Posts by Juliet Burnett

  • Becoming La Sylphide
    Juliet Burnett in rehearsal for La Sylphide. Photography Lynette Wills
  • Becoming La Sylphide
    Chengwu Guo and Juliet Burnett in rehearsal for La Sylphide. Photography Lynette Wills
  • Becoming La Sylphide
    Juliet Burnett in rehearsal for La Sylphide. Photography Lynette Wills

Becoming La Sylphide

Senior Artist Juliet Burnett shares her preparation for the ultimate Romantic ballet – mastering the nuances of the Danish technique, exploring the character and drawing fairy flight paths.

One of my favourite aspects of this profession is researching roles as I prepare for a performance. So as a dance history nut, I was already in dreamland when I found out I’d be dancing one of the oldest surviving ballets: La Sylphide.

Fairy fantasies inhabit the aspiration of many budding young ballerinas (I was no exception), but becoming La Sylphide is not as simple as that. There is a Romantic ballet tradition to be respected and understood, and some very difficult technicalities and nuances to master. The version staged by The Australian Ballet is Danish master August Bournonville’s, choreographed in 1836, and it has been carefully preserved by The Royal Danish Ballet, so that what is seen today is more or less in its original state. What a privilege, to be joining a long lineage of Sylphides and becoming a custodian of history for a moment in time. (more…)

7 November 2013

  • Juliet in San Francisco
    Juliet enjoying the city
  • Juliet in San Francisco
    Class on stage in San Francisco's War Memorial Opera House

Juliet in San Francisco

As with any profession, just because you’ve “made it” doesn’t mean you should sit triumphantly, then complacently atop your podium forever. We’re all constantly learning in this great ride of life. I’ve been dancing professionally with The Australian Ballet for just over ten years now, and though I’ve lots of experience under my belt, there is always room to grow and new horizons to venture towards. In Australia, due to the tyranny of distance, the ballet world can tend to feel somewhat insular, a world away from the world, so gaining both career and life experience beyond the “bubble” is essential for growth. This is why I’ve been especially grateful for the experience afforded me by the Khitercs Scholarship, with which I have already travelled to London (The Royal Ballet), Amsterdam (Dutch National Ballet), Antwerp (Royal Ballet of Flanders) and to my other home country, Indonesia, to get in touch with the traditional Javanese dance and drama that are my family’s legacy. The final chapter of my voyage was San Francisco Ballet. (more…)

17 April 2013

Dancers Ride 2 Work
Madeleine Eastoe, Rudy Hawkes and DImity Azoury

Dancers Ride 2 Work

A ballet dancer’s office may be a studio or a stage, and they may deal with pointe shoes and choreography rather than computers and paperwork, but three of our dancers have something in common with thousands of commuters across Australia – they ride bikes to work.

There are many worthy practical incentives for commuting by bike: to stay fit, to avoid traffic, and to reduce your carbon footprint. But many bike riders maintain that the prevailing reason they keep riding is for its liberating and sometimes meditative effect.

Madeleine Eastoe says: “Riding in gives me the feeling of freedom before tackling a physical day’s work.” Dimity Azoury agrees, and adds “It’s a great time for warming up, thinking about nothing, winding down after a show and singing!”

For Rudy Hawkes, riding to work is simply the opportunity to indulge in a passion: “I am obsessed with bikes and any chance to ride is time well spent.” (more…)

15 October 2012

  • A ballerina in Manhattan
    Juliet and Senior Artist Amy Harris after Swan Lake opening night as the Guardian Swans
  • A ballerina in Manhattan
    Juliet raids Williamsburg fleamarket
  • A ballerina in Manhattan
    Warumuk ladies after the show
  • A ballerina in Manhattan
    Central Park view

A ballerina in Manhattan

New York City – mecca, muse and enigma – has long been depicted as a sort of Promised Land for all walks of life. But despite the prospect of opportunity and discovery, not every story there ends happily. The city is known as much for being brash and elusive as she is for being welcoming and bounteous. In The Australian Ballet’s 50th year, we would be her guests as part of our celebrations, bearing two programs that proclaim our identity – Infinity, a mixed bill including Stephen Page’s Warumuk: in the dark night, our collaboration with Bangarra Dance Theatre; and Graeme Murphy’s Swan Lake, seeing its New York debut after dazzling audiences in London, Paris and Tokyo.

