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.
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.
Opening in Melbourne over the weekend, it looks like The Australian Ballet’s production of Stanton Welch’s Sylvia is capturing hearts.
‘Welch captures the style of a romantic ballet while maintaining a sense of modernity. This results in a feast of utterly bewitching shapes and movement from start to finish… Sylvia achieves everything it sets out to do; it is a joyous production that showcases exhilarating choreography and the exceptional talent of The Australian Ballet‘
– Jenna Schroder for ArtsHub
‘Sylvia is a wonderfully successful synthesis of choreography, music, lighting, projection, set design and costuming.’
– Susan Bendall for Dance Australia
If the reviews are anything to go by, it looks like we are in for an absolute treat when Sylvia make its way to Sydney in November. Tickets for the dress rehearsal on 7 November are available here.
Main image Simon Schluter
Artists of The Australian Ballet | Photo Jeff Busby
Ako Kondo and Kevin Jackson | Photo Jeff Busby
Artists of The Australian Ballet | Photo Jeff Busby
Ako Kondo and Kevin Jackson | Photo Jeff Busby
Benedicte Bemet and Artists of The Australian Ballet | Photo Jeff Busby
Marcus Morelli | Photo Jeff Busby
Marcus Morelli and Benedicte Bemet | Photo Jeff Busby
Robyn Hendricks and Adam Bull | Photo Jeff Busby
With tickets for the Dress Rehearsal of Sylvia now on sale, here are some behind the scenes shots of The Australian Ballet dancers getting ready to bring Stanton Welch’s new production to Sydney. Click here to book your tickets
Photography Kate Longley
Nicola Curry and Rina Nemoto, photography Kate Longley
Sharni Spencer and Rina Nemoto, photography Kate Longley
Corey Herbert, photography Kate Longley
Valerie Tereschenko and Adam Bull, photography Kate Longley
Dimity Azoury and Nathan Brook, photography Kate Longley
The Friends celebrated the beginning of the Sydney ballet season with our annual event Meet the New Dancers on 2 April at The Royal Automobile Club of Australia, to introduce the future stars of The Australian Ballet Company.
Together with Steven Heathcote, our Members were entertained and introduced to the new young dancers, including Sara Andrlon, Jocob de Groot, Thomas McClintock, Annaliese McDonald and Tyson Powell.
FAB Life Member Alan Jackson hosted the event and fellow FAB Councilors Jeremy Moller and Tanya Barrington presented a cheque of $3,500 to The Australian Ballet Pointe Shoe Fund.
We thank our long term sponsors Mr Rebbell Barnes, Showface Make-Up, and Bloch for their continued support at this event.