Artists of The Australian Ballet perform the "Kingdom of the Shades" from La Bayadère. Lynette Wills, Courtesy The Australian Ballet.

Catch The Australian Ballet’s Livestreamed Season Premiere This Weekend

After a yearlong hiatus, The Australian Ballet is ready to return to the stage. The company's season opener, titled Summertime at the Ballet, packs a great deal of firsts: It marks the ballet's first performance before a live audience since the start of the pandemic; the first time the company takes the stage under the leadership of its new artistic director, David Hallberg; and the first time The Australian Ballet performs at the Melbourne & Olympic Parks Margaret Court Arena. Another important first: The performance will be livestreamed not only in Australia but all over the world. Summertime at the Ballet will be broadcast February 28 at 11:45 am AEDT (that's 7:45 pm EST on February 27 here in the U.S.), with bonus features, such as interviews and commentary. It will be accessible for 48 hours to accommodate all time zones.

This livestream will be provided via The Australian Ballet's newly launched digital platform, Live on Ballet TV. "One of my main goals is for the company to be seen by as many people around the world as possible," says Hallberg, the American-born international star who took the helm at The Australian Ballet in January. "Which is why Live on Ballet TV is such an integral part of my vision artistically."

The Australian Ballet has been a second home for Hallberg for nearly 10 years, and he has established a special connection with the company and its dancers. But in his new role, he says he comes "with fresh eyes and a fresh perspective," as well as his experience performing with some of the world's most illustrious ballet companies—experience which, he hopes, will allow him "to invigorate The Australian Ballet and its dancers" and bring them into the new era.

So what can the audience expect from the season's inaugural performance?

"Summertime at the Ballet is a big gala program that really shows off the talent in the company," says Hallberg. It opens with "Kingdom of the Shades" from La Bayadère, "which in my opinion is the greatest display of the women's corps de ballet in the classical repertoire," says Hallberg. The program also includes Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, as well as the pas de deux and finale of Theme and Variations. "There are also ballets by the company's resident choreographers, including Tim Harbour and Alice Topp, that highlight the work being created here in Australia."

A blond David Hallberg is shown from the back wearing a black tank top, watching rehearsal with his arms crossed. In front of him in the dance studio, three lines of ballerinas kneel on their right knee with their left leg extended and cambr\u00e9 slightly back with their arms in third position. They each wear a leotard, pink tights, pointe shoes and a white practice tutu.

David Hallberg rehearses the corps de ballet in "The Kingdom of the Shades" from La Bayadère.

Christopher Rodgers Wilson, Courtesy The Australian Ballet

After a year offstage, it's no small feat to prepare such an impressive gala program, which will also include excerpts from Don Quixote, Spartacus, The Merry Widow and Swan Lake, among other pieces.

"I'm really proud of how we have prepared this program, and I've had a very productive time in the studios with all of the dancers, shaping the work," says Hallberg. While describing his approach to coaching, the new artistic director emphasizes the importance of developing and nurturing the dancers. "Every artist is different. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses. I observe, and then connect my experience to the dancer I am working with. There is so much fulfillment in seeing a dancer bloom under your development."

The performance will be held at Melbourne's Margaret Court Arena, notably acclaimed for hosting the Australian Open. The unconventional venue will offer some rare perks for ballet spectators, as there will be no customary curtain or wings. "The audience will see everything, from the warm-up to the entrances and exits," explains Hallberg. "We usually hide behind a curtain, and show the audience what we want them to see. But this time they will see everything, to the action onstage to the collapse of fatigue in the wings!"

Wearing a black T-shirt, leggings and dance sneakers, David Hallberg stands in tendu derriere on his left leg with his arms in high fifth. A group of ballerinas in practice tutus watch.

Hallberg in rehearsal

Christopher Rodgers Wilson, Courtesy The Australian Ballet

When talking about the company's new streaming platform Live on Ballet TV, Hallberg says he wants to spread the word about the company nationally and internationally. "We are very lucky to be able to perform in front of a live audience," he says, "but there are certainly people in Australia who cannot come to the show because of the pandemic. We are still recovering as a community. So it is imperative that we allow everyone to have the opportunity to see this program, including our international audience."

Hallberg is also excited to present the company's dancers. "We are beginning a new era, building a new generation of Australian dancers, and creating and upholding repertoire that is so important to be seen," he says. "It's a great turning point for this company that I know the world will enjoy."

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