Queensland Ballet’s soon to retire artistic director Li Cunxin has had some good ideas during his decade at the helm of our state company. One of his best was to collaborate with artists to create visual dance works that give the young dancers from the Queensland Ballet Academy the chance to stretch themselves.

Soiree, which is on at the Talbot Theatre at the Thomas Dixon Centre October 19 to 21, does just that.

This is the third year of this collaboration with Brisbane’s Philip Bacon Galleries. Luckily for Li Cunxin we have one of Australia’s foremost commercial galleries right here in Brisbane and Philip Bacon has an amazing stable of artists. The first production I the series was dubbed Summer Soiree and featured Michael Zavros, known for his stunning, detailed and very beautiful realist works. The second collaboration (also Summer Soiree) was with Tim Storrier, famous for his landscapes and now, again for this year (just Soiree this time) we are back to Zavros and why not? His oeuvre is so rich.

Philip Bacon Galleries supports this creative collaboration philanthropically and Philip Bacon is happy to do so because he thinks it’s a simply brilliant idea. It was pitched to him by Li Cunxin and QB’s executive director Dilshani Weerasinghe.

“Li and Dilshani came to see me years ago and I thought it was a bloody good idea,” Bacon says. “It promotes the artists and is a good thing for the young dancers and the choreographers. Matisse did ballets and so did Sidney Nolan.”

Early last century the famous Russian ballet impresario Sergei Diaghilev worked with some of the top artists of his time setting an historical precedence. He founded the company Ballet Russes which collaborated with Pablo Picasso, Joan Miro, Henri Matisse and Jean Cocteau.

If it was good enough for Diaghilev it is good enough for us, right?

Li Cunxin shares, I think, Diaghilev’s vision and he is turned Queensland Ballet into a creative powerhouse with the same sort of flair shown by the famous Russian impresario.

Philip Bacon says his artists love working with the ballet and Tim Storrier was thrilled with seeing his work on stage last year.

“Tim Storrier loved it last year,” Bacon says. “He and his wife Janet went to visit the young dancers at the academy and it was a revelation to them.”

The internationally acclaimed artist Michael Zavros says he’s honored to be asked to share his work and to see it projected and inspiring dancers again this year.

“When the ballet first came to me, we talked about how it might work and frankly I didn’t need much convincing,” Zavros says. “I couldn’t quite imagine how it would come together but I thought it was a great idea and it was really beautiful. This time they are looking at some of my early work focusing more on fashion and vanity or narcissism which are themes I work with. From the little bits they are showing me it will be more theatrical this time around.”

Zavros says QB offered to show him a run through of the final product but he declined. He trusts them and wants to be pleasantly surprised by the outcome. The artist has moved into a bit of art direction himself in recent years and has a flair for that as anyone who attended his Festival of Dionysius (live nude statues and all) at Brisbane Festival last year will testify.

As for ballet, well he wasn’t really a fan until he started going a decade ago, around the same time that Li Cunxin took over at QB. He saw some international companies perform at QPAC as part of the International Series and started attending QB productions.

Now he is a ballet convert and he and the dancers have some things in common. Zavros is a dedicated and hard-working artist whose incredibly detailed work requires the same sort of commitment and passion required by the dancers.

“The discipline and serious artistry shown by ballet dancers is something I really admire,” he  says.

Soirée will blend his stunning art with original neo-classical and contemporary choreography by Paul Boyd and Natalie Weir, performed by Queensland Ballet Academy’s Pre-Professional Program dancers to live music provided by Camerata – Queensland’s Chamber Orchestra.

Academy director Christian Tàtchev says Soirée presents an opportunity to nurture the futures of Australia’s dancers.

“Soiree presents such a unique experience to all our dancers,” Tatchev says. “We are grateful to philanthropist Philip Bacon for enabling this project, and to Michael Zavros for coming on board with us again in 2023.

“This event promises an extraordinary showcase of Australian art, Australian choreographers and Australia’s emerging dance talent in what has become a highlight of the Brisbane arts scene. This season also includes the Academy’s Grand Défilé, showcasing seven levels of our students onstage in a beautiful presentation, as well as selected choreographic works by the Pre-Professional Program dancers.”

Soiree is on at the Talbot Theatre, Thomas Dixon Centre, October 19-21



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