This summer, The Sleeping Beauty: Storytime Ballet is bringing the magic of adult ballet to children. We caught up with David McAllister to ask him about his life as Artistic Director and the exciting new series.
What does a typical day in the life of an Artistic Director look like?
Well, the exciting thing about my job is that there isn’t really a typical day. I can be in production meetings, then teach class and then have rehearsals or meetings with other creative artists for upcoming shows, or be watching a matinee if we’re doing a mid-week performance. I try and get into the rehearsal room as much as possible, but there are always competing focuses for my attention, like forward planning, logistics and just keeping up with the email traffic. I am never lost for things to do! What’s the most exciting part of your job?
Working with the dancers. Whether it’s in the daily technique class or in a rehearsal, it’s always great to have time to craft the dancers performance both technically and artistically and see them continually growing as artists.
When did you know you wanted to be a dancer?
For as long as I can remember. I’ve always loved dancing and my earliest memory as a child is dancing around the house. I began ballet as a seven year old, but I think it was around 14 that I realised that this could be my career.
What’s been your favourite ballet production so far?
I would say, most recently, the new Sleeping Beauty that we just premiered, as it’s the first ballet I’ve produced myself for the company. As a dancer, there were so many that I loved dancing that it would take up the whole article to name them all. I am a bit of a ‘Bun Head’. Who or what inspires your work?
I love doing something that’s been a passion since I was a young boy, so I guess I’m inspired by the art form of ballet itself. There’s this wonderful thing about ballet that you never quite feel that you’ve completely mastered its intricacies, which keeps you always striving to be better. It’s the same in my current role, although now I get to work with such an exciting array of artists from the dancers and choreographers we employ, through to the musicians, designers and artisans across the spectrum who continually inspire me and with whom we create great work.
What makes the new Storytime Ballet series for children so different from the adults’ ballet?
This is a show that’s been conceived especially for children. While it takes some of the choreography from the ‘adult’ production of The Sleeping Beauty, it’s narrated by an actor playing one of the roles from the ballet and gives the children a real understanding of what’s going on and adds to their enjoyment. Often in evening performances, you hear the children in the audience asking their parents ‘who’s that?’ or ‘why are they doing that?’. The Narrator will be able to answer these questions while still letting the children use their imaginations and be a part of the storytelling. It’s also a much more manageable length, rather than running two and a half hours it’ll be 45 to 50 minutes. Can you tell us about the kind of costumes we’ll see in Storytime Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty performance?
They’re beautiful fairytale costumes that are from our previous production of The Sleeping Beauty, which was designed by Hugh Colman. Fairies in tutus and the Prince in your regulation Prince Charming outfit!
What kind of sets will be created?
Hugh has also designed us a set that matches those costumes and has that feeling of a fairy story book. As the story is told fairly succinctly, the set is very versatile and goes from palace to garden in a few moves! How much does the Storytime Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty differ from the classic ballet we’re used to?
It’ll have all the elements you expect for a performance of The Sleeping Beauty, with lots of wonderful dancing and the great Tchaikovsky score, but it will have the narration and be much shorter.
Will the choreography be very different from what we’re used to seeing from the performances for adults?
No, it’ll be using the choreography from the traditional production – much of what was seen in our recent new production. Can you tell us about the kind of pre-show/interactive elements the performance will include?
We’re doing all sorts of things in the foyers, which will get the children into the mood of the show with some colouring in opportunities and also incorporating the artwork done in the foyers to be seen on a screen prior to the show.
What ballet do you think we’ll see next from Storytime Ballet?
We hope to do a whole series of these specially adapted ballets for children and have a few in the planning stages, but I will have to keep them a surprise to be revealed once we have The Sleeping Beauty: Storytime Ballet up and running!
Images from top: David at work, dancer Robyn Hendricks, costumes by Hugh Colman. Get your tickets to The Sleeping Beauty: Storytime Ballet from The Australian Ballet.