This transcript is from an interview that was first published on 9th of March 2018. This transcript has been edited slightly to help with clarity, the audio of this episode and more information can be found here.
This is a generous and wide-ranging interview, which covers everything from the Marriage Equity Debate of 2017, gender fluidity, leadership to the changing face of ballet and what David is looking forward to in 2018.
Transcripts are a new initiative of Delving into Dance to make the rich archive avalaible to deaf audiances. These transcripts are paid for through the support of audiences and supported by the Victorian Government through Creative Victoria. It would be wonderful to have your contribute to this initative, You can contribure here.
The interview started by asking where did Dance start for David.
David McAllister: Look, I guess. I mean, my mother always said that I was the worst child to carry in utero, because I was always kicking her in the ribs. So I guess there was always dance happening. And my earliest memories of those things that you remember of yourself as a child. I remember being standing in front of the telly dancing around like, it was there was always music on the radio or whatever. And I was just dancing. And it wasn't, I guess, until I was about six that I thought I saw some ballet on telly. It was Rudolph Nureyev actually, in the Australian Ballet doing Don Quixote. I mean, ah, I'm going to do that. And it took me a year to get my parents to actually let me go find a school to go to. And so, yeah, I started when I was sort of turning seven.
And right from the very beginning, it was like, I found my, my thing, this from the very first class, I was like, yep, this is what I want to do. I want to be a dancer and, and I guess a ballet dancer, because that was the first I mean, maybe if it had been ballroom, tap or something else. It could have been that, but I guess my first real connection was with ballet. So that's where I sort of had it. And, and I remember as a kid, I mean, I trained to 10 years in Perth, before I came to the Australian Ballet School. I remember reading about Rudolph Nureyev, because, I guess that was the initial Spark. And he wrote, because he grew up in Ufa, which was miles away from anywhere. And he used to, he had this idea that if he just kept working really hard, someday, someone would find him. And eventually, he did go to the Vaganova Academy and blah, blah, blah, the rest is history. So, I remember thinking, if I just work really, really, really hard, I would be eventually found. And, and that's sort of what happened. I went to audition for the ballet school when I was 15. And I got a place and then Maggie Scott, spoke to my parents. And they said, No, I had to finish school. So, I then I had to wait for another two years before I could come to Melbourne, and it all just unraveled. But yeah, I think that that initial moment where I sort of thought this could be a career, I mean, before that, it was just a passion. And I just, I mean, I knew that people dance for a job, but I just didn't, know that I had that ability.
But there was, there was a particular night when I’d done class, and it was a must have been like 14 turning 15. And my ballet teacher said to my parents, he should audition for the ballet school. And I was I was sent out onto the balcony because it was this old scout whole thing. And there was a little you know balcony thing and they were talking in there. And, and I remember looking up at the sky, and I know this sounds really Naff, but it actually happened. And I was looking up and it was beautiful summer night. And this star like, falling star, which was probably a commit or something. Anyway, I remember thinking falling star, that's a really good sign. If I just wish now that I one day, go to Melbourne and be a ballet dancer, it'll happen. And, I still think about that and go what if that was real, or whether it was just very good coincidence.
Andrew: What a perfect theme for a movie!
David McAllister: It actually happened. I know, it sounds very Hollywood, but it did actually happen. [3:51]
Andrew: And when you were dancing professionally, when you're in that moment on stage, and everything's working, not a bad performance, what, you go home, but a day where it's all working, everything's aligned, what does that feel like?
David McAllister: You feel super human. it's really, I mean, because you work so hard to, try and gain this sort of perfection of movement that is basically unattainable. That I think that's the thing that really hooks you in, it's like, it's like a narcotic, you just, you're always going for that perfect outcome which in some performances haven't. And I can think in my whole career, which, went for 18 and a half years, there was probably about five or six shows, when I remember that, that feeling of being, wow, this is really, it's like being on this incredible ride. And, you can't sort of do anything wrong.
And one of those performances, I remember vividly was in London, when we did performance in front of Diana Princess of Wales. And it was just one of those shows that it just felt like, my legs were screwed on the right way. And, the music was, like, lifting me up. And, everyone on stage was, just there in the right place at the right time. And you know my partner Miranda Coney and I we were just having a great time, it was just one of those magical performances that you'd sort of almost had to pinch yourself that was this really happening. [5:17]
Andrew: It’s nice you got that one right.
David McAllister: Yeah, exactly. Good night to get that feeling I tell you.
