Brolga 26 an Australian journal about dance

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In This Article


This issue of Brolga well illustrates the richness of our dance history and the diversity of people who have contributed to it. By the very act of writing, the authors themselves are continuing to do so. Jill Sykes has actively observed Graeme Murphy and the Sydney Dance Company since he became its artistic director in 1976. Now that he and his Associate Director and muse, Janet Vernon, have resigned their positions, it is most appropriate to have a consideration of the Murphy era.

Graeme  Murphy as Jean Cocteau
in Sydney Dance Company's
Poppy (1978) Photo: Branco Gaica

Mark Carroll, meanwhile, continues his research into the cultural effects of the Australian visits of the de Basil Ballets Russes, part of a four-year joint project with the Australian Ballet and the National Library of Australia funded by a generous grant from the Australian Research Council. It is worth noting that the Council awarded this project its largest grant in the Humanities for 2005 which, one would hope, has given dance a higher profile in the community, particularly the academic community.

To complement Mark Carroll’s article it is a great privilege to publish the reminiscences and insights of three of de Basil’s dancers, happily still with us and living in Australia—Irina Baronova, Valrene Tweedie and Anna Volkova. All three danced in Leonide Massine’s symphonic ballets, and more recently they have shared their experience and expertise with dancers of the Australian Ballet to ensure the authenticity and success of the company’s 2006 season of Revolutions: Masterworks of Mikhail Fokine, which is also part of the Ballets Russes project.

Another kind of reminiscence motivated Lee Christofis to consider the differences in attitudes to dance, and the practice of it, in those of his Greek-Australian family and community compared to those he found as a boy in his Brisbane school. Has there been any change since then? Is Anglo-Celtic Australian culture impervious to the dance orientations of Greek or other cultures for which dance is an ordinary part of life? These are questions worth asking.

When Margaret Barr settled in Sydney in 1949 she brought to Australia a special kind of movement and form which she called dance-drama, sometimes incorporating folk dance. Her strong political convictions, theatrical flair and vibrant personality affected all who came within her orbit, even if they had only seen performances by her group. In this issue Garry Lester completes his discussion of Margaret Barr’s achievement when she was teaching and producing works at Dartington Hall in Devon during the 1930s.

Serendipitously, this issue also carries a review of a beautiful new book on Martha Graham, with whom Margaret Barr studied and taught; the review is by Jennifer Barry-Knox, who studied with Graham in the 1970s. To complete the circle begun by Jill Sykes’s essay, Jennifer Barry-Knox was a leading member of Sydney Dance Company for several years, creating a number of roles for Graeme Murphy.

Many thanks are due for their long service to Meg Denton, Robin Grove and Sally Clarke, who are retiring from the Brolga Advisory Board. Meg and Robin, now co-editor, have been with the journal from its inception in 1994, Sally since 1998. It is a pleasure to welcome Cheryl Stock, Rita Clarke and Lee Christofis as new Advisory Board members.


Graeme Murphy and the SDC

Only one Australian choreographer has produced a body of work for a mainstream audience over such a substantial period. Graeme, with his associate, Janet Vernon, have made and staged dance that makes audiences laugh and cry, think about ourselves and others, ponder the unique business of being Australian and look beyond into worlds overseas, consider the past and the present.