy Guerin abandoned ties to the Fokine libretto when choreographing her non-narrative piece, performed by Delia Sylvan to accompany the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's performance of the Stravinsky score in 2003.
The most recent Australian production was choreographed by Graeme Murphy, with set and costume design by Leon Krasenstein, for the Australian Ballet's 2009 season. On opening night, 24 February in Adelaide, the role of the Firebird was danced by Lana Jones, with Kevin Jackson as Ivan Tsarevich, Danielle Rowe as Tsarevna and Chengwu Guo as Kostchei. Lana Jones' performance in this production won her the 2009 Helpmann award for Best Female Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre Production.
With scenario and staging by Robert Helpmann and choreography by Ronald Hynd, The Merry Widow premiered on 13 November 1975 at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne. The opening night cast was led by Marilyn Rowe as Hannah Glawari and John Meehan as Danilo. The supporting principals were Lucette Aldous as Valencienne, Kelvin Coe as Camille, Colin Peasley as Baron Mirko Zeta and Ray Powell as Njegus. Designs were by Desmond Heeley and the musical adaptation of the Franz Lehar music was by John Lanchbery.
The Merry Widow was the first full length ballet commissioned by the Australian Ballet and it was an instant public success. In 1976 Margot Fonteyn, guesting with the Australian Ballet, danced the leading role of Hannah, and all of the Australian Ballet's leading dancers have appeared in the work over the years. The Merry Widow has been acquired by a number of companies around the world including American Ballet Theatre, PACT Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, the Royal Danish Ballet, Houston Ballet and the Ballet of the Vienna State Opera House.
The National Folk Festival is a major, annual event in Australia's cultural life. It attracts performers and attendees from around Australia and overseas and features performances, instruction and participation in music, dance, circus skills, spoken word and poetry. The Festival states as its mission that it will 'provide an annual celebration of Australian folk life emphasising the quality of our creativity and the diverse cultural heritage of our Australian communities through showcasing a fun-filled community event, which features participation as an imperative'.
With chairperson Shirley Andrews at the helm the first Festival was held in Melbourne in 1967 and in its first twenty five years of existence the event was held in different locations, rotating from state to state and being organised by folk federations in the respective states. As it became more and more popular it became necessary to fix it in one location and in the early 1990s the Australian Folk Trust took over its organisation and made provision for it to take place in Canberra each Easter.
For more about the National Folk Festival see Gwenda Beed Davey, The National: The National Folk Festival and the National Library', National Library of Australia News, April 2003.
Rex Reid's The Night is a Sorceress ('La Nuit est une Sorciere') premiered at the Melbourne Little Theatre on September 8, 1959, performed by the Victorian Ballet Guild. It was based on a storyline by Andre Coffrant that was first presented as a ballet in 1955, choreographed by Pierre Lacotte for his own company, Ballets de la Tour Eiffel. Lacotte's ballet was set to a jazz score by Sidney Bechet, orchestrated by James Toliver. Reid used the same score for his dance-drama which he set in two scenes, with costume and decor design by Ann Church.
The Victorian Ballet Guild program notes describe the work as follows:
This ballet can be summarized as follows, and the reader can attach any one of several possible psychological significances to the happenings and characters.
The scene is an old Victorian mansion in the Southern United States - Georgia or Carolina - at the turn of the century.
A white boy, a somnambulist, is constantly accompanied by his young negro servant, who seems fanatically attached to his master. The boy's parents have tried to convince him during his waking hours that he is a victim of somnambulism, but he has refused to believe them. One evening they decide to follow him and to awaken him from what they consider his folly.
His mother persuades his fiancee, wearing her bridal veil, to go with them. In the darkened attic of the house they discover the somnambulist dreamily occupied with his boyhood pastimes. First his parents, then the love-sick girl, make desperate attempts to awaken him, but through a series of disastrous accidents the young man kills them one after the other in a deathly silence of the moonlit night.
The negro has been watching this horrible scene in a stupefied state. Now he moves as in a trance, and copying the actions of his master, he finally leads the young man to the open window, steps back, and watches as the white boy meets the night and certain death.
In the premiere performance, the Somnambulist was performed by Laurence Bishop, his Parents by Alison Lee and Anthony Burke, his Fiancee by Ann Becher, and the Negro Servant by Jack Manuel. According to Edward Pask, Lee's 'intense and foreboding role as the Mother' was 'one of the finest dramatic portrayals on the ballet stage by a mature artiste to be given in Australia'. Other performances in the opening season featured John Bailey as the Somnambulist, Heather Macrae as the Fiancee and Kenneth Tillson as the servant.
Reid's The Night is a Sorceress was included in the inaugural repertoire of the Australian Ballet, opening at Her Majesty's Theatre Sydney on December 14, 1962. Dancers in the Australian Ballet production included Karl Welander and Garth Welsh as the Somnambulist, Rhyl Kennell, Leslie Sinclair, Suzanne Musitz and Kenneth Tillson as the Parents, Kathleen Gorham and Heather Macrae as the Fiancee, and Robert Olup and Colin Peasley as the Negro Servant.
