FAIRYTALE ISSUE #6
Contributors Editor Cassandra Houghton Words Cassandra Houghton, Meryn Cooper, Ellen Gilroy, Chelsea Clark, Courtney Adams Art Direction & Design David Byrne & Niqui Toldi / Bigfish Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin AO Executive Director Dilshani Weerasinghe Deputy Executive Director Felicity Mandile
Welcome to the sixth edition of Pas. magazine.
Contact Queensland Ballet (07) 3013 6666 firstname.lastname@example.org Beesley St Studios 34 Beesley St, West End, QLD 4101 From late 2022 —Thomas Dixon Centre, 406 Montague Rd, West End, QLD 4101
Queensland Ballet Academy 101 L’Estrange Terrace, Kelvin Grove, QLD 4059
Subscribe Season Tickets are the best way to experience the ballet in 2021. Become a Season Ticket Holder and save up to 20% off regular ticket prices. You’ll also receive At The Barre — a fortnightly glimpse into the world of Queensland Ballet. Every effort has been made to ensure that all information was correct at the time of printing, however, details are subject to change where necessary and without notice. Please check queenslandballet.com.au for updates.
/pa/ A step or series of steps in ballet.
IN THIS ISSUE 4
Lou Spichtig Leap of Faith —
Jette Parker Young Artists Success stories —
60th Anniversary Gala Photos from the Season —
Fairytale Fever The Sleeping Beauty —
Regional Community Tour Tales from the road —
Queensland Ballet Academy From #balletbeatdrop to ballet student —
Cover Company Artist Lucy Christodoulou and Jette Parker Young Artist Briana McAllen backstage during the 60th Anniversary Gala by David Kelly
Immersive Art Thomas Dixon Centre —
Li Cunxin AO Artistic Director
Best in the West West End food & coffee —
— Ballet on the Lawn at Riverstage, rehearsals for The Sleeping Beauty and Aspire ’21, costume preparation, set designs, public dance classes, Thomas Dixon Centre construction, and planning a regional community engagement tour: it has been a busy few months at Queensland Ballet. We are still delighted to be back onstage this year, and we’re looking forward to the second half of our blockbuster Season. Tickets for all our 2021 productions will be on sale from Tuesday 29 June. You won’t want to miss the world premiere of our childhood classic, Peter and the Wolf, and our dark gothic romance Dracula. We look forward to seeing you there. If you have tickets to see one of the crowning jewels in our 2021 season, you’re in for a treat. The Sleeping Beauty is now on at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC (4–19 June), and it has been a joy to put together. Choreographed by our Chief Ballet Master/Director of Artistic Operations Greg Horsman in 2011, this year marks its 10 year anniversary. The story, the choreography, the sets, and the costumes are still as enchanting as they were all those years ago, and you can take a look at the behind-the-scenes production in this edition. Elsewhere in Pas, you’ll find stories on our Jette Parker Young Artist program, interviews with our dancers and creatives, photos from our recent 60th Anniversary Gala, and much more. I hope you enjoy this edition as much as we enjoyed creating it!
Beauty Sleep Be a Sleeping Beauty the natural way —
Acknowledgement of Country Queensland Ballet acknowledges the traditional custodians of the land on which we work and perform. Long before we performed on this land, it played host to the dance expression of our First Peoples. We pay our respects to their Elders — past, present and emerging — and acknowledge the valuable contribution they have made and continue to make to the cultural landscape of this country.
Photo Soloists Vito Bernasconi and Georgia Swan By Vicki Winter
June-August SEASON 2021
The Sleeping Beauty 4–19 June, Lyric Theatre, QPAC Be drawn into the magical fairytale world of good versus evil as Queensland Ballet performs The Sleeping Beauty. Witness ballet at it’s most romantic! — SEASON 2021
Tutus on Tour 24 July – 25 August Regional Queensland (various) Bringing ballet to regional Queensland, Tutus on Tour including performances from past and present works, in celebration of Queensland Ballet’s 60th Anniversary. — SEASON 2021
Queensland Ballet Academy Gala 13–15 August Gardens Theatre, QUT Gardens Point See the rising stars of dance in an exhilarating and professional production of classical and contemporary works. — ACADEMY
Winter School & Junior Winter School 28 June – 2 July & 30 June – 2 July Queensland Ballet Academy, Kelvin Grove State College Offering dancers aged 7.5–18 years the opportunity to further their training under the guidance of our esteemed teaching faculty, in world-class facilities. — ACADEMY
Audition Experience Day 3 July Queensland Ballet Academy, Kelvin Grove State College Dancers aged 10–16+ are invited to experience a simulated ballet audition, including class with live piano accompaniment and call-back component. — SUPPORT US
Giving Day 2021 24–25 June (24 hours) Queensland Ballet Studios, West End Our Giving Day appeal for 2021 is a unique event not to be missed! Enjoy a program of experiences, online content, and remarkable stories as we come together to support our beloved company. — COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Mini Dance Camp (July) 3 & 4 July 2021 Queensland Ballet Studios, West End Enjoy 2 action-packed days of exciting ballet fun, including dance classes and workshops, tailored for kids aged 6-12 of all experience levels. — COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
Regional Community Tour 2021 July–Nov 2021 30+ locations across Regional Queensland Returning to Regional Queensland with their biggest Community Tour ever, delivering Community Classes, In-school workshops and Teacher PD workshops. — For bookings or information visit queenslandballet.com.au
