June 1962

Peggy van Praagh returns to Australia to take up the directorship of the new company. Van Praagh had directed the Sadler’s Wells Ballet and the Borovansky Ballet for a brief time before its demise. She brings with her Ray Powell, a ballet master from The Royal Ballet, and begins auditioning nationally for dancers.

Peggy van Praagh, 1959. © Lord Snowdon / Camera Press / Austral

1 September 1962

On this Saturday (coincidentally Peggy van Praagh’s birthday), the dancers assemble to sign their contracts and take their first class together. To this day, The Australian Ballet’s working week begins on a Saturday.

Peggy van Praagh in the East Melbourne studios, 1962. Courtesy Aust News and Info Bureau. Photo Keith Byron

3 September 1962

The 46 dancers of The Australian Ballet have their first day of rehearsals in their Albert Street, East Melbourne studios, a building that was once part of the Presbyterian Ladies College.


Peggy van Praagh with Sandra Bingham and Leonie Leahy, 1962. Photo Darryl Smythe

2 November 1962

The first performance by the fledgling company is Peggy van Praagh’s production of Swan Lake at Her Majesty’s Theatre in Sydney. “It’s a terrifying night for us,” van Praagh tells a reporter. The principal roles are danced by Erik Bruhn, star of The Royal Danish Ballet, and Sonia Arova, a Bulgarian ballerina (and his former fiancée).

16 November 1962

Melbourne Cup, the first work to be commissioned by The Australian Ballet, premieres in Sydney. Choreographed by Rex Reid, it features a debutante, a jackaroo, and ballerina “horses” in tutus and flowing headdresses with jockey partners.