If you were at the dress rehearsal for The Australian Ballet’s production of Sylvia you might have noticed a few guest artists on stage – and we’re not just talking about Misty Copeland. Alexander Phoon, a young dance student, was cast as one of the adorable, scene-stealing cherubs. Alexander, and his mum Catherine, are both members of the Friends and we are beyond thrilled that we got to see him on stage with The Australian Ballet for the first time.
We asked Alexander a few questions about ballet and how he got involved with Sylvia.
When did you start dancing and where do you currently learn?
I started dance at the age of eight and I currently dance at The McDonald College.
What made you want to start dancing? Why do you love it?
I started dancing because I have always been inspired by performing arts, although after watching The Australian Ballet I immediately knew that one day I would be a ballet dancer.
How did you get involved with Sylvia and The Australian Ballet?
Through The McDonald College – I was lucky enough to be able to apply for the show and the next day I was informed that I had successfully been accepted.
How long were you rehearsing for Sylvia?
I was rehearsing for Sylvia for around just a week.
What is your favourite part of Sylvia? Is there a particular dance or movement you love? And favourite character?
My favourite part of Sylvia is the feeling when get to go on stage and the experience of being able to work alongside the company. My favourite character would have to be Eros as he does an amazing solo and is a very energetic character.
Who’s your male principle dancer with The Australian Ballet?
My favourite male dancer in the company is definitely Chengwu Guo because of his outstanding athleticism, ability and determination.
What’s your favourite ballet and why?
My all time favourite ballet is definitely Alices’ Adventures in Wonderland by Christopher Wheeldon as it has a lot of excitement and interesting characters. The choreography for the ballet is amazing too.
As 2019 draws to a close, we are looking to 2020 and are thrilled to be sharing The Australian Ballet’s Year of Limitless Possibilities with our Friends.
The launch of the 2020 Season has formed a clear promise from The Australian Ballet; a promise to transform and transcend any creative or artistic boundaries and we are happy to accompany you as we explore this transformative season. The season is an ode to the fantastic service of David McAllister, but also a confirmation that the company shows no sign of slowing down.
The Australian Ballet has grown immensely under David’s leadership, with the 2020 season featuring strong collaborations with international companies such as the Joffrey Ballet and the American Ballet Theatre in the performances of Anna Karenina and Harlequinade.
Anna Karenina pushes the traditional format for ballets, becoming an epic ballad of love, drama and loss. The company has pushed the envelope with modernized Hollywood-style costumes and mesmerizing choreography created by former Bolshoi Ballet principal dancer, Yuri Possokhov.
Anna Karenina, photo Justin Ridler
In an all-exclusive Melbourne run, Harlequinade will bring plenty of colour and fun to our Australian stages in the 2020 season. This cheeky, bubbly ballet is a classic story of forbidden love, with a twist of mischief and magic as Harlequin fights with an enchanted slap stick for Columbine’s hand in marriage.
Harlequinade, photo Justin Ridler
Volt will have The Company broadcasting their innovation and artistic voice. Alongside two works from the visionary Wayne McGregor, this program features a new work from The Australian Ballet’s Alice Topp, who delighted us this year with the Helpmann Award-winning Aurum. McGregor and Topp will see Volt light up a new style of expression and push all notions of how dance should be to the edge.
Volt, photo Justin Ridler
Molto revives a trio of the most bold and adventurous performances from the last 50 years, satisfying all your needs and desires from a quick trip to the ballet. In a crash-course performance of recent greats, Molto celebrates the successes of the modern ballet world, sparking excitement for the future of dance.
Molto, photo Justin Ridler
David’s tenure as Artistic Director began by commissioning Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake, and it seems fitting that The Happy Prince, Murphy’s new ballet, will open David’s final season in 2020. The international premiere of The Happy Prince has placed our Opera House at the center of global attention, proving that our company has once again, soared over our expectations in this year of Limitless Possibilities.
The Happy Prince, photo Justin Ridler
Like always, we will keep you updated with all details throughout the season. Join us in a pivotal year at The Australian Ballet, as we relish on our past successes and turn towards a bright future.
Brunch with the Ballet
Review by Deb Wright – FAB Member since 2018
One of the aspects I most value of being a member of the Friends of the Australian Ballet is the wonderful opportunity you have of an intimate glimpse behind the scenes. The recent Brunch with the Ballet, held at Sydney’s Four Seasons Hotel, was just that. The room was elegant, food and beverage selection delicious and the Special Guests captivating.
We were treated to a charming performance by the Sydney City Ballet under the direction of Lucinda Dunn OAM, who was The Australian Ballet’s longest-serving ballerina.