The notated dance score to The Night is a Sorceress was commissioned by Meg Denton in 1986 and completed by Ray Cook in 2002. Denton's commission involved a revival, done purely for the purpose of notation rather than for performance. The cast consisted of David Roche as the Father, Simi Roche as the Mother, Sam Keany as the Somnambulist, Marie Laing as the Fiancee, and Paul Gazzola as the Negro.
Edward H. Pask, Ballet in Australia: the second act 1940-1980 (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1982), p. 169.
Edouard Borovansky's two act ballet The Outlaw, with a commissioned score from Verdon Williams and designs by William Constable, premiered in Sydney at the Empire Theatre on 18 May 1951. Based on the legend of the bushranger Ned Kelly, the work was Borovansky's third ballet with an Australian theme, following on from his Terra Australis of 1946 and The Black Swan of 1949. It was part of the company's jubilee season and programs refer to the company as the Borovansky Jubilee Ballet. The cast was led by Paul Grinwis as Ned, Kathleen Gorham as Ned's girlfriend Miss X, Miro Zloch as Joe, Charles Boyd as Don, Dorothy Stevenson as the Hotel Proprietess and Paul Hammond as the Policeman.
The libretto for The Outlaw was written by Borovansky and in program notes he explained: 'Its aim is simply to present something of the essence of [Ned Kelly's] life and career, based on the spectacular scenes when he eventually came to disaster at Glenrowan'. The ballet had a prologue, which was written by Clive Turnbull and spoken by John Auld.
The Prodigal Son, or Le Fils prodigue, was first choreographed by George Balanchine for Diaghilev's Ballets Russes in 1929. The musical score by Prokofiev was written especially for the ballet and the designs were created by Georges Rouault. The libretto by Boris Kochno was adapted from the biblical parable and divided into three scenes.
Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes later revived many of Diaghilev's ballets for which decor and costumes were already held, however, Balanchine would not release his choreography of The Prodigal Son for de Basil's Covent Garden Russian Ballet. Instead, David Lichine was commissioned to create a complete choreographic reworking using the original designs, libretto and music.
Lichine's choreography of The Prodigal Son had its world premiere on 30 December 1938 at the Theatre Royal in Sydney by the Covent Garden Russian Ballet, with Anton Dolin in the role of the Son, Tamara Grigorieva as the Siren and Dimitri Rostoff as the Father. The event was the first world premiere staged in Australia by an international company and choreographer.
Lichine had injured his knee before arriving in Australia and was advised to rest from performances. He returned to form later in the tour, performing the title role in The Prodigal Son in the company's short return season in Melbourne in March 1939. Writing in The Age, Geoffrey Hutton found Dolin's performance of the Son 'a remarkable one of strength and gymnastic skill with dramatic impulse.' Of Lichine, he commented that while he had not regained his full technical prowess, his 'great sincerity, his sense of guilt and grief' deeply moved the audience.
Lichine's choreography of The Prodigal Son was noted for its original approach, inventive use of groupings and props. Irina Baronova, who alternated in the role of the Siren, commented that 'David had a wonderful imagination for an image or a line in the composition of a group. He was a like a painter or sculptor who knew how to make a visual impression.'
The work was well received by critics, with The Sydney Morning Herald finding it to be one of the most striking and original ballets of the season. In later years The Times in London commented that 'of all the versions, M. Lichine's is the most distinguished and the most successful. It takes the subject seriously and presents the story in strong stern dances which show considerable powers of invention in their design … The ballet has deeply moving as well as greatly exciting moments.'
The production remained in the company's repertory until it disbanded in 1948. It was revived by Roman Jasinsky in 1977 for the Dallas Ballet and in 1985 for the Tulsa Ballet Theatre.
Kathrine Sorley Walker, De Basil's Ballets Russes (London: Hutchinson, 1982) ; Edward H. Pask, Enter the colonies dancing: a history of dance in Australia 1835-1940 (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1979) ; Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes: Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo 1932-1952 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990).
Helene Kirsova's three-act ballet The Revolution of the Umbrellas premiered at the Sydney Conservatorium on 9 February 1943, as part of the 'Kirsova Ballet Season in aid of the Legacy War Orphans' Appeal'. It was choreographed to music by Henry Krips, musical director and pianist for the Kirsova company at the time. Decor and costumes were by Wolfgang Cardamatis. The libretto, inspired by a Danish fairytale by Kjeld Abell, depicted a lonely waif who finds an umbrella and dreams that it comes to life to lead a revolt against her pretentious wealthy relatives. Peggy Sager performed in the premiere as the Soul of the Lost Umbrella, with Rachel Cameron as Poor Little Anna and Edouard Sobishevsky as the Professor. Other lead cast members included Helena Orlova, Strelsa Heckelman, and Valentin Zeglovsky.