Andrew: And so is it, just that addiction for that perfect moment?
David McAllister: It's that I think it's, I mean, I think it's a multitude of things. I mean I was never physically as a as a person, like, I have no I hand eye coordination, I'm really crap at running all of those things that, you know make you sort of fit in as a normal Australian boy, I was really bad at. And whereas with dance, I just, I, it just sort of felt right. I felt like I could express myself and I could be myself when I was dancing. And I felt that as I became older and a professional, there is this great honesty on stage that you don't always get in your life, that you can actually portray characters or even just be in a movement sequence or feeling the way that you know you're interpreting the music, that there's this incredible sense of being able to pull your creativity into what you're doing. And I imagine, it's like that, when you're an actor in a great play or you're a visual artist, that's just finding that beautiful expression of what you're trying to do. And for me it was an outlet to be all of those people that I felt like I couldn't be in my normal life I could be heroic and I could be you know sometimes nasty or I could play those characters of people that I saw around me but I never felt that I was going to ever be you know in my own life. [7:00]
Andrew: Is that an interesting paradox when you're like, off the stage and being your true self?
David McAllister: Yeah, I, it's really weird. I'm always much happier when I'm playing a role, like, even now as the artistic director I can walk into a room of a whole lot of people, I don't know in a very sort of you know pressured environment but because I'm, they're representing myself as well, you're representing the Australian ballet, I find that very easy, I go into that sort of like Oh I know who what I'm doing here, and who I am and all that. But for me, one of the most frightening things is walking into a room of a party just being, David McAllister person and I can just like it's like, No it can be real sort of, sometimes I feel almost agoraphobic and yet when I'm playing the role of artistic director. I'm quite happy. I'm quite excited about being there and talking to people. It's just a really weird I don't know, maybe I think it comes from that whole thing of growing up as an outcast you know I went to an all boys Catholic school as a ballet dancer. So you can imagine what that was like. And being seen as the, the weird one, the strange person and, I mean, everyone talks about bullying now, you know I mean bullying, I didn't even know that it was bullying at the time. It was just normal that was my life, that was the way it was. And so I guess that, built up this sort of strangeness about me in social environments. But then in other environments, when you know like, if you like at the same time I could be going into a big summer school as one of the dancers and I felt completely at home and embraced and confident. [8:46]
Andrew: So many of the roles we would have been playing would have been heterosexual. Oh, yeah. So, you're playing a version of masculinity or a version of man that is somewhat.
David McAllister: Yeah. And look, I guess it's about being I think it's about being accepted all the way through my school years I just felt completely un accepted. And then, I came to Melbourne to the ballet school, and it was like, I've moved into this alternate reality where everyone loved ballet. And it was really cool to be there. And they were all really interesting, artistic, creative people. And no one was, no one was bullied for what they loved. It was like, oh, ‘how did this happen?’
Andrew: That idea of finding a tribe?
David McAllister: Yeah, totally. Totally. So, um, it was, it was, that's why I think I've always felt really, my happy times are always been involved in, in dance, and, and now, I mean, not now. They I am not on stage. It's not, I'm, I don't sit there pining for those years. I'm sort of, I was very happy with what I did. And I was lucky enough to being given an amazing transitional opportunity. And, for the last 17 years, it's been equally as as fulfilling but in a very different way. [10:08]
Andrew Yeah, I guess you're facilitating those opportunities to other young people coming into the company or coming from wherever.
David McAllister: Yeah. And you always know as a dancer, that it's not a life a lifetime of, you know work that your body and especially in ballet I think, contemporary dance I mean is also equally physically difficult. But, people can create work on you, that can extend your career. I mean, Baryshnikov danced right into his late 50s, going into White Oak and doing all that sort of stuff. And people like Patrick Harding-Irmer still performing. I think you know when you're in that sort of world, you can actually find creative ways of looking at ballet dancers do that, too. They just go into different roles, you turn into the mother or the father or the Aunty and like you, you keep performing, but not in the physical Height of Perfection. I guess. [11:05]
Andrew: Not where your body can give up on you.
David McAllister: Yeah, exactly. And, but I, I guess I always knew that it was going to be a short career. So I'm really happy now. I feel blessed doubly, because I thought I would have to go and do something else that was not related. And yet, I've had this opportunity of staying within the art form and still being very much a part of it.
Andrew: What else? What would have you done?
