Get to Know Some of Our Australian Finalists Competing in The Fonteyn

Get to Know Some of Our Australian Finalists Competing in The Fonteyn

This year’s 15 finalists in the Royal Academy of Dance’s Margot Fonteyn International Ballet Competition (previously known as The Genée) include five brilliant Australian talents.

This Thursday, The Margot Fonteyn International Ballet Competition will be held online for the first time, with the final scheduled for September 9th 7:30pm BST. The final will be hosted by RAD President, Dame Darcey Bussell, and RAD Artistic Director, Gerard Charles.

Of the 15 finalists, there are 5 Australians – Mia Atkinson, Christian Carlo-Stella, Milei Lee, Amber Mitchell-Knight, and Amelia Soh.

We took some time from their busy schedules to get to know four of our Australian finalists a little better before watching them impress this Thursday in the finals.

Mia Atkinson, 15

Where are you from?
I am from Sydney, Australia.

What is your dance training background?
I first started training in Picton, New South Wales when I was just 4 years old. I then moved to Sydney with my family when I was 10 years old to further my training.

Where are you now and where do you train currently?
I am located in Sydney and I am currently in my 3rd year of full-time training at the Tanya Pearson Academy.

Do you have a favourite variation to perform, and why?
My favourite variation to perform currently is Raymonda Act 2 Variation 2 which I am performing in the Margot Fonteyn International Ballet Competition Final. I love the music and all of the challenges this solo brings.

What’s your favourite memory from your time in the dance world?
My favourite memory so far is going to London last month to train at the Royal Ballet School for their summer intensive.

Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I see myself hopefully dancing in a leading company overseas!

Christian Carlo-Stella, 18

Where are you from?
I am from Sydney, Australia.

What is your dance training background?
I started ballet when I was 6 years old and had begun full-time when I turned 15.

Where are you now and where do you train currently?
Last year I moved to London to train at the English National Ballet School and I am just about to go into my second year this September.

Who would you say is your biggest inspiration?
My biggest inspiration in the dance world is Vadim Muntagirov. I’ve always loved watching him whether it’s on Instagram or YouTube as he has such clean technique yet can still amaze the audience with effortless tricks.

How has COVID impacted your preparation for the recording of the finals?
Training for The Fonteyn finals has been tricky, especially due to COVID, although very rewarding. Some of the ways it has affected us is that the competition is now being held online therefore learning all of the solos was quite tricky, especially if our Wi-Fi wasn’t always the best. It has also affected me as I found it quite hard to perform to a camera compared to a live audience, as well as not having an audience that gives you the adrenaline to push through to the end of a solo.

Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I hope to see myself in a ballet company somewhere in Europe hopefully climbing the ranks within the company.

Milei Lee, 17

Where are you from?
I am from Melbourne, Australia, but my background is half Japanese and half Chinese.

What is your dance training background?
I started ballet at 3. When I was 6 years old, I began training at the Brian Nolan Academy of Dance. I spent a valuable 5 years there, building my dance foundation before starting full-time training at the Victorian College of the Arts Secondary School. I am so fortunate to have received the most incredible training from my teachers in Australia. They have continuously supported me through my ballet journey which I am beyond grateful for.

Where are you now and where do you currently train?
I moved to London in September 2020 to commence by studies at the prestigious English National Ballet School. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here and I cannot wait to be heading into my second year at ENBS this September.

Who would you say is your biggest inspiration?
I have always been hugely inspired by Marianela Nunez. I am constantly mesmerised by the way she carries herself on the stage – I admire her charisma, artistic quality, technical control, and the connection she creates with her audience. I actually spotted her in Covent Garden one day and I excitedly went over to say hi. She was so friendly and gave up her time to chat to me. Not only is she a sensational dancer, but she’s also such a genuine and kind-hearted individual – this makes me love her even more!

Do you have a favourite memory from your time in the dance world?
I have made some incredible memories in the 14 years I have been dancing but one memory that I treasure is the time I won the Genée Dance Challenge in 2016. This competition was an eye-opening experience as I got to perform alongside so many talented dancers around Australia and had the amazing opportunity to be judged by company directors from The Royal Ballet, The Australian Ballet and The Royal New Zealand Ballet! After participating in the Genée Dance Challenge, I was determined to make The Fonteyn my next big goal. It feels so surreal that I am now a Fonteyn finalist for 2021!

