It is said that every young girl’s dream is to be a ballerina. I would say it is every not so young anthropologists dream to spend some time with a fascinating cultural group. Today, I had such an opportunity. At 10am I was met at the stage door of The Sydney Opera House by the Artist in Residence of The Australian Ballet, Colin Peasley. Colin is an amazing person and dancer. He joined the company as a dancer in its first year in 1962 and next year he will celebrate 50 years along with the company’s anniversary. We spent the first hour chatting about my research into ballet dancers, and he was able to relate many anecdotes from the past as well as talk about the life of dancers today.
Following our discussion, he took me to watch the company’s daily class taken by a guest teacher, a former principal dancer with The Royal Ballet, London. I spent the entire hour and a quarter watching as the dancers warmed up at the barre, discarding layers of attire as the pace increased. The real treat for me came when they set aside the barres and worked energetically in the centre. It is often claimed that ballet performances are meant to look easy – which of course they are not. I have to say that for me, I was fascinated as I watched the dancers performing leaps and other energetic movements without prior choreography. The teacher would instruct them in what to do once, and without exception they would launch into the routines with enthusiasm that displayed raw talent. It was the edginess of the occasional mistake and stumble amongst the brilliance that gave me, the onlooker a feeling of excitement. Whilst fully rehearsed performances with costumes and live orchestra will always be the ultimate goal for these dancers, seeing them in class, will be something I will never forget.
Following class, Colin introduced me to the Artistic Director, David McAllister. Despite a very busy schedule, David listened to my ideas about my research with genuine interest. I look forward to discussing this more with him.
From there, Colin and I went to the Opera Theatre to watch part of a rehearsal for the current production of Graeme Murphy’s Romeo & Juliet. Since the rehearsal was in progress, I did not speak to Graeme Murphy. However, I did watch for a while until I decided that I should save seeing any more until I see the full public performance as an audience member on Thursday evening.
To say that today was the most exciting single day I have had in a very long time would be an understatement, and thanks to Colin Peasley and the dancers of The Australian Ballet for making it such a day.