From left: Queensland Ballet Artistic Director Li Cunxin, Principal Dancers Matthew Lawrence and Clare Morehen
Cunxin, too, is experiencing a transformation with this appointment, having previously been on stage, rather than in the wings. Many will recall his personal story, beautifully told in his autobiography and film of the same name, Mao’s Last Dancer, of his rise from poverty in communist China to become one of the world’s most revered ballet dancers in his 16-year career with the Houston Ballet and later as a principal dancer with the Australian Ballet. Departing the stage is a natural evolution for any dancer, but Cunxin feels passionately about the world of ballet and wants to share it with the greatest possible audience.
What differentiates Queensland Ballet, he says, is its family spirit. “Typically there is quite a bit of jealousy in these kinds of art forms, because in any ballet there are only one or two stars,” he says. “But here it’s a very caring, supportive place where we push each other to achieve the best.” That best, it seems, is lavish, blockbuster productions that are up there with some of the world’s best.
Key to the success of these productions is not just Li’s challenging of his dancers’ technical proficiency, but also a company-wide aspiration to reach that next level, with costume forming an important element of every production. “Ballet should be glamour, magical, and costume plays a major part in that. They make the dancers look beautiful.”
The company’s Wardrobe Production Manager and Resident Designer, Noelene Hill, agrees, adding: “Collaboration is a quintessential component of a successful ballet.” Hill’s process begins before the dancers do their first pirouette, with the creative team discussing how they might approach the production at hand. “We look at what has been before and what elements [of a traditional production] that we might keep or that we might evolve. In something like Nutcracker, for example, it’s a period production, but we make the costumes so much lighter for the dancers.”
See over 40 of Queensland Ballet’s costumes in person at a special exhibition at Westfield Carindale until 26 October. Featuring six themed installations, costumes from Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, The Little Mermaid, and The Sleeping Beauty are suspended in the air across the centre’s fashion precinct.
Westfield Carindale is a season partner of Queensland Ballet. 2015 season tickets are on sale from 22 September 2014. Visit queenslandballet.com.au for more information.