Frame of Mind

Sydney Theatre, March 9

Chloe Leong and David Mack in Quintett. Photo: Peter Greig

Chloe Leong and David Mack in Quintett. Photo: Peter Greig

It’s a big deal for Sydney Dance Company to have been granted the rights to William Forsythe’s Quintett. Only six companies in the world have been allowed to perform it – and SDC’s exhilarating performance shows why they are one of them.

Created by Forsythe in 1993 as a tribute to his wife, dancer Tracy-Kai Maier, who died of cancer at age 32 without being well enough to see it, Quintett is a contemporary classic for five dancers.

Choreographed to Gavin Bryars’ hypnotic Jesus’ Blood Never Failed Me Yet, it is performed on an open set with a spotlight pointed at a round mirror standing on stage.

Forsythe blends balletic and contemporary movements in constantly surprising combinations that take the breath away. Traditional ballet steps are deconstructed and twisted off their axis. The dancers whip and whirl around each other then fall, slide and crawl. Sharp, precise movements melt into organic shapes, with some playful floor work.

Intensely physical and technically demanding, the opening night cast featured Chloe Leong, Jesse Scales, David Mack, Cass Mortimer Eipper and Sam Young-Wright – all of them sensational.

Quintett radiates the sheer joy of movement but is also tender, fleetingly angry and sad. It’s sublime.

Cass Mortimer Eipper in Frame of Mind. Photo: Peter Greig

Cass Mortimer Eipper in Frame of Mind. Photo: Peter Greig

Quintett features alongside a new work for the full company by SDC artistic director Rafael Bonachela called Frame of Mind, which lends its name to the double bill. It too excites with the visceral thrill of extreme physicality, and is also one of Bonachela’s most moving pieces.

The work was inspired by the emotional turmoil Bonachela felt when his mother was hospitalised in Spain and he was unable to be with her. At the same time, he was without the support of his partner who was in New York.

Frame of Mind features a beautiful set design by Ralph Myers: a “memory room” with peeling walls and a large, grimy window, through which Ben Cisterne’s evocative lighting suggests the passing of time. Dancers occasionally gaze through the window, perch on the sill, or loll against the wall watching the surging movement of other performers. At times, the patterning on the wall seems to hint at a world map: far-flung places beyond the confines of the space. Myers also designed the all-black costumes.

Bonachela uses a wonderful, pulsing score by Bryce Dessner featuring three compositions written for the world-renowned Kronos Quartet. Matching the energy of the music, Frame of Mind comprises a series of solos, duets, trios, quartets and full ensembles where the movement coalesces into moments of powerful unison.

Frame of Mind is all about relationships: our need to love and be loved, to support one another and be supported. Highlights include a duet between Jesse Scales and Richard Cilli full of conflicting emotions in which they confront and comfort each other, and the concluding, emotionally-wracked solo by Eipper.

Frame of Mind runs at Sydney Theatre until March 21 then plays in Canberra, April 30-May 2 and Melbourne, May 6-16

A version of this review ran in the Sunday Telegraph on March 15

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Swan Lake

Capitol Theatre, February 20

Madeleine Eastoe as Odette. Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Madeleine Eastoe as Odette. Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Graeme Murphy’s delectable Swan Lake was first staged in 2002. It is now one of the Australian Ballet’s most loved and frequently performed works – and it’s not hard to see why.

Inspired by the love triangle between Princess Diana, Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles, it is cleverly conceived (concept by Murphy, the late Kristian Fredrikson and Janet Vernon), ravishingly beautiful, choreographically inventive and deeply moving.

If the AB is going to present a commercial season at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre, then this Swan Lake – now one of their signature works internationally – is the perfect choice.

More than a decade on, the production still feels fresh, particularly when performed as sublimely as it was on opening night by Madeleine Eastoe as the fragile Odette and Kevin Jackson as the conflicted Prince Siegfried.

What’s more, it’s great to see the ballet on the large Capitol Theatre stage, where there is more room to move than at the Sydney Opera House.

For those who haven’t seen the ballet, the re-imagined story line works beautifully, dramatically and emotionally, lending itself to some of Murphy’s most stunning choreography. On the eve of her wedding to Prince Siegfried, Odette has unsettling doubts about his love for her – with good reason, for he is having an affair with a Baroness. Odette realises as much at their wedding and her mind begins to shatter. She is committed to a sanatorium, where she finds emotional escape in hallucinations of herself as a swan with the Prince still her beau.

