Contemporary ballet

Return of classical and contemporary ballet

Tutus and tights are back. The same goes for pleats and entrechats, chignons and dance belts.

After a difficult year which saw 70% of its 2021 season postponed or cancelled, the Australian Ballet returns to the Sydney Opera House for a very chic pre-Christmas elevation.

Featuring pas de deux from classical ballet and cutting-edge contemporary works, Celebration Gala is the company’s thank-you gift to Sydney – and, next month, Melbourne – for keeping the faith alive throughout COVID.

“There were so many blocks, we kind of lost track,” artistic director David Hallberg joked while taking a break to oversee rehearsals.

“It’s been a long, long road, but dancers belong on stage and it’s time to put them back in the spotlight.”

During the last lockdown, the Melbourne-based company received an exemption from the Victorian government, which allowed dancers to continue training, despite being held to ‘very strict guidelines’ in the space from the studio.

“It kept things moving, so even if we weren’t playing, we could practice and rehearse,” Hallberg said.

The fruits of all this nurturing and preparation will be on display in Sydney from Thursday to December 3, and in Melbourne at the Arts Center from December 9 to 18.

Sydneysiders can expect to be wowed by Swans, White and Black, from everyone’s favorite ballet Swan Lake, as well as a pas de deux by Anna Karenina, which is part of the company’s 2022 season.

Based on Leo Tolstoy’s 1878 canonical novel about love and death, the ballet is choreographed by former Bolshoi Ballet dancer Yuri Possokhov and features a score by multi-award winning composer Ilya Demutsky.

Hallberg, who was the first American dancer invited to join the Bolshoi Ballet as a principal artist, first met Possokhov in Moscow.

A co-production between the Joffrey Ballet of Chicago and the Australian Ballet, Anna Karenina had its world premiere in Windy City in 2019.

Now it’s Sydney and Melbourne’s turn, after the work had its Australian premiere in Adelaide earlier this year.

“It’s a visual feast and a virtuoso dance display,” says Hallberg.

“Anna Karenina shows the power of storytelling through the beauty of dance.”

Meanwhile, Melbourne audiences will be treated to Serenade by legendary New York City Ballet co-founder George Balanchine and an excerpt from Artifact Suite by radical American choreographer William Forsythe.

Too contemporary? Relax, Black Swan will make an appearance, although there’s no sign of White Swan, which is worrying – was she sent by her love rival to Sydney?

Also on the program is a pas de deux from The Merry Widow, a ballet based on the popular operetta by Franz Lehar, which esteemed British choreographer Ronald Hynd created for the Australian Ballet in 1975.

For tickets, including a Black (Swan) Friday offer, go to