David McAllister: Gosh, well, I guess I always when I got to that point, when I was about 35, I sort of thought, okay, I do want to be involved in dance. But I thought maybe it might be moving into a sort of an arts management sort of managerial sort of position or, working in another department that was involved in a dance company. But then, I guess in my heart of hearts, I always had that plan of like,
doing a teacher's course, becoming a Ballet Master, then becoming an assistant director to someone, and then maybe running a company one day, it'll just got sort of, like, vacuum packed into, a six month period of development. [12:07]
Andrew: Yeah, quite amazing. to, to then go from that space as a dancer. Hmm. To then having this responsibility and still having friends that you've come up in the dance world. And then kind of that..
David McAllister:…it was an interesting transition I’ve got to say, and I never realized at the time. Look, I think if I knew what I was taking on, I would never have applied because I just, that ignorance is bliss type sort of scenario. And, I mean, I've been in the company for a long time, and I'd seen I've worked with two very different directors. And so, so, I guess, I thought, and as a dancer, you always think, you know what I could do that, that's amazing and then you get that opportunity. And you go, Oh, my God, and I don't think I really got a handle on the whole job for about two or three years.
I mean, I was sort of like Stephen Page always says, which I think is great, you throw yourself in the deep water, and then you learn how to swim, and that's what I did sort of, and look, some of the decisions are made in those early years are probably more courageous than things that I would do now, just because I didn't know better. And, some of the courageous things really, paid off. And that was really exciting. I mean, I made some pretty dumb decisions too which, I had a great Chairman that said, Don't ever be scared of making a decision. And if you make a bad one, just change it quickly. [13:31]
Andrew: Okay. Yeah. In terms of that risk taking, I mean, they took a risk on you as well. I kind of can’t imagine a board in this current climate would take a similar risk.
David McAllister: I think I was, I mean, it was very much I mean, I'm a great believer in fate I think things happen for a certain reason. And I think at that time, the company was in a very strong financial position. And, that had two very, as I said, very different artistic directors, but very sort of that, set the company up into a really good sort of rhythm of operation.
And I think they were looking for continuity, I think they were looking for someone that was going to continue the company on that path, but, bring a great understanding of the history as well as charting the future. So, I guess I was in the right place, and I had done some sort of preparation because I, I did do some, I did a management course, because I thought, if I'm going to do something in the arts, I've got to actually skill myself a bit and, and I also thought, I'd been dancing for 18 years and hadn't really, I've been working I mean, as a dancer you do a lot of strategic thinking, and you know learning constantly but nothing tech space, nothing that I could actually write down and, so I thought I should do that before I sort of, transitioned into doing something else. So, I guess I was, I was lucky that I'd actually prepared myself in that way before this opportunity came up, which was pretty much out of the blue no one expected it to. [15:12]
Andrew: In some circles. ballet is and has, for a long time been discussed as a dying art form. one of those.
David McAllister: Jennifer Homans said it in Apollo's Angels.
Andrew: Yeah. and it's kind of been this ongoing thing. What is it about ballet that keep surviving? Like, what is that, that continues to resonate with audiences?
David McAllister: I think Ballet as an art from has had many peaks and troughs over its history. And, and it's always interesting that just when people about sort of, sign it off, and, shove the cross on top, ‘rest in peace’, someone comes in and reinvigorates it, so, I think, if you look at the end of the 19th century, when, all of those great classical ballets were created, and then it started getting a bit stale and Petipa was, it was they thought he was just doing the same ballet with different costumes over and over and over. And then the Ballets Russes happened, Diaghilev, started off that amazing thing which really, in the early 20th century change the course of ballet. And, out of that came people like Balanchine and Stravinsky and all these sort of people that then for the next 50 years took ballet in a completely different journey. And it became cool and interesting again in the 50s, I mean, New York City Ballet was like the Mecca, and, and even I guess because it crossed over also with, the rise of that sort of American contemporary dance practice it was really a hotbed of creativity in dance and ballet was a part of it.
