As she has risen through the ranks at The Australian Ballet, Swan Lake has been a perennial favourite for principal artist Benedicte Bemet. Performances of the classic ballet featuring the gorgeous and iconic music of Tchaikovsky have marked her progress.
Bemet says Swan Lake has been a lifelong love. “In my first year at The Australian Ballet I was a cygnet, then later a corps swan,” she says. “It’s such a beautiful ballet and the music is very special.”
Bemet has just premiered in the new production in Melbourne and will go on to perform in Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney before Christmas. She will be dancing the lead as Odette (the white swan) and Odile (the black swan).
“This is living my dream,” Bemet says. “It’s quite surreal and definitely a bucket list thing for me.”
This Queenslander was born in Mackay and lived on the Gold Coast for some years as well as a stint in Hong Kong with her family. These days she lives in Melbourne where The Australian Ballet is based, and is excited to be bringing the ballet back to her home state.
“We haven’t been to Queensland for a while,” Bemet says. “It will be nice. My parents are coming and my grandparents are so excited.”
There are six casts for this lavish production, which gives newish artistic director David Hallberg the opportunity to flex his creative muscles. Bemet says it has been wonderful working closely with him.
“He’s incredible and has so much experience,” she says. “And he’s so fresh from his (dance) career. He’s very encouraging and empowering and because he still thinks like a dancer he says to us – I know what you are thinking – and he does.”
“David arranged for French superstar ballerina Sylvie Guillem to come out and coach,” Bemet adds. “This is such a technical ballet and to have her is amazing. The way she coaches just empowers us.”
Hallberg promises he hasn’t messed with things too much and that this version is still “the Swan Lake audiences have loved for generations”.
“It’s a timeless ballet that will carry the torch again to remind us why this is still the most beloved ballet in history,” he says.
This production is the cornerstone of the national company’s 60th anniversary season. It’s also been in the repertoire since 1962. It is reimagined by Hallberg and inspired by the iconic 1977 Anne Wooliams production.
Hallberg has worked with choreographer Lucas Jervies to weave his own interpretation of Woolliams’ dramatically powerful work, creating a new production that pays homage to ballet history and firmly plants The Australian Ballet in the present moment with a production for today’s audiences.
“Our 60th year is the perfect moment to create a new classical version of Swan Lake,” Hallberg says. “One that will stand proud as a fresh representation of The Australian Ballet, further elevating our artistic excellence. With a timeless ballet comes the need for a fresh perspective, and a modern focus on costume and set design will prove that Swan Lake is still the most beautiful of ballets ever created.”
Swan Lake has been performed 659 times, playing an important role in the company’s history. This production reflects the company’s passion, dedication and commitment to classical ballet.
To recap … Swan Lake tells the story of Prince Siegfried’s yearning for meaning, which he finds in his ideal love for Odette, a mysterious princess who has been trapped in the form of a swan by the sorcerer Baron Von Rothbart. Audiences across the country will enjoy all their favourite moments from this masterpiece, including the Act II pas de deux between Siegfried and Odette, the Black Swan pas de deux, and the dance of the four cygnets.
This new production of Swan Lake has been brought to the stage by a team of celebrated set, lighting and costume designers who have breathed new life into the ballet, bringing it confidently into the 21st century while respecting its timelessness and history.
With the original sets and costumes lost to history, The Australian Ballet has been joined by creative partners Daniel Ostling and Mara Blumenfeld as the design team, and lighting designer T.J. Gerckens. More than 250 costumes have been made for the production and more than 500m of tulle was used to craft the tutus. Von Rothbart’s menacing black cape has been handcrafted from hundreds of feathers by the dedicated costume department.
Hallberg promises this ballet will remain in the repertoire and no-one will complain about it resurfacing from time to time.
The Australian Ballet’s Swan Lake will be performed at the Lyric Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane, October 24-28, with Queensland Symphony Orchestra
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