The Australian Ballet Senior Artist Marcus Morelli stepped into the role of a lifetime on Saturday the 8th of April taking on the iconic Basilio in Don Quixote. Made famous by Rudolf Nureyev, Morelli talks about last minute casting changes, the challenges of learning multiple roles and first night jitters.
14 Apr 2023
You’ve been rehearsing Don Quixote for several months, did you think you would get the chance to go on as Basilio in this season?
MM: Rehearsing for Don Q was tough! It’s such a demanding ballet, but when the nightly casting came out for Melbourne and it was official, it was so exciting. It’s a role I’ve wanted to dance since I was young and is largely the inspiration for me turning ballet from a hobby into a career.
What was your reaction when you were told you’d be going as Basilio on Opening night?
MM: When I found out I’d be dancing Basilio on opening night in Sydney, it definitely made me stop and take in the responsibility, as well as assessing any nervous feelings. I feel more confident now being closer to the night. I feel the shows I did in Melbourne have set me up well for this upcoming Sydney season.
You’d been rehearsing the role with Jill Ogai as Kitri, but now are partnering Benedicte Bemet, is it a challenge to switch partners at the last minute? Or is it part of the job as a dancer that you have to be ready for anything?
MM: It was a very short notice change (another dancer has unfortunately become injured), but I jumped at the chance to do more shows and to reunite with Bene as it’s been a few years since we last danced together! It’s always tough having to switch partners halfway through a season, or from show to show, but it definitely keeps the performance feeling fresh. There’s also the added challenge of adapting to your new partner which is something I relish. It’s a hugely enjoyable experience getting the opportunity to perform with different ballerinas.
I find it fascinating that each dancer learns so many roles, do you ever get confused with what role you’re playing that night?
I don’t normally get confused between the different roles I perform, but occasionally if the roles are similar it can be worth going over it in your head just to make sure!
How long do you have to prepare between finding out you’re going on as a lead role and actually performing on stage?
MM: We start rehearsing for these roles quite early in the year, and in fact even started Basilio rehearsals at the end of last year while performing Romeo and Juliet in Sydney. You generally get several good weeks of rehearsal with your partner before hitting the stage, so hopefully everyone feels very prepared.
How do you prepare?
MM: Preparing takes different forms, it can be physically preparing for the roles during studio rehearsals or mentally preparing your mind for the challenges you might face. For example, when you’re physically exhausted the challenge becomes a mental one, you have keep pushing and find the energy through sheer will alone. A big thing for me, especially in this role, is learning when to push the energy and when to relax into the movements.
What are you most looking forward to/nervous about?
MM: I’m most nervous for the pressure of doing a great performance for opening night. Benedicte and I only started rehearsing on Monday, and our first show is Saturday, so there’s a lot of work to catch up on as we practice making all the partnering as smooth and fluid as possible.
I feel like I definitely thrive under this kind of pressure, especially when I get thrown on with a new partner or a role that isn’t as rehearsed as it otherwise would be, so I’m super excited and just a little nervous!
Side bar: I hear you have a twitch channel, what’s your favourite game to play?
MM: I do have a twitch channel, it’s very inconsistent as the hours and touring we do at the Australian Ballet make it hard to really commit to that side hustle, but it’s a lot of fun and it’s been interesting looking into and experimenting with content creation/video editing/streaming as a potential future pathway after ballet!
Gamers may groan at this, but the main game I play at the moment is called League of Legends.