And then that spurned on into the, the rise of Ashton, MacMillan, Cranko all of those narrative ballet choreographers, that really changed ballet in the 60s as well. So 60s and 70s and then at the end of that, people were talking in the 80s and 90s. Oh, it's all sort of coming to a grinding halt again, and then lo and behold, you've got William Forsythe which leads to you know and Kylián but I mean you're he was sort of had a foot in both camps I think and then all the sudden out of that spends people like, Wayne McGregor, Ekman and Christopher Wheeldon and Justin Peck and Liam Scarlett, all the sudden is these new choreographers that are taking ballet again in a different journey so I think it's not so much that the art form is ever going to die I think if we don't invest in the creative groundswell of new ideas and how to use that technique I suppose in ways that's going to reverberate with the current you know happening Zeit Geist then yes it will die but it hasn't yet. And even when you do have these you know incredible it's not just those works that are making Ballet exciting and vibrant I mean those classical ballets they're just they're like Aesop fairy tales or the Grimm Fairy Tales of the it's this always something that resonates you know there's every generation needs to hear those stories because or see them on you know experience them because they do talk to us as you know is the moral tales about how to live your life well. [18:39]
Andrew: In the current climate around in Arts about audience numbers and you know bums on seats, is there still the space to create risk or create work that challenges an audience to propel the art form forward without losing existing audiences? Like, how do you balance that one?
David McAllister: Yeah, look, I think it's, we've been lucky in our company and in our country. I think over all these years that, the founding tenants of the Australian ballet were about maintaining those, great classical ballet works, but also creating new works. And in developing Australian, sort of, not vocabulary but, ideas and new choreography was always part of what the company was about. And it's very first year, I mean, we stage, Swan Lake as the first work, but then, we had Rex Reid, creating the Melbourne Cup. And, throughout the history of the company, there's always been a focus on, not only just creating works but also staging the best of the new works, what are the, what are the choreographers that are making those big statements in the ballet world. And also, who are the Australian choreographers that have that ability to do that. And, when you look at the, Graeme Murphy, joined the company in 68, and was creating works in 1970, which then, of course, went on to, to Sydney dance and that whole thing, but he still kept coming back. And, there was a time when all of the directors of all of the sort of small to medium companies around Australia were former graduates of either out of the company or out of the ballet school. So, the ballet company did have a big sort of input, I mean, and for some, it was, turning away from that, because that was the last thing they wanted to do, but it was interesting that, you know that, at that time that it was a nucleus for a lot of people to find their voice. So, I believe that, ballet will always continue, should always continue to revive itself. And then when those new people do work it makes you think about the classics in a different way.
So it's like, okay, what is it about that work that say, I mean, when Gideon did a piece for us, he interestingly, did a piece looking back at Swan Lake, and what was the relevance of Swan Lake, and so, there is this, this whole dialogue, I think that always goes on, we have a motto in the company that's caring for tradition, and daring to be different. And that's something that's, really fueled our, our company's trajectory, I think, for the last 30 years, [21:34]
Andrew: What is that ballet and dance can say that other art forms can’t or other parts of society? Like, what is that space?
David McAllister: Yeah, I think it's, it reaches across cultural divides. Because of the fact there's no language. And if you think back to, the most emerging of cultures, and even our own Indigenous culture dances always been an important way of telling stories and handing down before there was language because it's about I guess, expressing your experience of the world.
Ballet of course is very big you know it's like, if it's, it's like, when you take something and you find it, refine it, refine it, refine it, refine it, until it doesn't resemble the original form, that's what ballet is, it's so codify that so its own, refined, as an art form. But I think over the last, 50 years to 60 years of ballets history, it's actually done a bit of a turn, we were sort of so segregated, but then with embracing a lot more sort of contemporary movement, contemporary ideas, it's actually doing a U turn back to being much more a part of every day and, we constantly talking in our company about where do we fit in, as a European art form into, a multicultural, contemporary Australian society. And that's, that's an interesting conversation that we're constantly having with ourselves. And some of that is, part of what we do, maybe don't, but then part of what we do also do, because we have now dancers from every sort of ethnic background in the company. We're not this big Celtic, enclave of, that sort of, like, the Hitler Youth, or blonde and blue eyed and doing ballet, I mean, the company is diverse. And, and I think that that, in itself makes us different to, what the company was, say, when it was formed. [23:49]
Andrew: Because there's been huge conversations about that particular in the US and what that space affords. What is a multicultural and diverse society and is that being represented on stages? And in the audience's…
David McAllister: And then look, I think it's really interesting because the, the flip side of that is how come in Asia and, all through sort of, not so much the Middle East, but, even into Africa, I mean, South Africa, they all have ballet companies, why is this so, what is it about ballet that actually can sort of cross cultural boundaries and make, people want to do it. And that's, that always amazes me, that, I mean, there's certain pockets of, which have very strong culture. I mean, India, for instance, there's not really a big ballet culture in India, because they have their own classical Indian dance, you know…
Andrew: ….Which is equally as refined.
