by Alan Brissenden AM
Next year marks the 50th anniversary of the Australian Ballet’s first performance, and a popular hit of the 1962 premiere season was Rex Reid’s Melbourne Cup, which drew on the country’s most famous social sporting event for its story and setting. Jordan Vincent has investigated the surprising facts connecting Reid’s new work with a second Cup ballet, and what she writes about her discoveries is both entertaining and informative. The national company’s recent seasons have celebrated the visits of Colonel de Basil’s Ballets Russes to Australia, and their social and artistic impact on this country is undergoing reassessment.
Art historian Andrew Montana adds another dimension to this new evaluation with his discussion of the designs the young Australian artist Loudon Sainthill made for ballets by the strikingly beautiful Russian ballerina Nina Verchinina. The story of this collaboration, and the fate of Verchinina as choreographer will intrigue anyone interested in gender studies, apart from the worlds of art and ballet.
Rodney Stenning Edgecombe looks for a new genre within ballet itself, making connections between other musical forms and such works as The Merry Widow, which is part of the Australian Ballet’s 2011 season. Reaching back into the history of ballet and opera, in a thought-provoking essay he proposes a new term, ‘Ballet Lyrique’.
Few places could be further from The Merry Widow’s glamorous Maxim’s than the red dust and spinifex of central Australia, but that is where Mary Elizabeth Anderson takes us with her account of Tess de Quincey’s experiments in Bodyweather training, place-based performance-making and documentation at Hamilton Downs, an old cattle station and youth camp about 100 kilometres beyond Alice Springs, bringing us into the 21st century.
I hope you will find the variety and historical stretch of this issue of Brolga stimulating and satisfying. It is good to be able to welcome authors from South Africa and the United States to its pages. My thanks to all the contributors, to our designer, David Bonsall, and to everyone who helped with the illustrations.