ISSUE #6 JUNE 2021
INTERVIEW Leap of Faith Lou Spichtig Company Artist
The allure of Queensland Ballet: Why Company Artist Lou Spichtig swapped Swiss charm for the Sunshine State
Words Ellen Gilroy Photos Right: Lou Spichtig by David Kelly
— When Lou Spichtig was 18-years-old, she made the decision to move halfway across the world, from Zürich to Brisbane to chase her dreams. She sent her audition tape to Queensland Ballet (QB) on a whim, expecting no more than a generic ‘thank you.’ But while browsing the aisles of a supermarket she got an unexpected message from QB Artistic Director Li Cunxin AO, inviting her to meet virtually to discuss the next steps. What seemed like an impulsive decision to audition soon changed Lou’s life forever, as she packed her bags and moved to the other side of the globe to dance. “I had just graduated from the Zürich Dance Academy two years prior and was a member of Ballet Zürich II. I was excited to explore their repertory of neoclassical and contemporary works, but it didn’t take long for me to realise I didn’t thrive as an artist within those genres,” says Lou. After searching far and wide across the world for a Company that seemed to be doing mainly classical works, Lou stumbled across a ballet Company in the heart of West End, Brisbane, on the opposite side of the globe. Lou was instantly drawn to QB, not only for their almost exclusive repertoire of classical works, but they were a Company rapidly transforming into something world-class. “I really wanted to be part of that,” says Lou. “I thought, if this is meant to be, I’ll get a positive answer. “When Li called me I think I accepted the offer right on the spot, without realising the magnitude of my decision! But I knew from the minute I hung up the call that this was a once-in-alifetime opportunity, and not only was I taking a big chance on QB, they too were taking a big chance on me, after all, we hadn’t met in person yet!”. The leap of faith both parties took all those years ago seemed to pay off, with Lou joining the QB Company in late 2016. “When I told my mother the offer I’d accepted, she said “Wow! You couldn’t have picked a place further away from Zürich.” It was definitely difficult for my parents, but they have never held me back from following my dreams,” she says. Arriving in Brisbane after a 24-hour journey was overwhelming and exhilarating with Lou jumping right into the deep end. QB were in the midst of rehearsing The Nutcracker before heading off to Canberra, and within two days Lou had to learn every single role she was cast for, while still combating the jetlag. It didn’t take long for Lou’s artistry to flourish, performing in some of ballet’s most beloved classic works,
including Ben Stevenson’s The Nutcracker, Swan Lake, and Cinderella, Greg Horsman’s La Bayadère, and Liam Scarlett’s Dangerous Liaisons, and The Firebird. “Performing in front of an audience is the greatest reward. Feeling everything come together and fall into place on stage after you’ve fine-tuned all the details in the studio is an incomparable experience.” she says. For Lou, each performance holds a special place in her heart. However, it was the return to stage for QB’s 60th Anniversary Gala that will always be remembered. “Returning to the stage with a full house, after the challenges of COVID-19 was a memory I will never forget. As we finished Ètudes I looked across at the others on stage and I just remember there being tears in my eyes and tears in other dancers’ eyes. “It was surreal to think that I was there on stage, performing to a full audience, while my parents were still in lockdown on the other side of the world,” says Lou. While the lockdown had its many challenges, Lou managed to find a few silver linings from the time spent at home. “Taking away the studio, the stage, and the casting gave me the opportunity to focus on the simple act of dancing. Just me, the music, and my artistry.” Facing a challenge with a positive mindset is something Lou has always tried to do, in fact there is a German saying she has carried with her through each hurdle of her dance career. “Grind abe und voll seckle,” she says, translating it to “don’t overthink, just do.” The phrase may seem trivial to some, but for Lou they are words of courage that allow her to keep moving through the uncertain, strenuous, but highly rewarding career of dance. “This journey has been trying at times, but when you allow each challenge to be an opportunity to improve, push your own limits every day and keep an open and humble mind to suggestions and corrections, you give yourself the chance to get closer to your goals every day,” says Lou. “At the end of my career, I want to be able to look back and not have any regrets, knowing that I have taken every opportunity, enjoyed the privilege this wonderful journey has been and remembered to have fun along the way.”
— See Lou in our Season 2021 productions. For tickets, visit queenslandballet.com.au
ISSUE #6 JUNE 2021
GRIND ABE UND VOLL SECKLE —( DON’T OVERTHINK, JUST DO )
GALLERY: SEASON 2021
Photos Top: Principal Artists Camilo Ramos and Neneka Yoshida in Don Quixote Pas de Deux. Bottom: Principal Artist Victor Estévez and Senior Soloist Mia Heathcote in François Klaus’ Cloudland pas de deux. by David Kelly
60th Anniversary Gala — Our 60th Anniversary Gala honoured our vibrant history of dance by showcasing exciting excerpts from five world-class productions. The Don Quixote pas de deux (top left) saw precision, technical brilliance, musicality and Spanish flair come together and was a crowd favourite during the season, drawing rousing applause and shouts of appreciation from the audience.