The Sydney Morning Herald review of opening night praised The Revolution of the Umbrellas as 'an arresting work…charged with artistic honesty' and featuring 'a minimum of banality, a maximum of mobility and drama, and some moments of memorable beauty, as in the majestic adagio of the second act.' This review also noted the ballet's 'masculine virility, too rare a characteristic in the work of women choreographers'.
John Whiteoak and Aline Scott-Maxwell (general ed.), Currency Companion to Music and Dance in Australia (Sydney: Currency House in association with Currency Press, 2003); 'Arresting New Ballet', The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 February 1943, p. 9; The National Gallery of Australia holds nine set and costume designs by Wolfgang Cardamatis for The Revolution of the Umbrellas.
The first tour to Australia by a company of dancers from the Royal Ballet began in Sydney in September 1958 and concluded in Melbourne in 1959. It was essentially a tour by dancers from the second company, the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet, under the personal supervision of the Royal Ballet's director Dame Ninette de Valois. The company consisted of fifty-five dancers, was led by Rowena Jackson, Philip Chatfield and Svetlana Beriosova, and included a number of expatriate Australians including Margaret Lee, Edward Miller, Kathleen Geldard, Alan Alder and, as guest artist, Robert Helpmann.
The company brought a number of classics from the international ballet repertoire, including Swan Lake, Giselle and Coppelia as well as several twentieth-century works including de Valois' The Rake's Progress, Peter Wright's A Blue Rose, Helpmann's Hamlet, John Cranko's Pineapple Poll and Frederick Ashton's Les Patineurs and Façade.
Laurel Martyn created The Sentimental Bloke for her company, Ballet Guild, in 1952. It premiered in Melbourne at Ballet Guild's Studio Theatre, 420 Bourke Street, on 14 March with Martyn as Doreen, Geoffrey Ingram as the Bloke (Bill) and Harry Leitch as Ginger Mick. During that initial season Tamara des Fontaines also danced Doreen and Reg Bartram appeared as Bill.
Based on C. J. Dennis' poems The Songs of a Sentimental Bloke Martyn's work had an original score by John Tallis and designs by Charles Bush after Hal Gye's original larrikin-cherub illustrations for the Dennis poems. Shortly after its inaugural performance Martyn had to withdraw the ballet as another composer, Albert Arlen, had bought the rights to produce a show based on the C. J. Dennis verses. Arlen's rights did not extend to television, however, and in April 1963 the ballet was reworked and newly designed for ABC Television. It featured Jack Manuel as Bill and Carolyn Harrison as Doreen.
The Australian Ballet premiered its version of The Sentimental Bloke, with choreography by Robert Ray, on 8 May 1985 at the Sydney Opera House. It featured the music of Albert Arlen, freely arranged, adapted and orchestrated by John Lanchbery. This production was based on Arlen's interpretation of the Dennis poems as featured in the musical play The Sentimental Bloke by Arlen, Nancy Brown and Lloyd Thomson. It was designed by Kenneth Rowell and lit by William Akers. The original cast included Steven Heathcote as Bill, Christine Walsh as Doreen, Mark Annear as Ginger Mick, Elizabeth Toohey as Rose, David McAllister as Mr Smithers and Edna Edgley as Mar.
Bibliography:Geoffrey Ingram, 'Dancing the Bloke', Brolga, 4 (June 1996), pp. 33-36, and other articles in Brolga 4, a special issue in honour of Laurel Martyn.
Marius Petipa's The Sleeping Beauty, which premiered in St Petersburg in 1890 to a score by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, was not performed in Australia until 1951. By then, however, Australian audiences were familiar with excerpts from the work. The 'Bluebird pas de deux' from the third act was performed during the 1929 Pavlova tour by Ruth French and Aubrey Hitchins. Aurora's Wedding, an independent work based on the third act, was then staged by all three of the Ballets Russes companies that toured Australia during the 1930s.
Early in 1951, Edouard Borovansky commissioned Miro Zloch to stage Aurora's Wedding for his company, a foretaste of the Australian premiere of the full-length work later that year. Entitled The Sleeping Princess, following the example set by Serge Diaghilev for his 1921 London production, and directed by Edouard Borovansky with decor and costumes by William Constable, this production opened to great critical acclaim in Melbourne on 22 December 1951. Zloch was responsible for reproducing Petipa's choreography, and on opening night danced the role of the Prince to Peggy Sager's Princess Aurora. Dorothy Stevenson appeared as the Lilac Fairy, Phyllis Kennedy and Charles Boyd as the Bluebirds, and Paul Hammond as Carabosse. The production was billed as 'an important milestone in the history of ballet in Australia'.
Borovansky Ballet continued to stage this work through the 1950s. It was revised, with choreography by Algeranoff after Petipa, for the 1959 Sydney season which saw the partnership debut of Marilyn Jones, then nineteen, and Garth Welch. On the 18th of December, the day of Borovansky's death, the scheduled performance of The Sleeping Princess, with Iovanka Biegovic dancing the title role, went ahead. At the conclusion, the audience rose in a two minute silent tribute. Roland Robinson, in his review, hailed the work as 'an example of traditional ballet which was dear to the heart of M. Edouard Borovansky', 'the general high level of this ballet's presentation' making it 'a fitting and sincere valediction'.
