Waangenga Blanco in 'Patyegarang', Bangarra Dance Theatre, 2014. Photo: Greg Barrett

Australian Dance Awards 2015

12 September 2015, Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide

For the first time in its history, the Australian Dance Awards ceremony was held in Adelaide, a fitting location given that 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of the Adelaide-based Australian Dance Theatre. The recipients of awards this year represented a cross-section of Australian dance styles and performers, as did the program of entertainment that accompanied the awards.

The much-anticipated awards for Outstanding Achievement by a Female Dancer and Outstanding Achievement by a Male Dancer were won by Lucinda Dunn, just recently retired from the Australian Ballet, for her performance in Manon, and Bangarra Dance Theatre’s Waangenga Blanco for his role in Stephen Page’s Patygerang.

Lucinda Dunn & Adam Bull in 'Manon', the Australian Ballet 2014.

Lucinda Dunn & Adam Bull in Manon, the Australian Ballet 2014.

Queensland Ballet walked away with outstanding performance by a company for its production of Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet.

Marilyn Jones and Dr Elizabeth Cameron Dalman were formally inducted into the Hall of Fame for their distinguished contributions to dance in Australia and internationally, and Marilyn Rowe was the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award. The Ausdance Peggy van Praagh Choreographic Fellowship, a bequest from the first director of the Australian Ballet, Dame Peggy van Praagh, was made to Lina Limosani.

From a very personal point of view I was thrilled to see photographer Jeff Busby take out the award for Services to Dance. I have used so many Jeff Busby photographs throughout my career as a dance writer for a wide variety of outlets in Australia and overseas, and he has always been incredibly generous with his permissions. A well-deserved award.

The full list of winners is available on the Australian Dance Awards website.

The awards night always includes a series of short performances and snatches of film. The 2015 ceremony was distinguished, I thought, by a brief excerpt from Garry Stewart’s Birdbrain, the first full-length work Stewart made as artistic director of Australian Dance Theatre. While we are now somewhat used to the extreme physicality that characterises much contemporary dance in 2015, and Stewart’s vocabulary in particular, looking at the vocabulary of Birdbrain I was stunned that Stewart had made such a work 15 years ago. There is a whisper that it may be revived next year.

In something of a jaw-dropping juxtaposition, current ADT dancers Kimball Wong and Lonii Garnons-Williams performed ‘Moon Woman’ from Creation, Elizabeth Dalman’s 1970 work for ADT. What a difference 45 years of choreographic development makes, although Dalman’s slow, controlled movement language, redolent of American dance of the 1960s, was carefully realised by Wong and Garnons-Williams.

I also enjoyed the extract from Leigh Warren’s Mayakovsky performed by students of the BA dance program at the Adelaide College of the Arts. Danced to Luciano Berio’s Sinfonia of 1968, it was reflective and soul-searching dancing.

Nominations for next year’s awards can be made now. For information on the process see the Australian Dance Awards website.

ADA 2015 logo

Michelle Potter, 16 September 2015

Featured image: Waangenga Blanco in Patyegarang, Bangarra Dance Theatre, 2014. Photo: © Greg Barrett

Elizabeth Dalman in Taiwan, 2014. Photo: Chen, Yi-shu

Hall of Fame. Australian Dance Awards 2015

The 2015 Australian Dance Awards ceremony will take place on 12 September in Adelaide. Following usual practice, the recipients of the Hall of Fame award have been announced in advance. The 2015 inductees into this prestigious group of Australian dancers and dance makers are Elizabeth Dalman and Marilyn Jones.

Dalman has been in the news recently as founding director (initially with Royal Ballet dancer Leslie White) of Australian Dance Theatre, which this year celebrates its 50th birthday. Audiences in Canberra and Queanbeyan have been treated to several performances that have looked back to Dalman’s early Adelaide Dance Theatre works in two programs, Fortuity and Lwith L also being shown in Adelaide.

