Sydney Film Festival Number 63 has come and gone again for another year. The Festival attracted many celebrities. These are some of my favourite pics.
Lucky Friends of the Australian Ballet were very privileged to hear two great men of Australian theatre give a talk on a delightful evening at the excellent Waterfront restaurant. Stunning Harbour views provided a glorious backdrop for the talk in the Trawler and Heritage rooms .Delicious canapés were served ranging from hot and spicy mini salads to mini pies, rice balls and spinach and cheese puffs amongst other things. The wine flowed freely.
Dapper Chairman of the Friends Greg Khoury introduced both speakers to an appreciative audience.
Andris Toppe is a multitalented dancer, choreographer and teacher, a Renaissance man of the theatre, who declared that colour and movement has been his life. His talk was entitled, ‘Variations on a Career in Dance’. He has travelled the world in a career encompassing classical ballet, contemporary dance, cabaret films, opera, puppetry, television, theatre and ice skating.
Andris has performed with Ballet Victoria and both the Australian Ballet and Sydney Dance Company amongst others as well as Les Grands Ballets Canadians including three seasons of their hit ‘Tommy’. He was the personal coach of Torvill and Dean, working on all their world tours between 1985 and 1998, –yes Andris can skate – and Ballet Master and Company Manager for various ballet companies including the Sydney Dance Company for many years and also the tour of the Paris Opera Ballet earlier this year.
Using an excellent Powerpoint presentation, we learnt about his Latvian background, saw photos of Fonteyn and Nureyev when they were with the Australian Ballet … and the way Nureyev’s explosion onto the scene changed everything for male dancers.
Andris talked about lots of the tours he has been on with the various companies he has worked for, his encounters with snow (Having to dig his way into his home after performances in Montreal, Canada when performing with Les Grandes Ballets Canadians ) he mentioned Natalia Makarova and Mikhail Baryshnikov who he worked with ( especially in their ‘Giselle’) : we saw photos of Andris in various productions of ‘The Nutcracker’ for assorted companies ( both traditional and non , and especially Graeme Murphy’s for the Australian Ballet ), and also saw him in ‘Glimpses’ , ‘Sequenza’ ,’Poppy’ and ‘Shades of Grey’ for Sydney Dance.
There were wonderful rehearsal and performance photos of Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon. Also we saw his work with the Queensland Ballet (Asenbach in ‘Death in Venice’) , various works he has choreographed ( eg ‘Suite for a Lonely Child’), his touring with Julie Anthony , his trip to Darwin with Kookaburra Pond ( an Australianised version of’ Swan Lake’.
He has also played Madge the witch in ‘La Sylphide’. He also talked about working with the Cuban National Ballet and Alicia Alonso in ‘Giselle ‘.We also briefly heard about the Japanese tour of ‘Swan Lake’ by the Australian Ballet .Andris then briefly talked about his work with the Hamburg Opera and Ballet, the Bolshoi recent tour and the recent Paris Opera Ballet tour and other things including meeting Bette Midler. Finally he mentioned his work at the Palais Theatre in Melbourne where he is Duty Manager. Busy isn’t the word!
Leo Schofield, who is renowned as one of the great arts practitioners in this country, gave a jovial ‘off the cuff ‘ ‘talk entitled, ‘How I got over Opera and learned to love Dance’.
Leo was born in a small country town called Brewarrina, literally the ‘back of Bourke’. The first live theatre he ever saw was a production of Princess Ida at the old Theatre Royal and Leo was hooked. To him, opera and ballet are ‘acts of faith’. Although he saw performances by the Borovansky Ballet, (in particular, he remembers Borovansky as the Magician in a version of ‘Petroushka ‘) Opera was his major passion, but gradually he came to appreciate dance too.
As he moved on from Verdi to Wagner and Strauss he also moved from the occasional Royal Ballet performance (most notably Bronislavia Nijinska’s re-staging of Les Biches, which he regards as one of the definitive performances of his life) to a deeper involvement presenting some of the great companies for the first time in Australia.
Leo talked about the Royal Ballet performances and New York City Ballet dancers he had seen including Jacques D’Amboise and Allegra Kent. Leo has co produced the first tours to Australia by The Paris Opera Ballet, The National Ballet of Cuba, the Hamburg Ballet, Opera and Symphony Orchestra, and the first full tour by the Bolshoi Ballet. He has just announced the first ever tour to Australia by American Ballet Theatre to Brisbane’s QPAC.
Leo has been director of Festivals across Australia including the Melbourne Festival and the Sydney 2000 Olympic Arts Festival. Mention was made of when he was director of the Melbourne Festival (in which he said he has been regarded in three phases, – villain, hero and traitor. He concluded with a long , convoluted story about how, after many years of trying, he was finally able to bring the Paris Opera Ballet to Australia.
Both mentioned Ian Mcrae in their dealings with the Paris Opera Ballet in particular and both spoke with great personal passion. Proceedings were officially concluded with Leo drawing the various raffle prizes and there was time for talk afterwards.
This Friends of the Australian Ballet talk by Andris Toppe and Leo Schofield was a special one off dinner event held at the Waterfront Restaurant, 27 Circular Quay West, The Rocks on Wednesday 18 Sept 2013.