Some months later, the Baroness – who has the Prince very much in her thrall – hosts a ball. Odette appears, now radiantly serene. The Prince falls deeply in love with her. The Baroness attempts to have her returned the sanatorium. Odette flees into the night with the Prince in hot pursuit. They fall into each other’s arms but Odette knows there will never be a happy ending. With the Baroness there, she will never know any peace of mind and so she throws herself into the lake, leaving the Prince to mourn her forever.

The Baroness replaces the sorcerer Rothbart of the original and also takes the place of Odile at the ball where all the guests are in dark, glittering outfits except Odette whose white dress reflects her spiritual purity.

Brooke Lockett, Benedicte Bemet, Karen Nanasca and Heidi Martin. Photo: Branco Gaica

Brooke Lockett, Benedicte Bemet, Karen Nanasca and Heidi Martin. Photo: Branco Gaica

Choosing an Edwardian setting, Fredrikson’s costumes are just gorgeous – the most famous being Odette’s ballgown with a long train, which Murphy weaves into choreography. There are all kinds of resonant touches in the costuming, including the swans appearing in black for the tragic denouement. Suffice to say the production, with sets also designed by Fredrikson, is a constant visual delight.

Murphy tells the story through emotionally imbued choreography that takes the breath away at times. It is wonderfully inventive while making references to the original, particularly with the swans. A pas de trois between Odette, the Prince and the Baroness says everything you need to know about the threesome and Odette’s bewildered anguish. The way Odette hurls herself into the arms of all the men at her wedding speaks of her broken heart, spirit and mind. There are signature Murphy flourishes, like Odette walking along the raised hands of the men, but they always feel as if they belong to the world of this ballet. And how the crowd loved the iconic cygnets, danced with admirable precision by Brooke Lockett, Benedicte Bemet, Karen Nanasca and Heidi Martin on opening night.

Eastoe is meltingly lovely as Odette. Always a superb interpreter of emotion, she is gossamer light, every moment perfectly performed yet intensely eloquent, her acting as convincing as her dancing. Jackson is her match as the Prince, portraying a conflicted man who is thoughtless rather than calculating, allowing himself to be swayed by the Baroness but finally realising what he has lost. I have rarely seen him convey such emotion.

Kevin Jackson and Madeleine Eastoe. Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Kevin Jackson and Madeleine Eastoe. Photo: Lisa Tomasetti

Dancing the role of the Baroness on opening night, Ako Kondo brings plenty of hard-edged flash to the role. With the entire company in fine form, this is just the show to seduce newcomers to ballet – and hopefully there will be many in the audiences at the Capitol, a venue closely associated with musicals.

The Australian Opera and Ballet Orchestra is currently playing for Opera Australia so Orchestra Victoria played Tchaikovsky’s glorious score under the baton of the AB’s Chief Conductor Nicolette Fraillon.

All in all, a beautiful night.

Swan Lake is at the Capitol Theatre until February 28

Puncture

Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, January 23 at 2pm

A scene from Puncture. Photo: Prudence Upton

A scene from Puncture. Photo: Prudence Upton

Given a brief season as part of the 2015 Sydney Festival, Puncture is such a lovely show that it begs to be brought back and seen more widely.

Directed by Patrick Nolan with choreography by Kathryn Puie and musical direction by Elizabeth Scott, it is the result of a fruitful collaboration between Legs on the Wall, Form Dance Projects (which fosters dance culture in Western Sydney) and Vox, a vocal ensemble from Sydney Philharmonia Choirs.

For the Festival, it was performed on the stage of Parramatta’s Riverside Theatre with the fire curtain down, a bank of seating at one end and percussionist Bree Van Reyk and pianist Luke Byrne at the other.

The show starts almost subliminally. Faint, shadowy images of dancing figures appear on the two sidewalls of the space (video design by Mic Gruchy). A young woman (Kristina Chan) wanders onto the stage, joined not long after by a young man (Joshua Thomson). Their eyes meet, he moves over to her, then another young man intervenes and drags her away.

The space fills up with young people while choral voices singing the word “Hello” fill the air. Couples form and reform, attractions, arguments and passions flare, as the performers move through various dance forms: courtly, folksy, line dancing, the waltz and the tango, leading eventually to a mosh pit-like frenzy.