Photos Top: Paul Boyd’s grand défilé. Bottom: First Company Artist Liam Geck and Queensland Ballet dancers in Jacqui Carroll’s Carmina Burana. by David Kelly
ISSUE #6 JUNE 2021
Photos Principal Artists Camilo Ramos and Neneka Yoshida Photos by David Kelly
GALLERY: SEASON 2021
Photos Top: Senior Soloist Patricio Revé and dancers in Harold Lander’s Études. Middle: Scene from François Klaus’ The Little Mermaid. Bottom: First Company Artist Joe Chapman and Principal Artist Yanela Piñera in the Chopin Pas de deux. by David Kelly
Photos Dancers backstage before Harold Lander’s Études by David Kelly
ISSUE #6 JUNE 2021
— Behind the scenes of our jewel of the Season, The Sleeping Beauty, with Choreographer Greg Horsman and Designer Gary Harris.
Greg Horsman, Choreographer — Could you pick a pivotal childhood moment that determined your life’s passion? For QB Chief Ballet Master and Director of Artistic Operations/ The Sleeping Beauty choreographer Greg Horsman it was in a Melbourne theatre at 12-years-old, watching Rudolph Nureyev and the London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet) perform The Sleeping Beauty. The company toured Australia in the 70s, and Greg, two years into ballet lessons in his hometown of Geelong, was captivated. The classic story of princes and princesses, magic spells, fairies, enchanted forests, and a vine-covered castle inspired Greg to become a professional dancer, dancing the role of the Prince on stages such as the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, and at the Maryinsky Theatre, St. Petersburg, where the ballet first premiered in 1890. In 2011 he adapted The Sleeping Beauty for the Royal New Zealand Ballet; in 2015 he and brought it to Queensland Ballet; and now in 2021, the production is making a return to mark its 10-year anniversary. Because some fairytales really do have a happily ever after.
You adapted the ballet from the late 1800s original choreography by Marius Petipa. What changes have you made to refresh it for a modern audience? When I was conceiving the storyline I wanted to be able to pull anyone in off the streets and sit them in the theatre and they’d know what the story is and enjoy the magic of the fairytale – that was my biggest aim. The Sleeping Beauty has always had extravagant sets and a big cast, so I shuffled things around and decided if I had the cats involved in the whole storyline that would help to link everything together. And the children love them! When you ask them after the show ‘what was your favourite bit, they always say ‘the cats!’ But I didn’t want to lose any of the tradition of The Sleeping Beauty and how the roles were passed down through the generations, so the choreography for Aurora, the bluebirds, the fairy variations and others – they are all what has been passed down to me. I also found ways to update it from a production point of view so modern audiences could enjoy it – the original production would have gone for about four hours (which was quite normal at the time).
The cats’ costumes and the dragon were created by WETA – the special effects team behind movies such as The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. What else is special about these sets and costumes? I spent almost three years working with renowned set and costume designer Gary Harris and as a result, they work beautifully with the ballet. The whole thing for me is they have to work with the story. I also said to Gary, I want the fairies to look like real fairies – those sorts of images you imagine when you’re a kid. The sets are moveable pieces, and yes, the cats’ masks and some other special pieces were made by the New Zealand company WETA. It was quite interesting visiting their workshops actually, because they have cabinets filled with Oscars and other awards, and the hallways were filled with miniature models from the films they were working on. The detail they go to is amazing.
Do you have a favourite character? The cats are probably some of my favourite characters because they play a big part in the storytelling, but I have a great affinity for the Prince because I performed him quite a lot. I had the chance to dance the role in London at Covent Garden and at the Maryinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg, where the ballet was first performed – it’s very special. And watching that Sleeping Beauty production with Rudolph Nureyev when I was 12… I haven’t looked back from that moment, because I knew from then that that’s what I wanted to do.
Words by Cassandra Houghton
Tell us about the music.
Photos Queensland Ballet dancers by David Kelly
Tchaikovsky wrote three hours of music for the original 1890 ballet. To condense it for the shorter two-act ballet,
Greg Horsman QB Chief Ballet Master/Director of Artistic Operations/Choreographer
Gary Harris Designer
It’s 2021 and people still love the old fairytales. What is it about them that prevails? I think it’s the pure escapism of it all. We all grew up hearing those fairytales and watching the Disney films and so they become part of your childhood. And I think kids today are still transported by those stories and the themes of good and bad, magic and evil. and that I’ve made a difference in people’s lives or a difference to society as a whole.
— Gary Harris, Designer — London-born Gary Harris is the creative behind the incredible sets and costumes of Queensland Ballet’s rendition of The Sleeping Beauty. Working internationally as a dancer, teacher, répétiteur and designer, Gary collaborated with Greg Horsman when they were both working at Royal New Zealand Ballet. He sat down with QB recently to talk through the creative process of this magical production.
