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Instruments of Dance: The Australian Ballet's Drew Hedditch on Preparing to Hit the Stage With the Soon-to-Come Triple Bill

We sat down with the coryphée to chat cross-company collaboration, developing as a dancer and why this is the ballet for you if you're green to the scene.
By Grace MacKenzie
September 19, 2022
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By Grace MacKenzie
September 19, 2022
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A night at the ballet is spectacularly unique — strong bodies moving with masterful technique, bejewelled costumes and magnificent orchestral compositions. The Australian Ballet exemplifies all of this theatre and artistry in the more traditional productions on its program, but it also showcases dance in a way that's wildly different to preconceived ideas of what ballet is and can be.

This is particularly true for Instruments of Dance, the triple bill set to hit Melbourne's State Theatre on Friday, September 23. To get a look inside this performance, we sat down with Drew Hedditch, a coryphée (a rank above the corps de ballet — pronounced co-ri-fay for anyone who needs it) at The Australian Ballet. Fronting up part one, Everywhere We Go, this is the first time the dancer has taken a leading role with the company.

What did Hedditch reveal? Reasons aplenty for this show being the one for you if you're green to the scene.

PART ONE OF THE TRIFECTA

Excitingly, Instruments of Dance brings three resident choreographers — and their bespoke compositions — from the world's top ballet companies to Australian soil. "It's not going to be like going to a full-length ballet, where you see the first act and know what you're in for for the next hour and a half," Hedditch assures. "There's definitely no tutus."

Canberra-born Hedditch takes centrestage in part one of the eclectic performance, Everywhere We Go. The boundary-pushing piece was conceived by New York City Ballet's resident choreographer Justin Peck in collaboration with Sufjan Stevens, who delivers a score full of his trademark ethereal beauty and surprise. "Justin really has his own style," shares Hedditch. "A sharpness and understated movement of the arms, and then the fast pace of it all. I just keep reiterating to people that he choreographed the latest West Side Story [film] — having seen that, then doing this, I get it."

The Australian Ballet is the first company to perform Everywhere We Go outside of the New York City Ballet. "The New York City Ballet has this amazing energy that comes through all of their works," explains Hedditch. "It's an energy and commitment that challenges no one else, it's almost a little bit unrefined at times."

It's that Broadway energy that will define the piece. Rapid musical accompaniment from a live orchestra, nautical-striped costumes and the flurry of 25 dancers flowing on and off the stage. "It's really playful, no sets; just a projection on the back that changes like geometric shapes. It's just us and the audience — and that connection."

INTERNATIONAL COLLABORATIONS

"Sufjan [Stevens] is a complete genius," Hedditch exudes. "The music keeps us on our toes — we're counting five eights of seven into a four, it's ridiculously fast. You can tell that Justin and Sufjan worked hand in hand to make this ballet, and it feels really nice on the body."

Everywhere We Go illustrates the creative power of collaboration. In this case, providing new opportunities for both dancers and audiences Down Under. "It allows us to push ourselves to the point where we are playing risky. There's also moments that are just really real and humane, where we can look at each other, crack a smile or play. In a story ballet, you can really live the story and become a part of it. But in this work, without a narrative, you just get to live."

ENDURANCE, COMMITMENT AND GETTING ON STAGE

Just like anything, with challenge and commitment comes delicious fruit: "We're not going to be able to pull this off unless we dive into that commitment and bring the energy, too," Hedditch states. "To see the dancers that we know and look up to — who did these roles originally — to then perform it is so inspiring."

As mentioned, these dancers are athletes at the top of their game. Months of rehearsals, pirouettes and pas de deux practised over and over, new ways of moving studied and then executed. "In the first movement, I don't really leave the stage," he continues. "I had tingling through my arms because they had literally just been going and going. It was day one! The tempo wasn't even at full speed yet. I'd never really felt that, and that's kind of exciting — like, where is this going to go from here? How far can we push this?"

What's certain is that by the time Hedditch and the troupe hit the stage, audiences — both new and seasoned — will be about to witness a thrilling night of ballet that's fresh and focused. "As artists, everyone's willing to mix and collaborate. That's the beauty of it, that's how masterpieces are made."

Instruments of Dance takes the stage at Melbourne's State Theatre from Friday, September 23 till Saturday, October 1. Head to the website for more information and to grab your tickets.

Images: Kate Longley

Published on September 19, 2022 by Grace MacKenzie
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