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Future direction of Queensland Ballet.

By Francois Klaus - posted Wednesday, 19 April 2000

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 dance scene.

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 ballet scene.


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 dancers.

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.

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About the Author

François Klaus is the Artistic Director and Choreographer of the Queensland Ballet, a position he took up in 1998. He started dancing at the age of nine. The greater part of his dancing career was in Hamburg under the direction of John Neumeier.In 1996 he was awarded a Doron national culture prize for his choreography and contribution to dance in Switzerland. He was appointed Artistic Director and principal choreographer of Queensland Ballet in 1997 following an international search.

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