Meet the New Dancers of The Australian Ballet!

By Grace Gassin of Dance Informa.

Five new faces — Shaun, Sophie, Nicola, Callum, and Natasha — have joined The Australian Ballet of 2015. Acclaimed Ukranian ballerina Natasha Kusch enters the ranks of the company’s Senior Artists, having danced previously with the Queensland Ballet and Vienna State Opera. She will make her debut in the title role of Giselle in March. Fellow dancer, Nicola Curry, formerly of the American Ballet Theatre, joins as a coryphée. The others, recent graduates of The Australian Ballet School, celebrate the start of their careers as members of the corps de ballet with the parent company. Dance Informa’s Grace Gassin introduces us to the new dancers, their hopes for the new year and a few of their hidden passions.

Shaun Andrews

Shaun Andrews. Photography by Daniel Boud.

Shaun Andrews

When did you first know you wanted to become a dancer?

“After I watched my sister’s dance concert. There was a dance from West Side Story that really made me feel like I should be up there performing with them!”

How did you find out you had received a contract with the Australian Ballet and what did you do to celebrate?

“I found out that I had a contract in an interview on the day I finished my final exams at the Australian Ballet School. You could certainly say that it was a day full of heightened emotions, which ended with me consuming a mountain of food and watching movies!”

In what ways do you think you have changed as a dancer since you entered The Australian Ballet School as a young student?

“The teachers at the school taught me many skills that I’ll be able to use inside and outside of the career that I’ve chosen. I think that I was thoroughly educated by the school and have gained technique and artistry that I can further improve as I start in the profession. Overall, The Australian Ballet School has been a massive part of my journey to becoming a professional dancer.”

What do you think you’d be if you weren’t a dancer?

“There is no doubt in my mind that I’d be in the equine industry. I’ve loved animals, especially horses, ever since I was a little boy. When I’m not dancing, you can pretty much guarantee I’ll be on a horse, riding through the bush somewhere.”

Sophie Morgan

Sophie Morgan. Photo courtesy of Australian Ballet.

Sophie Morgan

Tell me about your earliest memories of dancing?

“I always loved moving to music as a child. My earliest memories of dance are in my grandma’s living room. She played the piano and I made up dance routines to the music! I think I fell in love with the idea of being a dancer when I saw musicals such as Dirty Dancing and Footloose, and the dream became a reality when I was accepted into The Australian Ballet School and moved from Sydney to Melbourne, on my own, where I could watch The Australian Ballet dancers down the end of the corridor!”

How did you find out you had been given a contract?

“I guess I found out in an unusual way. I started 2015 without a contract and began classes with the company and learning the repertoire. Then, one Friday afternoon I arranged a meeting with David McAllister and he told me I had a contract! I celebrated with a lot of shopping!”

Congratulations on graduating! What has attending The Australian Ballet School meant to you?

“Thank you! Where to start…attending The Australian Ballet School was the best decision I have ever made. I learnt so much at the school that I think I wouldn’t recognise myself if I saw myself as a young student. Moving at 15-years-old to a different state definitely made me more independent and determined. I was very fortunate with all the opportunities I had at the school to perform and better my technique.”

If you weren’t a dancer, what do you think you would want to be?

“Hmm if I wasn’t a dancer… I would like to be a police officer or a forensic investigator. I love watching crime shows and always like to figure out who’s done it.”

Nicola Curry

Nicola Curry. Photography by Daniel Boud.

Nicola Curry

Could you tell me a little about your early training?

“I trained at several different schools in Colorado Springs, CO before leaving home at fourteen to attend the National Ballet School in Toronto, Canada. I was at NBS for four years. Eva Draw and Deborah Hess were the two teachers I worked closest with, and their training helped shape the dancer I am today. I also worked one-on-one with Karen Kain nearly every day in my final year at NBS on Odette in Act II of Erik Bruhn’s Swan Lake for the school’s end of year performance, which was an incredible learning experience.

