For almost two decades, Australia’s biggest ballet company has been led by David McAllister, a former principal dancer who has steered the company across all terrains as its artistic director. But all good things must come to an end, which is why McAllister is leaving the company at the end of next year.
Luckily, he’s bowing out with a big program of dance, ranging from classic fairytales to moody Russian romances and the cutting edge of contemporary ballet. Here’s what the Australian Ballet has in store for Melbourne audiences in 2020.
Volt (Mar 13-24)
Choreography: Wayne McGregor and Alice Topp
There are few figures in contemporary dance as influential as Wayne McGregor, who makes angular, visual and visceral performances. Two of his works are featured in this triple bill, alongside a new work from the Australian Ballet’s Helpmann-winning resident choreographer, Alice Topp. McGregor’s works are ‘Dyad 1929’, a piece that captures the forward motion of creative revolutions in 1909 and 1929, and ‘Chroma’, one of McGregor’s defining moments as a choreographer. Topp is premiering ‘Logos’, a work she actually developed with Company Wayne McGregor in London.
Anna Karenina (Jun 5-13)
Based on the novel by Leo Tolstoy
Choreography: Yuri Possokhov
Tolstoy’s enduring romantic tragedy about a woman pushed to the edge has been adapted for just about every medium, and it works particularly beautifully as a dance work. This new production is a collaboration with Chicago’s renowned Joffrey Ballet and will be choreographed by Yuri Possokhov, a former dancer with the Bolshoi Ballet. This minimal but modern production captures the glamour and opulence of 19th-century Russia in a surprisingly smart way.
Molto (Jun 19-27)
Choreography: Frederick Ashton, Tim Harbour and Stephen Baynes
The second contemporary(ish) triple bill features choreographic legend Frederick Ashton’s ‘A Month in the Country’, a narrative ballet set in a stately countryside manor where an unexpected love triangle forms. It was created in 1976 and is one of the last pieces Ashton made with the Royal Ballet, the company he helped found. The work will be performed alongside two pieces from Australian choreographers Tim Harbour and Stephen Baynes: Harbour’s high-energy ‘Squander and Glory’, and Baynes’s ‘Molto Vivace’, a comedic take on 18th-century society.
The Happy Prince (Aug 28-Sep 5)
Based on the story by Oscar Wilde
Adapted by Kim Carpenter and Graeme Murphy
Choreography: Graeme Murphy
Graeme Murphy and Kim Carpenter’s version of Oscar Wilde’s fairytale about a statue with a heart (and everything else) of gold was meant to premiere in 2019, but it was pushed back due to Murphy’s health problems. Now Murphy is fighting fit and is ready to dig into this story with collaborator Kim Carpenter – a master of visually inventive theatre – who will bring the story to life with colourful characters and plenty of wit. The action all unfolds to a newly commissioned score by Christopher Gordon, who has written scores for films like Mao’s Last Dancer, Ladies in Black and Master and Commander.
Harlequinade (Sep 11-23)
Choreography: Marius Petipa
Staging and additional choreography: Alexei Ratmansky
The Australian Ballet loves a neglected or forgotten classic, and they don’t get much more neglected than this ballet choreographed in 1900 by Marius Petipa, the creator of Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty. It’s been rediscovered by Alexei Ratmansky, former director of the Bolshoi Ballet, who has brought in a cast of comedic characters from the Italian traditions of Commedia dell’arte. It has a pretty classic set-up: young lovers are kept apart by social circumstances, but there’s plenty of magic to be found along the way.