Madeleine Eastoe to make her farewell performance in July

After an 18-year career, the principal dancer, Madeleine Eastoe, 36, will retire from the Australian Ballet following her last performance of Giselle in Adelaide, next July.

She was outstanding in her recent performance as Odette in Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake in Sydney and it’s now clear that her portrayal was at least partly inspired by her knowledge that she would never dance the role again.

Eastoe was promoted to principal in 2006 after a performance of Giselle so it’s fitting that she ends her career as Giselle.

Now it will be interesting to see which of the female senior artists will be promoted to the top rank.

I understand that senior artist, Reiko Hombo, is also soon to retire, so that leaves just five women in contention for promotion: Juliet Burnett, Amy Harris, Ako Kondo, Miwako Kubota and Natasha Kusch.

Casting for Giselle for this month’s Melbourne season shows Kondo and Kusch are to dance the title role along with the principals Eastoe, Amber Scott and Lana Jones.

Burnett has been pictured as Giselle in pre-publicity so she may be performing the role in Sydney.

Here is my news story from The Sydney Morning Herald when Eastoe was promoted in 2006.

Now she’s really dancing with the stars. Madeleine Eastoe was promoted to the rank of principal artist of the Australian Ballet last night, joining a select few at the pinnacle of the company.

Presenting her with a bouquet of red and white roses, the artistic director of the Australian Ballet, David McAllister, praised her “absolutely luminous debut” as Giselle, in the ballet of the same name at the Sydney Opera House.

Eastoe, 27, said after the performance that when McAllister walked onto the stage she thought he was welcoming her dance partner, Cedric Ygnace, principal artist with the Dutch National Ballet. “I was just thinking that wasn’t my best show,” she said. “I was just getting the first one out of the way.”

Among those watching her debut as Giselle were her parents, John and Adrienne Eastoe, of Perth, and her husband, Timothy Harbour, a senior artist at the Australian Ballet.

“Her maturity and the way she approached Giselle have been fantastic,” McAllister said yesterday, as was “the way she attacked and delved” into the role of Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty last year.

“Aurora is a tough role to take on, and equally Giselle. And after those two iconic debuts in rapid succession and also with such success, she’s really proved that this is the time.”

Eastoe has dedicated most of her life to dance, training with her mother, a ballet teacher in Perth, before moving to the Australian Ballet School in Melbourne at 15.

She joined the Australian Ballet in 1997, becoming a senior artist, one rank below principal, in 2004.

A year ago the diminutive Eastoe took the role of Odette in Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake on the opening night of the Australian Ballet’s tour of Britain.

After her performance in Cardiff, the Financial Times’s veteran ballet critic Clement Crisp wrote: “Madeleine Eastoe as Odette is an outstanding artist of extraordinary range and unfailing power.” Crisp is known to be economical with his praise.

Many expected her to be promoted immediately, but McAllister held back as “I felt it would have added a lot of pressure to the [subsequent] London season. I wanted to see what happened after that”.

To promote a dancer to principal artist, he looked beyond technique and artistry, to “the confidence to take on the position. It’s not just another rank; it’s the ultimate rank. Both the dancer and myself have to know totally this is the right thing.”

There are now 10 principals in the company of 64 dancers.

“The most exciting thing about Maddie is she has an absolutely unique and very personal artistry … She dances with her whole body, she tells the story with her whole body. It’s not just nice dancing with a pretty face on top. She’s the whole package,” McAllister said.