The Australian Ballet

Celebrating 60

1964 Australian Ballet 04360

The Australian Ballet, 1964
Photo Unknown

As we continue our 60th anniversary season, we look back at the people, the places and the spirit of Australia’s national ballet company.

1962 Class 04540

Peggy van Praagh leads class in 1962 with artists of The Australian Ballet
Photo Unknown



  • The Australian Ballet is established with Peggy van Praagh appointed as founding Artistic Director. The first company of dancers begins rehearsing in an East Melbourne studio (a former Presbyterian Ladies College).


  • Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, whose legendary partnership is driving audiences into rapturous frenzies akin to Beatlemania, arrive to guest with The Australian Ballet in Swan Lake and Giselle. It’s the first time they dance a complete ballet with any company other than The Royal Ballet.


  • The company gives its 1000th performance – a matinee of Coppélia.
33 Rudolf Nureyev and Lucette Aldous Don Quixote 1972 film photographer unknown

Rudolf Nureyev and Lucette Aldous filming Don Quixote in 1972
Photo Unknown



  • Rudolph Nureyev and Robert Helpmann’s movie of Don Quixote, enabled by The Australian Ballet’s community, is filmed in an aircraft hangar outside of Melbourne.


  • With proceeds of the company’s 1977 international tour, The Australian Ballet purchases land in Southbank, Melbourne to build a new home for the company.


  • Former Principal Dancer Marilyn Jones is announced as The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director. It was unprecedented for a former dancer to move into a managerial role rather than a coaching position.

The Australian Ballet Centre, Southbank, 1988
Photo Unknown



  • Marilyn Jones launches The Dancers Company, a “splinter group” established to provide opportunities for graduating students of The Australian Ballet School.


  • Maina Gielgud is appointed Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet.


  • The Australian Ballet moves to The Australian Ballet Centre, its new purpose-built home in Southbank.
Divergence 06233

Justine Summers, Divergence, 1994
Photo Jim McFarlane



  • Vanessa Leyonhjelm industrial styled tutu made from 15 meters of mesh normally used in air conditioners and stained black by an automotive painter is unleashed during Stanton Welch’s Divergence. The poster featuring dancer Justine Summers is still one of the most popular today.


  • Ross Stretton succeeds Maina Gielgud as Artistic Director.


  • Stephen Page’s Rites is performed at Melbourne Festival. The work was choreographed on The Australian Ballet and Bangarra Dance Theatre artists.
Giselle 07451

David McAllister and Miranda Coney in Giselle, 2001
Photo Branco Gaica



  • David McAllister gives his final performance as Albrecht in Giselle, moving into the role of Artistic Director two months later.


  • Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake premieres.


  • Steven Heathcote retires after 24 years with the company.
TAB The Sleeping Beauty Mc Allister Melbourne Photo Jeff Busby 2015 2 1

Nicola Curry, Heidi Martin, Valerie Tereshchenko, Imogen Chapman, Rina Nemoto and Jill Ogai in The Sleeping Beauty (McAllister), 2015
Photo Jeff Busby



  • The Australian Ballet’s Production Centre is opened.


  • The Australian Ballet celebrates their 50th anniversary.


  • David McAllister creates a colourful and luscious new production of The Sleeping Beauty.
TAB KUNSTKAMER photo Jeff Busby 2022 1005 1

David Hallberg in Kunstkamer, 2022
Photo Jeff Busby



  • Live performance is interrupted for two years, due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Theatres go dark across the world, while Melbourne stays in lockdown for a total of 262 days.


  • Kunstkamer premieres in Melbourne under the company’s eighth Artistic Director, David Hallberg.


  • The Australian Ballet celebrates the diamond anniversary season.