The Australian Ballet

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Summer Daze

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Annabelle Watt, Evie Ferris and Thomas Gannon

The Australian Ballet dancers are back! Rested and relaxed, the company have returned to class and are excitedly preparing for season 2024. Behind Ballet finds out how the dancers spent their holidays and what they’re most looking forward to this year.

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Brodie James

Brodie James

How did you spend your summer break?

My adventures started in Adelaide, celebrating Christmas with my partner's family. After a week of festive fun, I escaped to Byron Bay for much-needed rest and relaxation. Imagine waking up to the sound of waves - that was my reality in Suffolk Park, where the beach was just a stroll away from our doorstep. My days were blissfully simple, starting and ending with a refreshing swim. It felt like living in a slice of paradise!

The final leg of my summer was all about reconnecting with friends in Melbourne. It had been almost three months since I’d seen them due to our tour in Sydney at the end of 2023. Catching up, sharing stories and just having fun together was the perfect end to my break.

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Brodie James in Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland©, 2019
Photo The Australian Ballet archive

What was the highlight?

If I had to pick a highlight, it's my time in Byron Bay. As a pale-skinned person, I braved the sun (safely, of course!) to chase that elusive tan - going full "Byron Bay champagne hippie," vibes as they say. My partner and I dove into the lifestyle, daily pilates sessions and exploring the best eateries around. A standout meal was at Karkalla, an Indigenous restaurant known for its modern takes on native ingredients. I also caught up with my dear friend Jess Wood, a former dancer with The Australian Ballet! She's living her best life in Byron Bay with her partner Jai and her adorable baby boy, Ray.

What are you most excited for at The Australian Ballet in 2024?

2024 at The Australian Ballet? It's going to be epic! I'm thrilled about the repertoire we've got lined up. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland© is a personal favourite, and I’m eager to revisit roles like the caterpillar. Then there’s Études – as someone who’s obsessed with classical ballet, this piece feels like a pure, technical challenge that I can’t wait to dive into. This was one of my very first ballets I performed when I joined the company in 2012 and I can’t wait to dance this one again 12 years later.

And let's not forget the new creation about Oscar Wilde's life by Christopher Wheeldon. We started working on this in Sydney at the end of 2023, and it’s been an incredible journey so far. Developing the movement vocabulary and intertwining it with Wilde's narrative has been a unique experience. I can’t spill all the beans… but expect some fascinating storytelling!

Brodie James
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Evie Ferris, New Year's Eve, Petang Thailand

Evie Ferris

How did you spend your summer break?

I spent my summer break basking in the sun in Thailand with beloved friends and colleagues, Annabelle and Tom.

What was the highlight?

It was such an amazing trip that it’s hard to pick just one highlight! The day-to-day activities were completely enriching. I meditated while watching the sunrise each morning (I’m a chronic early riser), explored beautiful islands, ate plenty of delicious local food, swam in the ocean every day and honestly laughed for 10 days straight. However, releasing lanterns on the beach in Phuket, on New Years Eve, was definitely a moment to remember. We were all quite moved by the experience, it was a beautiful way to reflect and welcome the new year.

What are you most excited for at The Australian Ballet in 2024?

I’m so excited for what 2024 has on offer at The Australian Ballet. There’s such diverse repertoire coming up there’ll be something for everyone. From revisiting Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland© (which I absolutely adore performing), Johan Inger’s Carmen, as well as two new creations and of course I can’t go past a classic, The Nutcracker. At Christmas time! A big year, equal parts challenging and fulfilling.

Evie Ferris
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Serena Graham at the Spiderbait concert

Serena Graham

How did you spend your summer break?

I spent Christmas in Melbourne with my family before heading to Phillip Island for a week with my brothers and mum. We hung out playing backyard volleyball, badminton and doing small renovations on our family home. Over the new year I went camping with my partner Isaac and our British Bulldog Holly in Wombat State Forest. Camping is one of my favourite things to do. We had fun four-wheel driving, swimming in the dam there and laughing at Holly being a squished third wheel on the road trip. Before returning to work I enjoyed teaching ballet class and repertoire to the students at The Australian Ballet Summer school program.

