A VIRTUAL NIGHT AT THE BALLET
GRAEME MURPHY’S SWAN LAKE
In recognition of your ongoing support of The Friends of The Australian Ballet we invite you and your household to join us for
The Australian Ballet’s inaugural online event, A Virtual Night at the Ballet.
You will be treated to a live and interactive pre-performance talk with creator Graeme Murphy AO where we will explore his legendary production of
Swan Lake, followed by a screening of the performance via The Australian Ballet’s Ballet TV.
Thursday 2 July
7pm Pre-Performance Talk and Q&A
Hosted by Brooke Lockett with Special Guest Graeme Murphy AO
7.30pm Swan Lake
Your finest video conference attire
RSVP by Monday 29 June
Event access details will be emailed to guests at 5pm Thursday 2 July.
Ella Havelka during The Australian Ballet’s 2016 Swan Lake tour in Beijing, photo by Lisa Tomasetti
Ella Havelka is a Wiradjuri woman and the first Indigenous dancer to join The Australian Ballet. Describing an old video tape of Swan Lake as the initial inspiration for her journey through dance and ballet, Ella began dancing in Dubbo before joining The Australian Ballet School in 2007. After graduating from ABS, she danced with Bangarra until 2012, appearing in Mathinna, of earth & sky, Belong, Spirit and Terrain. In 2012, Ella performed in Australia and New York with Bangarra and The Australian Ballet in Warumuk – in the dark night, a collaborative work created by Stephen Page for The Australian Ballet’s 50th anniversary celebrations. She joined The Australian Ballet in 2013. In 2016, Ella was the subject of an eponymously titled documentary centring on her dance journey, which was released at the Melbourne International Film Festival. In 2019 Ella guested with Bangarra for its 30th anniversary program; she was named most outstanding dancer in Dance Australia Magazine for her performance in Jiří Kylián’s Stamping Ground, part of that program.
During Reconciliation Week this year, Fashion Journal chatted to Ella about her career and the different worlds of working with both The Australian Ballet and Bangarra. Read the interview here.
If you want more Ella, listen to her conversation with Libby Gore on the ABC’s This Weekend Life here.
You may be familiar with the saying that “Art is a reflection of society.”
Modern-day stories such as Disney’s Frozen raise comments about feminism, and McAllister’s ‘The Happy Prince,’ raise questions about social judgement and privilege, all of which are central social concerns of today’s society.
So, what cunning edge social beliefs did the Romantic ballet, “Giselle,” carry? You may believe that Giselle’s old, conservative period forces the ballet to avoid social commentary, but, Giselle is considered an artistic snapshot of the contemporary, modern societal beliefs of the nineteenth century.
Click below for a sypnopsis of Giselle by The Australian Ballet:
Stream Giselle on BalletTV now:
It’s not exactly a ‘feminist’ piece…
Benedicte Bemet. Courtesy of the Australian Ballet
Surprise! The 1840’s were not well-versed on feminism… The entire narrative of Giselle is based around the 1840’s understanding of female ‘hysteria,’ referring to uncontrollable emotion that was considered a mental illness linked to gender/the womb. Giselle is driven into hysterical madness over her broken heart.
Moreover, doctors of the time conducted strong research into the link between hysteria and sexuality, which may explain the link between Giselle’s overwhelming love for Albrecht, and her ‘hysterical’ mental state.
Sadly, it is safe to say Giselle encouraged the concept of a ‘hysterical female’ when first performed.
The High Value of Love
Benedicte Bemet and Cristiano Martino. Courtesy of The Australian Ballet
Romantic Ballets love love.
Ballet, as well as many other Western pieces (Looking at you, Romeo and Juliet!) considered love to be of high enough value to make death acceptable and understandable.
Just look at when Giselle declares the extent of her love to Albrecht- when she realises it is unattainable, she dies. Moreover, when Albrecht is consumed by overwhelming heartache for Giselle, he realises a future with her is unattainable, so he risks his life in exchange for a few hours with Giselle.
Love is a fascination of many Western artists, and it is very clear that ‘love’ troupes are not unique to Romantic thinking.
Although seemingly different, Giselle and The Bachelor do share a strong worship of love!
Escape to the Countryside!
Benedicte Bemet. Photography by Kate Longley
If there’s one BIG thing to know about Giselle’s setting, it’ll be the fact we’re in the middle of a widespread European Industrial Revolution. As you may know, this marks the beginning of increased city living, however, many Romantics longed for ‘the good old days,’ where everyone lived in a natural rustic setting.
