Contemporary ballet

The return of classical and contemporary ballet

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

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

Featuring pas de deux from classical ballets and daring 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 blockages, we kind of lost track,” joked artistic director David Hallberg as he took a break from supervising rehearsals.

“It’s been a long, long road, but dancers have a place on stage and it’s time to put them back under the lights.”

In the last lockdown, the Melbourne-based company received an exemption from the Victorian government, which allowed dancers to continue their training, although they are required to adhere to “very strict guidelines” in the studio space.

“It got things done so even though we weren’t playing we could practice and rehearse,” Hallberg said.

The fruits of all this upkeep 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.

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

Based on Leo Tolstoy’s canonical 1878 novel on Love and Death, the ballet is choreographed by former Bolshoi dancer Yuri Possokhov and includes a score by multi-award-winning composer Ilya Demutsky.

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

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

It’s now Sydney and Melbourne’s turn, following the work’s Australian premiere in Adelaide earlier this year.

“It’s a visual feast and a virtuoso demonstration of dance,” 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 a preview of Artifact Suite by radical American choreographer William Forsythe.

Too contemporary? Relax, Black Swan will be making an appearance, although there is no sign of White Swan, which is worrying – was she sent by her romantic 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 renowned British choreographer Ronald Hynd premiered for the Australian Ballet in 1975.

For tickets, including a Black (Swan) Friday offer, visit