The Australian Ballet

Season 2024 has been revealed. Explore the season.

Back to the future: Part I

Paragon 2

Amber Scott, Kirsty Martin, Sarah Peace, Madeleine Eastoe, Amy Harris and Lucinda Dunn

Photo Christopher Rodgers-Wilson

The Australian Ballet is celebrating our 60th birthday with a very special production that unites former company members and icons of the dance world with current dancers in the emotional and moving piece titled, Paragon. One half of the double bill program Identity, which also features THE HUM, a collaboration between The Australian Ballet and Australian Dance Theatre, these two world-premiere works are reflective of the past, present and future of dance in Australia. We chat to Resident Choreographer Alice Topp and some of the returning alumni about their hopes, fears and opening night nerves.

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Alice Topp

Photo Brodie James

Alice Topp - Resident Choreographer

How have the alumni dancers re-adapted to the life of a professional working dancer?

With absolute grace, joy and openness. For many, returning to the studio is a kind of homecoming - the familiarity, the memories. The body knows this space so well... it's second nature.

Having so many generations of dancers in the studio must mean there is lots of knowledge from the cast. Have you learned any new tips?

I've learned so much, but the thing I feel most moved and humbled by is how kind, caring, nurturing and generous everyone is. Their openness, generosity and trust is something we all have learned from. They have thrown themselves into this piece with such commitment and care, embracing their vulnerability and sharing their incredible artistry and spirit.

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Madeleine Eastoe and Marcus Morelli

Photo Christopher Rodgers-Wilson

Paragon pays tribute to The Australian Ballet’s history, is there any dancer from our history you wished you could have worked with?

I'm beyond fortunate to say I've had the chance to work with a divine bunch of artists from the company in my time and could not wish for anything more. Any opportunity to create, and any opportunity to work with the exceptional breadth and depth of talent The Australian Ballet houses across all ranks, across all departments, is beyond a privilege.

There would be some dancers returning who would have been your teachers or mentors, what’s it like being the boss of your former superiors?

I like to think of my role as being a sort of conduit. I'd like to think I'm able to facilitate an opportunity to design something on each artist's voice, and really amplify, celebrate and hold a microphone up to each individual's gifts. It feels very much like a bespoke journey. I also feel whether as a dancer, teacher or choreographer we are having a creative conversation about how best to make a piece of art. It's an equal exchange.

What does Identity mean to you?

Identity to me is bigger than me - it's about community, country, and my place in it. It's a sense of self, a sense of my relationship to others, and place within one's surroundings. Personally, to discover our truest selves and all that makes you, you. For me, that includes my loved ones, the land I'm privileged to walk upon, the people I get to spend my life with, the way I dress, cry, laugh, make art, and, the way I see myself.

“It's a privilege, honour and joy to be making art with my heroes.” — Alice Topp

Jessica Thompson

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Jessica Thompson

Photo Christopher Rodgers-Wilson

What has the experience been like returning to The Australian Ballet as a dancer?

The experience of returning to the company as a dancer has been an unexpected gift and a process of delight (and hard work!) in recovering my physical capacity and technique following eight years away from the stage and the birth of my two children. It’s been interesting to return to the special place where I began my career and to observe the ways in which I have grown as a person and artist since and those aspects of expression which remain true to me even after many years.

Have you noticed any changes in the ballet industry since you last performed?

I feel that the company dancers at the moment are particularly willing and encouraged to take risks, both physically and expressively. It’s a valuable, heartening and inspiring environment to be part of. I’ve learnt and remembered so much watching the other dancers, the returning artists, former colleagues and from the current artistic staff in classes and rehearsals.

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Jessica Thompson in rehearsal, 2007

Photo Jess Bialek

What are you most excited about for the performance?

The euphoric freedom and community of the stage in performance is what I’m most excited about. There’s nothing quite like it. Time stops in performance.

What does Identity mean to you?

Identity means a homecoming and an opportunity to acknowledge the formative influence The Australian Ballet had on me, not only as a dancer but as a young woman discovering myself in the industry and in life. It’s a celebration for me of the beautiful mysteries and grace in life that often appear when you least expect. And it’s a chance to honour the institution that nourished and shaped those who went before me and became my teachers, those currently giving it life and the future dancers yet to enter the profession. I feel we all share this home that we call The Australian Ballet.