Just like today, entertainment created an escape from the troubles of daily life, which may be why we spend Act 1 in Giselle’s idealistic rural village. All productions of Giselle emphasise the quaint, simple charm of the village through rustic colours, using bright, sparkly dances to bring out a utopian nature.
It appears that Giselle may be calling for their society to return to a more natural, simple and authentic life, but judging by the closeness of the ‘Willis’ to the village, we doubt anyone is particularly inclined to ‘move in.’
The Supernatural Power of the Soul
Photography by Lynette Wills
The Romantics also had a fascination with the supernatural power of the human soul, (Frankenstein, anyone?) which is why Giselle turns into a ghostly, tragic nightmare in Act II.
Act II of Giselle is characterised by supernatural mysteriousness, moonlit ethereal dances and strong swells in both emotion and music. Giselle’s real-life society had a focus on the relationship between the earthly and the ghostly, believing strongly in supernatural elements on earth.
Introducing the Willis, who indulge in their passion for dancing, and are spiteful in nature as they died unmarried, generally spiteful of men and mad in grief. Although dead, the soul still lives on, haunting the likes of Albrecht, Hilarion and other men who face them.
Some fun facts about Act II:
Andrew Killian & Amy Harris
Photography by Jeff Busby
A prominent troupe in Romantic ballets was the ballet blanc, meaning a scene where the ballerina and all female corps de ballet dancers wear all white dresses and tutus. This was sparked by ‘La Sylphide,’ which is why both ballets have a “white act” in them.
Act II has evolved with technological advancements, using smoke machines, screens and stage lighting to achieve this supernatural element. However, the ballet wasn’t always as safe as it is now, as dancer Emma Livry discovered in 1863 when her white tutu caught fire on a gas light in a Giselle rehearsal.
If you’re interested in learning more about Giselle’s story and themes, take a squiz at these resources:
In a world embracing technology to stay connected FAB shares a ballet image for members using Zoom. Upload our ballet backdrop to add some colour to your next virtual catchup.
To download a backdrop, either right click if using a mouse, or press and hold if you using a tablet. Follow our Zoom Backdrop Guide for instructions on adding backdrops to your next Zoom call.
Photo by Angus Scott
Photo by Lexy Potts
Photo by Lexy Potts
We asked Benedicte Bernet at The Australian Ballet about her favourite indulgent treat. She eagerly offered up her ultimate choc chip cookie recipe for members to enjoy. Why not whip up a batch and sit back with a cookie and a cup to tea to listen to Benedicte discuss life as a principal dancer on the Offline Podcast.
Benedicte’s Choc Chip Cookies
½ cup granulated sugar(100 g)
¾ cup brown sugar(165 g), packed
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup unsalted butter(115 g), melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour(155 g)
½ teaspoon baking soda
4 oz milk or semi-sweet chocolate chunks(110 g)
4 oz dark chocolate chunk(110 g), or your preference
- In a large bowl, whisk together the sugars, salt, and butter until a paste forms with no lumps.
- Whisk in the egg and vanilla, beating until light ribbons fall off the whisk and remain for a short while before falling back into the mixture.
- Sift in the flour and baking soda, then fold the mixture with a spatula. Be careful not to overmix, which would cause the gluten in the flour to toughen resulting in cakier cookies.
- Fold in the chocolate chunks, then chill the dough for at least 30 minutes*. For a more intense toffee-like flavor and deeper color, chill the dough overnight. The longer the dough rests, the more complex its flavor will be.
- Preheat oven to 180°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Scoop the dough with an ice-cream scoop onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, leaving at least 10 cm of space between cookies and 5 cm of space from the edges of the pan so that the cookies can spread evenly.
- Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until the edges have started to barely brown.
- Cool completely before serving.
*Chilling the dough is crucial for a ‘chewy on the inside yet crunchy on the outside’ cookie!
Offline Podcast with Benedicte Bernet
Offline is a podcast series of honest conversations between host Alison and the people she finds inspiring. Alison’s conversation with Benedicte dives deep into the emotional and physical labour of pursuing ballet, as well as into Benedicte’s own struggles with injury and her relationship with her body.
Now you’ve made your cookies, settle down and listen to Benedicte discuss the finer details of a life lived in pointe shoes.
Click here to listen.