Despite a 6am start in the brisk chill of winter, when we boarded the Qantas A380 in Melbourne our spirits were high and our hearts full of hope. What the next fleeting ten days would deliver was hanging tantalisingly in the air. How would The Australian Ballet story in New York continue, with its last chapter written twelve years ago? (more…)

26 June 2012

Dance is Unity: Juliet Burnett interviews Bangarra’s Patrick Thaiday
Patrick Thaiday and Juliet Burnett in costume for Warumuk - in the dark night

Dance is Unity: Juliet Burnett interviews Bangarra’s Patrick Thaiday

Patrick Thaiday will be retiring from Bangarra Dance Theatre after tomorrow’s final performance of Warumuk – in the dark night. On the eve of his new adventures, he talks to The Australian Ballet’s Senior Artist Juliet Burnett.

“Dance … somehow, does not acknowledge borders in the same way as many other arts. Even when certain styles try to limit themselves or work within a frame; the movement of life, its choreography and its need for flux: these take over very quickly, allowing certain styles to mingle with other. Everything engages with everything, naturally, and dance settles only in the space it belongs to — that of the ever-changing present.

People reflect each other constantly, but when they dance, perhaps what they reflect most is that moment of honesty … By moving like other people, by moving with other people and by watching them move, we can best feel their emotions, think their thoughts and connect to their energy. It is, perhaps, then that we can get to know and understand them clearly.”

These are the thoughts of Flemish-Moroccan choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, who is the author of this year’s International Dance Day message. I couldn’t have hoped for a better manifestation of these beautiful words than the experience of working with Stephen Page and Bangarra Dance Theatre on Warumuk – in the dark night. My reverence for Page and his dancers was instilled when my parents took my sister and I to see Ochres when I was eleven, and deepened when I first had the opportunity to dance with them in The Australian Ballet’s 2006 Gathering program. Working with these dancers in the studio, I was awestruck by their complete commitment to their work, and not just the physicality of it, but to the traditional storytelling and the very personal expression that this engendered. There was always a spirit in the room, and onstage that only magnified. (more…)

24 April 2012

  • Juliet in Indonesia
    Juliet in her aunt's village, Mt Merapi in the background
  • Juliet in Indonesia
    Juliet rehearses Golek with Bu Rusini
  • Juliet in Indonesia
    Juliet's grandmother, Raden Ayu Catherina Ismadillah, in costume for Bedoyo Ketawang
  • Juliet in Indonesia
    Juliet (left) with 'famous uncle' Rendra and sister Jasmine

Juliet in Indonesia

Senior Artist Juliet Burnett travels to Indonesia in search of her heritage, and brings back a new understanding of movement, stagecraft and the culture that has shaped her.

I have always felt a very special connection with the Indonesian (or, more correctly, Javanese-Indonesian) half of my identity, despite having been born and bred in Australia. I could put this down to Mum and Dad’s at-least-annual visits with my sister Jasmine and I, instilling that connection from childhood with the country and our sprawling family network over there. But that’s not entirely it. There is something that runs thick in my blood, beyond explanation by genetics or family pilgrimages. And I only really became aware of it when I started my career in dance.

During my years as a student aspiring to be a professional dancer, I never thought much about why I wanted a career in dance. I just knew that I needed to dance and couldn’t imagine life without it. Being in a select group as a student in The Australian Ballet School, it wasn’t until I was accepted into the company, where suddenly I was one of nearly 70 dancers performing around 200 shows a year, that I began to feel overwhelmed and was forced to confront the question of why. I was lucky that a huge part of my answer would not only help drive me to achieve the heights I hoped for, but also give me a strong sense of individuality – which is difficult when you feel like one fish swimming in a school of corps de ballet dancers. I had realised that my point of difference stemmed from my Javanese heritage, namely the artistic legacy of my grandmother, Raden Ayu Catherina Ismadillah, who had been the Sultan’s principal dancer in the Jogjakarta court, and of my uncle, Indonesia’s most prolific poet/playwright/performing artist, the pioneer of modern Indonesian theatre and radical human rights activist W.S. Rendra. (more…)

17 February 2012