There is also aerial work with performers flying through the air, and asoprano (Charlotte Campbell) sings while sitting on an aerial hoop. Not only does she look as relaxed as all get-out, but she then throws in a few confident ‘hoop moves’ on her descent.

The gorgeous choral music by composer Stefan Gregory is seductively eclectic ranging from the baroque to a version of Madonna’s Like a Virgin and is beautifully sung by the choir who are mostly positioned near the musicians but now and again move through the dancers and interact with them.

Chan and Thomson – both acclaimed contemporary dancers – are compelling as the young lovers at the heart of the piece. They lead a strong company that also includes Jay Bailey, Cloé Fournier, Anna Healey, Kei Iishi, Billy Keohavong, Rob McCredie, Hayley Raw, Michael Smith, Stephen Williams and Jessica Wong.

All of them perform with enormous energy and an exciting, high-octane physicality, the sweat literally dripping from them, while managing to project individual personalities at the same time.

Praise too to Mel Page for her colourful costuming and Damien Cooper for his lighting.

The piece (which runs for 60 minutes) ends with the choir singing “I love you” as the dancers move towards the audience, inviting some of them up to dance. I, like many, am terrified of the thought of getting up on stage, and I can’t dance, but I was one of the ones invited and have to say it was a lovely moment (thanks Billy!) and a heart-warming, uplifting conclusion.

Puncture is described as embracing “the risk and ritual of intimacy on a dance floor”. It is a beautiful, moving work about human connection and all the emotions that swirl around that. Let’s hope it returns.

Puncture has its final performance at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta at 2pm today.

The Tap Pack

Hayes Theatre Co, August 2

Jesse Rasmussen, Ben Brown, Christopher Horsey, Jordan Pollard and Thomas J Egan. Photo: Shan Turner-Carroll

Jesse Rasmussen, Ben Brown, Christopher Horsey, Jordan Pollard and Thomas J Egan. Photo: Shan Turner-Carroll

If you want to see some exhilarating tap dancing then look no further than The Tap Pack.

Jesse Rasmussen, Jordan Pollard and Thomas J Egan created the show as a vehicle for the tap-dancing prowess of themselves and their fellow performers Ben Brown and Christopher Horsey – and on this front it certainly delivers.

But even though the production has been in development for a while now, and had performances last year, the story they have written as a framework for the dancing still needs work.

Directed and co-created by Nigel Turner-Carroll, The Tap Pack opens with cocky Aussie busker Blue (Rasmussen) doing his thing to raise the funds to get to New York and meet his idols Fiveplay, a Rat Pack-style act he dreams of performing with. Rasmussen quickly has the audience clapping along.

In New York, Blue encounters Fiveplay, now reduced to Fourplay (yeah, we get it). Led by the hard-drinking Marty (Horsey), the sole surviving original member, the act is well past its use-by date. Blue could help them reboot their show, the other boys are excited, but Marty is resistant and, well……. you know how it turns out.

The plot is slight, the characters are fairly under-developed and the story is corny and predictable, with some silly sight gags involving a chain saw and some goggles as well as some slightly blue humour. There’s the germ of a great show here. The boys have plenty of charm and they can certainly dance, they just need a sharper, wittier script.

However, with a six-piece band led by musical director Michael Dench on keyboards, the music is hot and Brown delivers some strong vocals. But it’s the tight, terrific dancing that really kicks The Tap Pack over the line.

The show ends on a high as the boys bust out their best moves to finish with a spectacular, extended tap routine that sends the audience home happy. Fantapstic!

The Tap Pack plays at the Hayes Theatre Co until August 17. Bookings: www.hayestheatre.com.au

A version of this review appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on August 10

The Arrangement

Ken Unsworth’s Studio, Alexandria, July 16

Patrick Harding-Irmer, Anca Frankenhaeuser and Susannah Lawergren. Photo: Eamonn McLoughlin

Patrick Harding-Irmer, Anca Frankenhaeuser and Susannah Lawergren. Photo: Eamonn McLoughlin

Right up front I need to say that Anca Frankenhaeuser and Patrick Harding-Irmer – who together with Susan Barling and Ross Philip make up Australian Dance Artists – are close personal friends.

