Redlands to Russia: Becoming Aurora

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Lisa Bolte in Maina Gielgud’s 'The Sleeping Beauty', 2007, aged 40.
Lisa Bolte in Maina Gielgud’s 'The Sleeping Beauty', 2007, aged 40.

The Redland Museum, south of Brisbane, is currently holding an exhibition about one of its local and most glittering and accomplished daughters: ballerina Lisa Bolte.

Bolte is a former, much-adored principal with the Australian Ballet. She has performed ballet's most iconic roles and her career has taken her across the world.

The exhibition features costumes and memoribilia from the Australian Ballet archives.

For the exhibition, Bolte has written a "recollection" of some highlights of her career. Reprinted below is her description of her preparation for her debut as Aurora in "The Sleeping Beauty", one of her most famous roles. It offers a fascinating insight into the detail and meticulousness with which a ballerina approaches her craft. 

The Ballet Classics  

I love classical ballet!  I feel the principal roles in classic ballets – The Sleeping Beauty, Giselle and Romeo & Juliet - saw me at my very best. When dancing these, I was in another world: my Lisa Bolte body was on stage but I was not. I was Princess Aurora, Giselle, Juliet! 

An early highlight, whilst a coryphée with the company, was performing Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty when just 21 years young. Maina [Gielgud, the then artistic director of the Australian Ballet] coached my every breath, feeling, and the technical qualities of Aurora’s character. We talked about the fairy-tale, the history of past dancers in the role, and the music. She even gave me an old recording to listen and dance to, and I wore this tape out practising corrections time after time. Maina’s coaching was intense, full on and challenging but I soaked up every minute of it!

Then after a full company rehearsal in the main studio of the new Australian Ballet Centre in Melbourne, I made my Aurora debut in front of 2000 ballet lovers at the State Theatre. The exhilaration of bringing my interpretation of Aurora to life and of performing alongside an already much-loved principal artist, Steven Heathcote, was beyond anything I had ever experienced. I was in ballet heaven! 

 Preparation Notes for my first "Sleeping Beauty" - 

The Sleeping Beauty 

 “The young Lisa Bolte was exquisite in the leading role of ‘Beauty’, shimmering through the treacherous balances of the ‘Rose Adage’, and then later on she was tenderly partnered by tall, dark and handsome Steven Heathcote.” - Christine Temin of The Boston Sunday Globe (1988). 

Melbourne 18/02/1988 

I was so focused on trying for perfection, I drew up my own notes for this performance. 

Rehearsals - Try not to stop too much for corrections now. Full Call - in tutu, to feel the weight of the costume; place and do ménage; practice fouettes on stage and balances every day 

  •          Friday evening before: Think through the entire ballet 
  •          Saturday after rehearsal: Rethink what happened, any weaknesses to be fixed 
  •          Sunday: Rest (listen to music) 
  •          Monday: Night of debut performance - Let everything go over your head; enjoy yourself; enjoy the opportunity and experience- 
  •      Place the ballet on stage: Do as much as you feel with the tape; watch principals carefully and practice up the back whenever possible. 
  •      Before barre: make-up and hair  
  •      After barre: take pointe shoes and go on stage; try some bits & pieces; make final decision on shoes, have four pairs ready. 
  •      During the prologue: fix make-up, relax and enjoy the music 
  •      Interval: Be dressed to go on stage, ask Prince (Roy) to be early to practice bits of the Rose Adage. Keep calm and try balances during the Garland Dance. Prince (Jamie) will be helpful and calming. Listen to the music and the build-up that comes with your entrance. 
  •      Act 1 Entrance: When you go on stage greet your guests, really say hello with your eyes and body. The elation, it’s your party, excitement is total, your eyes sparkle. Greet mum, go to dad, take a little shy curtsy. Maybe an apprehensive look to mum? 
  •      Rose Adage: Relax, concentrate, stomach control, knees, legs stretch. Music is the make of the dancer. Begin shyly, allow the dance to build. Push and relax in the pirouettes. Relax in the corner before the balances. Use the Princes for the balances. Listen to the harps in penches.Get carried away in the music.Think of stomach to achieve balances. Prepare pirouettes, don’t throw them away. 
  •      Solo: It’s your party, the Royal party, your friends want you to dance. Curtsy and walk around to prepare taking in the stage the audience, as in the Rose Adage turn on yourself caught up in the music.Totally relax in the final pose. Play with the music and the guests. Strength and assured for the ménage. Bow and off, shake legs, breathe. Forget any wrong mishap.  
  •      Coda time: Hold the audience in suspense. Play, use your guests once you have the spindle, to help with the mime. Try to keep your face in view, especially in mime 
  •      Act 2 Nymph Scene: Aloof, but captivating; be soft and lyrical almost sensual; long arms; playful especially in solo 
  •      Act 3: Be a ballerina - enjoy the day; become Aurora.

'Redland to Russia: Lisa Bolte, My Ballet Career', continues until May 28

Lisa Bolte performing Giselle with the Mariinsky Ballet, St Petersburg, 1996.
Image courtesy of the Mariinsky Ballet: Photo V.Baranovsky.
Lisa Bolte performing Giselle with the Mariinsky Ballet, St Petersburg, 1996. Image courtesy of the Mariinsky Ballet: Photo V.Baranovsky.


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