ISSUE #6 JUNE 2021
I had to select particular moments of the score to include. I asked Music Director Nigel Gaynor for guidance and assistance, and he reorchestrated several transitions so the score flowed through the whole performance. Even those who have never seen the ballet may recognise some of the music, as the Disney film uses the Tchaikovsky score as well!
Where did your enjoyment in creating and designing come from? I had a toy theatre when I was a child, so was always making scenery and productions of plays and ballets. I think my first ‘proper’ design job was the costumes for a choreographic workshop at London Festival Ballet (English National Ballet).
You designed the incredible dragon in The Sleeping Beauty. Can you tell us a little about the creative process? Greg and I wanted the biggest dragon we could fit on stage! So, I drew up a dragon and how it would work, and we then worked with WETA Workshop in Wellington, who made it. The wings fell off during the first rehearsal!
Where did you get your inspiration for the pieces? We wanted a magical, fairytale look. So we took inspiration from storybooks, old castles and the renaissance period.
How long did the process take? The whole process from initial ideas through to the finished designs took about 2 years.
Do you have any pieces from previous ballets in your home? I’ve kept the model of the castle from Sleeping Beauty and I always keep the original costume designs. The models and technical drawings usually stay with the relevant companies production department.
What do you love about The Sleeping Beauty? You’ve worn so many hats in the ballet world: dancer, ballet master, artistic director, notator and designer. What is it you love about designing sets and costumes? With the sets, I enjoy the creative process from initial sketches, rough model ideas through to constructing the finished model and all the details, with furniture, props etc. With the costumes, I really enjoy going to all my favourite fabric and trim stores and sourcing fabric samples. The best bit is getting into the dye room, painting, spraying and generally making a big mess.
It’s like going back to your childhood...a total fantasy. The epic music, the stunning choreography, and a truckload of fantastic characters.
— The Sleeping Beauty is showing at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC from 4–19 June. Book tickets at queenslandballet.com.au/2021/the-sleeping-beauty
Photo Queensland Ballet dancers by David Kelly
TOUR Joel Woellner Senior Soloist
On the Road Again QB’s Company dancers will be packing their pointe shoes and tights to hit the open road in July and August. QB will present a series of spectacular performances in Tutus on Tour, taking the magic of ballet across regional Queensland. Ahead of the tour Senior Soloist Joel Woellner and Company Artist Chiara Gonzalez share some personal insights about regional touring, why arts access is important and some highlights from previous years.
Favourite regional tour pit-stop? Joel— “If I had to choose one, I would
Chiara Gonzalez Company Artist
pick Cairns. We performed there in 2019 at the Cairns Performing Arts Centre with Dangerous Liaisons. CPAC is a brand new theatre and is a world-class precinct and I can’t wait to perform there again. We often have some time off in Cairns and there are always so many day trips you can do. Many of the dancers went out to Green Island and had the best time. It always feels like we are on holidays in Cairns despite the fact we are working.”
Highlight from past regional tours? Joel— “One of the highlights of the tour is going to Mackay. First Company Artist Rian Thompson is from Mackay and his family hosts a dinner every time we are up. Members from his family cook a dish and we have a huge party at his family home. The dinner has become somewhat of an annual tradition and it’s great for the Company to know his hilarious family.”
What are you looking forward to about Tutus on Tour?
Why is regional engagement important?
Chiara— “It’s been a while since we’ve
art form with as many people as possible. Being the State company the dancers have a sense of duty to go out and share our work with QLD. It’s important, for me, to help make Brisbane a hub of art and in particular ballet and regional touring helps this. Touring regionally also gives more opportunities to perform leading roles. I’ve done a few leading roles for the first time while on tour.”
been on the road, due to COVID-19 setbacks. So I think this year I’m just grateful to be going anywhere on tour. I’m looking forward to visiting all the regional areas, it’s always a lot of fun.”
How would you describe regional audiences? Joel— “Very loud! Regional audiences are always so grateful to have us touring to their towns and they always show their appreciation with the amount of applause after a show. Many aspiring dancers come to our performances and I think it’s very important for them to see what a professional Company looks like. I hope it inspires them to continue on the path of a professional ballet dancer.”
Best road trip song? Chiara— “On the Road Again by Willie Nelson”
Queensland Ballet is supported by the Queensland Government through Arts Queensland. Words by Ellen Gilroy Photo By Ali Cameron
Joel— “It’s important to share our
What is one item you can’t travel without? Chiara— “My spikey ball to roll out and a good book for those long drives!”
