The Australian Ballet principal talks to Jean Rush about his work
Are you pleased when a new interpretation of a ballet comes along, as in your Swan Lake at the London Coliseum
I enjoy the process of exploring new interpretations of classic ballets. Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake was created in my final year at the Australian Ballet School (2002). I saw its premiere in Melbourne from up in the gods and I was absolutely captivated. It’s a complete shake up of the story with a nod to the traditional history, it blew my mind. I was speechless for hours afterwards. It’s now a bench mark production for the Australian Ballet and in a way it’s part of our DNA.
I saw Northern Ballet’s new take on Swan Lake recently, and have read the synopsis of your new production. Both completely different from each other. Do you think the traditional Swan Lake wil remain in the global repertoire
I think new interpretations, revamped versions and original traditional productions all have a place in this world. Thanks to the exquisite score that Tchaikovsky composed it continues to inspire so many choreographers, dancers and audiences the world over. Our version is unique and unlike any other and I believe makes full use of the romance, drama and tragedy that this score produces.
Ratmansky’s Cinderella looks really exciting. How do you like working with Ratmansky Is he a strict disciplinarian
Alexei Ratmansky was like no other person I’ve ever worked with, his passion, knowledge and creativity of this art form was intoxicating. He pushed us to our limits in movement and timing and took the whole company to a higher place. Yes, he was extremely demanding but it all came from a place of care for the dancers and production. I learnt so much working with him and I can certainly thank him for helping me evolve as an artist.
I have seen your company dance both in Sydney and in Melbourne. Which theatre do you prefer
This is a tricky question. Melbourne is our home and the regal Arts Centre Melbourne with its plush red interior and spacious stage allow you to completely lose yourself. Then there’s the Sydney Opera House with its iconic exterior and placement on the Sydney Harbour, it makes coming into work a dream. Although its stage is much smaller it gives us and our audiences an opporrtunity to be more intimate.
Your company is very strong technnically. Ballet virtuosity has improved enormously in recent years. Do you think any of the English style from your origins with Peggy van Praagh remain
The company’s ongoing vision is “Caring for tradition and daring to be different”. After our London tour we are about to perfrm Peggy van Praagh’s version of Coppelia and we often have the honour of performing Ashton, Macmillan and now McGregor and Wheeldon so I think it’s fair to say our ties with the English style are still very much part of the fabric that makes up our diverse company.
Do you prefer classical or contemporary dance (If you prefer not to say, please tell me your favourite role)
I’m so fortunate to dance in a company that gives me the opportunity to dance both classical and contemporary works and honestly I don’t have a favourite. Each ballet brings its challenges in technique and artistry and I strive to learn and develop as an artist with each contemporary and classical role.
Someone in a ballet company has recently said they work ten hours a day,with class and rehearsals. How many hours a day do you work apart from performances
I would agree with these hours. It’s the time out of rehearsals and performances to stay healthy, fit and performance ready like body conditioning, gym, cardio, physiotherapy and massage. Recovery strategies like stretching, icing, hot and cold water therapy; this is what takes up the extra hours of the day and then of course there’s the media, photo shoots and social media that’s expected of an artist these daysl It’s crazy but we are very lucky to do something we are passionate about.