The company will grow to 79 full-time dancers this year to perform “large scale repertoire more comfortably.”
The Australian Ballet has announced that it will be bigger and better than ever before in 2016, as the company welcomes eleven new full-time dancers. Expanding its ranks to 79 members, up from 68 last year, brings the Australian Ballet up to a size comparable with the major European and American companies, as well as affording the opportunity to introduce repertoire of a previously insurmountable scale. “Increasing the company means we can do the really large scale repertoire more comfortably, but it also means we can offer more productions, like the Storytime children’s ballets we’ve introduced this Christmas,” Artistic Director David McAllister says. “We’ve been wanting to do those productions for three years, and the major hurdle was being able to access more dancers.”
The plan to increase the size of the company is part of a recently developed five year strategy, McAllister shares. “We’re funding the extra dancers from a range of things we’re doing – some extra revenue from our new children’s ballets, and also some internal restructuring. This is essentially us licking our finger and sticking it up to the wind to see if this will work as we hope it will, but so far it’s been really successful. We’re really thrilled about this change.”
Australian Ballet Artistic Director David McAllister
The Australian Ballet is one of the few financial success stories of the past year within the arts sector. In its 2014/15 Annual Report, the company registered an astonishing $8 million surplus, primarily from philanthropy. While the majority of these funds are tied to the Australian Ballet Foundation, which funds commissioning and capital investments rather than operational costs, the generally good health of the company’s finances have allowed McAllister to take some risks. “We have the confidence to take this step. We’ve still had to be pretty clever about how we’ve budgeted, but having the solidarity around the financial structure of the company means that we’re able to push those boundaries a little,” McAllister explains.
The majority of the new company members with be joining the corps – the entry level rank of the company. These nine new dancers come as graduates of the Australian Ballet School, reinforcing the valuable vocational training this institution offers. “We have a very important relationship with the Ballet School – our company is only as good as the dancers who come into it,” McAllister says. “It’s wonderful that we share that synergy, building strength in both the main company and the school, so that we can inspire the next generation of great dancers.”
The Australian Ballet’s education outreach programmes are also geared at encouraging young dance lovers to consider a future in ballet. This is then backed-up by the Australian Ballet School’s annual national talent spotting sweep, that seeks out prospective students with the potential to one day join the main company. “There is this web of development opportunities, and it is vital that this happens to ensure the Australian Ballet has got the best talent going into the future,” McAllister says. “By building the size of the company it means that we can give more of those talented kids the chance of being part of the Australian Ballet.”