— Find out where we’re travelling at queenslandballet.com.au/2021/tutuson-tour
EXPLORE Immersive Art Creativity from sidewalk to stage is set to impress at the new Thomas Dixon Centre.
brighter as the sun rises in Queensland, and darker each day with the setting sun. teamLab described it as this: “The flowers that bloom change throughout the period of one year. Following the seasons, it will be ever-changing and ever-evolving, and over the course of a year it will never repeat. The artwork is rendered in real time by a computer program. It is neither a pre-recorded animation nor on loop. As a whole it is continuously changing, and previous visual states are never replicated. The picture at that moment will never be seen again.” More than a home for Queensland Ballet, the TDC is designed to be a destination for artists and a destination for community – an ideal fit for an art piece of this medium. QB Executive Director Dilshani Weerasinghe says without the community and audiences, QB loses its purpose, and they see the teamLab piece as a a ‘gift’ to Brisbane. “We don’t exist in isolation. We exist to enrich the lives of audiences, of those in our community,” she says. “The teamLab piece will animate the interior of the building 24 hours a day so visitors will have a different experience of the TDC depending on the time of day they visit. “It will function as something of a gift to the community and the city, an artwork that can be viewed by anyone, any time they visit.”
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— Performance art is part and parcel of visiting the theatre, but it’s generally not expected on the walls you pass on the way to your seat. Cue teamLab — Japan’s immersive art collective whose artwork Continuous Life and Death at the now of Eternity II will transform a part of the Thomas Dixon Centre (TDC) into an evolving, continuously moving explosion of light and colour, guaranteed to capture the attention of all those who wander past it. It’s a cultural coup for Brisbane, gaining a teamLab art piece, and will cement the TDC as the city’s new cultural hub for dance, performing arts, and physical art pieces when it opens in early 2022. Haven’t heard of teamLab yet? You would have soon. teamLab is an international art collective, an interdisciplinary group of various specialists such as artists, programmers, engineers, CG animators, mathematicians, and architects who aim to explore the relationship between the self and the world and new perceptions through art. Previous artworks sit in the permanent collections of museums across the globe, including Borusan Contemporary Art Collection, Istanbul; Amos Rex, Helsinki; Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney; and Asian Art Museum, San Francisco, while their immersive exhibitions have featured at venues in New York, London, Paris, Singapore and many others. Rather than a still painting, teamLab pieces are moveable, digital feasts for the eyes. Brisbane’s exclusive acquisition depicts a Japanese Garden which will become
— The redeveloped Thomas Dixon Centre is currently under construction. For more information, visit queenslandballet. com.au/company/our-homes/thomas-dixon-centre
Words by Cassandra Houghton Photo teamLab Continuous Life and Death at the Now of Eternity II, 2019, Digital Work, 12 channels, Endless © teamLab. teamLab is represented by Pace Gallery.
SAME PROGRAM, DIFFERENT PATHWAYS Launched in 2014, Queensland Ballet’s Jette Parker Young Artist Program is a year-long apprenticeship
Words by Chelsea Clark Photos By David Kelly
— Launched in 2014, Queensland Ballet’s Jette Parker Young Artists is a year-long program that aids young dancers in fostering their professional careers. Principal Artist Neneka Yoshida and Education Manager Martha Godber both participated in the program during its first year, but their resulting careers could not have been more different.
Principal Artist, Neneka Yoshida — Neneka Yoshida has quickly climbed her way up Queensland Ballet’s ranks - with a promotion to Principal Artist awarded in March during the 60th Anniversary Gala Season, but her journey to the top began with humble beginnings. Born in Kanazawa, a small city in Japan, Neneka had her heart set on becoming an international ballet star. At 14-years-old, she competed in a ballet competition where world-renowned French ballet star Dominique Khalfouni was judging. “I had grown up watching Dominique, and as a dancer, she was the most perfect ballerina,” says Neneka. After the competition, Dominique provided Neneka with a once in a lifetime opportunity to train with her at Institut de Formation Professionnelle Rick Odums, in Paris. Neneka packed up her life in Japan and moved across the world to begin her professional ballet journey. It was a difficult yet rewarding adjustment. “As a teacher, Dominique was very tough. She would never say something was good unless it was actually good,” says Neneka. “However, watching her demonstrate feet and upper body work was so inspiring. It was great to have a role model to watch every day in class.” After training in Paris for a year, Neneka moved to Spain in 2010 to study with the Fundación para la Danza. “Training in Spain was an incredible experience, but I eventually returned to Paris because I really liked the French style of ballet,” says Neneka. She was accepted into the Conservatoire National Supérieur de Musique et de Danse de Paris (CNSMDP) and trained there until she graduated in 2013. Then, her career took an unexpected turn. Neneka was a finalist in the 2013 Prix de Lausanne, one of the largest ballet competitions for ballet students. That year, Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin AO was a guest judge. “Li approached me and said he wanted to help me develop into a professional ballerina, and offered me a job at Queensland Ballet,” says Neneka. Neneka joined Queensland Ballet as Jette Parker Young Artist in 2014, the first year of the program. Besides performing alongside superstars including Carlos Acosta, Steven McRae and Tamara Rojo in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, Neneka’s major highlight was performing at the Noosa Long Weekend festival with her fellow Young Artists. “For that performance the spotlight was focused on us as a Young Artist group, and it gave me the opportunity to express my own artistry as a dancer,” says Neneka. Her biggest challenge that year was working with Paul Boyd and Greg Horsman to create original works, something she hadn’t had much experience in prior to becoming a Young Artist. “As a Young Artist, I felt I had more responsibility to help the choreographer and inspire them. I always had to be switched on. It was challenging, but it was a great experience,” she says. “There are many dancers in the Company, so if they are going to choose you for a role, you have to be someone who is smart, creative and continuing to make progress after each session.”
