2014: Changes at the top for the Australian Ballet School and the Royal Ballet School

Fifteen years ago, tapping away at my desk at The Sydney Morning Herald newsroom overlooking Darling Harbour, Sydney, I wrote:

“The Royal Ballet School in London has offered the directorship of the school to Gailene Stock, now head of the Australian Ballet School (ABS) in Melbourne.

“It is understood Ms Stock, who has been director of the ABS since 1990, has been offered a six-year contract with the Royal Ballet School, one of the top classical ballet schools in the world, replacing Dame Merle Park, 60, who has been director since 1983. Dame Merle is to retire”.

As it happened, six years was just the beginning. Following her appointment in 1999 Gailene spent 14 years at the school, first in Barons Court then in Covent Garden.

She is still the director of the school but has been absent from her cosy corner office in Floral Street since she became seriously ill earlier this year.

Back in 1998 I had no idea that I would visit her at Covent Garden so often from the time the school moved to their new premises in 2003 until 2011 when I interviewed her about her early days at the Australian Ballet.

She always sat upright in her chair, her little white dog acting as an invisible ‘cushion’ behind her.

It seems inconceivable that she is no longer whizzing from New York to Wellington to Lausanne, guest teaching around the world or taking her graduate year students to perform in such prestigious theatres as the John F Kennedy Centre for the Performing Arts in Washington.

In April next year, Christopher Powney, artistic director of the Dutch National Ballet Academy and a former teacher at The Royal Ballet Upper School, will succeed Gailene as artistic director at the Royal Ballet School.

She will formally retire the following August.

Coincidentally, Marilyn Rowe, who succeeded Gailene as artistic director of the Australian Ballet School, is also retiring next year. She will leave at the end of 2014, a year that marks the 50th anniversary of the school.

A new appointment is expected to be announced next March with a handover period beginning in July.

The board selection panel will comprise four board members of the school, Sandra Ball, the school’s general manager, David McAlister, artistic director of the Australian Ballet, and Mavis Staines, artistic director and CEO of Canada’s National Ballet School.

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Gailene Stock, photo © John Ross

Gailene Stock, 1963, photo © Keith Byron, National Library of Australia, nla.pic-vn4588999

Gailene Stock teachng at the Southland Ballet Academy, California, August 2011

Christopher Powney, photo © Bob Bronshoff

Marilyn Rowe

Marilyn Rowe, 1971, photo © Paul Cox