Queensland Ballet announces its 2022 season
With 2022 marking a decade of unprecedented expansion under the bold and ambitious leadership of Li Cunxin, Queensland Ballet is raising the bar again.
The company unveiled a season that expands its repertoire with one of ballet’s most difficult dramatic challenges alongside contemporary world premieres, and is also expanding its audience with two new venues.
Li’s contract extension as art director for another three years was also announced at the 2022 launch, Li joking, “No pressure… in fact, the pressure never went away.” This is because he sees his role as continuing not only to dream, but also to build. “There are still quite a few ambitious visionary projects to be completed,” he explains. “There is a lot of exciting new work in the works that I would personally like to see come to fruition. Some of the works are really going to be incredibly exciting and world premieres. As the leader of this company, the big question for me is how to sustain and consolidate the success that we have achieved? We really want to continue to deliver success beyond my time.
Sir Kenneth Macmillan’s Manon will be the crown jewel of the 2022 season, adorning the APQ Lyric Theater from September 28. Set in pre-revolutionary Paris and New Orleans, courtesan Manon’s decadent and tragic tale is visually sumptuous and emotionally captivating. The Australian Ballet was previously our only performing rights ballet company, last presenting the work in Brisbane in 2014. QB’s coup rewards his triumphant staging by Sir Kenneth Macmillan Romeo and Juliet on two separate occasions. In a pre-recorded video, Queensland-born Lady Deborah Macmillan said she was thrilled Li brought Manon to its audience. “The standards of dancing are very high, and I said yes to the Queensland Ballet to do it because of (these) spectacular performances by Romeo and Juliet. So I know it’s going to be a triumph.
Li acknowledged that in terms of artistic standards Manon would represent the biggest challenge for the company since Romeo and Juliet. “[They would] to be considered the most difficult ballets to perform well – the most difficult technically, dramatically and artistically, and also the scale is enormous. It’s a massive ballet, so everyone in this company will have to do their best to do it justice.
In pursuit of this, Li said Spotlight that QB’s main artists are already developing their characters, and he and his wife and former dance partner Mary Li will bring their experience to the roles of Mr. and Mrs. GM in selected performances. He added that the same rehearsal team that put together Romeo and Juliet would return, with Lady Deborah Macmillan also coming eventually to oversee.
The company will also be the first Australian company to feature another work by Macmillan, Elite syncope. To music by Scott Joplin and others, this energetic and colorful ragtime ballet is part of Li’s Choice: Celebrating a Decade of Leadership, a triple bill personally hosted at the QPAC Playhouse in June. It will also include the moving Anzac commemoration of resident choreographer Natalie Weir, We who stay, and the thrilling neoclassical ballet by chief ballet master Greg Horsman responding to the growing intensity of Philip Glass’s music in Glass Concerto. “I like the contrast and the balance of the program, but also Elite syncope [in which he has performed] is one of my favorites, ”Li said.
Another important development next year is the start of a partnership that will foster an audience base on the Gold Coast, through a partnership with the city’s HOTA (Home of the Arts). QB will kick off the 2022 season there with its most successful production of all time, the Horsman adaptation of The Sleeping Beauty, in February, and back in November for Moonlight ballet, a double invoice inspired by the 1960s by Christopher Bruce Rooster and Jack Lister Faces B, with music by the Rolling Stones and Nina Simone. This has the added attraction of using its open-air theater, where the company first performed in an impromptu season of Giselle in 2020, after COVID-19 delayed the company’s original 60th anniversary programming until this year.
Originally planned for 2021, the new 356-seat studio-theater at Thomas Dixon Center, featuring a stage the same size as the Lyric – as part of the redevelopment of the QB base as an art installation and center world-class cultural event – will open in mid-2022. Horsman’s four-time postponed world premiere Pierre and the Wolf is scheduled from June 24, followed by the official opening of the theater with the fifth edition Tailored contemporary season in July. This trio of world premieres presents the fourth choreographed piece Horsman to be scheduled in 2022, as well as commissions from acclaimed choreographers Stephanie Lake and Petros Treklis. The venue will also host the Queensland Ballet Academy gala in August, which was canceled this year due to an instant lockdown.
Two classics squeeze the books of the company’s Brisbane performance: As happened in Li’s first full year as AD in 2013, Ai-Gul Gaisina’s production of Giselle will tour regionally – to Toowoomba, Cairns and Maryborough – in March before a season at the Playhouse in April, while the annual tradition of concluding the year with Nutcracker continues at the Playhouse in December.
More information on the Queensland Ballet website.