The Australian Ballet

Hidden gems in Études

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Artists of The Australian Ballet, Études (Lander) 1986
Photo Branco Gaica

Look out for the subtleties in Harald Lander's Études where you'll find there's much more to daily ballet class than meets the eye!

Harald Lander’s Études brims with virtuosity and subtleties, capturing the full spectrum of ballet as an artform. Lander’s choreography, which follows the natural progression of a ballet class, places equal value on every facet of classical technique, as contrasting scenes bring you into to the ballet studio.

Accompanied by Knudåge Riisager’s score, the fundamentals of class are stripped back to simplistic beauty. Riisager’s orchestrations support the choreography, building throughout the 40-minute piece and the dancers exude control, unison and bravado as they embrace the Bournonville technique. Below are some notable moments to look out for.


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Rina Nemoto and Jasmin Durham, World Ballet Day 2022
Photo Kate Longley

Grand Plié

To set the tone of the ballet, a lone dancer flooded by a spotlight performs a grand plié in fifth position — a step that demands exceptional control.
There are several reasons why this grand plié, a step that dancers start their daily class with, is so difficult. Firstly, when performing a grand plié in the centre, fifth position is a substantially harder position than first. This is because the crossed nature of fifth position creates a smaller platform for the dancer to gauge their balance from.

Photo Jess Bialek

Artists of The Australian Ballet, Études (Lander)
Photo Jess Bialek

Adding to the challenge are the dancer’s pointe shoes, which don’t sit completely flush with the floor. The thick sole that runs down the centre of the pointe shoe (that gives necessary support when en pointe) creates an even smaller platform for the dancer to find their balance. Constant adjustments, like mini wobbles, are needed for the dancer to hold their position.

Lander clearly appreciated the technical accomplishment behind the grand plié. Watch out for the moment when a trio of dancers repeat a step between a sequence of allegro and turns. This contrast in movement displays their versatility and control.


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Artists of The Australian Ballet, Études (Lander) 2012
Photo Jeff Busby

The Barre

Lander’s scene at the barre is nothing short of a masterclass in unison. Only the dancers’ legs are lit, displaying the detailed characteristics of barre work. As the scene progresses, momentum builds, with each row of dancers performing different combinations with the same concentrated focus on unison. The synchronicity of legs swishing and striking is immensely satisfying to watch.

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Amber Scott and Madeleine Eastoe with artists of The Australian Ballet
Photo The Australian Ballet archives


In contrast to the subtlety of the grand plié, is the spectacle of six dancers performing fouettés en pointe together. Fouettés, one of ballet’s most demanding steps, are even harder to perform in a group. There’s no room for individual rhythm, meaning dancers must adjust their own technique to achieve unity. The technical prowess necessary to achieve this is undeniable, deserving equal appreciation to the thrilling 32 fouetté coda from classics like Don Quixote and Swan Lake.


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Artists of The Australian Ballet, Études (Lander) 2012
Photo Jeff Busby

Criss Crossing Grand Jetés

This section involves dancers darting across the stage in a thrilling series of grand jetes, guided solely by an ‘X’ of light illuminating the stage. With no margin for error in timing and spacing, the dancers display impeccable rhythm and speed. The darkness of this scene builds anticipation, before suddenly revealing the bright, crisp finale.

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Adam Bull, Études (Lander) 2012
Photo Jeff Busby

Grand Allegro

Arguably one of the most iconic parts of the score, and certainly one of the most challenging, the grand allegro section features a male soloist bursting across the stage, clicking his fingers and churning through a series of cabrioles, pirouettes and double tours. The music, grand and powerful, floods every corner of the theatre. Quietly framed by the poised corps de ballet, this solo exemplifies the power and bravado of the grand allegro.

What's extraordinary about Études is Lander's ability to celebrate the many skills required in traditional ballet; unison, control, and bravado are some of the vital elements that make ballet technique so spectacular. From the refined grand pliés to the virtuosic fouettés, every pointed toe is valued.

During the grand allegro section, where the score and choreography portray the effort, training and power behind each movement, you can genuinely feel the exertion of the dancers.

It’s a rare sight to see this concerted effort play out before an audience, a moment of reality in the otherwise perfect illusion ballet presents. So often concealed in classical ballet, Études reveals the incredible feats achieved by dancers, through thousands of hours of training and effort, to make it all appear effortless.

The Australian Ballet presents the control, unison and bravado of Études alongside Stephanie Lakes's Circle Electric in 2024.

Études / Circle Electric