After images linger as a generation moves on

Rachel Rawlins’ imminent retirement as a principal of the Australian Ballet marks a generational change at the company.

Among the current principals, only Rawlins and Lucinda Dunn remain from those who held that rank in the years 2000 to 2005.

The early 21st century cohort included David McAllister, (the current artistic director), Vicki Attard, Lisa Bolte, Robert Curran, Steven Heathcote, Kirsty Martin, Campbell McKenzie, Nicole Rhodes, Justine Summers, Matthew Trent, Damien Welch and Lynette Wills all of whom have left the company except, of course, McAllister and all except Rhodes have retired from dancing.

In Rawlins’ career of 21 years, the performances I will hold in my mind most clearly are her portrayals of Giselle and of Cio Cio San in Madame Butterfly.

Rawlins captured the essence of these women, both of whom are vulnerable yet forgiving.

She joined the Australian Ballet in 1991, and later spent two years at the Royal Ballet before returning to the Australian Ballet in 2001. Rawlins became a principal artist of the company three years later.

The next principal to depart will be Yosvani Ramos, who will leave the company at the end of April next year.

His departure will take the male principal ranks down to four unless there are promotions soon to come.

The last performances of principal artists are always marked by long curtain calls, many bouquets and tears, but the memories of their careers linger on in the after images the audience holds in their minds.

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Rachel Rawlins and Matthew Lawrence, Giselle, photo © Danielle Lyonne

Robert Curran and Rachel Rawlins, Madame Butterfly, photo © Jeff Busby