Posts tagged David McAllister
Living Doll

Recently landed: Living Doll, Gracia's written response to Coppélia, for Fjord Review

On a Tuesday night, I fancied myself carved from the pages of Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple. I cast myself as Gwenda Reed from Sleeping Murder. The year was 1951, and I pinned a bakelite Bluebird of Happiness brooch to my coat lapel. I swapped The Duchess of Malfi for Coppélia because this was fantasy, and made for the Palais Theatre in St Kilda. And true to the liberties of daydream, 1951 rolled into both 1962, when the Australian Ballet first performed Coppélia during its inaugural season, and 1979, when founding artistic director Peggy van Praagh and former theatre director George Ogilvie revived the production.

On the stage in ’79, Ann Jenner had assumed the role of the wilful Swanhilda, Kelvin Coe, her foolish fiancé, and Ray Powell had donned the many-eyed cloak of Dr. Coppelius, Keeper of the Girl with the Enamel Eyes. But on this particular night, soloists Dimity Azoury and Jarryd Madden were to be my mischievous two, and Jacob Sofer, my misunderstood doctor of mechanical dolls. Entering the theatre, the company’s return to the Palais stage 22 years since their last appearance was infectiously nostalgic (hence the unexpected appearance of Agatha Christie). Currently wrapped in covers and scaffolding as it undergoes major restoration, the theatre conveyed a sense of also being bundled up in sentimental longing.

As recalled by current artistic director, David McAllister, “I feel like I’m surrounded by ghosts of dancers past…. It’s an extraordinary theatre and I started my career here as a dancer so it’s very exciting to be back…. It was Dame Peggy, it was George Ogilvie, it was Kristian Fredrikson. It has this feeling of great pride in our repertoire. So all the dancers coming to this production for the first time feel like they are stepping into the history of the Australian ballet.”

Ako Kondo and Chengwu Guo in Coppélia (Image credit: Jeff Busby)

An 'irregular pearl' collected for my Every Embellishment memory theatre

The Australian Ballet in David McAllister's The Sleeping Beauty (Image credit: Jeff Busby)

The Belle of the Ball

Recently landed: The Belle of the Ball, Gracia's written response for Fjord Review

In his own cabinet of natural curiosities, the Amsterdam-based pharmacist, Albertus Seba (1665–1736), placed exotic plants and corals, birds and butterflies, and slithering snakes alongside shells in fantastical fanned formations to delight the eye. In the Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director, David McAllister’s first full-length production and choreographic debut with a staging of Petipa and Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty, it is not hard to surmise that as a long-term former dancer with the company and now at the helm as director for his fifteenth year, McAllister himself has constructed something of his own golden ‘wunderkammer’ with this work. A production replete with gold sprinkling from the ceiling, twinkling chandeliers, round like jellyfish, and greened nymphs that weave in and out like a serpentine vine; a true baroque ‘irregular pearl’ of a ballet, years in the making, and legacy building.  

In McAllister’s 2015
Beauty, treasure is plentiful and I, too, as wily collector, set to furnishing my growing collection of ballet keepsakes and highlights. With their raggedy rat-tails and long white noses that call to mind Seba-worthy conical shells, I will add Carabosse’s quintet of mischief-makers to my wonder chamber. Though I very much doubt guest artist and former principal, the fabulously vengeful, Lynette Wills, as the wronged Carabosse, will spare them without a fight. So, too, the ornate shell-like columns, designed by Gabriela Tylesova, which appear en pointe. Resting on tiny tips, eight columns that in architectural reality could not support a ceiling, but in the transformative world of the theatre (where belief, amongst other things, is defied), twirl upwards with aplomb. This is nature, but with the emphasis on it polished, made fanciful, and presented as a fairy tale. The objective: to unashamedly delight.

Matt Donnelly, Lana Jones, and Lisa Bolte in The Australian Ballet's The Sleeping Beauty (Image credit: Kate Longley)