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I hope to be a dancer in a ballet company, performing and touring around the world and be the inspiration for the next generation of dancers in the industry.

Amber Mitchell-Knight, 18

Where are you from?
I was born in Perth, WA and then moved to Sydney at the age of 2 with my family. I lived in Sydney for several years before my family and I relocated to regional NSW but I continued to travel to and from Sydney every day to continue my full-time training.

What is your dance training background?
I began my training at the age of 2 at Mosman Dance Academy. I then spent a few years training at Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching Academy and The Teresa Johnson Ballet School before transitioning to studying a full-time course at Classical Ballet 121 in 2017. I moved to Melbourne in 2019 to continue my training at the National Theatre Ballet School under the Artistic Directorship of Mr Damian Smith. I have always trained in the RAD syllabus completing all my exams with high distinction and achieving 100% on two occasions.

Where are you located now and where do you train currently?
Currently I am in Melbourne studying my Advanced Diploma of Dance (Elite Performance) at the National Theatre Ballet School with Artistic Director Damian Smith and Associate Artistic Director Susan Sargison.

Do you have a favourite variation to perform and why?
I have had the privilege to learn and perform a number of variations and it’s difficult to narrow down a favourite. If I had to choose though I would say my favourite variation is Raymonda Act 2 Variation 2 which happens to be the solo I am performing in the Fonteyn Finals. I love the difficulty and challenge of this variation, finding that consistency in each section. This solo showcases a beautiful soft and regal quality. There is a lot of port de bras and upper body work which is my favourite element of dancing, expressing through the arms and movement of the upper body. A close second would be Paquita’s Wedding Variation. I had the opportunity to compete in the YAGP finals with this variation and like the Raymonda variation, the focus and attention to the upper body and port de bras gives me that magical sense of dancing and expressing myself and moving in the most delicate and beautiful way. Along with the upper body quality that is prominent in both solos, I also love turning and experiencing the natural forces and momentum whilst spinning and at the same time,
challenging myself to stay balanced and in controlled.

How has COVID impacted your preparation for the recording of the finals? 
Making it into the Fonteyn Finals was so exciting and amazing but couldn’t have come at a more challenging time in Melbourne. There is no denying it, COVID made my preparation for the finals incredibly difficult. Melbourne had gone through multiple lockdowns since the initial outbreak and we currently sit in our 6th. Ongoing lockdowns have impacted the consistency of my training significantly, flicking between training in my small one-bedder apartment to the studios at NTBS. The ability to film my performances and take part in the online lessons and masterclasses within the competition proved immensely challenging. I ended up filming the initial required classwork on the day Melbourne went into its 5th lockdown which was tough having had very little time to prepare let alone practice.

Whilst in lockdown I was able to watch the online classes for the commissioned variation but was initially not permitted to dance with the other finalists as I was not allowed in a studio. I frantically took notes as I watched over zoom and tried to get as much of the piece in my body as I could until I could get back into the studio and run it properly. Luckily restrictions were eased for 1-2 weeks and I was able to get back to the studio and start work on the commissioned piece and revisit my other solos. I thought it best to try to film my pieces prior to the submission due date just in case we were thrown into a further lockdown. But before I’d had the chance to film, we were suddenly given 5 hours’ notice of yet another lockdown. Already on my walk home for the day, when I heard the news, I turned around and rushed straight back to the Theatre at 6pm to film before the curfew at 8pm. There was no choice as I knew this would likely be the only chance I would get to film anything to submit, not knowing how long this new lockdown would go for. It was incredibly disappointing and frustrating knowing how little studio time I’d had to learn the commissioned piece and prepare and practise all three pieces to submit for the Finals, especially knowing there was still so much room for improvement.

