Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet David McAllister on Australia’s premiere production of Nijinsky

Rarely seen outside Europe and performed by The Australian Ballet for the first time, Nijinsky tells the story of a ballet icon Vaslav Nijinsky.

We spoke with The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director David McAllister about this masterpiece, that he calls “one of the most important ballets of our time”.

Nijinsky is an acclaimed ballet about an icon of ballet, by one of the greatest living ballet choreographers. Does that all increase the pressure in performing it? 

Absolutely. It has been a really exciting challenge recreating this ballet and staging a work inspired by one of the most celebrated dancers and choreographers of the 20th century. It was wonderful to have John Neumeier here to stage the ballet for us. There is nothing like having the creator himself in the room to share the insights of his creative process and really ensure that the motivation for all of the scenes is true to his intention. He is such an inspiring artist and we all learnt a great deal from both having him here and working on this ballet.

This is also a ballet that really allows the male dancers to take the centre stage. Do you feel that has a big impact on the feeling of the production? What should audiences expect from the performance? 

It is wonderful for the men in the company to have this ballet to really showcase their talent. As Nijinsky was such an iconic male figure in dance, the first real male superstar of ballet, there are wonderful roles for the men to shine in and they are really enjoying that opportunity. As well as the many great roles that cover the gambit of Nijinsky’s roles there are sweeping company numbers so there is a great sense of scale in this work which is epic.

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You recently mentioned that this is one of the most exciting productions ever undertaken by The Australian Ballet. What makes Nijinsky especially exciting for you in your (over) 30 years with TAB?

It has taken 15 years to bring it into the repertoire and it is the first ballet of John Neumeier’s that the company has performed so a very important place in our development. It has been lauded as a masterpiece everywhere it has been performed by Hamburg Ballet so it is so great that we have had the opportunity to dance it.

How important is it for The Australian Ballet to keep securing rare opportunities like Nijinsky? 

It is vital that we continue to build our repertoire with commissioning new works as well a securing the opportunity to dance these important works from the best international choreographers. If we just continue to stage the classics of the 19th century then we are not doing our job of creating the classic works of the future.

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And finally, if a tribute ballet were ever created about your career what would you hope it would be like? Do you have a dancer in mind that could dance you? 

I’m very sure that this would never happen. I had a great time on stage and was proud of my achievements for both myself and The Australian Ballet but I don’t think it would inspire anyone to create a ballet. A ballet about Sir Robert Helpmann – now that would be an interesting work!!!

Nijinsky has just completed its Melbourne season and will be performed in Adelaide from the 14-18 October before opening in Sydney from the 11-28 November. For more information and to book visit australianballet.com.au