Ballet showcases and competitions are standard fare around the world, from the Prix de Lausanne that offers an entry point to the industry, to the prestigious Prix Benois de la Danse in Moscow or the International Competition of Ballet Dancers in Astana. Australian audiences are less familiar with them, and the last time Sydney ballet-goers enjoyed such a program was in 2019, when Natalia Osipova presented Pure Dance accompanied by David Hallberg. Now, as the Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director, Hallberg has taken a bold step by bringing the company back to the stage in just such a format.

The Australian Ballet Celebration Gala Swan Lake

Ballet highlights taken out of context can be reduced to little more than displays of technical prowess and also invite unwelcome comparison to major stars, whose performances can be readily viewed online. Fortunately, this was not the case last night and Hallberg’s gamble paid off handsomely as a handpicked ensemble of principals, senior artists and soloists performed...