Dance diary. January 2022

  • West Australian Ballet

What a pleasure it is to be able to say that West Australian Ballet is turning 70 in 2022. It is the oldest ballet company in Australia and was founded in 1952 by the former Ballet Russes dancer Kira Abricossova Bousloff. The company gave its first performance in 1953 and turned professional when Rex Reid was appointed artistic director in 1969. Since then its directors have included Robyn Haig, Garth Welch, Barry Moreland, Ted Brandsen and Ivan Cavallari. It is currently directed by Aurélian Scanella who has now been at the helm of the company for ten years.

Unfortunately, Western Australia has very strict entry requirements at the moment and it is not an easy place to visit for those who live outside the State. The thought of missing certain parts of the 2022 program is hard to take. I am especially interested that the company is planning its own new production of Swan Lake in late 2022. It will be choreographed by Krzysztof Pastor, will have a distinct relationship to West Australian culture and society, and will incorporate Indigenous material into the production. While this Swan Lake promises to be unique, the focus on the culture of the West is also an exceptional way to honour Kira Bousloff whose early repertoire incorporated reflections on Australian life and culture.

  • La Nijnska. A new book by Lynn Garafola

Esteemed dance historian Lynn Garafola has recently completed a biography of Bronislava Nijinska. As the first in-depth account of the life and career of a dance artist about whom so little has been written, La Nijinska is a publication which we can anticipate with particular interest. The book is being published shortly by Oxford University Press, although its exact publication date seems to vary somewhat according to different sources. Details are on the OUP website.

And on an Australian note, Kira Bousloff, founder of West Australian Ballet as mentioned above, took classes with Nijinska and performed with her company. She talks about her experiences in an oral history conducted with her in 1990 for the National Library of Australia’s oral history program. The interview is online at this link.

  • BOLD Festival 2022

The much delayed BOLD Festival (originally planned for 2021) is going ahead in Canberra and online in March. See below for information from the BOLD team on the keynote addresses and the BOLD Lecture. Further information as it comes to hand.

We are thrilled to announce our three Keynote speakers and the 2022 BOLD Lecture. Talks will be in person and live-streamed on the 3rd and 4th March at the National Library of Australia. They will then be available online for 22 days.

Our opening Keynote is Eileen Kramer who, at 107 years of age, continues to create dances, stories, costumes and films, even in the midst of Covid lockdowns. Her tenacity and creativity shine through this difficult time.

In conversation with long time collaborator Sue Healey, Eileen will reveal ideas about longevity of practice and what drives her to keep creating.


ID; Woman with white hair and large earrings holds her newly published book

Our next Keynote is the extraordinary Gary Lang speaking from the heat of Darwin about his life as a Larrakia artist.I will speak of the unique way I, as an Artistic Director and choreographer, use multi cultural dancers to tell my people’s first nations stories on the local, National and International stage through my work with the NT Dance Company. Our work reflects the rich multicultural tapestry of the Territory and collaborates with leading dance companies including most recently, NAISDA Dance College, West Australian Ballet, Northumbria University UK and MIKU Performing Arts from East Arnhem Land.
ID; An indigenous man with silver hair, wearing glasses, white shirt, black trousers and turquoise wrap, sitting barefoot on a chair in a darkened theatre. Theatre lights glow dimly behind him and his left arm and leg are elegantly crossed as he looks directly at the camera. 

Our closing Keynote is Dr Michelle Potter who will discuss ‘The Revenger’s Tragedy’. Revenge tragedies always have a tragic outcome, but Melbourne Theatre Company’s 1975 production of the Jacobean play ‘The Revenger’s Tragedy’ had a surprising and very positive outcome for the future of dance in Australia.

The talk references Dr Potter’s stunning book Kristian Fredrikson; Designer as the designer of the production and acts as a soft launch for the National Library of Australia’On Stage exhibition opening that day, running until the 7th August 2022.


Kristian Fredrikson, costume design for The Duke in The Revenger’s Tragedy, 1975. National Library of Australia
ID; a water paint of a male character throwing his hands in the air wearing a black and white bold patterned cape with brown and dark blue lining, black and white patterned trousers, black boots, intricate chest piece detailed with brown and a high ruffled neck, Elizabethan style.