Following her year as a Jette Parker Young Artist, Neneka’s career quickly progressed. She was promoted to Queensland Ballet Company Artist in 2015, Soloist in 2018, Senior Soloist in 2019 and was named a Principal Artist earlier this year. When reflecting on her year in the program, Neneka believes it allowed her to develop her confidence as a dancer – assisting the creation of new works, performing alone onstage, and being prepared for any role that may come her way. “In 2014 we had half the number of dancers we have now, I was covering so many roles,” says Neneka. “I learnt to be ready to fill any role, and if someone else is given corrections, you have to listen to them. If you are asked to fill a role and you haven’t taken all the corrections on board, they [the choreographers] won’t trust you,” she says. “It definitely shaped me as a professional dancer.” Despite her achievements so far, Neneka believes her career is only just beginning. “Finally, I have reached the starting line. My goal is to touch the hearts of my audience, and that is not easy. You have to be great technically, but you also have to possess artistry that is unique to you.”
— Martha Godber always knew she wanted to pursue a career in dance. When she was three-years old, she cried after her first ballet class and told her parents it wasn’t ‘real’ ballet. “It was a creative movement class but it didn’t feel like real ballet,” says Martha. “At three-years old, I already knew what ballet was supposed to look like.” Despite this, Martha’s commitment didn’t falter. She trained at her local ballet school, before taking up full-time training at the Australian Dance Performance Institute (ADPI). At 16-years old, she was a semi-finalist in the Genèe International Ballet Competition in London and was invited to join the Hamburg Ballet School where she trained for two years. While completing a traineeship in Washington DC, she received a life-changing offer from Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin AO. “I came home to Australia for the holidays and took part in some of Queensland Ballet’s classes. Then I got an email from Li who offered me a position in the Jette Parker Young Artist group for 2014,” she says. The first year of the Jette Parker Young Artist Program consisted of eight dancers – three girls and five boys. They followed the same timetable as the Company, were a part of the corps de ballet in all of Queensland Ballet’s major productions, and had original works created on them. During the second half of the year, the dancers were mentored by Ballet Master Matthew Lawrence. “It was great to have Matthew, especially during that final part of the year where we were working out what we wanted to do, where we were going. It was great to have someone to discuss that transition period with,” says Martha. Martha’s highlights from her Young Artist Year include performing at the Noosa Long Weekend Festival, dancing in Greg Horsman’s Coppélia, and dancing with her fellow Education and Engagement Team member and former Company dancer Joseph Stewart in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet. “Romeo and Juliet is a well-known classic, and the hype around MacMillan’s season was incredible to be a part of,” she says.
— For more information on our Jette Parker Young Artist Program, visit queenslandballet.com.au/company/jette-parker-program
ISSUE #6 JUNE 2021
Education Manager, Martha Godber
“I danced with Joe in the second act. It’s so funny how four years later we ended up in the Engagement team together.” Martha’s contract wasn’t renewed the following year, however, the Queensland Ballet Education Teaching Artist Team (EdSquad) needed an extra hand, so she attended a series of community dance workshops at a school in Brisbane. “There were three or four workshops scheduled, and during the second one the coordinator turned to me and said, ‘OK Martha, it’s your turn to lead.’ I had a moment of internal panic, but then told myself to pull it together and treat it like a performance,” she says. This experience ignited the flame. Martha realised just how many benefits dance can have on the community, and not just in a theatre environment. “Through that learning and through fostering a relationship with the EdSquad team I gained a broader perspective of dance and how it benefits physical, emotional and social development. Factors I had never considered when I was in the elite space,” she says. After being an Education Teaching Artist for seven years, Martha is now Queensland Ballet’s Education Manager. She is responsible for managing school-based activities including workshops, and the planning and execution of Queensland Ballet’s regional community and education tours. One rewarding part of her role is providing those who don’t normally have access to dance with the opportunity to participate in the artform. “For some people, it may be the first time they have tried ballet, or the first time they have spoken to someone who is involved in the industry. Having that moment where you can make it relevant to them and see their enjoyment through dance is really rewarding.” Despite her career not taking a traditional route, the Jette Parker Young Artists program presented Martha with invaluable opportunities that have shaped her career today. “Both professionally and personally, the company experience performing alongside incredible artists, working with an inspiring team of people and being exposed to the broader QB business areas has certainly shaped my career trajectory.”
What do you get when you cross ballet, rugby, and a Tchaikovsky remix?
