THE EVOLUTION OF SWAN LAKE

The Australian Ballet

From first feathers in the 60s to new directions in the new millenium

The Evolution of Swan Lake
Swan Lake is the world's most iconic ballet, the benchmark and heartbeat of any classical company. The Australian Ballet began its life with it, and has since gone on to develop landmark productions that reflect the company's directors, trends in design and the art form's innovation. Through the lens of Swan Lake, we can see The Australian Ballet's history. 
The 1960s
The Australian Ballet’s first-ever production was Swan Lake. The fledgling company kicked off its life with spread wings, performing the great classic in a staging by Peggy van Praagh, The Australian Ballet's indomitable British director. On opening night, 2 November 1962, the lead roles of Odette/Odile and Prince Siegfried were danced by the international stars Erik Bruhn and Sonia Arova, but close behind them was a flock of homegrown talent ready to take to the lake. 
The 1970s
In 1977 the company was led by Anne Woolliams, who made a new Swan Lake, imbued with emotional intensity and with a rich, dark design by Tom Lingwood. This production had good bones; it lasted for 25 years, and provided inspiration to and a showcase for generations of dancers.
The 2000s
In 2002, the game changed: the brand-new Artistic Director David McAllister commissioned the contemporary choreographer Graeme Murphy to reinvent the ballet. Murphy’s Lake was based around a torrid royal love triangle, and its blend of classic elements and modern-day drama clicked. The production became the company’s signature both at home and overseas, and Kristian Fredrikson’s starkly simple swan tutus and frozen lake became iconic images of Australian dance.
2010s
For the company’s 50th anniversary in 2012, McAllister decided commissioned a new traditional production of the ballet to sit beside Murphy’s Swan Lake. The Australian Ballet’s Resident Choreographer Stephen Baynes created a version based around the tragedy of Siegfried but with all the Romantic heritage of the iconic ballet. Designer Hugh Colman hung the white tutus of his swans with teardrop pearls, dressed the foreign princesses who vie for Siegfried’s hand in smart Edwardian outfits, and gave the villain von Rothbart and his entourage a sinister, exotic glamour. 
And now, on
In the 21st century, The Australian Ballet is rich in swans, with Murphy’s and Baynes’ Odettes and Siegfrieds ruling side by side. We look forward to future hatchings. 
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