Two international ballet galas!
After a big gap in overseas acts in Australia over the past pandemic years, suddenly audiences are to be treated to not just one, but two international ballet galas – one in Sydney and one in Brisbane.
Coming first in July is the International Ballet Gala – World Stars of Ballet. Over two nights a glittering array of ballet stars will perform on a program that combines spectacular classical highlights as well as some premieres by overseas and local choreographers. The dancers are from the top ranks of such highly regarded companies as the Bavarian State Ballet, Dortmund State Ballet and Berlin State Ballet in Germany, the San Francisco Ballet and the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
While there are too many to list here, among the dancers will be the sensational Julian MacKay, who, at 23, is the youngest principal ever at the San Francisco Ballet. Bolshoi-trained, he rocketed to his current post via numerous gold medals at international competitions as well as London’s Royal Ballet and Russia’s Mikhailovsky Ballet. Another star is Victor Caxieta, a Brazilian-born dancer who joined the Maryinsky Ballet in Russia in 2019, but has left the country to join the Dutch National Ballet because of the conflict with Ukraine. In a similar position is Laura Fernandez, born in Switzerland, half Ukrainian, half Spanish, who was a first soloist at the Stanislavsky Theatre in Moscow but left to become a principal at the State Ballet of Georgia (under the direction of Nina Ananiashvili).
The gala is being presented by the Tanya Pearson Ballet Academy, which is celebrating 50 years as one of Sydney’s leading elite ballet schools. The school is undergoing a huge expansion, with new, custom-built premises, and ambitions to become a world class “hub” for dance and the performing arts in Australia, connecting the local and overseas dance profession.
Aiding the expansion is a new managing director, Slava Tutukin. Vaganova trained, his many credits include being a manager of the Dortmund Ballet in Germany, where he raised the company to new highs. He has joined current TPA directors Lucinda Dunn, Xanthe Geeves and Gregor Thieler. “We want to create a hub in Sydney for the arts, have performances and events and bring people together, focussing on bringing the education forward, and with collaboration as our spirit and motivation,” says Thieler. The gala is one big step in that expansion, with plans for it to become an annual event.
The International Ballet Gala – World Stars of Ballet will be held at the new Sydney Colliseum in Rooty Hill on July 16 and 17 and will include a performance by Sydney Youth Orchestra.
“We will all be uplifted by the experience,” Thieler promises.
For more details and to see the full line-up of artists, go here.
A month later, the Ballet International Gala (BIG) will be presented in Queensland, and the array of stars is just as glittering. Among them is the international star Roberto Bolle, principal dancer at La Scala, Milan. He will take stage for the very first time in Australia alongside Royal Ballet Principal Ballerina, Yasmine Naghdi, in a special performance which includes a collaboration with 2021 Young Lev Vlasenko Piano Competition finalist and Young Tasmanian of the Year, 17-year-old Shen-Yuan Lynch.
Another major star to perform will be Daniil Simkin, the Russian principal dancer at the Berlin State Ballet. He will perform his brilliant signature piece, Les Bourgeois, and will be joined by American Ballet Theatre’s luminary, Skylar Brandt, in Don Quixote, which she recently debuted at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
This season is the second iteration of BIG – the first was held last year, at a time when few would have expected such a bold event to get onto the stage, especially as the guest artists had to not only take the hazardous trip to Australia but also to quarantine for two weeks on entry. Despite the odds, the gala was a huge success, staged over eight nights at two venues, with sell-out crowds.
The main people behind BIG are Khal Tarabay and Joel Burke, a former ballet dancer turned entrepreneur. Burke is confident of an even better show this time round. “It was very stressful, as you can imagine,” he admits, of last year’s gala, “bringing in all the acts from overseas. We had to work hand-in-hand with Qld Health to make sure we met all of their quarantine conditions and on top of that [we had guests coming from] Kazakhstan, which was having riots, with no wifi because the government shut it off.” The dancers from Kazakhstan (principal artists of the Astana Opera, Shugyla Adepkhan and Bakhtiyar Adamzhan), made it to Australia and, although a couple of dancers couldn’t make it at the last moment, Burke was thrilled with the final result.
This time he is grateful that he can devote more time to preparing the artistic presentation rather than having his attention diverted to Covid compliance. Some of the stars are returning from last year: the Kazakhstani dancers will be back, as will American Ballet Theatre's Aran Bell. Royal Ballet principals Cesar Corales and Francesca Hayward, who were not able to attend last year, are also on the bill. Australian dancer and Royal Ballet principal Alexander Campbell, who stepped in at the last minute for Corales last year, will also be starring. They will perform a selection of favourite solos and pas de deux from ballets such as Le Corsaire, Don Quixote, Flames of Paris, La Bayadere and Giselle.
Like Thieler, Burke wants to create permanent connections with the overseas ballet world, as a way of exposing both dancers and audiences to international trends. They also hope to create more jobs and opportunities for local dancers. Presently, Australians are disadvantaged by the huge distances they have to travel to audition and to make contacts. With these galas, the dance world can become that little bit closer.
BIG will be held at the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre on August 26 and 27 and at the Star Casino Gold Coast on September 3. For more details go here.