The National Theatre has a beautiful stage which is where the filming was planned to take place. Unfortunately, in the rush, with very limited resources available at such short notice, the lighting was not great resulting in having to submit studio footage instead. All that said though, even as I remain in lockdown having now surpassed 200 days, I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to participate in such a prestigious competition. I know I put forward the best that I could under the circumstances and enjoyed participating in all elements of the competition I was able to. Sure, it was not how I would have wanted it to be but it was still a wonderful experience and well worth the challenge.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
In 5 years, I see myself dancing in a company and experiencing my dream of performing on stage professionally surrounded by so many incredible and talented dancers. I look forward to being able to perform some of my favourite ballets and roles and having received some of the best opportunities working with some great dancers and choreographers. I would also like to have had opportunities to teach younger students and work to inspire them to follow their dreams and guide them in building upon their knowledge of the art form. At some point I intend to commence studying nutrition as this is a keen interest of mine and a path I would like to pursue as an extension to my career as a professional dancer having a passion for food and health.

 

Tickets for The Margot Fonteyn International Ballet Competition finals are available at www.royalacademyofdance.org/ and will grant you access to the livestream and on-demand recordings.

Sylvie Guillem short documentary

Sylvie Guillem short documentary

Sylvie Guillem

For the first time since her retirement, Sylvie Guillem gives such an interview at her home, inviting Daniil Simkin to chat amongst olive trees, pastures, and her pets. She talks about her childhood, her relationship with Nureyev, and her experiences at the Paris Opera Ballet. She discusses her state of mind during her career and her current lifestyle.

Sylvie Guillem is one of the most acclaimed dancers in the history of the dance world. With her flexible and strong body, beautiful legs, and rich expressive power, she transformed the image of conventional female dancers. She revolutionized classical ballet, pioneering a new model of classical ballerina. At a time when contemporary and modern dance was not associated with classical ballet dancers, she took on new works one after another and became the multi-talented dancer as we know her today.

The entire 30-minute interview is available for free only on the Dance Masterclass website.

Watch now on Dance Masterclass

 

Need more ballet?

Need more ballet?

ABC TV now has a stunning selection of The Australian Ballet’s favourite performances available to stream free on iview for a limited time.

The Merry Widow

The Merry Widow is a lively tale of love, money and class, played out against the glitter and opulence of the Belle Epoque. View here

 

 

 

Spartacus

 Set in Roman times, this production by Lucas Jervies follows the exploits of Spartacus, the rebellious leader of a major slave uprising against the Roman Republic. View here

 

 

Warumuk – in the dark night

A collaboration between Bangarra Dance Theatre and The Australian Ballet, Warumuk – in the dark night takes its inspiration from traditional Aboriginal stories. View here

 

 

 

Coppélia

A sparkling tale of magic and mischief, Coppélia has everything a good story ballet should: enchantment, romance and sumptuous costumes. View here

 

 

 

Cinderella

Alexei Ratmansky’s Cinderella has all the elements of the story we love – a feisty heroine, a dashing prince, a kindly godmother and a wicked stepmother. View here

 

 

Sleeping Beauty

With lavish sets and costumes, this David McAllister ballet casts a spell of delight all the way to true love’s kiss. View here

 

 

 

Dyad 1929

Wayne McGregor’s Dyad 1929 tests the limits of classical movement in a laboratory-white set, and features an electrifying score by Steve Reich. View here

 

 

Paquita

Choreography by Marius Petipa, Paquita is full of spectacular turns, extravagant tutus, exuberant leaps and delicate footwork. View here

 

 

 

Romeo & Juliet

Graeme Murphy’s Romeo & Juliet captures the implacable hate of rival families, the joy and tenderness of first love and the poignancy of its end. View here

 

 

 

 

 

La Sylphide

La Sylphide is a ballet that tells the tale of a Scottish dreamer who is fascinated by a woodland sprite and spurns his fiancée to follow her. View here

And We Danced

And We Danced

Over the last two years The Australian Ballet has worked with ABC TV on an exciting series that charts the Company’s history. And We Danced reveals the key moments that shaped The Australian Ballet, and tells the story of the people whose passion and dedication continue to drive the Company forward today. Featuring rarely seen footage from The Australian Ballet’s archive, the series also delves into what has made The Ballet so uniquely Australian.

Catch all 3 episodes on iview.

