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Archive for the ‘The Australian Ballet’ Category

Here is an interesting look into the long day of a ballet dancer at The Australian Ballet (@TheAusBallet). Their love of dancing and performing is clearly behind their motivation. However, how does this “love” feel in the mind and bodies of the dancer?

 

 

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About this time last year, a wonderful gentleman from The Australian Ballet named Colin Peasley welcomed me to the Sydney Opera House to watch the company behind the scenes. I spent three hours or so talking to him, and watching the dancers in class and rehearsal. And whilst I did not know it at the time, I was watching Darcey Bussell from the Royal Ballet conducting the class – more here. Twelve months on, it is time for me to take stock of what continues to motivate me to do research into professional ballet dancers. Since motivation is the theme of my study, it stands to reason that I should examine my own changing circumstances.

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A reader recently asked me how I developed my interest in ballet. It is not that I ever danced when I was younger, so why the sudden interest? The answer I gave him has reminded me how much I have missed out on by only now discovering the joy of dance. Last year, I took some absolute beginner ballet classes and really loved it. Unfortunately I have left it a bit late in life and my co-ordination is not up to taking my dancing seriously.

But that is not the end of my interest since my research will enable me to live vicariously through the dancing of others. Here is a version of how I answered the reader who I mentioned earlier.

My interest in ballet, is a fortunate amalgamation of two interests. I have been a subscriber to The Australian Ballet for a number of years and have seen every performance of theirs’ in this time. I have very much enjoyed it. However, it took on a far more interesting turn when I decided I could blend this interest with my other love, cultural anthropology. As a very mature age student, I received an honours degree in anthropology in 2004 and started tutoring undergrad courses in the subject. All this time I was looking for a cultural setting I could research for a postgrad degree. After a number of false starts looking at topics that led to little interest on my part, it occurred to me the middle of last year that I could study professional ballet dancers as a cultural group. I started doing a lot of reading and working through social networking groups and this blog and discovered that as a cultural grouping, professional dancers in general have not received the attention they deserve from ethnographic research. By this I mean, a great deal can be learned from spending an extended period of time observing and interacting with dancers in an extended fieldwork setting. With this in mind I have contacted local full time ballet companies and I am looking at others overseas.

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Susan, an online dancer friend of mine alerted me on twitter to this New Yorker article:

BRING IN THE BALLERINAS A.B.T.’s guest policy.
by Joan Acocella
JUNE 25, 2012
ABSTRACT: DANCING about American Ballet Theatre’s guest dancers. A.B.T. has long been known for bringing in foreign guest stars. The fondness for guest stars ruled out any unity of style within the troupe.

Read more http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/dancing/2012/06/25/120625crda_dancing_acocella#ixzz21DPtOHdq

This article started me thinking about dancer motivation when considering opportunities for promotion and acquiring coveted roles. Here in Australia, The Australian Ballet has a very strong company of full time contracted dancers. Only very occasionally do guest dancers appear in performances and looking from afar , it would seem these guest appearances would do little to threaten the motivation of company dancers. Indeed, I expect these guest appearances would have positive effect on motivation.

Of course, motivation is a fickle thing in any endeavour. An event that may threaten one dancer, may encourage another. This raises the question, at what point could you expect guest appearances in a performance to systemically affect the motivational well being of the company? It would be great to hear from professional dancers of their experience and thoughts in this regard. Either comment on this post, or if you prefer use the contact page to send me a message and I will make your comments known but anonymous.

 

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We saw Graeme Murphy’s version of The Australian Ballet’s Romeo and Juliet with Lana Jones and Adam Bull in the lead roles. The whole production was exciting. Murphy’s choreography certainly had the company dancing “through hoops” and Lana and Adam were certainly up to the task.  And as always, the supporting dancers in the company were great. It amazes me how they are not only incredible dancers but also good character actors. The humour and action woven through the otherwise romantic story was very well presented. Would I recommend it, absolutely – even if you have never seen a ballet before, you will be taken in by the story.

Romeo & Juliet

Lana Jones Adam Bull

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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.

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