Our conference closes with the BOLD Lecture given in the memory and spirit of Scotland based Australian dance artist Janice Claxton. Janis worked internationally, she was a hugely talented choreographer, a tour-de-force and front-line fighter for equality in dance. The first BOLD Lecture was given by Claire Hicks, Director of Critical Path. This year we will be joined by Marc Brew, another Scotland based Australian choreographer working internationally. Most recently he was the Artistic Director of AXIS Dance Company, USA.

ID; A photo of a white male, slim build, 6′ 2″ tall, wheelchair user with a shaved head, green eyes and sculpted facial stubble, wearing a black at cap, black jumper and a black & grey scarf around his neck. Poised in front of a grey background. Photo credit; Maurice RamirezMarc is a Disabled choreographer, director and dancer. His lecture titled ‘Point of the Spear’ will share his personal experience of the importance of being an advocate for accessibility and inclusion. How, collectively, we all need to work together to be Inclusive in our thinking and actions to make the world equitable for all.

On a final note applications for The Annie are coming in which is brilliant. Do keep sharing the word so we can support an artist to create work on older dancers with Annie’s inimitable spirit chivvying us on.



Next up we will announce our workshop series which will be offered over the 5 days of the Festival. We have 15 workshops being offered in person in Canberra and on Zoom from around Australia, LA, Canada, Singapore and the US. Be fabulous
Stay Bold
best wishes

The BOLD Team
 
  • New appointments

A range of departures and new appointments to dance and dance-related organisations was announced over the past month or two. In Australia they include the departure after close to twelve years of Anne Dunn from Sydney Dance Company to take on the role of Executive Director and Co-Chief Executive Officer of Sydney Theatre Company. Lou Oppenheim will take on the role of CEO of Sydney Dance Company in mid-February.

Elsewhere in the world they include the appointment of Tamara Rojo as Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet. Rojo leaves English National Ballet in late 2022 to become the first female director of SFB. She replaces Helgi Tomasson.

Michelle Potter, 31 January 2022

Featured image: Dayana Hardy Acuna in a publicity shot for West Australian Ballet’s 2022 Swan Lake. Photo: © Finlay Mackay and Wunderman Thompson

Dance diary. October 2014

This month’s diary is something of  a celebration of three of Australia’s senior artists: Eileen Kramer (Cramer), former Bodenwieser dancer; Dame Margaret Scott, founding director of the Australian Ballet School; and Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, founder of Australian Dance Theatre. Each has been in the news in different ways recently. I have arranged these mini posts, which are largely in the form of links, according to descending order of age of those three dancers, beginning with Eileen Kramer, who will very shortly celebrate her 100th birthday.

  • Eileen Kramer

Early in October I received an unexpected email from a producer for Sydney not-for-profit radio station FBi Radio. The message was to let me know that Eileen Kramer, whom I had interviewed for the National Library of Australia’s oral history program in 2003, was  appearing on an FBi Radio program called Out of the Box. She was to appear on the program with singer/songwriter Lacey Cole who had made a music video in which he sang his composition, Nephilim’s Lament, accompanied by Kramer dancing on a rocky promontory above Clovelly beach in Sydney. Here is a link to the radio interview, which was conducted by Ash Berdebes, and a link to the five minute video. [Update August 2016: the link to the radio interview is no longer available]

  • Dame Maggie Scott: A Life in Dance
Maggie Scott (right) and Sally Gilmour unpacking Ballet Rambert costumes, Melbourne 1947
Maggie Scott (right) and Sally Gilmour unpacking Ballet Rambert costumes, Melbourne 1947. Image from Dame Maggie Scott: a life in dance

I have updated the post on my biography of Maggie Scott with links to recent media stories in which the book is discussed. Here is a link to the updated page.

  • Elizabeth Dalman
Elizabeth Dalman in 'From Sapling to Silver', 2011
Elizabeth Dalman in From Sapling to Silver, 2011

It is a pleasure to be able to report that Elizabeth Cameron Dalman has been short-listed as a finalist for the ACT Senior Australian of the Year (2015). It is rare for a someone working in the dance area to be nominated in awards of this nature so congratulations to Elizabeth for once again putting dance at the forefront of public life. Dalman is one of four finalists in this category and the ACT  Senior Australian of the Year will be announced on 3 November.

  • Press for October 2014 [Online links to press articles in The Canberra Times prior to 2015 are no longer available]

‘Wayward daughter delights.’ Preview of West Australian Ballet’s La fille mal gardéeThe Canberra Times, Panorama, 4 October 2014, p. 15.