“It really is a family” — Jes­si­ca Thompson

David McAllister AC

Paragon 1

David McAllister and Madeleine Eastoe

Photo Christopher Rodgers-Wilson

What has the experience been like returning to The Australian Ballet as a dancer?

It has been totally wonderful. I never thought I would be doing class with the company again and actually dancing on stage, especially in my 60th year. The whole organisation has been so welcoming, from the medical team who organised the most wonderful ‘prehab’ to the dancers and artistic team through to the well-oiled machine that is The Australian Ballet. It is like returning home and I feel very honoured to be a part of Paragon and this 60th anniversary season.

Have you noticed any changes in the ballet industry since you last performed?

It has been 22 years since I was actually a dancer with The Australian Ballet and there have been remarkable changes. Some of them I witnessed from within the company as Artistic Director but also since David Hallberg has been the director. The company goes from strength to strength and the care of the artists, and the artistic program is second to none in the world. The company has always aspired to greatness, and I think that is certainly very much the case in our 60th anniversary year.

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David McAllister and Fiona Tonkin

Photo Christopher Rodgers-Wilson

What are you most excited about for the performance?

To be sharing the stage with both the exceptionally talented of the company today and also some of my dear friends and colleagues from across the decades. To be a part of a brand-new work by Alice Topp at this time in my advanced years is such an exciting prospect.

What are you most nervous about?

Not being a disappointment to the production and the audience thinking ‘he used to be so much better’. Also remembering all my steps, but I am sure we will be ready and fully rehearsed by the time the curtain lifts and it will be just a chance to shake off the nerves and perform.

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David McAllister in Voluntaries (Tetley), 1984

Photo Earl Carter

What does Identity mean to you?

My whole career has been inspired and shaped by The Australian Ballet. To be a part of this season feels like a homecoming and a celebration of the company. I feel like all of us retired dancers will not only be there as ourselves but representing all the hundreds of dancers who have made up this amazing company over the past six decades. We will be the embodiment of all the amazing artists who have created this company.

Fiona Tonkin OAM

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Fiona Tonkin

Photo Pierre Toussaint

What has the experience been like returning to The Australian Ballet as a dancer?

Dance has been my lifeforce for over 45 years, so to return to the stage as a dancer at the age of 62 has been both challenging and exhilarating. To reacquaint and immerse oneself in the creative process with dear colleagues is a most gratifying experience.

Have you noticed any changes in the ballet industry since you last performed?

The main change is the ancillary infrastructure that supports the dancer i.e., the artistic health team which takes a very holistic approach to each individual dancer’s health. Accompanying this is the maternity policy that was introduced over 20 years ago. These positive changes have enabled dancers to have much longer careers than was possible in previous generations. On a more practical level, a dancer’s daily regime is still very much as it was - morning class followed by rehearsals, and preparation if in performance mode.

TAB Melbourne Paragon Web CRW 9 1

Fiona Tonkin and Adam Bull

Photo Christopher Rodgers-Wilson

What are you most excited about for the performance?

To celebrate our 60th anniversary with generational dancers will be a beautiful experience and a treasured moment in our company’s history. This will be the first time I have performed with many of them and as such that will bring a level of excitement and anticipation to the performance.

What are you most nervous about?


What does Identity mean to you?

The company’s motto for the 60th anniversary is “60 years strong”. It can never be forgotten on whose shoulders we stand i.e., those that have come before us, as a nation and arts company. First Nations people have given so much flavour and context through their storytelling, and previous generations of dancers quickly established The Australian Ballet as a company worthy of the great stages of the world.

The Identity programme is a celebration that acknowledges the authenticity of what makes us who we are today and will energise us to embrace our future with curiosity, humility and positivity.

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Fiona Tonkin in Giselle (Gielgud), 1986

Photo Earl Carter

“It is only in the present that we can influence the future.” — Fiona Tonkin
A dancer dancing on a stage, looking away with their arms behind them against an earthy coloured background.


  • Sydney / Warrang May 2023
  • Melbourne / Naarm June 2023