Peggy van Praagh staged Aurora's Wedding for the Australian Ballet in 1964, but the full length work did not enter the repertoire of the flagship company until 1973, when The Sleeping Beauty was selected for the Australian Ballet debut season at the Sydney Opera House. This production was directed by Sir Robert Helpmann and designed by Kenneth Rowell with a set described by Clement Crisp in the program notes as 'simple in design though eloquent in materials'. Van Praagh's reproduction, after Petipa, included her original choreography in the Act One 'Garland Dance', and the Prince's Variation in Act II was by Frederick Ashton. In the premiere performance Lucette Aldous danced as Princess Aurora with Garth Welch, in his final season with the Australian Ballet, as her Prince. Ai-Gul Gaisina and David Burch appeared as the Bluebirds, and Ray Powell as Carabosse. The illness of both Lucette Aldous and Marilyn Rowe during the 1974 Melbourne season prompted Maina Gielgud's first performances with the company, dancing the lead. The Brisbane season marked the return of Marilyn Jones as guest artist, dancing as Princess Aurora fifteen years after her first performance in this role with the Borovansky Company.
A new production for the Australian Ballet was staged in 1984 by the artistic director Maina Gielgud. The choreography was credited to 'Marius Petipa, reproduced by Monica Parker from the Nicholas Sergeyev notation, with additional choreography by Maina Gielgud', and described by Gielgud in the program notes as 'as close to the Petipa original as it is possible for it to be, nearly a century after its St. Petersburg premiere'. Christine Walsh and David Ashmole danced the first night leads, with Lisa Pavane as the Lilac Fairy, and Greg Horsman and Fiona Tonkin as the Bluebird and Princess Florine. Carabosse was danced by Ulrike Lytton, Gielgud's production being notable for this casting of a female in the role. Hugh Colman's lavish design and costumes drew on French Rococo style, and were of such grand proportions that the Opera House stage was unable to accommodate the set - Sydney performances took place at the Sydney Entertainment Centre.
Gielgud's production remained in the repertoire, marking the opening of the new Australian Ballet Centre in 1988. It was also presented during the Bicentennial tour, notably at the Royal Gala Performance at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, on 26 July 1988. The Sydney Opera House Trust, in celebration of both the 20th birthday of the Opera House and Maina Gielgud's first decade as artistic director of the Australian Ballet, funded the 'shrinking' of the set to enable the work to be staged at the Opera House in 1993. Lisa Pavane and Greg Horsman took the lead roles on opening night, as they had in a 1991 Melbourne season. David McAllister as the Bluebird was accompanied by Lucinda Dunn as Princess Florine, Sian Stokes danced the role of Carabosse, and Lisa Bolte the Lilac Fairy.
A new version of The Sleeping Beauty, with choreography by Stanton Welch and designs by Kristian Fredrikson, opened in Melbourne on 14 September 2005. Lucinda Dunn danced the role of Aurora. She was partnered by Damien Welch as Prince Florimund.
Edward H. Pask, Enter the Colonies Dancing. A History of Dance in Australia 1835-1940 (Melbourne: OUP, 1979); Edward H. Pask, Ballet in Australia. The Second Act 1940-1980 (Melbourne: OUP, 1982).
The dance-musical Tivoli was created by Graeme Murphy in 2001 as a tribute to the much loved variety and review circuit that operated in Tivoli theatres around Australia from the 1890s until 1966. Drawing upon authentic music and variety acts from Tivoli productions, Tivoli features original songs by Max Lambert and Linda Nagle and a commissioned orchestral score by Graeme Koehne. It was first presented jointly by the Australian Ballet and Sydney Dance Company in commemoration of the Centenary of Federation in 2001. This large scale production featured dancers from the two companies, guest artists, singers and a 10 piece band, and toured nationally. Set design was by Brian Thomson, costume design by Kristian Fredrikson and lighting design by Damien Cooper. The 2001 national tour was extremely successful, and Sydney Dance Company revived Tivoli for its own company in 2003.
Tivoli received four Australian Dance Awards in 2002: for outstanding achievement in choreography (won by Murphy), outstanding performance by a company, outstanding performance by an individual (won by guest artist Harry Haythorne), and outstanding performance in a stage musical (won by Sydney Dance Company artist Tracey Carrodus). Koehne's Tivoli Dances received the APRA Classical Music award for orchestral work of the year in 2009.
The Tubowgule festival completed a cycle that began with the Awakening Ceremony for the first Olympic Arts Festival in 1997. Tubowgule, pronounced tie-bah-gool, means 'meeting of the waters' in the Eora language of the Sydney basin. Directed by Stephen Page and Rhoda Roberts, Tubowgule ushered in the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival on 18 August 2000, with dawn, noon and dusk ceremonies.
