Sunday, 24 February 2013

GUEST POST: Elizabeth Little reviews Time in Motion

Swan Lake

Time in Motion: 50 Years of the Australian Ballet Arts Centre Melbourne (9 June –23 September 2012)State Library of NSW (12 November 2012 – 10 February 2013)

2012 was a big year for the Australian Ballet. It celebrated its fiftieth birthday, which is no mean feat for an arts organisation. Its 2012 season featured ballets both old (Robert Helpmann’s The Display) and new, or freshly re-imagined as in Stephen Bayne’s Swan Lake. It threw a fabulous birthday celebration in Melbourne with a gala performance that included some of its favourite international guests dancing some of the most loved pas de deux from a range of classical and contemporary ballet. Elisa Badenes and Daniel Camargo from the Stuttgart Ballet performed an extract from Don Quixote that was probably one of the best performances of the year.
The Merry Widow and Coppelia

Mitchell Gallery

Helping to put all that dance into an historical context is Time In Motion, a touring exhibition by Arts Centre Melbourne developed in association with The Australian Ballet and shown in Sydney at the Mitchell Galleries, State Library of NSW. This exhibition proudly displayed the history of the AB through archival video footage of performances and interviews with artistic directors, choreographers, designers and dancers; photographs of the dancers in rehearsal, on stage, travelling overseas; newspaper articles, promotional posters, models of stage sets and delicate hand drawn costume designs. There were framed worn pointe shoes, signed by the ballerinas who had worn them, including Dame Margot Fonteyn, Ann Jenner, Lisa Bolte, Fiona Tonkin, Justine Summers and Marilyn Rowe.  

Costumes from a range of ballets including The Nutcraker – Clara’s Story, The Merry Widow, Swan Lake, Melbourne Cup, Swan Lake, Coppelia and Madam Butterfly were also in display. I found it fascinating to be able to get a proper look at the detail of these costumes, which can often be missed from where I sit in the third back row of the dress circle at the Opera House!

The Nutcracker - Clara's Story

The Merry Widow

I was enthralled by the yellowing newspaper clippings that had been carefully clipped and stuck into a scrapbook by Betty Stewart. Stewart was the publicist during the 1964 season that featured Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev dancing with the company. ‘The brooding Tartar’ Daily Mirror 14 April 1964 featured an interview with a 26 year old Nureyev, who spoke about being a guest artist and partnering Fonteyn in Giselle and Swan Lake. In ‘There is nothing like a dame’, an article published in The Daily Mirror 15 April 1964, a star struck  journalist complained that she wished she had never met the pair, as Fonteyn was rehearsing in laddered tights and an old black leotard, was busy sewing ribbons onto a pair of ballet slippers. All of the journalist’s idealistic thoughts about ballerinas were squashed with a short meeting with the two dancers.
The Nutcracker - Clara's Story

Signed pointe shoes

By the time I left, I had the lyrics to that song from A Chorus Line swirling around my head. Yes, Everyone is beautiful at the ballet / Every prince has got to have his swan /Everything was beautiful at the ballet / Graceful men lift lovely girls in white / Yes, Everything was beautiful at ballet...

Elizabeth Little has a B. Art Theory (Hons)and M Art Admin, COFA UNSW. She lives and works in Sydney.

All images supplied by the writer. 

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