As a result, I haven’t featured or reviewed any of the wondrous work that they have done in Sydney over the past two decades. Now that I have my own blog, the time has come to rectify that, while declaring my connection.

Last week, in collaboration with eminent sculptor Ken Unsworth, composer Jonathan Cooper and The Song Company, Australian Dance Artists (ADA) gave seven performances of a production called The Arrangement, which a small invited audience (around 50 each show) was privileged to see.

The seeds for ADA were sown in 1993, when independent choreographer Norman Hall worked with four dancers from four different generations (Elizabeth Dalman, Harding-Irmer, Barling and Gideon Obarzanek) on a production called 4 Generations. (A history of the company can be found on their website www.australiandanceartists.com).

The four performers that make up ADA are senior artists (veterans, in dance terms) who have had long, prestigious careers in contemporary dance. Among other credits, Philip danced with Sydney Dance Company from 1977 to 1992, while Barling was a member of SDC from 1978 to 1991. Frankenhaeuser and Harding-Irmer performed for 15 and 17 years respectively with London Contemporary Dance Theatre during the 1970s and 80s.

Their experience brings an emotional depth to their dancing that speaks reams.

Since 2000, ADA has collaborated with Unsworth (now 84). Their productions – which are part-performance and part-installation, frequently with live music – are something of a mindf**k. Stunning visual images from the wonderfully whacky world according to Unsworth, which often have you feeling like you have fallen down a rabbit’s hole, combine with profound connections between the four dancers whose choreography is a response to both Unsworth’s imagery and the music.

Together, Unsworth and ADA have presented work at a range of different venues including the Art Gallery of NSW, Cockatoo Island and Unsworth’s studio in Alexandria, where he has created a stage and a small auditorium with three rows of church pews.

The Arrangement, which, like all their work was totally financed by Unsworth, features a newly commissioned score by Cooper for piano, cello, flute and clarinet. A song cycle with settings of texts by A.E. Housman, Federico Garcia Lorca, W. H. Auden, Barnabe Googe and Rainer Maria Rilke for six singers, the score also includes musical interludes.

With Roland Peelman, director of The Song Company, as musical director, the music is beautiful and well suited to dance.

For The Arrangement, staged at Unsworth’s studio, Unsworth dug a pit beneath the stage especially and moved a pillar to extend the stage width-wise.

The production begins with projections (AV design by Tim Hope) of the dancers’ faces. Unsworth then glides across the stage behind a black shape suggesting the back of a piano. With his long, silvery white hair gleaming in the lights, he turns his head from side to side like one of those galleries of clowns at the fairground where you attempt to throw a ball into their open mouth. Then, sounding a large tuning fork like a magician conjuring the show with a wand, the music begins.

The non-narrative production is full of arresting images and vignettes around themes of ascension and descent, levitation, love, consolation, the passing of time and the inevitability of death – at least that’s what I took from it. Unsworth has never been one to spell anything out.

Early in the production, a singer (soprano, Susannah Lawergren) rises angel-like from the illuminated pit beneath the stage through a trap door, disappearing through a hole in the ceiling, chanting “again, and again, and again”. Later she descends in a space-age looking bubble (pictured) and at the end of the production descends back into the pit.

The vocalists all have a fair amount to do while singing. Alto Hannah Fraser flies through the air on a swing. (Mathew Lynn’s portrait of Unsworth in this year’s Archibald Prize features the sculptor on a swing, referencing Fragonard’s famous Rococo painting The Swing). The six-strong vocal ensemble climbs a frame along the back wall of the stage and pass wine from glass to glass. An archangel-type figure in long golden gown with stick arms and legs (baritone, Mark Donnelly) is suspended over the stage from an overhead track.

Visually, as in all the collaborations between Unsworth and ADA, the tumult of images never ceases to surprise and delight, enhanced by Pamela McGraw’s costumes and Eddi Goodfellow’s lighting. Barling reclines in a quivering bed of flowers, Philip interacts with a leg and arm from a mannequin, Harding-Irmer hangs listlessly in a hammock while Frankenhaeuser clambours over him in cajoling fashion. A large doll crosses the stage on a wooden rocking horse as a baby’s cries fill the space and, in a beautiful moment using video, Frankenhaeuser appears to levitate.