David McAllister: ….And unusual. And then, and very sort of codified.
But, that's the thing that always surprises me, all the way through, China, Japan, Korea, all these very sort of, and they’ve come to it fairly recently but really taken it on. I mean, they've all got massive ballet companies and huge amounts of teaching in producing great young dancers, you think, how did that happen?
Andrew: There’s something in it that obviously resonates.
David McAllister: And I think it is, I think it is that nonverbal thing, I think there is that, that ability that you can be doing something that's shared all around the world, but there's, it's just, it's the language of the, the technique, it's not having to know each others cultural background. [25:43]
Andrew: Can I talk a bit about the YES campaign, and our marriage equity? Obviously, you and Wesley Enoch were quite outspoken talking about what it meant, Wesley gave quite a rousing speech at the Australian Dance Awards about what it means and how it’s a challenging period of time? Now, how did you come out of that?
David McAllister: It was really weird. Because, before it all became an issue I mean, before the vote or plebiscite or whatever we call it.
I guess it was just one of those things, you just don't, oh, that's just not going to happen, what a shame. And then we became an issue, we were like, well, this is actually really important, and I guess not even so much for us personally but as it's all about the equality of it. And a ballet company, you're in a world that's very open to, diversity and especially in gender and sexuality it's, it can be quite fluid.
So, it just seemed sensible that we were actually, on the front foot when it came to expressing our belief that this was just something that should happen and Wesley, and I personally, it's just that sort of thing of like, Well, it doesn't really matter whether we get married or not, but wouldn't it be great to have that opportunity to do so, and, and to just feel that we, once again, it goes back to that, childhood thing, have not been the ones who are excluded or the, the ones who are sort of weird and strange. And so, I mean, I couldn't have been more thrilled when it actually was so resoundingly positive in the results, it felt like, it felt like a bit of like, Oh, my God, people have accepted us, and, not that I take any credit for that. But I just think as a nation, we felt like, we just grew up a bit with that whole experience. [27:44]
Andrew: it's something you're saying, reminded me of Taylor Mac said, ‘we want to get married, so we can say fuck you marriage’. Yeah. Like, we want that option. Yeah, to say that. No, we don’t want that.
David McAllister: Yeah and it's sort of weird. Because in in one point I think, I mean, we've talked about, we get married? Like, let's just wait till all dies down a bit first, and, and then maybe we would or we wouldn't. But, um, it is nice to have the option because it was never, it was never on in the offering. And strangely, I guess, when more and more countries were, voting for marriage equality. It's sort of almost like, well, that's unfair. How come we don't have it? it's like, I want that new shiny thing. [28:37]
Andrew: What about the space for dance to be or dance or the arts, there's a lot of critique that I saw on some of the Australian ballet Facebook most about marriage equity, or there's a beautiful one of all the points shows lined up. Yeah, and the gay flag rainbow and, arts shouldn’t be political.
David McAllister: There was a bit of that back thing. But to me. It wasn't a political statement. It was actually a human statement. It was about it was about we're not, we don't want everyone to, to get married to the, same sex, if they, if people aren't, if you're rampantly heterosexual, then, we don't want you to turn gay, we just want you to let us get married. Like, you can it was, it was more of a human rights issue than a political thing for me.
Andrew: What about the space of a company to take a stand?
David McAllister: Look, I think it was just, we, we have lived in that world for so long and looking lots of our dances and straight I mean, it's not like, they're all, running around wanting to marry each other, same sex couples, but it just sort of felt like something that I think it wasn't about being an arts company, it was actually just about being, a person of the 21st century, a company who believed in equal rights for everyone. [29:57]
Andrew: Yeah, I mean, I always find that critique that the arts shouldn’t be political, incredibly interesting because art is political life is political.
David McAllister: I think our job is and everyone says it, but our job is to hold up a mirror to society. And, in the ballet sometimes that's to show the beauty and the great side of, the human endeavor because a lot of what we do is about creating form that is appealing and aesthetically beautiful I mean, it was it like to say, ballets a very blunt instrument to tell the story, it's, um, it's not the sort of thing that you can be defiant within yet, that you can still raise I mean, we were talking about, bit Spartacus at the moment, we're sort of starting to work on it and, all those things about, slavery and entrapment and, and we are, once again, human rights. And I mean, we were talking with Twiggy Forrest and like they still in Australia, something like, thousands of people who have enslaved and you think this is Australia and the 21st century How can this be? [31:04]
Andrew: …more slaves this point of history then anytime previously.
