Australian Ballet reveals its 50th anniversary program

The Australian Ballet began its life in Sydney at Her Majesty’s Theatre in 1962.

But 50 years on, Melbourne will enjoy some of the glitziest events marking the company’s half century.

Unveiling the company’s anniversary season on August 30, the artistic director, David McAllister, announced a Melbourne-only season titled, Let’s Dance, in which dance companies from around Australia will join with the national company.

Let’s Dance will showcase a new work by Tim Harbour, specially created for the event in June 2012.

It will honour the history of the Australian Ballet and feature the retired principal artist, Steven Heathcote, who will dance a pas de deux with his daughter, Mia, a student at the Australian Ballet School.

The idea for Let’s Dance sprang from Graeme Murphy’s commission by the Australian Bicentennial Authority to create Vast, which in 1988 featured 70 dancers from Australian Dance Theatre, West Australian Ballet, the Queensland Ballet and Sydney Dance Company.

This time, most of the guest companies will dance existing works although SDC and Expressions Dance Company will preview a new work.

Participating companies are Australian Dance Theatre, Dance North, Expressions Dance Company, Sydney Dance Company, Tasdance, the Queensland Ballet and West Australian Ballet.

Another Melbourne exclusive, in November, is a 50th anniversary gala in late October, featuring artists from international companies, such as the Royal Ballet, Stuttgart Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, and Tokyo Ballet.

The gala finale will be Etudes, choreographed by Harald Lander, and danced by the Australian Ballet.

Melbourne wins again with exhibition programs. In June, AB archival material held at the Victorian Arts Centre will go on show under the title Time in Motion.

This exhibition will move to the State Library of New South Wales in November.

And at the National Gallery of Victoria, a five month exhibition of costumes made for the stage by international fashion designers is scheduled to open in November.

“Infinity”, a season of three new works, by Stephen Page (in association with Bangarra Dance Theatre), Gideon Obarzanek and Graeme Murphy will open in Melbourne in February and tour to Sydney in April. Each will have a commissioned score.

For Obarzanek, the starting point has been a question he’s been asking people with little or no knowledge of ballet: What do the words “Swan Lake” mean to them?

A second triple bill in the AB’s year – the heritage works The Display (Robert Helpmann, 1964), Gemini (Glen Tetley, 1973), and Beyond Twelve (Graeme Murphy, 1980) – will open in Melbourne in August and move to Sydney in November.

The blockbuster of the year is a new traditional production of Swan Lake by Stephen Baynes with design by Hugh Colman (Melbourne in September, Sydney in December).

Swan Lake was the first ballet performed by the Australian Ballet, with guest artists Erik Bruhn and Sonia Arova and sets and costumes for an old J C Williamson production.

A revival of John Cranko’s Onegin will open in Sydney in May and Melbourne in June. Onegin has been absent from the AB’s repertoire since the mid 1990s.

The AB is refurbishing the Jorgen Rose costumes and hiring the sets from a co-production of the Royal Danish Ballet and Royal Swedish Ballet.

Murphy’s Romeo & Juliet (2011), will tour next year to Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth while his 2002 production of Swan Lake will tour to New York in June.

Canberra is not missing out, with Telstra Ballet in the Park in March.

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