Dancer from the Sydney City Ballet
David McAllister AM, the Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet headed up the special guests on this occasion. He has announced that he will be stepping down from this role at the end of 2020 and spoke very openly with us about his decision to do this. He has been Artistic Director for two decades, after beginning his career with The Australian Ballet in 1983. He touched on many of the highlights of his career and spoke about some of the great opportunities he has had with the company, both as a dancer and as Artistic Director.
David McAllister, Greg Khoury and emcee Susie Smither
After the main course was served, David and Musette Molyneaux, the Head of Costume Wardrobe for The Australian Ballet gave us some insight into how ballet costumes are designed. The choreography of the ballet often dictates how the costume will work best and the design process is done in close collaboration with the dancers . Once the design has been finalised Musette and her team of skilled artisans then set to work to produce these incredible tutus that are strong enough to endure for several seasons but look fragile and magical to the audience. Each tutu has many different fastenings to accommodate the different sizes of the dancers who will wear the costume.
Dancers from Sydney City Ballet modelling tutus
While David and Musette reminisced about some of their favourite costumes, the dancers from Sydney City Ballet modelled tutus from The Australian Ballet’s archives including some from The Sleeping Beauty. The dancers moved around the room, so that everyone had a chance to see the tutus and headpieces up close, to study the fine beading and embroidery. Each one is exquisite and to see them worn by the dancers made them come alive. Being so close to these beautiful creations was a very unexpected and memorable delight.
David McAllister and Musette Molyneaux in conversation
The Friends of the Australian Ballet is the principle support group in NSW for The Australian Ballet and ach year they raise funds for a scholarship for an aspiring dancer from The Australian Ballet School. This year’s recipient was Belle Urwin and although she could not be there to receive it in person due to being on tour, her mother and father Rob and Alison Urwin attended the Brunch to accept the award on her behalf. Rob gave us a wonderful insight into what it takes to support a child who has his or her sights set on a career in Dance and the sacrifices that are made by all members of the family not just the dancer herself.
Tanya Barrington presenting scholarship cheque to Rob and Alison Urwin
The Brunch with the Ballet is a fundraising event and there were some wonderful items to be won in the draw and the silent auction including a beautiful print of a dancer by Robert Dickerson.
A very enjoyable afternoon was had by all. I left the room having been treated to something very special and in the knowledge that I had been able to share the experience with a group of like-minded people. Friends of the Australian Ballet indeed.
Photography by Lexy Potts
As audience members, we usually gawk at a dancer’s consecutive turns and flying leaps, but from the perspective of sculptor Linda Klarfeld, it is the intricate and fast-moving positions of a dancer that she wishes to immortalise in bronze. Before our Sylvia Dress Rehearsal performance, we were honoured to have Linda Klarfield, a celebrated Australian sculptor to talk about how she intertwined her artistic gifts and her admiration of ballet in her 6 dance-inspired bronze sculptures. In this talk, her sculptures were brought to life by two talented young students from Allegria Dance Studio.
Her talk detailed her tedious process of sculpting and modelling, of her obsessive observation with the placing of an index finger, or the positioning of a hip bone. Her artworks capture positions that are impossible to hold, as Linda described that her bronze sculptures will stay ‘en pointe’ for 2000 years. As she was never a professional dancer, she leaned on the technical eye of David McAllister and Robert Albert to critique and examine her plasticine sculptures before casting them in rubber/plaster moulds. Using these moulds, she would cast the sculptures in wax and detail any imperfections. At one point, she recalled she had been so obsessive in perfecting the detailing of the hands and materials, she had overlooked that she had cast a dancer with (literally) two left feet. After creating a ceramic mould with the wax sculptures, she would melt out the wax and pour in the bronze.
Bronze is characterized by permanence and strength; hence, Linda relies on it to hold impossible poses with impeccable balance. In her statue of the pas de deux from Giselle, she highlights how her greatest challenge was locating the position’s centre of gravity. In this statue, the ballerina is not yet at the top of her lift, and Linda explains that she located the centre of gravity as being slightly off-centre, as the two dancers pull up and away from each other to maintain balance. We have all seen these lifts in arabesque, with the risen leg stretching through a 90-degree angle, however, the eye always misses the moments before the picture. Linda’s sculptures make that moment tangible to help incite a feeling of excitement about what is about to happen, to bring the sculptures to life in what feels like a real-life pas de deux.
This whole process would take around 6 months for every sculpture, however, in every finished result, you can clearly see the admiration and dedication Linda has for her dancers and her art. We thank her for sharing her unique insight into the world of sculpting and ballet with our members, and commend her on her beautiful artworks.
Sculptor Linda Klarfeld
All photos were taken by Lexy Potts.