David McAllister: It's crazy, isn't it? You just can't believe that and yet so, I mean, while we're going to be doing a piece that's set in, Roman sort of period, it's actually really valid today. And, we should all be fighting for freedom for these people. And, so I think we can we can have political statements in the work we do, it's just veiled to being, overtly..
Andrew: It’s not party political.
David McAllister: Yeah, yeah, exactly.
Andrew: It's quite interesting for me I thought the marriage equity stuff and the stance of the ballet company because historically gay male involvement in dance has been downplayed or denied or covered.
David McAllister: Totally. Yeah our shameful, closeted past we're all straight. Oh, no, not really. But anyway.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah, just felt like for me, like actual a bit of a Yeah, to actually put the colours out there.
David McAllister: Look and that was always the thing I mean, I think as a ballet dancer you do want to be believed when you know you when you're dancing with Juliet you want people to think that you're falling in love and look quite honestly on stage I think you do. You know i mean I’ve had such amazing love affairs with all the girls that I've danced with you know but it's not always necessarily lead to you know the next step. So I guess it's a bit like Hollywood in that way that you know Rock Hudson and you wanted to believe that he and Doris Day we're going to go home and bonk all night but maybe just not with each other. Yeah, and I think that's, that's what the ballet world is sort of always tried to have this you no dreamlike quality. But once again, I think we're in an age where people can actually compare compartmentalize that and actually go well, they look in love. And that's enough. we don't have to have the women's weekly story where, you go home to, wife and 2.5 children. [33:19]
Andrew: There’s often that critique too around young boys growing up in dance with parents or teachers play up the association between dance and sport and the athleticism of the practice. Yeah, they just as fit as a footballer Yes, and all that kind of stuff. And some young boys it’s like, Well no, I'm actually a dancer that are don't play football. And I don't want to play football. This is what I love. Why am I comparing myself to the other?
David McAllister: I outlawed that when I became artistic director. I said, I have done too many of those stories. I never want to see that story again. I'm quite happy to have that idea of you know athleticism and because I think that's true. But we have partnered at times like we did a performance out of the Penrith Panthers in New South Wales. And we had the obligatory, photo with the footballer lifting up the ballet dancer. But that's different to actually standing there, doing push ups and who's going to last longer. I just want I just don't think it's someone explain that to me so beautifully once. And I just always think of this, it was actually someone who worked with us in our physical training staff. And he was a former dancer, but he said it's a non story because ballet dancers trained for an aesthetic and, and quality of movement and a whole lot of things that that the byproduct of is a really good amount of strength and mobility and coordination. Footballers train for strength, and power and endurance and stuff. And the byproduct of that was a certain beautiful aesthetic, like when they go on to those marks or whatever. And so, we're actually training for opposite outcomes. And there is a crossover between both where you see both those outcomes, but we're training for something completely different. So there's no comparison. [35:14]
Andrew: You mentioned before gender fluidity and dancer is obviously ballet in particular, is so codified in gender. What, now that trans identities are becoming more prominent, and there's obviously a lot of young trans dancers coming up, what's space does the Ballet hold for them, going forward?
David McAllister: Yeah, look, I think, especially in the more contemporary works, I mean, and I suppose when I'm talking temporary, I'm not talking like really contemporary dance more contemporary ballet, but, those more abstract works that are less defined in gender roles. I mean, even now, I mean, Tim Harbour has done a couple of pieces where, girls partner boys as opposed to boys partnering girls. Oh, it this group dance where its very, it's very gender neutral. It's not about boys and girls or men and women, it's actually about dances, and I think that in that sort of world, then it's very comfortable. Look over many years, there's always been, the travesty roles that, men playing women, mainly, but, sometimes women playing men as well, it's, it's not a, an unusual experience. I mean, sometimes for comic relief, but sometimes just for tradition, I mean, carabosse is often danced by a man. And that was just because the power I guess, that, that sort of, and that unusualness, that sometimes those characters that are super super, natural can sometimes be played by the old, in a sort of a neutral gender role. Because it, it is more weird, and makes everyone else look much more sort of beige. But I think I think that whole idea of boy meets girl will always be a factor in those big classic works, because that's just the way they're written.