The ceremony began at dawn at Congwong Bay Beach, La Perouse, with traditional dance, music, song and the ceremonial lighting of a water sculpture. The noon ceremony at the Botanical Gardens, Sydney, once a place of male initiation for the Kayimai (or Manly) people, involved dance, body painting, storytelling and sculpture. At dusk on the forecourt of the Sydney Opera House at Bennelong Point, Bangarra Dance Theatre performed The meeting of the waters.
Turquoisette, or A Study in Blue was the first performance of a classical ballet conceived and produced in Australia. Choreographed by Rosalie Phillipini, as a plotless grand divertissement in one act, the work was accompanied by music arranged and partly composed by Leon Caron, house conductor for Williamson and Musgrove. Turquoisette was presented in support of three operas Cavalleria Rusticana, Pagliacci, and L'amico Fritz, in the 1893 Williamson and Musgrove Italian Grand Opera.
Turquoisette premiered at the Princess Theatre, Melbourne, on 9 September 1893. The performance was lauded in the press, with an a critic in the Australasian commenting on the opening night:
'The ballet "Turquoisette, or a Study in Blue" which succeeds the opera, is perhaps the most brilliant spectacle of its kind that has ever been seen on the Australian stage. Of costumes, groupings, and graceful attitudes there seems to be an endless variety, and the dancing of Mdlle. Catherine Bartho and Signorina Enrichetta D'Argo found plentiful admirers.'
Of the two leading dancers, Catherine Bartho and Enrichetta D'Argo, the Australasian also noted:
'They are of attractive appearance, and in point of grace, deftness, and skill no exponents of their art who have yet visited Australia can be said to approach them. Their steps fall with the softness of snow-flakes on a swan's back. Their execution of the most difficult poses and pirouettes is accomplished with an ease which is only attained by the most finished dancers.'
The performance was accompanied by both orchestra and voice. The rhythmic cadence of the music, which is for the most part of a plaintive melodiousness, governs all the evolutions, which have a soft flowing sequence.'
Turquoisette and each of the operas continued to play to capacity houses in Melbourne until 19 October, when the entire company journeyed by train to Adelaide, where they opened at the Theatre Royal on 21 October for a short season of twelve performances, before travelling to Sydney.
'The Theatres &c.', The Australasian, September 16, 1893; Queen Bee, 'Italian Opera', The Australasian, September 16, 1893; 'The Theatres &c.', The Australasian, 23 December, 1893; Edward Pask, Enter the Colonies Dancing, pp. 86-87; Cargher, John, Opera and Ballet in Australia (Stanmore, NSW: Cassell Australia), p. 207; and Edward H. Pask, 'Ballet', Currency Companion to Music and Dance in Australia (Sydney: Currency House in association with Currency Press, 2003), p. 71-72.
Two Feet premiered as part of World Expo on Stage in Brisbane at the Cremorne Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre on 2 May 1988. A solo show created and directed by Meryl Tankard with visual design by Regis Lansac, it was and has only ever been performed by Tankard. Two Feet used two characters, Russian ballerina Olga Spessivtseva and Mepsie, a semi-autobiographical figure, to explore the idea that dance and dancers are plagued by obsessions as they strive to attain perfection. Tankard played both characters - two characters, yet only two feet.
Two Feet was subsequently given performances in Canberra during Tankard's term as artistic director of Meryl Tankard Company and it has also been seen in Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. Tankard also performed Two Feet in Tokyo in 1989 and New Zealand and Germany in 1994.
Leonide Massine's one act ballet, Union Pacific, was the first ballet based on the folklore of the Americas to be created by an international company. Set to a libretto by American poet Archibald MacLeish, it was first performed by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo on 6 April 1934 at Philadelphia's Forrest Theatre. The score was based on American folk songs of the 1860s, composed and arranged by Nicholas Nabokov, with scenery designed by Albert Johnson and costumes by Irene Sharaff. Dancers at the premiere included Massine, Tamara Toumanova, Eugenia Delarova, Sono Osato and André Eglevsky. Devised to appeal to the American market, Union Pacific was based on the building of America's first trans-continental railroad in 1869. The railroad was constructed in two directions by rival capitalists; the section from West to East was built by Chinese workers and the East to West section by Irish crew. The final stages of construction accelerated into a competitive race ending at Promontory Point, Utah. The workmen were followed by itinerant saloons, where much of the action within the ballet takes place.
The work was conceived and choreographed while the company was touring the United States and rehearsals often took place after performances in hotel ballrooms, lobbies and even train corridors. Massine was initially hesitant about the work, believing that the construction of a railway was not a suitable subject for a ballet. He explains in his autobiography:
'One insurmountable problem, I was sure, would be the presentation of the actual laying of the wooden sleepers and rails ... Then, one day, I suddenly saw dancers, absolutely rigid, being carried on stage like planks ... the scene suddenly made sense. I got excited about the whole project, and now felt that I could make something highly original out of it.'