What was the highlight?

That would have to be watching the iconic Aussie band Spiderbait perform Black Betty live at Oceans Sound festival in Phillip Island.

What are you most excited for at The Australian Ballet in 2024?

I am looking forward to performing at the Regent Theatre and calling it our new home for the next few years. It's a beautiful old building with a magnificent auditorium. The theatre is a such a recognisable part of Melbourne’s performing art history and it's cool to be part of that.

Serena Graham
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Montana Rubin

Montana Rubin

How did you spend your summer break?

I spent my “summer break”, escaping to the European winter, exploring cities, drinking mulled wine and enjoying some novelty snow.

What was the highlight?
The highlight was connecting with friends and family sporadically along the way, and in cities I’d never been to before. I love travelling solo, but it’s so comforting to be with people you love, even doing little things like people watching over a yummy meal.

What are you most excited for at The Australian Ballet in 2024?

The anticipation of Johan Inger's Carmen is immense. I found such joy and connection having performed his work I New Then in our 2022 DanceX season and I’m super keen to explore this piece. It’s also exciting to be a part of a full-length contemporary work, which feels both unique and foreign.

We have some fantastic classics coming up as well. Études and The Nutcracker come with their own technical challenges and virtuosic feats, which I know to be very rewarding, both as an artist and audience member. I think the beauty of having such diverse repertoire throughout the year (which we do really well at The Australian Ballet), is that there are so many facets of your work that you can tap into and discover - I’m certainly looking forward to that.

Montana Rubin
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Evie Ferris, Thomas Gannon and Annabelle Watt

Thomas Gannon

How did you spend your summer break?

I spent most of my summer holidays with fellow dancers Evie and Annabelle in Thailand. We ended up extending our trip by three days because we just couldn't get enough of it!

What was the highlight?

Highlight has to be New Year’s Eve! We got a taxi for about an hour (worth the drive) to a place called Petang, where we lit up lanterns right on the beach and watched as people set off fireworks around us and counted down the clock. It was such a magical experience and is definitely one of my top three new year celebrations.

What are you most excited for at The Australian Ballet in 2024?

I am most excited about our new creation of Oscar© and to also be bringing back The Nutcracker. The creation process so far for Oscar© has been so rewarding and I can't wait for Australian audiences to be witness to it all. Finishing the year with such a classic like The Nutcracker will be so special and a beautiful send off for 2024.

Thomas Gannon
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Annabelle Watt and Evie Ferris in Thailand

Annabelle Watt

How did you spend you summer break?

After closing a mammoth year in Sydney, I flew to Brisbane (where I grew up and my family still lives) and spent a week there, catching up with relatives and friends, as well as being put to work on Christmas Day as we were on hosting duty. It was my first Christmas without my two older brothers as they moved abroad in 2023, but we face-timed them while my other 25 family members and I had a beautiful seafood lunch. I then headed to Thailand with fellow dancers Evie and Thomas and had an absolute ball soaking up the sun and enjoying a well-deserved rest.

What was the highlight?

There are too many to list! Heading to Koh Tao Island and Shark Bay (it was not true to its name don’t worry), a picture-perfect paradise of white sand and clear blue water and releasing the lanterns with my beautiful friends on New Year's Eve stand out.

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Annabelle Watt and Thomas Gannon in Thailand

What are you most excited for at The Australian Ballet in 2024?

I am so excited for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland© which is the first cab off the rank this year for the company. It’s such an energetic, colourful and engaging ballet, and already throughout the rehearsal process, it has been so enjoyable getting to play these imaginary and totally outlandish characters.

I am also very much looking forward to Etudes as it is classical ballet in its purest form and will be a great opportunity for me to develop my classical technique, as it sort of emulates our daily class structure, with the ballet even beginning at the barre. The rest of the programming is all so exciting as Carmen and Circle Electric will undoubtedly push and expand my contemporary repertoire and opening our Regent Theatre stint with Oscar© will be a wonderful and memorable season. There really is so much to look forward to.

Annabelle Watt