Vibrant, textured characters are the focus of this last season curated by Li Cunxin AO as he steps aside at the end of the year as Queensland Ballet’s Artistic Director (2013-2023). He has unveiled the company for 2024, one of his last formalities in the role.
During his address to dancer line up for the new year, Li acknowledged the dedication and hard work which had elevated the company to a world class standard during his tenure.
“Queensland Ballet is a highly respected and admired organisation, and I am proud of each and every person who contributed to that success during my 11 years as Artistic Director,” he said. “When I first stepped through the doors, I had no idea who I would be working with, but I will leave knowing Queensland Ballet has a strong calibre of hard working and talented dancers and staff. It has been a joy to watch the Company standard consistently getting higher and higher, and I am confident I am leaving the Queensland Ballet in a strong position.”
2023 saw two promotions in the company. Alexander Isazack was promoted to Principal Artists, and Chiara Gonzalez was promoted to Senior Soloist.
Joining the lineup for 2024 are two new recruits: Ivan Surodeev from Astana Ballet and Ural Opera Ballet, and Eliza Wenham from the company’s Jette Parker Young Artist Program is becoming a company artist.
There are 12 Jette Parker Young Artists joining Queensland Ballet, with eight rising through ranks from the Queensland Ballet Academy Pre-Professional Program. They are: Ashlee Basford, Gina Lee, Annabelle McCoy, Alyssa Park, Corina Poh and Jack Jones, while Taron Geyl and Joseph Moss are continuing with the Young Artist program for a second year. Also joining the Young Artist cohort will be Joshua Douglas, a graduate form the New Zealand School of Dance and Seth Marshall, Ethan Mrmacovski and Milana Gould, graduates from The Australian Ballet School.
In 2024, the company farewells Principal Artists Mia Heathcote and Victor Estevez, who are moving to Melbourne to start with The Australian Ballet.
Heathcote first auditioned for Queensland Ballet at the age of 18, and said she has an immense sense of gratitude. She paid tribute to Li for his leadership and guidance during their time together.
“Li is very special in the sense that he sees something in his artists in the company, and he’s right there with them every step of the way, facilitating that journey. I am fortunate to have been someone that he’s been able to nurture and bring me on to be the best artist I can possibly be,” Heathcote said. “I’ll never be far away, because of the love that I have for this company. But this career is short, and I want to squeeze every drop of experience I can into it. Change brings growth, and I feel I need to continue to challenge myself.”
Estevez echoed the statements of gratitude to Queensland Ballet. “Li saw something in me back in Cuba. I have a huge sense of gratitude and respect that he trusted me at the time to join his company. We leave with a big love for this company.”
He continued, “Coming from overseas, Queensland Ballet became like a family to me; it’s my home. It’s something I never thought I’d feel. All the people that work here, they have had a huge part in the journey I have had since I first came here eight years ago. Li [Cunxin], Mary [Li], Greg [Horsman] and Dilshani [Weerasinghe]. These people played a huge part in my positive journey here, and I will never forget that.”
Li’s wife, Mary, will join Li in retirement at the end of the year from her role as Ballet Mistress and Principal Repetiteur.
“Mary has been a source of support and inspiration from the day I first walked through the door,” Heathcote said. “Her teaching and coaching helped me become the artist I am today.”
A sentiment echoed by Estevez. “When I came, I didn’t speak English. From the very beginning, Mary was there, and I stayed rent-free in their home. She helped facilitate everything and made sure I was integrated into the community. I couldn’t have made the transition from overseas without them.”
He added, “Queensland Ballet is like a second family to me. It’s a special thing to have in a company, and a rare thing. And for us to have been involved in the tremendous rise of Queensland Ballet as a company has been life-changing.”
Li thanked the couple for their contribution. “I want to acknowledge and thank Mia and Victor for the hard work, dedication and commitment they have demonstrated over the years to Queensland Ballet. They are a powerhouse in ballet, and I wish them all the best in the future.”
During the year, Company Artist Serena Green retired after Giselle in April, and Company Artist Lou Spichtig finished up with Queensland Ballet in October.
Single tickets go on sale on December 11, and Li urges audiences to jump in quick to book their seats. “Don’t miss your chance to see this vibrant season, featuring works from some of the best choreographers in the world, performed right here in Queensland by the world-class Queensland Ballet.”
Audiences will be treated to the arrestingly beautiful Coppélia set in sundrenched regional Australia; icon Coco Chanel: the Life of a Fashion Icon in Jazz Age Paris; fairy kings and queens in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream; and an enchanting My First Ballet: Cinderella – the perfect fit for everyone. Festive favourite The Nutcracker returns with Clara, the Snow Queen and Sugar Plum Fairy; and contemporary lovers will rejoice with another season of Bespoke featuring three internationally renowned choreographers and a trio of dynamic new works. Plus, there are the rising stars of dance in the Queensland Ballet Academy Gala; a treasure trove of masterpieces in the regional tour with Queensland Ballet on Tour, including a Brisbane season Queensland Ballet at Home; and the company is delighted to present Shanghai Ballet’s Brisbane season of Derek Deane OBE’s The Lady of the Camellias.
To learn more about Queensland Ballet and the upcoming 2023 Season, head to www.queenslandballet.com.au.