When Stanton Welch diverged

28 May 2009 | By admin

At just 24 years of age choreographer Stanton Welch created Divergence – the work that launched his career. Premiering in 1994, it was one of the most difficult and progressive ballets of the decade. Its creation was no easy feat for Stanton, nor for his dancers. In 2009, The Australian Ballet brings Divergence back to the stage as part of the double bill Paris Match. Stanton, now Artistic Director at the Houston Ballet, found time to reflect on presenting his groundbreaking work to unsuspecting audiences 15 years ago.

What kinds of feelings did Bizet’s score stir in you when you first heard it?
It was a piece my mother (Marilyn Jones) gave to me. It was even on a tape – that’s how long ago it was! So I had my tape and my Walkman and took it with me when I was touring with the company. I just fell in love with it. I always wanted to do a classical ballet, but I wanted to show classical ballet’s diversity. I felt with each movement came a very different style and that gave me different flavours.

How does it feel to perform this work again, given it was something you choreographed when you were so young?
Divergence is one of my oldest allies; it’s been with me for a long time, like an old friend.

Vanessa Leyonhjelm recently talked about the costumes she designed for Divergence and said you described each movement quite distinctly to her, and that’s how the contrasting costumes came about.
Yes, we had classical dancers dancing classically, and no matter what we dress them in, whether it’s a tutu, a dress, or pants, it’s still classical ballet. And that was kind of why I wanted each movement to have a different costume. So while, stylistically, I was still choreographing in the same classical language, I wanted to dress them differently to show the range of classical ballet.

You said at the time that you wanted them to look like Vogue models?
Yeah, high fashion, red lips; kind of like that Robert Palmer video.

Have your methods of choreographing and directing changed since you started creating dance?
Divergence certainly toughened me up! That‘s why I consider it more of a buddy than a child, because it really toughened me up. But I see the opening of Divergence and I see a fingerprint of that in everything I do.



01 Stanton Welch in rehearsal
02 Justine Summers, Damien Welch and Nicole Rhodes in Divergence. Photography Jim McFarlane