But having said that, there was a time when you couldn't put an Asian face into a European role, or you couldn't put, a black dancer into, a white European role, but that's all changed. Now. I mean pretty much I don't notice dancer’s ethnicity anymore. So, maybe gender will become that sort of thing as well like, in people doing Shakespeare, all female Shakespeare and, changing genders of those roles. I mean, who's to say that it has to be the way it is now? [37:58]
Andrew: Looking forward now to 2018. What are you looking forward too?
David McAllister: It's always hard question as the director because, you know….
Andrew: …it's like you programmed it all?
David McAllister: Exactly, it's like, Who's your favorite child?
I think Spartacus is is going to be a big excitement for us. Because anytime we do a big new full-length narrative ballet, that's a big excitement for the company and also with Lucas Jervies' who's the choreographer. It's his first big narrative Ballet. I mean, he's done theatre shows, and he's done one act lots of one act ballets, both narrative and non-narrative. But I think for us, this is going to be a big, big event for the year and Alice Topp, new work, Aurum which is going to be part of the Verve program. This is her first really big main stage commission. So so that's a really exciting point for her to, to really branch out and show on the broadest Canvas what she's capable of.
I feel like the whole theme of the year is something that I'm really excited about, because everything that we're doing all the work that we're staging actually works that were created for us. So, I mean some of them are versions of traditional works like Gisele for instance, but it was created that production was created for us by Maina Gielgud and Cinderella by Alexei Ratmansky for the company, Merry Widow, which was our very first full-length original ballet.
And I guess the Murphy tribute is a great celebration of one of our alumni, as I said Graeme joined the company in 68, even though he went on to have a multitude of careers in a multitude of companies. And genre, from opera to music, theatre, film, contemporary dance, classical ballet, he's done everything pretty much, but we're really proud to have him as one of our sort of continuing creative collaborators. So, so that's exciting.
So, yeah, I mean, the whole year is something that I'm really, really pleased with. And, and I think it's been a combination of a number of factors to actually come bring that together and, we’re energizing our Bodytorque program, which is our choreographic Development Program, which has sort of been a bit dormant for a couple of years just because we've had a couple of really busy years.
And I think that's, that's really vital, that that constant hum of choreographic development doesn't always lead to, places. But when you look at the choreographers, who emerging into the company now Lucas, Tim Harbor, Alice Topp, Richard House, I mean, they all went through that process of creating works in a small little way, and building up building up building up so, it's really important to have that choreographic process reviving again. [41:12]
Andrew: And you can then I guess, try things out, if it doesn't work, it doesn't work.
David McAllister: Yeah and then I guess lots of people that do Bodytorque, have never created anything in their life. And they go, like, really love to have a go at that. And then they try and they go, Oh, no, it's not for me. And then other people just get completely hooked, and that becomes their part. So, and it's a new, we're in the process of doing a strategic plan, which is one of my most favorite things to do… not. No I mean, it's fascinating. But, you start the process, and you go, Oh, my God, this is going to be a nightmare. And yet, at the end of it, you actually uncover a whole lot of stuff that really is quite exciting and stimulating. And one of those things is, how can we have a more strategic process with Bodytorque, so, it doesn't just, it's like, you just churn through a whole lot of people doing stuff that never gets seen again, how can we can build on our past experience where, you start here, and then you do a next piece, and then you do a next piece, and then eventually, you do this, and then, ultimately, you are doing a big narrative, for evening highly resourced Ballet. You can't go from your first Bodytorque piece to that, how did we get therehow did we offer that opportunity and support choreographers through that journey. So, I mean, that's, that's really something. [42:38]
Andrew: Because those pathways in all artistic disciplines are so important.
David McAllister: Exactly, and I think it's hard for anyone who wants to create, I mean, I think, I don't think it's a process that I think it's a burning desire, I think it's something that you have to do. And that's what I always felt like, as a dancer, like I felt like, if I didn't do it, I would just explode and, and I think that's the sort of fever that you need to have to be a choreographer as well. But then I think there's a lot of you have to allow for a lot of failure before people can really find that, that ability and, for some people, it's like some dancers you're not going to always be as successful as you may want to be.
But you have to kiss all those frogs to find the really the really innate talent and that's, that's an exciting process. You never know, who's who's, who's going to rise and who's going to develop and that's really exciting to see when, when it happened.
Andrew: Yeah, well, thank you so much for taking time out of your day.
David McAllister: We could talk all day!