The choreography is by the four dancers, with Hall as choreographic collaborator. One of the most powerful moments is a duet between Frankenhaeuser and Harding-Irmer. He stands on an illuminated ball, back to the audience. From behind him, Frankenhaeuser’s hands, arms and feet float and flutter in a dance of their own. Appearing at his side, her body seems charged with an agitated, buzzing energy, which she then plucks and flicks from her, channeling it into his body until his hands and arms start to shake as hers had done.

The duets between Harding-Irmer and Frankenhaeuser seem to speak of nurturing and symbiosis. Those between Philip and Barling suggest something spikier, edgier, more tempestuous and perhaps combative.

Without the budget of a big commercial production where hydraulics and computerisation make for fluid scene changes, some of the scenic elements judder, clank and bang but that is part of the charm of a production, hand-made with so much love, unfolding there for us, so close to us.

The collaborations between Unsworth and ADA are unique, idiosyncratic and special. There is an element of the weird and wonderful as well as the impishly playful, yet the work is underpinned at every turn by a sense of humanity and layered emotion. It is a shame these productions aren’t being picked up and given another life. I’m surprised festivals aren’t tuning in. As it is, Unsworth and ADA have already started talking about the next one.

* The singers from The Song Company also included Clive Birch, Richard Black and Anna Fraser, while Ollie Miller played cello, Lamorna Nightingale played flute and Jason Noble played clarinet.

Patyegarang, Bangarra Dance Theatre

Drama Theatre, Sydney Opera House, June 24

Jasmin Sheppard and Thomas Greenfield. Photo: Jess Bialek

Jasmin Sheppard and Thomas Greenfield. Photo: Jess Bialek

Patyegarang is a luminously beautiful work in its staging, its performance and the story it tells.

Choreographed by Stephen Page as the centerpiece of Bangarra Dance Theatre’s 25th anniversary year, it is the first Sydney story that the company has tackled – and what a fascinating “first contact” tale it tells.

The inspiration was the relationship between Patyegarang, a 15-year woman of the Eora nation, and Lieutenant William Dawes, an astronomer, linguist and mathematician who arrived with the First Fleet and became the colony’s timekeeper. Patyegarang befriended Dawes and taught him her language and about her culture – which he detailed in his diaries, rediscovered at the University of London in 1972.

In creating this 70-minute work, Page successfully avoids literal story telling. Instead the piece unfolds in haunting, almost dreamlike fashion through 13 scenes, which take different themes that evoke the spirit of the land and people before the arrival of the early settlers, their culture, the notion of time, conflict, intimacy, resilience etc.

The choreography is lovely, combining the grounded traditional movement now so closely associated with the company with contemporary dance. The contrast between the movement for Dawes and the other indigenous men could have been highlighted a little more initially but there are some stunning solos, duets and ensemble numbers.

Jasmin Sheppard is radiant as Patyegarang, dancing with a lithe, gentle, expressive fluidity. A tiny figure next to guest artist Thomas Greenfield who is a strong, striking presence as Dawes, they are gorgeous together. Elma Kris and Waangenga Blanco are also standouts.

The Bangarra ensemble in Patyegarang. Photo: Jess Bialek

The Bangarra ensemble in Patyegarang. Photo: Jess Bialek

Jacob Nash’s stark, rugged set, Jennifer Irwin’s costumes and Nick Schlieper’s richly coloured lighting make for a work of stunning visual beauty, while David Page’s score, which combines traditional, classical and electronic music with spoken words, has a mesmerising, pulsing quality.

Dawes built up a relationship of trust with the local Aboriginal people. He wanted to stay in Sydney but was ordered home after he defied an order to take part in a punitive expedition against them. Patyegarang’s grief as she lies with his red jacket over her head is here a deeply moving image.

Richard Green, a Dharug man who acted as the cultural advisor for the project puts it simply: “Dawes was different, he listened.” Patyegarang intimates what might have been had there been more people like him. A beautiful work.

Patyegarang plays in Sydney until July 5 then Canberra July 17 – 19, Perth July 30 – August 2, Brisbane August 15 – 23 and Melbourne August 28 – September 6.

Lucinda Dunn’s Swansong

Lucinda Dunn in one of her Manon costumes. Photo: Lynette Wills

Lucinda Dunn in one of her Manon costumes. Photo: Lynette Wills

Lucinda Dunn was dancing the coveted role of Manon in Brisbane in February when she knew instinctively that the time had come to end her long, brilliant career with the Australian Ballet.