While I was at the American Ballet Theatre, Susan Jaffe was an amazing coach and mentor for me.”

You were previously a member of American Ballet Theatre — how did you come to be interested in joining the Australian Ballet?

“I met my Aussie husband in New York. He was visiting his cousin, also one of my good friends, and after a month together, we pursued a long distance relationship between NY and Brisbane. For four years, we skyped and would fly back and forth to see each other several times each year. We got married in July, and I moved to Australia. We are able to be together and can both pursue our passions and careers here in Australia.

I also knew I still wanted to dance in a larger company, and I love The Australian Ballet’s repertoire and performance schedule. I am excited to dance new ballets and will hopefully have more opportunities that will challenge me as a ballerina and artist here.”

What do you think it takes to be a great dancer?

“Passion, determination, and a lot of hard work… and good timing always helps.”

What are your hopes for the year ahead? 

“I’ve been in rehearsals for Myrtha in Giselle recently. Throughout my years at ABT, I’ve seen incredible ballerinas like Gillian Murphy, Irina Dvorovenko, and Polina Semionova tackle this role, and it’s one I’ve always dreamed of dancing. It would be incredible to have the opportunity to perform that some time this year.

It’s also exciting to see Twyla Tharp’s In the Upper Room in the repertoire for this year. I was one of the “Stompers” while at ABT, and it was one of my favourites out of all the roles I have ever performed. I would love to have the opportunity to revisit that ballet, and I am looking forward to many other exciting ballets this year including Ratmansky’s Cinderella and the new Sleeping Beauty. I hope to have more challenging performance opportunities that will push me to grow both technically and artistically.

After such a huge life change, getting married and moving to Melbourne, I’m also looking forward to settling into life in Australia and enjoying my time with my husband.”

Callum Linnane

Callum Linnane. Photography by Daniel Boud.

Callum Linnane

When did you first know you wanted to become a dancer?

“It’s difficult to trace back to the exact moment when I knew I wanted to become a dancer. My passion for dancing began when I discovered Michael Jackson. I was seven years old and absolutely captivated. So I credit MJ for getting me involved in dance. However, I knew I wanted to become a ballet dancer at age 11 when I watched the DVD of The Australian Ballet in Maina Gielgud’s Giselle.”

How did you find out you had received a contract with the Australian Ballet and what did you do to celebrate?

“Like the others, I found out I had a contract with The Australian Ballet in an interview with our Artistic Director David McAllister, after my graduating assessments. I first called my mum and told her the news, then went out for celebratory drinks and burgers with a couple of mates.”

Congratulations, too, on your graduation! In what ways do you think you have changed as a dancer since you entered the Australian Ballet School as a young student?

“Thank you very much! Wow, that’s a difficult question to answer. I first entered The Australian Ballet School when I was 12 years old and was a student there for seven years. So everything I am as a dancer, I owe to their wonderful training and nurturing. I will be forever grateful to them.”

What would you have done professionally, if you weren’t a dancer?

“If I wasn’t a dancer, I would want to be an actor. I love films and acting is something I’ve been interested in for quite a while, so I’d love to venture into that one day. However, I also think it would be cool to own a cinema, because then I could see as many films as I want for free!”

Natasha Kusch

What first inspired you to dance?

“I was born in a city where there was no theatre, no ballet, but one day I saw a ballet on TV and knew straight away that I wanted to be a ballerina.”

If you weren’t a dancer, what do you think you would be?

“It’s hard for me to imagine what I could be instead of a dancer, but I have always really enjoyed acting, and though I have never worked as an actor I am sure this second passion has helped me in my dancing roles.”

What do you think it takes to be a great dancer?

“To be a great dancer takes a lot of physical and mental strength. A great dancer also needs to be patient, inspired and hard-working.”

To learn more about The Australian Ballet, visit www.australianballet.com.au.

Photo (top): Natasha Kusch. Photography by Daniel Boud.

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