There was never much doubt that music would feature in Nicolette Fraillon’s life in some way or other. She did, after all, come from a very musical family. Born in Melbourne to immigrant parents – Huguenot and Sicilian on her father’s side, Austrian-Jewish on her mother’s – both her grandfathers were cellists, while her brother was principal bass player with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake. Photo © Jeff Busby

A career as a ballet conductor, however, was never on the cards. Instead it was something that came to her, pretty much out of the blue.

“Ballet wasn’t on my horizons or in my family. It was an arts interested family, and closely music oriented, but not ballet,” says Fraillon. “I didn’t do ballet as a kid and neither did my siblings. It’s not that I wasn’t interested, it just wasn’t part of my world.”

It’s certainly part of her world now. Fraillon has been Music Director and Chief Conductor at The Australian Ballet (TAB) for 17 years, having previously conducted for dance companies in Europe and the US. A small but animated presence on the podium, where she is perennially clad...