Ballet Theatre Queensland holds a special place in my heart as well as the cultural landscape of Queensland. The company has been around in some iteration for 86 years, making it the oldest company in Australia.
My first introduction to the company was at the invitation of a dear friend and former colleague, former Artistic Director, Timothy Brown. I did not grow up in Queensland, so admit I was not aware of the company. At the time, a Principal Artist with the Queensland Ballet, Tim invited me to come along to rehearsals and guest coach the young artists of the company. Little did I know that that first encounter with the company would spark a new passion in me and a new career!
The dedication of the staff, dancers, parents and volunteers blew me away. For a small, unfunded company, BTQ was doing incredible things. Not only for the young dancers but the wider ballet community. For the past 25 years, BTQ has performed at QPAC, the state’s premiere performing arts centre, a place where professional companies from local, interstate and international cities showcase the largest and most iconic full-scale performances.
BTQ was unlike anything I had ever seen. Providing young dancers the opportunity to learn full-scale productions, with professional sets, costumes and lighting by leading industry professionals, presented in a world class theatre. I had nothing like that growing up and was immediately struck by how this kind of early experience could accelerate learning outcomes and foster artistic passion in our young people.
After stepping down from Queensland Ballet in 2017, and beginning my freelance journey, I was thrilled when the position of BTQ Rehearsal Director became vacant in early 2018 (there are only two artistic staff for the company, Rehearsal Director and Artistic Director, so they are coveted opportunities!). When I received the invitation to be a part of the team, I was ecstatic.
That year I got to see first hand just how incredible the team was. Bringing together dancers from schools all across the Southeast and making them a cohesive company is no easy feat, but the enthusiasm from the whole team was infectious. Watching the performance in January 2019 and knowing that every one of those dancers was performing steps and characters that only two people had instructed was truly thrilling. There is nothing like dancing on stage for yourself, but this matched that elation for me.
During the season, Tim had expressed his desire to move on and the position of Artistic Director would be available for the following season. I wondered if I could lead a company and bring it into a new era? I had no choreographic experience, but a keen eye for detail and artistry and that pesky perfection trait so many of us artists have. I jumped, or sautéed, at the chance.
I planned to present repertoire work, the kind and scale only seen by professional companies. I knew the young dancers were eager to learn and perform the roles, so that was my pitch. When I received the email offering me the position of Artistic Director, I’m not ashamed to say that I cried. Having the chance to lead a company into a new era and ignite passion and joy in the next generation of artists and arts lovers is a true gift.
Here we are 5 years later, about to put on my fifth season, my fourth brand new production. The past 5 years have been an incredible journey and learning opportunity for both myself and the 5 years of dancers we have shared this collective experience with. I have big plans for the company: new works, new collaborations, live music, scholarships, more community engagement and eventually a new home. After 86 years its sure to say that BTQ is not going anywhere and deserves its own home and facility to flourish for another 86 years into the future.
BTQ is truly a special place, nurturing the talent of young artists and fostering a love and appreciation for live theatre. Why BTQ? Who could possibly wish to do anything else!