The Australian Ballet

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Principal Artist Ako Kondo, Cinderella (Ratmansky) 2019
Photo Kate Longley

The Australian Ballet has been bringing ballet to young (and young at heart!) audiences since 2015 with the hugely popular Storytime Ballet series. Former Artistic Director David McAllister has recreated Coppélia, The Sleeping Beauty and The Nutcracker in previous years and will delight audiences over the 2023/24 summer season with his version of the magical fairytale, Cinderella.

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Principal Artist Robyn Hendricks, Cinderella (Ratmansky), 2019
Photo Jeffy Busby

The last time The Australian Ballet performed Cinderella was the Alexei Ratmansky version in 2019, how does the Storytime Ballet version differ from the mainstage?

I LOVE Alexei’s production. It was so creative but also emotional and echoes the music so perfectly. Storytime Ballet is a very different experience as we want to introduce the young audience to the magic of ballet, so it has more of a Disney feel, but also has its own internal logic and will hopefully appeal to our discerning new ballet goers.

When creating new choreography do you have an idea before you go into the studio, or do you work things out on the floor?

I map out each scene and what I want to achieve with the storytelling but tend to have the steps flow in the room with the dancers. That's where we find some motif steps for each character and work from there. For me, it is the music which really inspires the steps, and we have a beautiful recording especially made for us by Orchestra Victoria conducted by Jonathan Lo.

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Sophie Burke, Elena Salerno and Alexander Mitchell, Storytime Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty (McAllister) 2022
Photo Rainee Lantry

Is it difficult to condense what would normally be a full-length ballet into under an hour?

I guess after turning the four-hour long The Sleeping Beauty into a 50-minute Storytime Ballet show, this one feels a little less daunting. A lot of the story is quite chamber (smaller cast, focussing on solos and pas de deux rather than large group dances) with much of the action happening in either the kitchen or the ballroom. The design is really important in this process. We've been fortunate to work alongside Victorian College of the Arts graduates Louisa Fitzgerald and Ishan Vivekanantham this year. It's always fun to make the puzzle fit!

Storytime Ballet is suitable for audience members as young as three years old, how important is it to introduce young people to ballet and music?

It is hugely important. My first live ballet experience was seeing The Australian Ballet do the (Frederick) Ashton Cinderella, and I was hooked for life. I think this introduction will help inspire the next generation of ballet lovers.

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Sean McGrath, Storytime Ballet: The Sleeping Beauty (McAllister), 2022
Photo Rainee Lantry

You've worked on several Storytime Ballet productions, what do you enjoy most about these ballets?

The challenge of making a production that can speak to both first-time audiences and also entertain their adult companions. It is also wonderful to have the opportunity to work with text in a ballet. As a former dancer, the addition of text is a new venture for me. Our narrator is Sean McGrath, who has been the Narrator since the very first Storytime Ballet production in 2015.

You also choregraphed the mainstage production of The Sleeping Beauty in 2015, why do you think classic fairy tales translate to the ballet stage so well?

These stories tend to hold both beauty and drama and many are a cautionary tale. Ballet is very good with fantasy, and I think these stories where fairies, witches and mortals all coexist is sort of our wheelhouse.

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Artists of The Australian Ballet, The Sleeping Beauty (McAllister) 2017
Photo Daniel Boud

If there was any story you could choreograph a ballet to, what would it be?

I love the Grimm Brothers story of the The Twelve Dancing Princesses, which was introduced to me by The Australian Ballet’s former Music Director, Nicolette Fraillon. It would make a magical ballet but may be a little large in scope for Storytime Ballet.

Storytime Ballet: Cinderella is travelling through Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Canberra and Brisbane this summer. For more information and to book

Storytime Ballet: Cinderella