Last month, she announced that after 23 years with the company she will retire at the end of the current Sydney season of Manon, giving her farewell performance on April 23.

Dunn is the AB’s longest reigning ballerina having joined its ranks in 1991 at age 17. Promoted to the top tier of principal in 2002, she was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) in January for service to the performing arts through ballet.

She admits that the decision to retire wasn’t easy. “It was hard deciding when to go. It was always going to be difficult. The longer you leave it, the harder it is to leave. I haven’t made the decision lightly or without thought – I’ve been thinking about it for a while,” she says.

Making her long-awaited debut as the tragic Manon in Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s beloved, sumptuous ballet ­ – to rapturous reviews – clinched it for her.

“It’s such a fantastic role and ballet that it seemed a fitting way to end my career rather than with a contemporary ballet,” she says. “I was scheduled to dance later in the year but I decided to go while I still have a lot to offer on stage and to an audience.”

Although Dunn has had the odd injury of late, she has been dancing as beautifully as ever despite turning 40 in December.

“(I’ve spent) more than half my life in the company. It’s a part of me but the fact is that when you get older your body is not as resilient. I feel a little bit compromised so I didn’t want the audience seeing that and feeling that,” she says.

“Also, I have two beautiful girls (Claudia and Ava) aged five and two. They mean the world to me and I need to give them more time.”

Dunn is married to the AB’s associate artistic director Danilo Radojevic, who recently announced his own retirement from the company after 17 years. Meanwhile, Claudia and Ava, who have spent a fair amount of time at the AB studio, are already showing signs of wanting to follow in their parents’ footsteps.

“They both love it, coming to ‘mummy’s ballet class,’” says Dunn. “Claudia, my eldest, did her first ballet concert last year and Ava won’t take the tutu off which Claudia has passed down to her. They have been around the dancers and the studio quite a bit. It’s been fantastic that I have been able to have them here.

“I’m extremely lucky that I have been able to return to dancing, because you don’t know what pregnancy will do to your body. I’m so grateful that I was able to return twice and finish my career.”

For Dunn, who has always had a particular love of story ballets, Manon seemed the perfect role for her swansong.

Set in 18th century France, it tells of a beautiful, young woman who is torn between her love for a poor student called Des Grieux and the seductive lure of the wealthy lifestyle of a courtesan offered by the wealthy Monsieur GM. The tragic ending has her dying in Des Grieux’s arms in a Louisiana swamp.

Hard though it is to believe, Dunn hasn’t danced the role until now. “I’ve been in the ballet numerous times in other roles but in 2008 when they last did it I was pregnant with my first daughter so it has been something that I’ve wanted to do,” she says.

“I’ve known the complexity of the character and it’s such a beautiful ballet. At this point in my life I have the artistry to portray her and say farewell.”

She agrees that it is an emotional rollercoaster to perform. “You do have to get to the crux of the character. You can’t hold back. The audience can tell if you are faking it. The end is devastating. I’m drained by the end of it.”

At the beginning of next year, Dunn will become artistic director of the Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching College and the Sydney City Youth Ballet – a return to the Academy where she herself was a student as a teenager.

“Tanya Pearson was influential in my early career,” says Dunn. “My aim was to perform in musicals. My Mum performed in the West End as a singer, dancer and actor and on cruise ships and I thought that would be my path. But Tanya Pearson saw potential in me in the classical field. I entered (and won) the Prix de Lausanne when I was 15. That’s when things changed. As a result of the Prix de Lausanne I won a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in London and then came back to the Australian Ballet.”

“I’m grateful to have that in front of me,” she says of the new job. “It’s going to be a mourning process, that realisation that I won’t have class everyday or be performing on stage but I will be able to transition to a new career.

“I hope I can pass on what I have learned to help get the most out of a dancer. I have done a bit of teaching and coaching at Tanya Pearson in the past so I have had some experience. I hope I can pass on things to them (to help them) in their early stages. There’s that thing of ‘if I only knew then what I know now.’ I’ll need to learn some new skills in the coming months to be an artistic director. But I’m looking forward to it.”

Manon plays at the Sydney Opera House until April 23. Bookings: sydneyoperahouse.com.au or 9250 7777

An edited version of this story appeared in the Daily Telegraph on March 22