By Rain Francis of Dance Informa.
This month, the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet (ACB) takes to one of the country’s most important stages, with its popular production of The Sleeping Beauty. With 75 dancers, international guest artists and a 70 piece orchestra, it promises to be one of the most enjoyable nights on the classical calendar, proving once again that ACB is so much more than just a training institution.
Established by Christine Walsh AM and Ricardo Ella, the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet has developed a world-class reputation, consistently producing some of the best ballet dancers in the country. Ms. Walsh attributes this success to the honesty and generosity that goes into the students’ training: “Every aspect of what we do is for the benefit of the students and not for the benefit or glory of our school.”
Besides their extensive classical technique classes, students of ACB take classes in contemporary dance, partnering, cultural dance, fitness and weight training, basic choreography, dance theory and analysis, theatre and stage craft, anatomy and nutrition. But it’s not just the technical and the physical that truly helps prepare them for the professional world of ballet. Their tutors aim to bestow them with “self discipline, self sufficiency, speed in the learning of choreography, CV and job-seeking skills, respectful self-assurance, body language and artistic style.”
One of the most important aspects of students’ training, however, is their annual production at Melbourne’s State Theatre. ACB is the only ballet school in Australia that performs with a full orchestra in the distinguished Arts Centre, to a capacity public audience every year.
This year, of course, it’s The Sleeping Beauty, a production which has impressed dance lovers in 2012 and 2008. “Audiences can expect our Sleeping Beauty to be a vibrant, traditional and truly classical production, with sumptuous costuming and spectacular international guest artists,” says Walsh. The guests in question are Anna Ol and Semen Velichko from Stanislavsky Theatre and Irina Sapozhnikova and Joseph Phillips from State Primorsky Opera and Ballet Theater.
All performances will be accompanied by the 70 member ACB Orchestra, conducted by Peter Bandy. The Sleeping Beauty is just one of the full-length classical ballets in ACB’s repertoire, which also includes Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Romeo and Juliet. In 2015, they look forward to presenting Maina Gielgud’s Coppelia.
Graduates of the Conservatoire secure contracts in companies and schools across Australia, Europe, the USA and the UK, including The Australian Ballet, Royal Ballet and Royal Ballet School, Dutch National Ballet, Deutsche Staatsoper-Berlin and Houston Ballet. They are also coached for international ballet competitions such as the prestigious Prix de Lausanne in Switzerland, which is an important step towards gaining scholarships for schools which feed into ballet companies. As part of their training, students also have the chance to be accompanied by staff members on trips across Europe, visiting and auditioning for dance companies.
In 2015 the ACB will celebrate 25 years of the school and 20 years of its specialised training and examination program. To mark the occasion, they’ll travel to Manila, Philippines in July to host a gala and festival. Students and teachers from fraternity schools in Australia, Japan, China and Philippines will participate.
The training program has been developed by Walsh and is now being used by over 200 teachers in Australia and Asia. Adapted from the 8 year Russian (Vaganova) Method of Classical Ballet, it is a 12 year program which includes training and examination. The emphases on correct placement, dynamics and performing quality are what contribute to the Conservatoire continuing to produce ballet dancers of the highest quality year after year, something that is being recognised the world over. It’s one of ACB’s greatest achievements, says Walsh; “having the recognition in the professional ballet world for our quality training, high standards and our professional staged full length ballet productions.”
The Australian Conservatoire of Ballet is a ballet school, a specialised training program and a production company, run with passion and elite expertise by Christine Walsh AM and Ricardo Ella. It offers three fully accredited courses including an Advanced Diploma of Dance. Don’t miss their performances of The Sleeping Beauty, coming to the State Theatre on December 17 and 18. For bookings visit www.artscentremelbourne.com.au/whats-on/ballet/the-sleeping-beauty.
Photo(top): ACB’s The Sleeping Beauty 2012 with guest artists from Bolshoi Ballet.