In this way, the corps de ballet, and sometimes even friends of the company, wore brown sacks and were carried on stage to represent railway sleepers. Massine incorporated stylistic elements of the step dance, cake-walk and the strut and shuffle into his Barman's solo, which proved to be the highlight of the ballet. Elsewhere he drew on movements from square dancing and the jarabe tapatío, or Mexican Hat Dance.
Union Pacific was first staged in Australia by de Basil's Covent Garden Russian Ballet on 3 November 1938 at His Majesty's Theatre in Melbourne. Roman Jasinsky performed the role of the Surveyor of the Irish Crew alongside Paul Petroff as the Surveyor of the Chinese Crew. Irina Baronova appeared in her celebrated role as Lady Gay with Tamara Grigorieva as the Mexican Girl and Yura Lazovsky as the Barman. Sono Osato reprised her role from the original cast, appearing as the Barman's Assistant. Union Pacific was staged for Sydney audiences in December 1938 and in Adelaide the following April.
Upon its Sydney premiere, the Sydney Morning Herald described Union Pacific as 'a clamorous piece of modernism.' While the work endured artistic criticism it greatly appealed to audiences and as Edward Pask commented, 'it provided the dancers with a much-needed opportunity to let their hair down as they worked'. In her autobiography Irina Baronova recalls that she was thrilled with the new role, aiming to portray Lady Gay as saucy, tarty but not vulgar. She writes, 'It was wonderful not being a princess or sylph for once!' Union Pacific remained a novel addition to the company's repertoire for many years.
Kathrine Sorley Walker, De Basil's Ballets Russes (London: Hutchinson, 1982) ; Edward H. Pask, Enter the colonies dancing: a history of dance in Australia 1835-1940 (Melbourne: Oxford University Press, 1979) ; Vicente Garcia-Marquez, The Ballets Russes: Colonel de Basil's Ballets Russes de Monte Carlo 1932-1952 (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1990) ; Leslie Norton, Leonide Massine and the 20th Century Ballet (Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, 2004) ; Irina Baronova, Irina : ballet, life and love (Camberwell, Vic. : Penguin Group, 2005) ; 'Russian Ballet : two new works', The Sydney Morning Herald, 10 December 1938, p. 13
In 1988 Graeme Murphy was commissioned by the Australian Bicentennial Authority to create Vast, the National Bicentennial Dance Event. Involving seventy dancers from four dance companies - Australian Dance Theatre, West Australian Ballet, the Queensland Ballet and Sydney Dance Company - the production premiered at the Palais Theatre, Melbourne, on 4 March before touring nationally to Adelaide, Perth, Brisbane and Sydney.
Murphy brought together a creative team that included composer Barry Conyngham, set designer Andrew Carter, costume designer Jennifer Irwin, lighting designer Kenneth Rayner, and music director John Hopkins. The production took the viewer across the vast expanse of the Australian continent from the oceans, to the deserts, to the cities and the sky. Murphy's concept began with the seas and coastal regions surrounding Australia, with act one being broken down into two sections 'The Sea' and 'The Coast'. The second act, 'The Centre', focused on the Australian desert, while act three looked at Australian urban environments.
Murphy stated in the program that his guiding inspiration for the work came from Conyngham's music, which was described by Jill Sykes, dance critic for The Sydney Morning Herald, in a review of the production:
'Barry Conyngham's score ... begins under the sea, makes its way on to land via coral reefs and surf beaches to climb optimistically over rainforest mountains into the desert country of the centre. Eventually it reaches the claustrophobic cities, but allows a chink of hope that human nature will survive them'.
Produced and presented by the Australian Bicentennial Authority, Vast was accompanied by two other events: Free by Four, the Dance in Parks program, which featured a work from the repertoire of each participating company; and The Exhibition, a collection of photographs, posters, and designs chronicling the development of the four companies from the 1970s.
'A New Scale for Dance' in Trust News (Queensland), Vol. 12, No. 1 (Jan-Feb, 1988), p. 1.
Edouard Borovansky's ballet Vltava premiered at the Comedy Theatre, Melbourne, on 9 December 1940 as part of the first season of the Borovansky Australian Ballet Company. Danced to the symphonic poem Ma Vlast by Czech composer Bedrich Smetana, the work was a meditation on Borovansky's homeland, Czechoslovakia. The leading role of the Spirit of the River was danced by Laurel Martyn and the main male roles of the Hunters were taken by Noel Neville, George Hale, Reg Bartram and Laurie Rentoul. For these early performances the music was played on two pianos by Marjorie Summers and Edna Bennet.
Program notes stated: 'Mr Borovansky, himself a Czech, has endeavoured to express the spirit of the young Czecholslovakia'. Dancers who performed in the original production recall being asked to buy white shorts and shirts for their costumes and suggest that Borovansky was interested in making a political comment about Czechoslovakia, especially in relation to its nationalistic youth movements, with which Borovansky was familiar from a youth spent in Czechoslovakia. They also suggest that the choreography recalled that of Leonide Massine for , with which Borovansky would have been familiar from time spent as a member of Colonel de Basil's touring Ballets Russes companies.
