The Australian Ballet

Golden Girl: Alice Topp

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Alice Topp in rehearsal for Little Atlas, 2016
Photo Kate Longley

After five years as The Australian Ballet's resident choreographer and a total of 17 years with the company, Alice Topp reflects on some of her favourite memories and biggest inspirations.

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Alice Topp and Adam Bull with artists of The Australian Ballet, Aurum (Topp) 2019
Photo Kate Longley

You’ve been the Resident Choreographer for The Australian Ballet for the last five years, what have been some of your fondest memories?

Every opportunity I’ve had to collaborate with the artists of the company has been a special journey in its own right, with each piece taking on its own unique world and experience. One highlight was taking Aurum to New York’s Joyce Theater in 2019 as part of a Rudolf Nureyev Prize for New Dance. It was a very special time and a real 'pinch me' moment!

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Alice Topp with artists of The Australian Ballet, The Sleeping Beauty (McAllister) 2018
Photo Kate Longley

Before you were the Resident Choreographer at The Australian Ballet you were a member of the company, what was the transition from dancer to choreographer like?

The transition felt very natural as I was made Resident Choreographer in 2018 when I was still dancing in the company, so I was able to continue developing and practising both branches of the art form at once. It meant that when I hung up the dancing shoes, it felt more like leaning into choreography than stopping dancing.

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Calvin Hannaford, Alice Topp and Vivienne Wong, Trace 2015
Photo Kate Longley

When did you first become interested in choreographing?

In 2010, when Nicolette Fraillion and David McAllister suggested I create for Bodytorque a la Mode. The first piece I created, 'Trace,' was a collaboration between two fashion designers, a composer, two visual artists and two dear friends, Vivienne Wong and Calvin Hannaford. It was such a beautiful collaborative process and I fell in love with the experience.

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Vivienne Wong, Little Atlas (Topp) 2016
Photo Daniel Boud

How would you define your choreographic style?

I like to think my creative voice is constantly evolving and growing, but I think I'd describe my style as collaborative and inspired by the human condition.

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Alice Topp, Bodytorque 2008
Photo Tim Richardson

Is there anyone, or anything that inspires your work?

People and their stories.

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Artists of The Australian Ballet, Paragon (Topp) 2023
Photo Daniel Boud

In 2023 you choreographed The Australian Ballet alumni alongside the current company in Paragon, what was it like choreographing for people who used to be your mentors, directors and teachers?

I felt incredibly honoured to have the opportunity to create for many heroes and mentors of mine. I really wanted to be able to honour their contributions to the company and the art form, celebrate their individual gifts and artistry and capture the spirit of the company. It was an intimidating task at times as I wanted to do them all justice and honour their trust and faith in me, but everyone was so generous, supportive and open that once we were in the studio together, the collective joy and spirit transcended and we really all felt like a big family. It was such a gift to experience and witness. I'm still pinching myself.

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Alice Topp in rehearsal for Paragon 2023
Photo Christopher Rodgers-Wilson

Will we still get to see you around the Ballet Centre?

The ballet centre has been my home for 17 years and I think I will always see it as my home! Like everyone who's had the joy and privilege of working at the company, I like to think it's a place that connects us all and that we can return to anytime, like homing pigeons, or rather swans returning to the lake!

TAB Aurum Melbourne Photo Kate Longley 2018 4 preview download

Alice Topp and Jake Mangakahia, Aurum, 2018
Photo Kate Longley

What are some of your plans for the future? A well-earned rest or straight into the next project?

A bit of both! I'm excited about the projects ahead, with works already lined up until mid 2026, so I'm thrilled about getting my teeth into new things and also having a moment to reflect on all the wonderful things that have been.