The Australian Ballet in 2023

David Hallberg has put together an interesting selection of works for the Australian Ballet’s 2023 season. Perhaps most interesting, or perhaps surprisingly unexpected, is a double bill called Identity, which will be seen in Sydney in May and Melbourne in June. Identity will feature two new works, The Hum from Daniel Riley and Paragon from Alice Topp. Topp is currently resident choreographer with the company while Riley is artistic director of the Adelaide-based Australian Dance Theatre. The pairing of works from Riley and Topp promises to bring a certain diversity with the two choreographers coming from quite different dance and ethnic backgrounds. Paragon aims to pay tribute to the heritage of the Australian Ballet while The Hum will be a collaboration between the Australian Ballet and Australian Dance Theatre and will feature Indigenous artists as key artistic collaborators. Both works aim to explore the concept of identity whether it is that of Australia, of community. or of art.

I will also be interested to see Swan Lake, which will be shown in Melbourne in September, Adelaide and Brisbane in October, and Sydney in December. Hallberg will be working from the 1977 production by Anne Woolliams and is aiming to bring new insights into what I thought, way back when it was first shown, was a magnificent production which, with various rearrangements of parts of the storyline, gave audiences a very logical understanding of the narrative. This time, however, it will have new designs, some additional choreography by Lucas Jervies, and some filmic influences.

The work of George Balanchine will be on show with Jewels as will that of Frederick Ashton with a double bill of The Dream and Marguerite and Armand. Jewels, which will be seen in Sydney in May and Melbourne in July, will have costumes and sets by the original designers Barbara Karinska for costumes and Peter Harvey for set. This is a shame really as there have been some stunning new designs for Jewels and I am reminded of a remark made in France that the original designs were ‘fussy and outmoded’. But the work itself is stunning with its three separate sections, each representing a different precious stone. On seeing a performance of Jewels by New York City Ballet in 2010 I wrote:

‘Emeralds’ is at once moody and mysterious, romantic and sombre, and sometimes like a whisper in a forest glade. ‘Rubies’ is all sass and neon. ‘Diamonds’ is pure and clean, a dance in an arctic cave filled with cool yet intricate ice carvings.

I am looking forward to seeing it again.

Amy Harris, Benedicte Bemet and Dimity Azoury in a study for Jewels. Photo: © Simon Eeles

Australian audiences saw Ashton’s Marguerite and Armand during a Royal Ballet tour in 2002 when we had the good fortune to see the leading role of Marguerite danced by Sylvie Guillem partnered by Jonathan Cope, and later in the season by Massimo Murru. Since then I have seen stunning performances by Alessandra Ferri partnered by Federico Bonelli and by Zenaida Yanowsky partnered by Roberto Bolle. A line up of stars for sure, so it will be interesting to see who in the Australian Ballet will take on the roles.

Ashton’s The Dream was performed by the Australian Ballet in 2015. Read my review at this link. The Ashton program will be staged in November and only in Sydney.

The 2023 season will also feature a production of Don Quixote adapted for stage from the 1973 film, which starred Rudolf Nureyev, Lucette Aldous and Robert Helpmann.

Lucette Aldous and Robert Helpmann in rehearsal for the film, 'Don Quixote', the Australian Ballet 1972. Photo: Don Edwards
Lucette Aldous and Robert Helpmann in rehearsal for the film, Don Quixote. The Australian Ballet, 1972. Photo: Don Edwards

Don Quixote will play in Melbourne in March and Sydney in April.

In addition, and as part of the Australian Ballet’s 2023 program, the Tokyo Ballet will visit Melbourne in July bringing their staging of Giselle.

Michelle Potter, 6 September 2022

Featured image: Robyn Hendricks in a study for Swan Lake. Photo: © Simon Eeles

6 thoughts on “The Australian Ballet in 2023

  1. I’m disappointed the Ashton programme is (a) Sydney only and (b) an extremely short evening, with about 1h15m of dancing. Why not add A Month in the Country, originally scheduled for a company/Australian première in 2020?

    And how much more “drawn from the film” can Don Q get? We still have those dreadful red side hooped things and the very noisy clacky beaded tutus in the garden of the Dryads…are they going to add smell-o-vision to evoke an aeroplane hangar in Melbourne in summer??

  2. Hello Anna, great to hear from you. You are right that the Ashton program is Sydney only (November). I didn’t add that bit of information to my post, but I will now you have brought it up. There are a lot of Ashton works that could be added to expand the program. A month in the country is one for sure. I would also love to see Symphonic Variations, even Monotones.
    I glossed over the Don Q program I’m afraid but I absolutely agree that it is hard to imagine how it can successfully be ‘drawn from the film’. The film is a film. A stage production is something quite different.
    The other aspect of the ‘new era’ that I wonder about is will we ever see any Murphy productions again?

  3. Hello David, great to hear from you too. Les Rendezvous and Les Patineurs are nice suggestions and go right back to the early days too. They could well be included in a year that is celebrating 60 years of performances.

  4. À propos of my comment last year relating to the clacky beaded tutus in the dryads’ garden, am happy to report they appear to have been sewn in to place as no clacking audible.

    The only other comment I will make for now is that if your Queen of the Dryads is Rina Nemoto and your Kitri/Dulcinea teeny tiny weeny Yuumi Yamada, why on earth would your Cupid be so much taller she looked twice the size of Yamada and a good head and shoulders above Nemoto? Not the dancer’s fault, but a very odd casting choice – she was done no favours and her dancing deserved better.

    Also the digital cast lists are limited in the extreme.

  5. Thanks Anna. Glad the ‘clacky’ beads are fixed, and a good point about the casting! I have yet to see this Don Q although I will see it later in Sydney. No idea who I will see at this stage. I have a link for the streaming too, which hopefully I will get time to look at today.

    Re the cast lists, it is a real shame that we are not given more information these days. Having complete casting is important historically apart from anything else. It gives us the opportunity to see how dancers have progressed through the ranks and is especially interesting to see what roles were danced by those who started off with the Australian Ballet but then moved on to other things. (Graeme Murphy and Meryl Tankard come to mind for example).

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