Episode 1, Act 1 1962 – 1979

Australia’s fever for ballet began in the early 20th century with the arrival of the Ballet Russes, who inspired the establishment of Australia’s first professional ballet company – the Borovansky Ballet. Despite outstanding success with audiences, the life of the company was short lived. It wasn’t until the arrival and foresight of British dancer Peggy van Praagh – who took over the sinking company – that the future of ballet in the country looked up.

A successful campaign to government in 1964 led to the establishment of Australia’s first professional dance company: The Australian Ballet. The company’s debut of adored classic Swan Lake was a resounding success, but the early decades were far from smooth sailing. A failed tour to New Zealand, over-worked dancers and industrial action threatened the fledgling company as it tried to carve out its own unique cultural identity.

The early seventies saw the celebrated arrival of a new mode of contemporary dance and the company’s iconic production of Rudolph Nureyev’s Don Quixote, an extravaganza that would herald the greatest ballet film of all time.

Episode 2, Act 2 1980 – 1999

In the 1980s, The Australian Ballet’s audience was broader than ever before. But the long simmering tensions between belt-tightening and creative risk were about to come to a head. In 1981 the dancers staged an iconic strike, demanding to be paid according to skill and rank.

Shortly after, the artistic appointment of British dancer Maina Gielgud finally brought together the creative and business sides of the company. What followed was a harmonious period of rebuilding and a focus on cultivating the company’s many young dancers, such as David McAllister, Steven Heathcote, Elizabeth Toohey and Fiona Tonkin.

Inspired by the company’s youth, the early nineties saw daring, sexy and provocative ballets that pushed the limits of physicality and tradition. Spartacus, and Stanton Welch’s Divergence showed a new edge and revolutionised the ballet’s public image.

The period also saw the arrival of Australia’s most highly regarded choreographer Graeme Murphy and the company’s first collaboration with choreographer Stephen Page of Bangarra Dance Company.

Ross Stretton took over the artistic direction in 1997. Remote and reclusive, his approach was not endeared by some, though no one could deny his artistic strengths. By the end of the decade, the repertoire was becoming increasingly contemporary, increasingly Australian and increasingly risky.

Episode 3, Act 1 2000 – 2020

In the third and final episode of And We Danced, The Australian Ballet enters the new millennium with a bold creative appointment. Fresh from the dancer’s ranks and with no prior leadership experience, David McAllister became artistic director of The Australian Ballet in 2001.

His daring first commission was Graeme Murphy’s adaptation of Swan Lake, inspired by the love triangle between Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Camilla. It was an unprecedented success, becoming a signature piece for the company and securing the future of the company in McAllister’s hands.

Further collaborations with Stephen Page and Bangarra Dance Company, and the recruitment of Ella Halvelka, The Australian Ballet’s first Indigenous dancer, cemented the company’s commitment to represent a diversity of stories and cultures that reflect Australian society more widely.

With success of large-scale crowd-pleasers such as Alice in Wonderland and Sleeping Beauty alongside more experimental works it appeared that the balance between financial viability and creative risk had been struck.

After twenty years at the helm of the company, McAllister propelled The Australian Ballet into the 21st century on and off the stage. In 2021, ballet’s popularity is as great as ever. With the recent appointment of international superstar David Hallberg as the eighth Artistic Director the ballet looks forward to a new future as one of our preeminent cultural institutions.

 

DanceX

DanceX

AN UNMISSABLE FESTIVAL OF DANCE
MELBOURNE 24 SEPT – 2 OCT

This September, dance companies from around Australia will gather at Arts Centre Melbourne for a festival experience like no other.

DanceX is a brand new, two-part festival conceived and curated by The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director David Hallberg that will showcase the depth, range and diversity of the nation’s dance community. Bringing audiences brand new commissions, Australian premieres and excerpts from some of the most popular dance works of the last year, DanceX is an unmissable experience for culture-lovers of all kinds.

Eight companies – The Australian Ballet, Bangarra Dance Theatre, Sydney Dance Company, Chunky Move, Lucy Guerin Inc, Australian Dance Theatre, Queensland Ballet and West Australian Ballet – will perform in two parts, marking the first coming-together of these companies in many years.

The Australian Ballet will perform in both parts, presenting the Australian premiere of Johan Inger’s comic, romantic dance theatre piece I New Then, set to songs by Van Morrison; Inger, a Swedish choreographer, danced with Nederlands Dans Theater and has made works for leading companies all over Europe.