‘A Dame called Maggie.’ The Canberra Times, Panorama, 25 October 2014, pp. 10–11.

Michelle Potter, 31 October 2014

Canberra dance. Coming in 2014

Details of the dance productions Canberra audiences can expect in 2014 are slowly emerging. In announcing its ‘Collected Works, 2014′, the Canberra Theatre Centre revealed that both Sydney Dance Company and Bangarra Dance Theatre will return to Canberra in 2014, thus maintaining the strong links those two companies have forged with the city over many years. For example, Sydney Dance Company’s first season in Canberra was in 1977.* Scarcely a year has been missed since then.

Sydney Dance will bring its triple bill Interplay, which will consist of new works by Rafael Bonachela and Gideon Obarzanek and a reprise of Raw models by Italian choreographer Jacopo Godani. Raw models was part of a Sydney Dance Company program in 2011 and my thoughts on the show then are at this link. Bangarra will bring a new work by Stephen Page called Patyegarang, which focuses on the friendship between a young indigenous woman, Patyegarang, and colonial identity Lieutenant William Dawes.

The Brisbane-based group Circa will also be in Canberra in 2014 with their new production S. My connections with the National Institute of Circus Arts through the Heath Ledger Project interviewing program have brought home to me the esteem with which this  company is held in the industry so I look forward to their 2014 show, which we are told explores a sinuous energy—appropriately, given the title S—and is a physical ode to the human body.

A surprise revelation at the launch of the 2014 season was that West Australian Ballet will visit in October with a production of La Fille mal gardée, but not in the version choreographed by Frederick Ashton that we are used to seeing in Australia. The version being brought by West Australian Ballet is choreographed by Marc Ribaud, currently director of the Royal Swedish Ballet, and is set in 1950s rural France. Costumes are by Lexi De Silva whose previous credits include designs for Tim Harbour’s Halcyon and Sweedeedee. De Silva also worked alongside Hugh Colman as he created the designs for Stephen Baynes’ recent Swan Lake. Sets are being created by Richard Roberts, lighting by John Buswell. Here is the Canberra Theatre’s preview video for the Fille program. It is a photo shoot in essence featuring the leading characters, Lise, Colas and Alain, but gives some idea of what the work might look like.

But before we even get to the new year, the Canberra Theatre has also just announced a Christmas treat for very young dance-goers (and their parents and grandparents) who will have the  pleasure of seeing Angelina and friends live onstage in Angelina Ballerina: the Mousical. It opens at the Canberra Theatre on 12 December 2013. What a treat!

Angelina Ballerina the mousical

Michelle Potter, 28 September 2013

* Although led  by Graeme Murphy the company was at that stage still called the Dance Company (NSW). 1977 was Murphy’s first full year as director of the company, which was renamed Sydney Dance Company in 1979.

Cinderella by two: some thoughts

West Australian Ballet’s Cinderella, newly created this year, had a season in Canberra in November and its popularity was such that an extra show needed to be scheduled. I had certain expectations, having spoken previously to the artistic director of WAB, the choreographer and the designer before writing a preview piece for The Canberra Times. All spoke eloquently about the process of creation and their aspirations for the piece.

But when it came to the performance itself I have to say I was heartily disappointed. While I enjoyed the design by Allan Lees, which set the work in the 1930s, I thought the choreography, by Jayne Smeulders, was scant and quite simplistic. There were many moments when the stage (and I’m talking here about the much-maligned stage of the Canberra Theatre, which is reputed to be too small for the larger kind of ballet production) seemed positively empty of dancing. Not only that, or perhaps because of that, the dancers rarely looked as though they were full-scale professional dancers.

Wherever I have worked in my journalistic dance writing life to date there has always been a policy in place that the person who writes the preview does not write the review of the same piece. My experience with WAB’s Cinderella hammered home the sense behind that policy. But seeing this Cinderella made me wonder about another newly created Cinderella, that by Meryl Tankard for Leipzig Ballet. It opened in Leipzig on 5 November.

