Dance Australia, in collaboration with the Sydney Opera House and The Australian Ballet, is thrilled to announce the 2020 recipient of the Emerging Female Classical Choreographer Initiative is Xanthe Geeves.
Geeves was chosen by a panel of judges consisting of Natalie Weir (the former artistic director of Expressions Dance Company and former resident choreographer of The Australian Ballet), The Australian Ballet’s artistic associate and principal coach, Fiona Tonkin; the head of Contemporary Performance at Sydney Opera House, Olivia Ansell; Dance Australia magazine editor Karen van Ulzen and Dance Australia critic Margaret Mercer (WA).
Now in its second year, the Emerging Female Classical Choreographer initiative creates a unique opportunity for an up-and-coming female choreographer to take up an artistic residency at Sydney Opera House and create a work for The Australian Ballet’s "bodytorque" program.
Geeves has a comprehensive career in classical ballet. She trained with Tanya Pearson and Jennifer Ham at Ballet Academy Northside in her hometown of Sydney and the Palucca School in Dresden, Germany, before embarking on a 14-year performing career. Much of that time was with the German choreographer Stephan Thoss (now artistic director of Ballet Theatre Mannheim), who was artistic director of the Hannover State Ballet, where Geeves danced from 2001-7. She later moved with him to the the State Ballet of Hessen in Wiesbaden. She was principal dancer in both companies. She also worked with leading choreographers such as Mats Ek, John Neumeier, Nacho Duato and Joerg Mannes. “They were so inspiring as choreographers. Their creativity and collaborative process sparked my interest in also exploring choreography,” she says.
In addition to dancing many leading roles, Xanthe worked as an international teacher, choreographer and assistant choreographer to Thoss in Europe, USA and Australia, including a guest appearance with a Queensland Ballet gala, when she helped stage an excerpt from Thoss's Swan Lake.
Over time she began to develop her own choreograph voice, creating and collaborating in a number of different companies and settings in Europe and the US, including presenting four of her own creations, one of which, Connotations, particularly impressed the judges.
She returned to Australia in 2013 with her German partner Gregor Thieler when an offer became available to take over her old alma mater, Ballet Academy Northside. Together they have expanded the school into the full-time Sydney College of Dance, which performs as Sydney Ballet Theatre, and is designed as a stepping stone for pre-professional students and as a vehicle for guest choreographers.
She also teaches for the NSW Department of Education Arts Unit and choreographs (with Thieler) the Schools Spectacular featured ballet ensemble each year.
Xanthe's “strong affinity” with ballet technique, as well as her confidence with ensemble work and her musical sensitivity, appealed to the judges.
“Additionally, I valued the aesthetic, use of pointe, line, port de bras and musicality in the works she presented,” says Fiona Tonkin. “I appreciate Xanthe has had a professional career in Europe and the US, including dancing in a variety of choreographers’ works.”
Says Natalie Weir: “Xanthe shows impressive creativity with large groups of dancers, and her work is strongly within the classical ballet genre. The opportunity to create a new work for The Australian Ballet is a wonderful opportunity for Xanthe to make work with a professional company, and an important step in her choreographic development.”
The Australian Ballet’s "bodytorque" offers the opportunity to aspiring choreographers to create and present new work to audiences in an intimate workshop-style setting. Last year was the first year a choreographer was selected through the EFCC initiative. The inaugural winner, Amelia Drummond, is now artistic co-ordinator with the company.
Geeves sees the EFCC as “a wonderful chance to contribute my individual vision - a product of many unique sources from both Australia and Europe - to the dance scene of Australia". “I think it's a wonderful initiative to to help to support the work of female choreographers, to help them with opportunities to develop their works .”
This year’s Emerging Female Classical Choreographer Initiative is proudly supported by Grishko and DanceSurance.