Words Courtney Adams Illustration Niqui Toldi
— Amid Victoria’s 2020 COVID-19 lockdown, 13-year-old Zi Sione and her father, John began choreographing and filming their entry into Queensland Ballet and Suncorp’s Ballet Beat Drop dance challenge. “Our inbox blew up when our family saw the competition on TikTok,” John says. “It took a little bit of convincing, but Dad was happy to enter with me,” Zi recalls. “He got to interpret his interest in rugby, and then I got to show off my love of ballet – it was fun and great time for us to bond.” The Ballet Beat Drop dance challenge asked TikTok users around the world to show off their dance moves with creativity and impact. While this was John’s first time entering a dance competition, Zi was already a seasoned dancer. So how did it all begin? A keen performer for as long as she can remember, placing Zi into kinder dance classes led to the discovery of her passion for ballet and choreography. “Zi and her sister would put on shows at home – they were constantly playing Beyoncé, wanting to dance and entertain us. Once we recognised this, we got her into dance classes and supported her through all the different genres and styles,” John says. “I settled on ballet at around age 10. I love the feeling of working hard and seeing the difference in how beautiful everything looks. Playing a character or a role with so much artistry and technique is really amazing to me,” Zi adds. Fast forward to August 2020, having been crowned the winner of the Ballet Beat Drop Freestyle category, the next steps in Zi’s ballet journey came quickly. She participated in Queensland Ballet Academy’s online Elite Training Series, before successfully auditioning into Level 5 of the Academy Program, her family relocating to Brisbane to help her pursue the opportunity. “I always wanted to come into a big dance academy because I knew it would be good for my training,” Zi says.
“My family have been some of my biggest supporters in this, and I’ve had so many beautiful teachers who have helped me along the way.” “Moving back to Queensland was always in the back of our mind, and sharing the Ballet Beat Drop experience with Zi during lockdown helped bring some colour back into the year,” John says. “Once this came up, everything aligned and while it was overwhelming to leave Melbourne, it’s surreal to be here now.” Now in Year 8, Zi is focused on working hard in her classes (at school and in the studio!) and hopes to follow in the footsteps of her biggest inspiration: American Ballet Theatre Principal Dancer, Misty Copeland. “Misty Copeland has inspired little girls from different cultures around the world. I saw her perform Aurora as a Guest Artist in the Australian Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty. She was so beautiful on stage – breathtaking. My life goal is to do the same and show myself like that,” Zi says. Zi’s dream for the future is to become a Principal Artist in a professional dance company, and be the first ballerina of Pacific Islander heritage to achieve that. She hopes in achieving this vision it will inspire dancers from all cultures to experience ballet in how she expresses her feelings through movement. “I feel so happy when I dance. When I get a correction, I want to do it better and prove to myself that I can do something so difficult, gracefully. I am being taught incredible things I would never have thought of,” Zi says. “Coming to Queensland Ballet has been a massive highlight for us. She’s always wanted to be in this realm, and the best thing is watching her enjoy herself,” John concludes.
— Thanks to our Principal Partner, Suncorp, your little dancer can have the chance to win a walk-on role in The Nutcracker with the Suncorp Dream Big Challenge. Learn more at suncorpdreambig.com.au
Best in the West They dance from morning til night and many a weekend too, but Queensland Ballet dancers have other skills too: like knowing where to go for great coffee. We asked a few of our ballerinos for their local favourites.
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First Company Artist David Power CAFE
Ash and Monties
Maeve Wine Bar
“My absolute favourite café in West End is called Ash and Monties! I am admittedly a bit of a coffee snob and this café offers by far the smoothest blend of coffee I have had, maybe ever… Not to mention the boys that work there are super friendly and are always happy to be there, and they know my order and my car so when I drive past they start making my flat white with an extra shot!! Check it out, it’s just around the corner from Queensland Ballet.” —
“My favourite restaurant in Brisbane… I absolutely love Maeve Wine Bar in South Brisbane. It opened a few years ago and it is directly opposite QPAC and is open until midnight. It is one of the very few restaurants open after we finish a show! It has such an intimate almost New York City energy and the food and wine list is out of this world. If you go a try it make sure you order the saganaki!!” —
Photo: Maeve Wine Bar
Company Artist Edward Pope
First Company Artist Liam Geck
Veneziano Coffee Roasters
“I would say NYC Bagel in West End. I’ve never had a bagel so similar to the infamous ones in Manhattan.” —
“My favourite coffee spot in West End would have to be Veneziano Coffee Roasters. Really good coffee with a nice industrial feel – and it’s open every day!” —
The Delightful Turk
“As for restaurant, I would definitely say Greca. From the honey sauce on their saganaki to the Grecian style interior, everything is delicious.” —
“My favourite restaurant would have to be The Delightful Turk in Camp Hill. They have the best authentic Turkish food full of flavour. The Turkish plate gives you the best of everything from lamb to chicken served with their homemade Turkish dips. It’s 5 stars from me!” —
Contrary to popular fairytales, there’s no magic potion for quality sleep. We spoke to sleep experts to find out how best to master a good nights’ sleep – naturally.
Words by Meryn Cooper Photo Senior Soloist Mia Heathcote as The Sleeping Beauty. (Right) Queensland Ballet dancers by David Kelly.
