Australian Ballet

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Australia's leading ballet company, based in Melbourne and, though not officially designated as such, the country's national company. It was founded by van Praagh in 1962, with a government subsidy, using many dancers from the defunct company of Borovansky (the latter is often called ‘The Father of Ballet in Australia’). The company's first performance was Swan Lake with guest artists Sonia Arova and Eric Bruhn, and from the beginning it was closely connected to British ballet, via not only van Praagh but also Ray Powell, its first ballet master who was initially on leave from the Royal Ballet. The company's early repertoire included works by Ashton, Cranko, Balanchine, and Ray Powell. But van Praagh was keen to promote its Australian identity. In 1964 Helpmann choreographed his all-Australian ballet for the company, The Display, drawing an analogy between youthful sexuality and the mating dance of the lyre bird, and in 1965 he became co-artistic director. In the same year the company toured abroad, including performances at the 3rd International Festival of Dance in Paris. During this tour Nureyev staged his full-length Raymonda for the company, and subsequently retained close links as a guest artist and producer. Though very distant from the main centres of ballet activity the company rapidly attained high technical standards and a varied repertoire and continued to progress through new productions of the classics and works by 20th-century choreographers, from Fokine and Massine through to MacMillan, Cranko, Tetley, Moreland, and Kylián. More recently it has featured younger Australian choreographers like Tankard, Stephen Page, and S. Welch. In 1974 Helpmann took over as artistic director, succeeded by A. Woolliams in 1976. In 1978 van Praagh returned for two years, followed by Marilyn Jones, then by Maina Gielgud in 1983. Ross Stretton was artistic director (1997–2001), succeeded by David McAllister from 2001. McAllister has encouraged the development of a new generation of Australian choreographers including Stephen Baynes, Natalie Weir, and Adrian Burnett, who was appointed resident choreographer in 2003; he has also commissioned works from an international range of choreographers, including McGregor and Ratmansky. In 1984 the company made its permanent theatrical base in the State Theatre, Victorian Arts Centre and in 1988 moved into its own purpose-built rehearsal and administrative premises, the Australia Ballet Centre. It tours extensively both in Australia and overseas and has gained a high international reputation for the unselfconscious vigour of its classical style. Its leading dancers have included Kelvin Coe, Lisa Pavane, and Steven Heathcote, and in recent years Madeleine Eastoe and Adam Bull. The company's school was opened in 1964 under the direction of Margaret Scott.

http://www.australianballet.com.au Website for Australian Ballet

Subjects: Dance.

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