Vltava remained in the repertoire of the Borovansky Ballet until at least 1945 when it was toured extensively in New Zealand.
Michelle Potter, 'Personal gestures: early choreography by Edouard Borovansky', in The Europeans: Emigre Artists in Australia 1930-1960, ed. Roger Butler, (Canberra: National Gallery of Australia, 1997), pp. 25-36.
Voyageur, with choreography by Laurel Martyn, music by Dorian le Gallienne and designs by Douglas Smith, premiered as part of Ballet Guild's tenth anniversary season on 27 August 1956 at Melbourne University's Union Theatre. The leading roles of Voyageur and Priscilla were danced by Jack Manuel and Nina Brabant respectively. Other cast members were Valma Payne, Elaine Gibson, Janet Karin, Carolyn Harrison, Ron Paul, Robert Jaffray and John Bowker as Migrating Geese, Ann Ellis and Josie Seymour as Water Fowl, and Elizabeth Ingram and Heather McCracken (Macrae?) as Goslings. Later casts included Janet Karin as Priscilla and Raymond Trickett and Antonio Rodriguez as Voyageur. Music for the first performances was played on two pianos. Later, the music was recorded by a small ensemble of Melbourne musicians working under the name of the Ballet Guild Orchestra. The work was filmed for ABC-TV in 1958.
Program notes from 1956 state: 'Brought down by wild compelling skies by the unseen hand of Man, Voyageur finds compensation for the loss of his powers of flight in the compassion and love of Priscilla, herself doomed by man to be ever flightless. Time, and Nature's healing, present him with a conflict between his love and his strong migratory call, but that same violent hand releases him to follow his destiny'.
Wakooka with choreography by Valrene Tweedie, a commissioned score by John Antill and designs by Elaine Haxton, premiered in 1957 in Brisbane. Danced by the Elizabethan Opera Ballet Company, it was part of a triple bill program of original works comprising, in addition to Wakooka, Eleonore Treiber's Ballet Academy and Laurel Martyn's Sigrid. The original cast for Wakooka included Eleonore Treiber as the Station Owner's Daughter, and John Bailey as the Engineer. The work was restaged in the 1960s for Ballet Australia and filmed for the ABC.
Program notes for the original production read: '"Wakooka" is danced against a sheep station background somewhere in present-day Australia. The scene opens in the early morning with the entrance of a rouseabout, three shearers and the station owner's daughter. Flirting with the boys, the girl can't decide whom she prefers, and this is further complicated by the entrance of a young engineer from a nearly project, who wishes to obtain information from the girl's father. Interested in the young man, the girl invites him to a barbecue that evening. The second scene opens with the preparations for the barbecue and the arrival of all the girls. After greeting each other they all dance, although the station owner's daughter is unhappy as the engineer has not arrived. Eventually he comes and the party is a tremendous success'.
The context in which the ballet, and in particular Antill's score for Wakooka, was created is discussed in Joel Crotty, 'Ballet Australia between 1961 and 1962: a Microcosm of Musical Change', Brolga 1 (December 1994).
In 1954 Gertrud Bodenwieser created a three act dance work called Waltzing Matilda for her company, which at that stage was known as the Bodenwieser Modern Expressive Ballet. The Bodenwieser Waltzing Matilda had an original score by Werner Baer based the well-known melody by Marie Cowan. The scenario was by Bodenwieser and the work was also accompanied by a narrated introduction to each act, and by verse written by Graham McDonald.
The 1950s was a period in Bodenwieser's Australian career when she turned on several occasions to outback themes. Her scenario took the traditional story of the swagman who stole a jumbuck and was captured by troopers as its starting point, but set it within the wider context of what Bodenwieser saw as the intellectual and industrial growth of Australia. It was a memorial to survival in harsh conditions and to an idea of progress that did not deny its roots in hard work. The original cast included Anita Ardell as the Narrator and Bruno Harvey as the Swagman. The work was televised in 1958.
Helene Kirsova had plans to stage a ballet based musically and thematically on Waltzing Matilda for her company, the Kirsova Ballet. Kirsova's company gave its last performance in Brisbane in 1944 but Peter Bellew records in Pioneering Ballet in Australia that at the time of the company's demise plans were in hand for a collaboration with American composer Dai-Keong Lee on Kirsova's Waltzing Matilda project. The Bodenwieser work was, however, the first dance project based on the popular Australian story and music, Waltzing Matilda, to go into production.
