Together they stand: the trend for co-productions in the ballet world

We’re fast approaching the time when dance companies release their 2018 repertoire.

The Queensland Ballet will reveal its season on 12 September and the Australian Ballet on 25 September.

Although the Australian Ballet’s 2018 rep is still under wraps we already know something of the Australian Ballet’s 2019 and 2020 seasons.

That’s because of the growing trend for ballet companies to co-produce in order to share the costs of full evening ballets.

The Royal Ballet has co-produced with the National Ballet of Canada (Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and The Winter’s Tale and the upcoming The Dreamers Ever Leave You, a celebration of the 150th anniversary of Canadian Confederation), as well as the San Francisco Ballet (Frankenstein) and the Bolshoi (another Wheeldon ballet, Strapless).

The Australian Ballet is following the trend. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, soon to premiere in Australia, is a co-production with the National Ballet of Japan.

Libby Christie, executive director of the Australian Ballet told The Australian Financial Review in May that after Alice’s seasons in Melbourne and Sydney “we’ll pack up all the sets, props and costumes and freight it to them. Then they’ll send them back after their season and on it goes, for as long as each company wants to restage the work”.

The Australian Ballet’s 2020 season will include joint commissions with two companies, American Ballet Theatre (Harlequinade, choreographed by Alexei Ratmansky with sets and costumes by the American designer, Robert Perdziola) and Joffrey Ballet (Anastasia, choreographed by Yuri Possokhov).

American audiences will see the two ballets before Australian audiences as Harlequinade will premiere in New York in June 2018 and Anna Karenina in Chicago in October 2018.

Ratmansky’s Harlequinade will be the second American reconstruction of Marius Petipa’s ballet, Les Millions d’Arlequin that premiered in St Petersburg in 1900 with the first being Balanchine’s version for the New York City Ballet in 1965.

The Commedia dell’arte characters, Harlequin and Columbine, also appear in The Nutcracker and Petrouchka, and, in 1943, Helene Kirsova in Australia choreographed her own Harlequin.

An art lover, Kirsova urged Paul Hammond, who played the title role in the ballet, to study Picasso’s Harlequin paintings.

The new Anna Karenina, commissioned by Ashley Wheater, artistic director of the Joffrey Ballet and David McAllister, artistic director of the Australian Ballet, will follow in the footsteps of five choreographers who’ve created a ballet based on Tolstoy’s story: Maya Plisetskaya in 1972, Dimitrije Parlic in 1973, André Prokovsky (for the Australian Ballet) in 1979, Boris Eifman in 2005 and Alexei Ratmansky in 2011.

There are two more co-productions to come in the Australian Ballet’s repertoire – a new Stanton Welch production of Silvia, (as named in the Australian Ballet’s media release) in collaboration with the Houston Ballet (2019 in Australia) and another, as yet unnamed ballet in collaboration with the National Ballet of Canada.

Let’s hope at least one of them premieres in Australia rather than North America.

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