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A female ballet dancer wears a long black dress while solemnly stretching her arms
Photograph: Simon Eeles

The Australian Ballet brings back old favourites for its 2022 season

Anna Karenina, Harlequinade and Romeo and Juliet return, alongside challenging works new to Australia

Nicola Dowse
Written by
Nicola Dowse
Stephen A Russell

After nearly two years of disrupted, cancelled and postponed performances, the Australian Ballet is preparing for a brighter 2022 and a season balancing beloved performances with challenging, contemporary works. 

After signing on as artistic director at the start of 2021, David Hallberg's first year with the company has been something of a baptism by fire as shows in both Sydney and Melbourne were cancelled. But he's looking to 2022 with a stoic optimism and belief in the industry, saying: "My second season as artistic director of the Australian Ballet is presented with an unwavering belief: there is great power in performance, even in the most challenging of times. With pride, our dancers will return to the stage, where they will show you that their commitment to this art form is stronger than ever before."

In 2022, the Australian Ballet will bring back some of it's planned 2021 shows along with the company's cherished regional tour, as well as presenting what is being described as one of the Ballet's most ambitious works to date. 

The Australian Ballet: Season 2022

Anna Karenina
Melbourne Feb 25-Mar 9
Sydney Apr 5-23

The tragedy of Romeo and Juliet is but a fraction of the heartache in Anna Karenina. Leo Tolstoy's great novel of love, loss, class and Imperial Russia has been adapted many times since being published in 1878 – including as a ballet. Originally slated for June 2021, Anna Karenina will finally show across Sydney and Melbourne in early 2022 in a production of cinematic proportions. The show is a joint venture between the Aus Ballet and New York's Joffrey Ballet (Anna Karenina debuted to the world in Chicago in 2019) and features choreography from the award-winning Yuri Possokhov (a former dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet), as well as set and costumes from Tom Pye and a score from Ilya Demutsky

Sydney Apr 29-May 14
Melbourne Jun 3-11

The Australian Ballet will hold the honour of being only the second dance company in the world to perform Kunstkamer when it arrives in 2022. It's also being heralded as the company's most ambitious work to date, having been created by some of the most boundary-pushing choreographers in the industry. Kunstkamer was created by Sol León, Paul Lightfoot, Crystal Pite and Marco Goecke for Nederlands Dans Theater's 60th anniversary. The production is a cabinet of curiosities (Kunstkamer translates as "chamber of art") that comprises many short movements, key dance motifs and a delightfully disparate score (everything from Beethoven to Janis Joplin).

A ballet dancer wearing a modern black leotard reaches forward on one leg, her raised leg raised behind her. She looks wide eyed.
Photograph: Simon Eeles

Melbourne Jun 17-25

You might not know Marius Petipa by name, but you almost certainly know his works. The 19th-century French choreographer is behind (or helped to revive) some of the world's most famous ballets such as Swan LakeGiselleThe Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker. And in winter 2022 Melbourne will host another of Petipa's works when the Australian Ballet brings the joyous Harlequinade to town. Based in the 16th-century Italian artistic genre of commedia dell'arte, Harlequinade is honest, slapstick frivolity infused with the elegance of ballet and the perfect performance for all ages.

Adelaide Jul 7-13

Adelaideans will be treated to an evolution of ballet when Counterpointe comes to their fair city in winter 2022. The production explores ballet from its traditions through to its most contemporary outings, pairing an excerpt from the 19th-century classic Raymonda, with William Forsythe's Artifact Suite and George Balanchine’s Tschaikovsky Pas de Deux. The result is a work that is visually gripping in its portrayal as it dances along the extremes of ballet. "The juxtaposition of Raymonda and Artifact Suite shows the evolution of classical
ballet," says Hallberg. "These seminal works both counteract and perfectly complement each other."

Two male dancers, naked from the waist up, grip each others arms as they lean back
Photograph: Simon Eeles

Instruments of Dance
Melbourne Sep 23-Oct 1
Sydney Nov 10-26

Three resident choreographers at three of the world's premier dance companies come together in this triple bill showing the marriage between dance and contemporary music. Instruments of Dance brings together New York City Ballet's Justin Peck, the Royal Ballet's Wayne McGregor and the Australian Ballet's Alice Topp alongside contemporary songwriters and composers (such as Sufjan Stevens) to peer into the future of dance. Every work is completely original and indicative of the choreographer's own movement languages, with Hallberg saying: "The connection between music and dance can be the greatest marriage. Justin, Wayne and Alice all hear the music they create so differently, which makes for three varying interpretations."

Romeo and Juliet
Melbourne Oct 7-18
Sydney Dec 1-21

Another classic (and tragic) tale gets an outing in John Cranko’s Romeo and Juliet, premiered by the Australian Ballet in 1974 and not performed by them since 2003. It's another work that audiences have been waiting for since 2021, when Hallberg said of the work: "Some things are just so powerful that they have to be seen again and again. The emotion has to come through with a story like that. Not only love, but rage and deceit too, and that’s something Shakespeare was just so brilliant at."  

Here's what to expect at Melbourne Theatre Company and at Sydney Theatre Company in 2022.

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