DanceX is an opportunity for audiences to experience diverse works from Australia’s leading dance companies, celebrating and paying tribute to the richness of Australia’s dance community. As well as initiating and presenting DanceX, The Australian Ballet has commissioned two companies, Chunky Move and Lucy Guerin Inc, to create brand new works.

 

PART ONE | 24 – 27 SEPTEMBER

The Australian Ballet | New Then A comic, romantic dance theatre piece set to songs by Van Morrison.

Queensland Ballet | Glass Concerto An assemblage of high energy, dynamic and emotional movement, Glass Concerto will captivate and inspire audiences.

Sydney Dance Company | ab [intra] (excerpt) From tenderness to turmoil, ab [intra] is a journey through the intensity of human existence that will command your attention.

Lucy Guerin Inc | How To Be Us* A duet for two women on the limits of freedom.

Bangarra Dance Theatre | Ochres and Walkabout (excerpts) Three powerful, spiritual and grounded excerts from Bangarra’s seminal works Ochres (1995) and Walkabout (2002).

Duration: approx. 146 mins (including two intervals)

 

PART TWO | 30 SEPTEMBER – 2 OCTOBER

Australian Dance Theatre | The Beginning of Nature (excerpt) The Beginning of Nature explores the complex symphony of overlapping rhythms that constitute the very fabric of nature.

Chunky Move | AB_TA_ Response* AB_TA_Response explores the rhythm of forms between dance and design and considers the dialogue between biological and technological systems.

West Australian Ballet | 4Seasons The stages of life and love – the youth of spring, storms of summer, tenderness of autumn and the aging of winter.

The Australian Ballet | New Then A comic, romantic dance theatre piece set to songs by Van Morrison.

Duration: approx. 124 mins (including two intervals)

*commissioned by The Australian Ballet

LEARN MORE

Five Reasons to see Le Parc

Five Reasons to see Le Parc

Created specifically for the Paris Opera Ballet in 1994 by choreographer Angelin Preljocal, there are countless reasons why Le Parc has become a timeless classic.

CARDS
When desire is part of the game, the carte du Tendre is also a card to play. Love at first sight and gambles come together in the groves of Le Parc. Marivaux like, Preljocaj’s choreography – created in 1994 for the Paris Opera Ballet – reshuffles the cards for the game of love and chance.

MOZART
Female desire (Così fan tutte), debauchery (Don Giovanni) and true love (Die Zauberflöte): Mozart’s scores form the soundtrack for the century of Laclos, Sade, Crébillon and Vivant Denon. In Le Parc, Mozart is Preljocaj’s musical accomplice: concertos, quartets and symphonies give rhythm to a work that gives form to the desires of the heart and mind.

GARDENS
Be it the gardens of the carte du Tendre – the landscape of love charted out by Madame de Scudéry or the royal alleys at Versailles where Le Nôtre created the ideal backdrop for all things playful, the garden is above all a secret one when it comes to love.

QUARTET
“Divertimento”, “A Musical Joke”, “Serenade”, “A little Night Music”: the pages from Mozart selected by Angelin Preljocaj evoke hours of the day and night – moments in a sophisticated art of loving. Music and dance echo one another: in a conversation transposed into sound, a quartet of gardeners reply to a string quartet. Set to an electronic score by Goran Vejvoda, these little cupids guide the dancers along in a timeless game.

ERA
The society of the age of Enlightenment has given way to an entertainment based one: “The world parades and surges across the small screen”, says Preljocaj, “and we remain transfixed”. And yet, as the French writer Philippe Sollers says, the 18th century was a “forward” one. With Le Parc, the choreographer draws on the source of French libertinage. Dance finds new momentum that brings into perspective the games of seduction of our times.

“A masterpiece. There are dances that entertain us, and then there are a few that have the power to truly move us.” Alexandra Desvignes, BACHTRACK

Join ballet aficionado Leo Schofield for a pre-screening presentation of Le Parc on 18 July at Palace Cinemas Verona to hear why Leo thinks Le Parc is a masterpiece of dance.

Tickets on sale now

BOOK TICKETS NOW

Image courtesy Paris Opera Ballet