— Everyone knows the basic story of The Sleeping Beauty. Pierced by a black rose, 16-year-old Princess Aurora slips into a deep sleep for 100 years. While it’s unlikely any of us would want to swap places, it seems we could all learn a thing or two about getting more beauty sleep. Less than half of all Australians are happy with the amount of sleep they get, according to research from The Sleep Health Foundation of Australia Study* which shows inadequate sleep affects up to 40 per cent of adults. Griffith University Associate Professor Clare Minahan believes it is because not enough of us prioritise sleep in our life. “I think we really undervalue what sleep does for us. Most people would associate sleep with feeling tired, and sleep solves that problem,” she says. “But it’s a lot more complex than that, and sleep is essential to being human and essential for regeneration of physical cells in the body and also for brain function.” Backing up her theory is a study commissioned by Royal Philips, which showed more than one third (38 per cent) of those dissatisfied with their sleep are failing to change their habits to improve it, largely because most of us are not practising good sleep hygiene. Sleep hygiene is about creating an ideal situation for your body and mind to be prepared for a quality, restful sleep. It includes considerations such as a cool, comfortable, dark environment, quiet surroundings and avoiding overstimulating the brain just before sleep. And while all of this sounds good in theory, what about new parents or shift workers who can’t control when they get to sleep? “It’s critical to make sure you’re going to bed and waking up at a similar time. But where that can’t occur there is some benefit to banking sleep and napping, which can assist with sleep deprivation. 30 mins napping can help,” says Professor Minahan. With most shows on late at night, professional ballet dancers often need to change their sleep patterns when working late hours during a season. “The mechanism of sleep works similarly between dancers, athletes and the general population. But because athletes and dancers challenge themselves more, and are stimulated more by physical and mental demands, they may need to pay a lot more
attention to how much sleep they are getting and the quality of it,” she explains. This is something Queensland Ballet Head of Performance Health Zara Gomes is fully aware of. Performance by its very nature requires the dancers to use adrenalin and many dancers report feeling ‘wired’ after a show. “It does take many dancers time to unwind after performing. Some do this by listening to calming music, a podcast, reading or doing some quiet activities at home, to return to ‘normality’ after the high of a show. Also, allowing for dancers to be able to sleep in after their late finishes is important, so that they can still get the hours of sleep needed,” Zara says. Her job requires her to take all possible factors into consideration when helping dancers to recover from injuries and fatigue, and to perform to their best. “These dancers have a challenging workload, and proper sleep is an important requirement for each and every one of our 60 dancers, to aid recovery both mentally and physically” she says. And as for what they sleep on? “Having a good mattress is important for sleep quality, but also for the spine, to prevent stiffness and muscle tightness. The right amount of support and maintenance of the normal spinal curves when sleeping is very important, speaking from a Physiotherapist’s perspective,” Zara says. Professor Minahan says when it comes to what we’re sleeping on, it’s important to consider comfort and temperature. “If you’re comfortable and the material you’re sleeping on doesn’t overheat, some of the cheaper latex may actually increase core body temperature which is not helpful for sleep.” National Marketing Manager at Sealy, Wade Ganzer, says there is no one-size-fits-all. “Everybody is different. So it is very unlikely that one bed is suitable for every body, size, shape and sleeping position. We make a wide range of mattresses to enable you to find the right bed for you. From Super Firm feels through to Ultra Plush. And a selection of coil technology and mattress features to enhance your support and comfort depending on your needs. Our handy mattress selector at sealy.com.au helps people find their perfect mattress based on their sleep needs.”
TIPS FOR GOOD SLEEP
DID YOU KNOW
Where possible regulate your sleep
Being healthy helps Things such as maintaining a healthy weight, regular exercise and avoiding alcohol will all help the quality of your sleep.
Try to get regular sleep at a regular time.
Where possible, sleep in a quiet place
It’s recommended you sleep on your side to aid easy breathing overnight
Regardless of time of day, try and make your room dark It will help boost your melatonin levels which will aid sleep. Melatonin is a hormone to make you sleepy. Low light prior to bedtime will also help.
— All Sealy Posturepedic mattresses are proudly made locally, in Australia. They make all beds to order using the finest locally sourced materials. Every specification has been rigorously tested in their Research & Development facility, which is the largest in the industry in the entire Southern Hemisphere.
Calm your brain before bed Help your brain get to sleep by preparing it properly. Slow yourself down in the lead up to bed. If you need extra help, try Lavender oil or meditation which may slow a racing mind.
Cool your core temperature Either by cooling the room to 17°C–22°C or have a cool bath before bed
— Backed by orthopaedic research, Sealy Posturepedic mattresses are designed to align the body in its natural resting position. This is achieved by a combination of pressure relieving comfort layers and its patented Posturepedic Coil Technology.
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— Sealy sponsors Queensland Ballet and gifted all the dancers with a Sealy Posturepedic bed.
Stay away from stimulants at least one hour before bed
Invest in your sleep space A good mattress that supports your spine and body type, audit your pillows and doonas, and who doesn’t love comfy PJ’s?
This means no caffeine, technology or screen time during this window.
* The Sleep Health Foundation of Australia Study (2016) showed inadequate sleep affects up to 45% of adults. **2020 study commissioned by Royal Philips
Photo Principal Artist Yanela Piñera in Études for the 60th Anniversary Gala, 2021 By David Kelly