All roads lead to Melbourne for last 50th fling of the year

Since writing the post below, it turned out that “might” was the right word for Hallberg’s appearance as he is not dancing in the gala due to injury and nor are Dorothée Gilbert and Stéphane Bullion, due to an injury sustained by Bullion.

This news comes just five days before the series of gala performances begins on October 29.

David Hallberg might be the headline star of the Australian Ballet’s 50th anniversary gala season but the company has also announced another starry quartet – Julie Kent, a principal with American Ballet Theatre, Dorothée Gilbert and Stéphane Bullion, etoiles from the Paris Opera Ballet, and Damian Smith, a principal with San Francisco Ballet

Two of the four have Australian connections. Smith was born in Newcastle, New South Wales, while Hallberg’s link to Australia is through his friendship with former Australian ballet principal, Robert Curran.

In the five performance season, Smith will dance the pas de deux in Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain with Amber Scott, while Hallberg will dance Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux with Lana Jones.

Dorothée Gilbert and Stéphane Bullion will dance the Act III pas de deux from Don Quixote, and Julie Kent will be partnered by Adam Bull in the bedroom pas de deux from Manon.

Kent’s career is proof that a ballerina can have a long dancing career. She is 43, but further proof that one can continue even longer than that is the Australian, Leanne Benjamin, a principal at the Royal Ballet in her late 40s.

Smith, who trained with Robyn Hick in Newcastle before moving to Sydney where he trained on a scholarship at McDonald College of the Performing Arts, is now in his late 30s and said in an ABC interview in Australia two years ago that as his dancing career draws to a close, he was thinking about a return to Australia to spend more time with his family and to reconnect with his Aboriginality (through his father’s side of the family).

The gala is at the Arts Centre Melbourne from October 31 to November 2.

Special thanks to John Ross for his photographs of Damian Smith, taken during San Francisco Ballet’s recent season in London. Click on the photos to enlarge.

The video shows Kent dancing with Ethan Stiefel in Le Corsaire

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Julie Kent in Manon, photo © Hector Matias Montini

Julie Kent in Manon, photo © Hector Matias Montini

Stéphane Bullion in Don Quixote, photo © Icare

Stéphane Bullion in Don Quixote, photo © Icare

Dorothée Gilbert in Don Quixote, photo © Icare

Dorothée Gilbert in Don Quixote, photo © Icare

Damian Smith and Vanessa Zahorian in Christopher Wheeldon's Within the Golden Hour, photo © John Ross

Damian Smith and Vanessa Zahorian in Christopher Wheeldon’s Within the Golden Hour, photo © John Ross

Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith in Yuri Possokhov's RAkU, photo © John Ross

Yuan Yuan Tan and Damian Smith in Yuri Possokhov’s RAkU, photo © John Ross