Unfortunately I have neither spoken to Tankard about the work nor seen it but the web at least allowed me to catch a glimpse of some images, a bit of footage and snatches of an interview with Tankard about the work. I was interested in Tankard’s answer to a question posed to her by Maeshelle West-Davies from the Leipzig Zeitgeist about why she chose Cinderella and what she thought she could bring to the work. Part of her reply said:

‘Since I am quite used to spending a lot of my time on long trips to and from Australia, I decided to use this experience in Cinderella. The story begins in an airport with Cinderella, and the very ‘glamorous!’ sisters, travelling to an exotic location for a huge party hosted by a wealthy prince. A lot of the scenes will be in ‘hotel rooms’ and the garden scene has been influenced by Sydney’s beautiful botanical gardens. I would like the audience to feel as if they have also been on big trip!’

As thought-provoking too was her reply to a question concerning her process, which seems somewhat different from her process with many of her works made in Australia:

‘I had to be very well organised for Cinderella. I didn’t get much time with the dancers, as they were rehearsing a lot for other productions. I also had to make a lot of decisions about editing the music very early on, so I had to have a clear structure before I began working with the dancers. Since Cinderella is a very well-known story, I had to come up with a new and original way to tell the tale. I approached it as if I were planning a film and storyboarded all the scenes before I arrived in Leipzig.’

A trailer available on YouTube gives a glimpse of the choreography and the design, including the kinds of projections we have come to recognise as signature Tankard/Lansac. Some of the lighting and projections reminded me of sections of Wild Swans, which is not a bad thing in my opinion. I often ponder how Wild Swans the ballet has pretty much slipped from view whereas Elena Kats-Chernin’s delicious score, or parts of it, are heard often. Such is dance I guess.

It seems unlikely that we will see Tankard’s Cinderella in Australia, at least not in the near future. It sounds and looks (at least from a brief glimpse) as though it might be an engrossing take on the fairy-tale. But am I falling into the same trap as I did with WAB’s Cinderella? Such are expectations.

Michelle Potter, 4 December 2011

Rose Adagio. West Australian Ballet 1971

As part of my current research project into the career of Kristian Fredrikson, I came across four designs in the National Library’s Fredrikson collection labelled Sleeping Beauty Act I.  They were for four Princes: English, Indian, Russian and Saracen and so were clearly for the ‘Rose Adagio’. But I was a little puzzled by them as they were not for the Stanton Welch version of Beauty, which Welch choreographed for the Australian Ballet in 2005 and which was designed by Fredrikson. I was not aware of another Sleeping Beauty with Fredrikson designs.

The English Prince had the name DeMasson written on the back and Paul De Masson kindly identified the costume as one he wore while a dancer with West Australian Ballet. He recalled that in the 1970s he had partnered Elaine Fifield in the ‘Rose Adagio’ during a season that contained a number of divertissements.

After a bit more investigation I uncovered a flyer and some programs in the National Library’s Rex Reid collection. Reid directed West Australian Ballet from late 1969 to 1973 and in November 1971 presented a season of two programs, which included a number of divertissements, at the Octagon Theatre, Perth. It was the first program, staged from 8-13 November, that included the ‘Rose Adagio’. The printed program contained the following details:

  • Rose Adagio,

Producer: Bryan Ashbridge
Music: Tchaikovsky
Costumes: Kristian Fredrikson
Choreography: Frederick Ashton
‘A new production by Bryan Ashbridge’

Princess Aurora: Elaine Fifield, Patricia Sadka
Indian Prince: Robert O’Kell
Saracen Prince: Laurence Bishop
Russian Prince: Ron Deschamps
English Prince: Paul DeMasson

I was also curious about the choreographic credit to Ashton, but the Ashton scholar David Vaughan has noted that Ashton created a ‘Rose Adagio’ in 1963 especially for a Royal Performance at the Prince of Wales Theatre. Bryan Ashbridge, who produced the 1971 West Australian Ballet version, retired from the Royal Ballet in 1965 so could well have been part of that Royal Performance or subsequent stagings of this Rose Adagio.

Rex Reid’s second 1971 Octagon program, presented from 15-20 November, included ‘The Dying Swan’ as one of the divertissements. A design for ‘The Dying Swan’, which was danced by Fifield, is also part of the National Library’s Fredrikson collection.

More items to add to the growing ‘List of works designed by Kristian Fredrikson’.

Michelle Potter, 26 October 2011

Update, 31 January 2017. The Fredrikson material also contains a design, from the same production, for Aurora, a detail of which is the featured image on this post.