The Dancers Company: The final bow for 2013
One of the nominees for this year’s Telstra Ballet Dancer Award, Christopher Rodgers-Wilson, has spent the last three weeks traversing the country to share the joys of ballet with regional audiences through The Dancers Company which wraps up in Tanunda, SA tonight.
From the centre of Victoria’s Food Bowl all the way to the centre of Australia itself, Christopher has been a guest artist with The Dancers Company, the regional touring arm of The Australian Ballet, performing a triple bill of ballet works alongside 25 graduating students from The Australian Ballet School. The Dancers Company is proudly supported by Principal Partner Telstra.
It has been an honour to perform with The Dancers Company in 2013, and I feel very lucky to have been a part of such an integral time in The Australian Ballet School graduates’ year. The tour is a fantastic opportunity for both the students and guests to perform as a real company, travelling and working together, whilst also taking a diverse repertoire to regional areas of Australia. I didn’t train with The Australian Ballet School myself, so I have loved sharing this unique experience with the graduate students.
I grew up in Camberwell, Melbourne, and trained locally with Camberwell District Ballet. I was fortunate to gain a place at The Royal Ballet School in London at the age of 17; I trained there for two years. On graduation, I was offered a contract by David Bintley to dance with the Birmingham Royal Ballet. It was a wonderful opportunity and proved to be an invaluable experience. I danced and toured with the company all over the UK and internationally, performing a diverse repertoire and experiencing the wonderful history of ballet in Britain.
After six years overseas I felt it was time to move on, and in 2011 I was thrilled to join The Australian Ballet, the company that had been an inspiration to me when I was growing up. It has been really special for me to perform in my home town and country since returning, and to be selected to dance in Paquita and the third act of Swan Lake, The Dancers Company tour has been a highlight of 2013 for me.
I joined the tour in Mildura where my partner Miwako Kubota and I took over from guest artists Amy Harris and Andrew Wright who had led the first three weeks of the tour. We were thrown straight into action with a dress rehearsal, and then Miwako and I were able to sit back and watch the evening performance before our debuts the following day.
The show was beautifully danced and I was immediately struck by the talent and professionalism of the students, completely committed to the technical and artistic challenges of such a diverse triple bill. It has been a constant inspiration to see how far they have taken this opportunity to perform, always giving 150%! Since taking on our roles as guest artists for the latter half of the tour, we have travelled from Mildura to Renmark, through Port Pirie and Whyalla in South Australia, Darwin and Alice Springs in the Northern Territory and will finish up in Tanunda, SA.
It has been a real highlight to dance the principal roles in Paquita and Swan Lake, both such technically and artistically demanding ballets. The nature of the tour means that we get to perform many shows in succession, and it has been immensely fulfilling to develop and grow in these roles and build on each performance.
Working on these ballets with The Dancers Company’s Artistic Director Danilo Radojevic and The Australian Ballet School’s graduate class teachers Dale Baker and Joanne Michel has been an unforgettable experience. They have been so generous in imparting their great knowledge, understanding and personal experience of these iconic ballets throughout the tour. We were also fortunate to rehearse in the lead up to tour with The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director David McAllister and The Australian Ballet’s artistic staff – the whole process has been such a great opportunity to develop my dancing, partnering skills and artistry.
Another great aspect of being on a tour like this one is how closely everyone in the organisation works together – company management, ballet staff, dancers, technical crew, wardrobe staff, physio and of course the company pianist Yura Dubovsky. It really is a team effort, and I feel now I’ve seen first-hand how much work goes into bringing an evening of ballet together.
There is rarely a dull moment on the tour. We’re constantly on the move, attending media calls and post-show functions, adapting to new accommodation, theatres, and even climates – Darwin was the hottest venue I have ever experienced!
Meeting audience members along the way has been a particular highlight, as we get to see how much joy the performances have brought to them. It is fulfilling to know that while we have been enjoying the challenges and exhilaration of the performances, our dancing has been inspiring people on the other side of the curtain, especially the younger dancers we find leaping around the theatre foyers after a show!
We are very fortunate to have Telstra as Principal partner for The Dancers Company tour (they have also been a partner of The Australian Ballet for nearly 30 years). Their support is crucial in bringing all the elements of the company together and allowing us to travel all over the country.
Telstra’s support of The Australian Ballet also includes the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award, of which I am a nominee this year. The award aims to encourage talent within The Australian Ballet’s ranks and is judged on the nominees performances throughout the year, a written submission and an interview. It is such an honour to be nominated and the experience has encouraged me both in the studio and on stage. It has also prompted me to reflect on my time as a dancer thus far, and further inspired new goals for the future.
I hope that in being guest artists with The Dancers Company, Miwako and I have been able to inspire audiences and the graduate students, just as they have inspired us. I’m so grateful for this experience and hope I will be able to perform with The Dancers Company again in the future.