Wild Swans, with choreography by Meryl Tankard, was a joint commission from the Sydney Opera House and the Australian Ballet in celebration of the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Sydney Opera House. The work is a story of love, courage and endurance as the princess Eliza works to reverse the spell that has turned her eleven brothers into swans. Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story of the same name, Tankard's Wild Swans was a mix of dance and photographic and video illuminations created to a specially commissioned score for orchestra and soprano voice by Elena Kats-Chernin. The soprano became a character in the ballet, that of the Good Fairy, and in program notes Kats-Chernin wrote: 'The sequences with the soprano are amongst those that I feel the most attached to, and have helped give the ballet score an unusual and unique sound'. The visual design for Wild Swans was inspired by the eccentric paper cut-outs of Hans Christian Andersen. Illuminations were by Regis Lansac, production design by Angus Strathie and lighting design by Stephen Wickam.
The world premiere performance of Wild Swans was on 29 April 2003 at the Sydney Opera House although it was given a special, celebratory opening gala and review performance three days later on 2 May. At both these performances the leading role of Eliza was danced by Felicia Palanca, Hans Christian Andersen by Stephen Baynes, Eliza's eldest brother (and lead swan) by Matthew Trent, the Prince by Damien Welch and the role of the Stepmother, a 'conjoined' character, by Rachael Read and Annabel Reid. The Good Fairy was sung by Lisa Crosato who alternated with Angela Brewer during the world premiere season. Annabel Reid alternated with Palanca as Eliza.
Wild Swans was scheduled to tour to Copenhagen in 2005 as part of festival celebrating the 200th anniversary of the birth of Hans Christian Andersen. The tour was however cancelled when the Hans Christian Andersen Foundation was no longer able to afford the staging costs following financial problems experienced by the main underwriter of the Festival.
For background on the collaborative aspects of Wild Swans see Michelle Potter, 'Wild Swans and the art of collaboration', in Brolga 18 (June 2003).
Wildstars premiered in Adelaide in 1979. A two act work by Nigel Triffitt (concept, production design and soundtrack) and Jonathan Taylor (realisation and choreography), it was made on dancers of Australian Dance Theatre.
In program notes Taylor wrote: 'WILDSTARS really started for me three minutes after the beginning of Nigel Triffitt's "Momma's Little Horror Show"; the use of visuals and non verbal communication was exactly what dance had been to me for years. I made up my mind there and then that Nigel and I should work together'. At the time of its premiere, the work was described in the press as 'a series of epigrams about the Wholeness of Man and the creeping schizophrenia that assails him on his path to realization'.
Walter Gore dedicated Winter Night, his tenth ballet, to his co-principal in Ballet Rambert, Sally Gilmour. Set to Rachmaninoff's second piano concerto, it premiered in Melbourne on 19 November 1948 during Ballet Rambert's 1947-1949 Australasian tour. Gore, Gilmour and Gore's future wife, Paula Hinton, danced the three main roles. The corps de ballet, comprising several Australian dancers, was Margaret Hill, Barbara Grimes, Ann Somers (Kathleen Gorham), Pamela Vincent, Deirdre Duncan, Joan Halliday, Monica Halliday, June Florenz, John Gilpin, Charles Boyd, Cecil Bates and David Hunt.
Winter Night was designed by Kenneth Rowell. It was one of his earliest professional commissions for a dance company. In an oral history interview recorded in 1989 Rowell recalled that Gore saw one of his designs in a friend's house and as a result invited him to work on Winter Night. In that interview Rowell also reminisced about the work:
'It was a ballet that had a very curious kind of history really because it was largely autobiographical. It was about Walter himself. We all knew even at the time. He gave me a very free hand. And it was symphonic. He didn't think of it in that way, but it was in that sort of tradition.'
Yugen was Robert Helpmann's second ballet choreographed for the Australian Ballet during his term as co-artistic director of the company. It followed on from The Display, his first creation for the Australian Ballet. Yugen told the story of Tsukiyomo the Moon Goddess, and was freely adapted by Helpmann from the Japanese Noh play Hageromo. Yugen, a Zen Buddhist term, was defined by Helpmann in program notes as 'the most gracefully refined expression of beauty; beauty which is felt - as the shadow of a cloud momentarily before the moon'.
The work was created on Kathleen Gorham as Tsukiyomo and Garth Welch as Hakuryo, a Fisherman, and had designs by Desmond Heeley and music by Yuzo Toyama. It followed the story of Tsukiyomo who came down to earth each night to bathe in a lagoon and had her wings stolen by a local fisherman who believed they were rare shells. The work premiered in Adelaide on 18 February 1965 and was then toured during the Australian Ballet's first overseas tour to the 1965 Commonwealth Arts Festival.
In program notes Helpmann explained his motivation for creating the ballet: 'I have choreographed this work for the Australian Ballet in the belief that this young Company should draw on the legends, music and cultures that are their neighbours, just as the English Ballet has drawn on the countries of Europe. This Ballet is in no way intended to be an exhibition of the technique of the Japanese dance but rather a tribute to the deeply felt admiration I have for this beautiful and complicated art and for the Theatre of Japan. As the use of the "points" in classical Ballet was introduced to indicate flight, I, in this work, return to this symbolic meaning.'
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