Taking the Risk for Creativity

Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon


follow passion, encourage talent, be creatively opportunistic’ – Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon

Over the last few months, I’ve been to a number of theatre productions. Stage, ballet, contemporary dance and music. Some have been extraordinary. The boundaries of creativity pushed, where  an engagement between the performer and audience beyond a passive show and tell experience, has been demanded. Others have pushed, taken risks, but not quite achieved that perfect intersection of ideas, performance, design and delivery.

One of the productions that didn’t quite work for me was Graeme Murphy’s production of Romeo and Juliet for The Australian Ballet. The set design, costuming, performance and much of the choreography were spectacular. But the central drama, the emotion of the narrative, was lost amongst the busy-ness. Murphy’s desire to convey the universality of the story and themes overshadowed the poignancy and tragedy of the ‘star-crossed lovers’.

Romeo and Juliet

And I say that as someone who has admired Graeme Murphy’s work for nearly 30 years (ooh – that hurts! But I was only 2 – okay 20, when I first fell in love with his Cupid skateboarding down a ramp in the Sydney Dance Co.’s ‘Daphnis and Chloé). Murphy’s reworking of Swan Lake is hauntingly, heartbreakingly beautiful and still moves me to tears when I watch the DVD.

Murphy is not only a sublime choreographer for ballet, musicals and film, his productions for Opera Australia are also fabulous, sumptuous and original. Going to a Murphy production will always be interesting, will always have moments of breathtaking genius and creativity. Even the productions that are not ‘successful’.

As a writer I am inspired by Graeme Murphy and his partner and creative associate, Janet Vernon. They are risk-takers, willing to explore and experiment, to gamble with the possibility of failure in a very public sphere. It takes courage, commitment and a belief in your ability and talent to allow yourself to be so publicly vulnerable. It is easy to be ‘safe’, to write without challenging yourself or your reader; to adopt an attitude of ‘settling for’ rather than pushing through.

And for me, much of my procrastination centres on the knowledge that ‘settling for’ will not satisfy me, and yet, pushing through, the risk-taking, can be a daunting prospect.

I’ve yet to bulldoze my way through the envelope, but I have stepped through and then retreated. Working on my 2nd draft, the editing and re-writing of my novel I realise that now is the time to bulldoze.

Wish me luck!

Watch the skateboarding Cupid, danced by a very young Paul Mercurio.

Living the Dream

Madeleine Eastoe and Robert Curran dance Swan Lake for the Australian Ballet*

When I was a little girl I wanted to be a ballerina. I danced in front of the TV, I danced to my sisters’ Beatles and Monkees singles, I danced in the back garden and staged elaborate concerts for my parents. I even won a twist competition when I was a pre-schooler. I went to physio-culture, I had Highland Dancing classes for about 10 years and still have all my ribbons and medals won at competitions. I can Tap dance and I’m pretty good at Jazz Ballet, but I never learnt ballet.

Madeleine Eastoe's signed Pointe Shoes

I love ballet. I go to all the Australian Ballet performances, most of the Sydney Dance Company’s and the Bangarra Dance Company’s performances and any other dance that comes along in Sydney, but the hankering to dance myself has never left me.

My Ballet shoes

Last year I started going to Zumba classes at my local gym, which reminded me how much joy dancing brings me, but it wasn’t enough. I decided to start ballet lessons. After a bit of Google searching I found some adult ballet classes on Sydney’s lower North Shore and nervously went to my first class the day before my 48th birthday.

At the barre*

It was like I’d found a part of me that had been missing. And that’s not just the muscles that ached for days afterwards. In the dusty church hall, I was living my dream. It doesn’t matter that I will never be a Principal Artist with the Australian Ballet, every Friday morning for an hour and a half, I dance and my soul sings.

Yes, it’s fantastic for you physically and mentally, but the emotional pay-off of allowing myself to fulfill a long-cherished dream, regardless of my age, has been wonderful. Sometimes in the rush to nurture all those around us, we forget to nourish our own souls. The dreams we have as children are often the ones that are closest to our core and the ones we are least likely to listen to, but I’m very glad I didn’t give up on mine.

* Images courtesy of The Australian Ballet.

Objects of Beauty

Dancers – Janie Taylor and Justin Peck, New York City Ballet

Choreographer – Justin Peck

Director – Bon Duke

Music – Philip Glass’s String Quartet No. 3 ‘Mishima IV. 1962 Body Building’

Clothes- Chloe, Spring/Summer Collection 2011