After two years at the helm of Queensland
Ballet, I feel I have a clear understanding of the challenges and
difficulties, as well as the advantages, that Australia offers to the
This understanding confirms my determination to implement a long-term
policy to raise the Company to a truly international standard.
To understand my approach, let’s look first at the international
Most major regional centres in Europe (Dresden, Dusseldorf, Antwerp,
Stuttgart) have good companies which rely on repertoire created outside
the company, and there are quite a lot of companies in the world working
on this model. They offer good performances without being particularly
influential in the larger ballet world.
The most influential European companies are all under the direction of
a choreographer. They include companies in major cities such as Frankfurt
(Forsythe), Hamburg (Neumeier),
NDT (Jiri Kylian), and Madrid (Nacho Duarto). However, they also include
companies in small cities such as Wuppertal (Pina Bausch).
The other type of leading companies in the world are the historically
famous ones such as the Paris
Opera, the Kirov, and more
recently, the American Ballet
Theatre (Balanchine). They produce such fine dancers that even when
they are not choreographically in a creative period, the excellence of the
dancers influences the rest of the dance world. Apart from this, their
link with the past has great value for anyone who cares to see it.
The situation in Australia is very different.
First, there is The
Australian Ballet which is comparable in size to the companies in
major regional centres in Europe mentioned above. Like them, its is a good
company which relies on externally created repertoire. Unlike them,
however, it is unique in serving Australia’s two largest cities on a
regular basis. (In Europe, there would be a second company, just as large,
based in Sydney).
The advantage of serving two cities is the financial one resulting from
a large audience. However, this comes at a price for the profession,
because the company is obliged to deliver more performances than any other
comparable company in the world to my knowledge.
The result is long seasons of the same program which tends to push a
lot of dancers to stop before they reach their full potential. In Europe,
a lot of dancers change companies; in Australia they retire young. Years
of effort are then prematurely lost, making it difficult to hire mature
Second, there are two other ballet companies (West
Australian Ballet and Queensland
Ballet). While considered major organisations in Australia, these are
comparable in size to small European companies which traditionally have
the main task of backing the opera in small and medium sized theatres with
about 16 to 18 dancers. These include companies in cities like Gratz in
Austria, or Oldenburg and Münchenglatbach in Germany. In size, they are
definitely less important than companies in cities like Wiesbaden, Essen,
Hanover, Geneva, Zurich, Mühlhausen, or Marseilles.
In contemporary dance, Graham Murphy’s Sydney
Dance Company is a typical choreographer’s company with 16 dancers.
However, I believe it is pushed by commercial necessity to perform unduly
long seasons of the same program.
Discuss in our Forums
See what other readers are saying about this article!
Click here to read & post comments.