Identity – The Australian Ballet presents two world-premiere works celebrating Australian stories as part of the company’s 60th anniversary

The-Australian-Ballet-Identity-Jill-Ogai-photo-by-Simon-EelesThis May, The Australian Ballet will welcome some of the company’s most iconic former dancers back to the stage as it debuts Resident Choreographer Alice Topp’s Paragon, a work specially created for its diamond anniversary year.

THE HUM, choreographed by Wiradjuri man, Australian Dance Theatre’s Artistic Director Daniel Riley, will feature alongside Paragon as part of the double bill program Identity.

Created as a celebration of The Australian Ballet’s artistic vibrancy, thirst for innovation, unique homegrown accent and the tapestry of artists that have shaped Australia’s ballet landscape, Paragon is a nod to the company’s 60-year history.

Returning to the stage for Paragon will be renowned dancers from across 60 years of The Australian Ballet: Madeleine Eastoe (1997 – 2015), Leanne Stojmenov (2001 – 2018), Sarah Lehmann (Peace) (1998 – 2002), David McAllister (1983 – 2001), Paul Knobloch (2002 – 2009), Jessica Thompson (2004 – 2009), Simon Dow (1974 – 1983), Lucinda Dunn (1991 – 2014), Steven Heathcote (1982 – 2007), Fiona Tonkin (1980 – 1993), Julie da Costa (1969 – 1984, Melbourne only) and Rachel Rawlins (2002 – 2012, Sydney only).

“It has been an amazing experience for the entire company to embrace these much-loved alumni back into The Australian Ballet studios and I can’t wait for our audiences to welcome them home when they return to our stages in Sydney and Melbourne, as we explore what it means to be The Australian Ballet.,” said The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director David Hallberg.

In bringing this work to life, Topp joined forces with long-time collaborator designer Jon Buswell, composer Christopher Gordon and Costume Designer Aleisa Jelbart.

“Together as artists we bring our Australian accent, openness, warmth and fearlessness to every creation; hungry in our pursuit for growing and learning, our generous hearts and minds as open as the epic parameters of the Australian landscape to the possibilities in front of us,” said Resident Choreographer Alice Topp.

The second work in the Identity program will see artists of The Australian Ballet and Australian Dance Theatre (ADT) come together in their first-ever collaboration to premiere THE HUM, directed by ADT Artistic Director Daniel Riley.

This new work will showcase artists from the two companies collaborating and exploring what can be accomplished through reciprocity and a generosity of spirit, all underpinned by First Nations ideals and viewpoints.

THE HUM is texture, feeling, emotion, the hum of the land, the communal energetic exchange between an audience and performers,” said ADT Artistic Director Daniel Riley.

“It’s the identity of the relationship between those four important elements. It asks, ‘how do we go beyond our contractual obligations as performer or audience member to find a place of true understanding and reciprocity?’”

Performers will be costumed in designs by Taungurung fashion designer and educator Annette Sax, with adornments by Gamilaroi Ularoi artists Priscilla Reid-Loynes and Sarah Loynes, drawing inspiration from land and Country. Multi-disciplinary artist Matthew Adey completes the creative team with striking set and lighting design.

“Collaboration is vital to the creative process, and this work unites artists of Australian Dance Theatre and The Australian Ballet for the first time, forging new relationships and shared ideas,” said David Hallberg.

In another first, The Australian Ballet will commission an orchestral score by a First Nations woman, the celebrated Yorta Yorta composer and soprano Deborah Cheetham Fraillon AO, who has worked with Daniel Riley on THE HUM.

Identity sees The Australian Ballet look to the future of Australian dance, delving deep into the formation of artists and art and drawing together dancers, musicians and designers from this country’s rich creative landscape.

“Daniel Riley and Alice Topp are two of Australia’s leading choreographic voices. They both explore what identity means to them, whether it be the identity of Australia, the identity of community, or the identity of art. In honour of our 60th anniversary, we look at the sense of identity in today’s artists,” said David Hallberg.

THE HUM – Daniel Riley
Evoking a search for cultural perpetuity, THE HUM is a new dance-theatre work created by Daniel Riley, Wiradjuri man, and Artistic Director of Australian Dance Theatre. Centered upon the tangible yet invisible creative connection between performers, orchestra and audience, this work will unite artists of Australian Dance Theatre and The Australian Ballet in a never-before-seen collaboration.

THE HUM celebrates a resonance between our musicians, our dancers and the swell of our land, celebrating the idea of the individual artist as part of a broader creative ecosystem of shared knowledge, emotion and energy.

Direction and concept: Daniel Riley | Associate Artistic Director: Sarah-Jayne Howard | Choreography: Daniel Riley, in collaboration with cast | Music: Deborah Cheetham Fraillon AO | Costume design: Annette Sax, Taungurung | Set and lighting design: Matthew Adey from House of Vnholy | Adornments: Priscilla Reid-Loynes and Sarah Loynes Gamilaroi Ularoi

THE HUM is commissioned by The Australian Ballet, choreographed by Daniel Riley in association with Australian Dance Theatre.

Paragon – Alice Topp
Paragon is an alchemic collaboration between vibrant voices spanning the generations and the dialogue that’s created between this magical mix of artists. Capturing the essence of what it means to be a part of The Australian Ballet family, its history and the greater dance community, Paragon celebrates the conversation between the kinetic wisdom, experience and artistry of ballet royalty as it meets the powerful, fresh faces of today and the future. Through this rich palette of intergenerational voices, Paragon presents as a modern work that celebrates where we came from, where we are today, and the great potential of the future.

Choreography: Alice Topp | Music Christopher: Gordon | Costume design: Aleisa Jelbart | Set and lighting design: Jon Buswell | Creative Assistant: Jayden Hicks | Audio Visual: Arlo Dean Cook

Paragon is commissioned by The Australian Ballet, choreographed by Alice Topp, Resident Choreographer of The Australian Ballet.

Joan Sutherland Theatre – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point, Sydney
Season: 2 – 20 May 2023

State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne, St Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 16 – 24 June 2023

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Jill Ogai – photo by Simon Eeles