Elizabeth Dalman (centre front) in 'Moon Lake Walking'. Weereewa Festival Lake George. 2010. Photo: Barbie Robinson

Elizabeth Dalman (centre front) in Moon Lake Walking, Weereewa Festival Lake George. Photo: © Barbie Robinson

During her Adelaide years Dalman was described in the press as the ‘rebel of the dance’ but her more recent work has also been ground-breaking. In particular she has worked in diverse inter-cultural situations, including with Taiwanese and Indigenous dancers, and has frequently celebrated in dance the unique landscape of Lake George, near Bungendore, New South Wales, where she now lives and works.

Marilyn Jones is passionate about classical ballet and, while she has made excursions into contemporary dance, including with Sydney Dance Company, her career has been dedicated to the growth and development of ballet in Australia. She was a principal dancer with the Australian Ballet from its inaugural season in 1962 until the 1970s, and with the company danced leading roles in all the great classics. She was the company’s artistic director from 1979 until 1982 and during that period established the Dancers Company, which offered touring experience to senior students of the Australian Ballet School and opportunities to younger members of the Australian Ballet.

Marilyn Jones in 'The Merry Widow', the Australian Ballet, 1975. Photo: Walter Stringer

Marilyn Jones in the Australian Ballet production of The Merry Widow, 1975. Photo: Walter Stringer. National Library of Australia

One of Jones’ most significant achievements has been the establishment of the Australian Institute of Classical Dance, following the award of an Australian Creative Arts Fellowship in 1990. AICD continues its work today, teaching and examining, offering scholarships to dancers, and organising a choreographic competition, Dance Creation, to encourage emerging choreographers.

For a longer article on Dalman and Jones and their induction into the Hall of Fame, and more images, see this link.

Michelle Potter, 27 August 2015

Featured image: Elizabeth Dalman in Taiwan, 2014. Photo: © Chen, Yi-shu

Dance diary. May 2015

  • Oral history

I recently had the pleasure of recording an oral history interview for the National Library with Marilyn Jones. I first interviewed Jones in 1990 as part of the Esso Performing Arts and Oral History Archive Project, so this 2015 interview was a follow-up after 25 years. The image below captures, I think, the essence of Les Sylphides and Jones’ ability to dance that elusiveness.

The interview requires written permission for use so will not be available online, but in many respects oral history is for the future. I certainly have become more and more aware of its intrinsic value as time passes. The full story of the Australian Ballet strike of 1981, for example, which took place during the artistic directorship of Jones, is yet to be told. Several interviews in the National Library’s collection give a variety of perspectives and await the historian.

Marilyn Jones and Jonathan Watts in 'Les Sylphides'. The Australian Ballet 1963. Photo Walter Stringer, National Library of Australia

Marilyn Jones and Jonathan Watts in Les Sylphides. The Australian Ballet, 1963. Photo: Walter Stringer, National Library of Australia

Other dance interviews I have recorded in the past six months have been with Peter Bahen, Lisa Pavane and David Deverelle-Hill.

On the subject of the Esso Performing Arts material, there are 41 interviews, not all of which are dance-related, in that collection and a list can be accessed via the National Library catalogue. Many are available online.

  • Juliet Burnett

It came as something of a shock to learn that Juliet Burnett is leaving (has already left I think) the Australian Ballet. She has given me, and I’m sure many others, such a lot of pleasure over the past few years. Just recently, her performances in the leading roles in Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake and Maina Gielgud’s production of Giselle have suggested wonderful things to come. But let’s hope that wherever the future takes her she will find much happiness. My posts mentioning Burnett are at this link.

  • Press for May

‘Visiting dance troupe’s double bill a triumph.’ Review of Quintett and  Frame of Mind, Sydney Dance Company. The Canberra Times, 2 May 2015, p. 19. Online version.

‘Circus acts unmissable.’ Review of ‘Le Noir: the dark side of Circque.’ The Canberra Times, 8 May 2015, ARTS p. 6. Online version.

‘Magical production of a great Giselle.’ Review of the Australian Ballet’s Canberra season of Giselle, The Canberra Times, 25 May 2015, ARTS p. 6. Online version.