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A ballet evening called 'Murphy'

Edition 190_Murphy

The Australian Ballet is to present evening-long tributes to renowned Tasmanian dancer and choreographer Graeme Murphy, AO, in Melbourne and Sydney in the New Year.

The shows will be simply titled Murphy and will open the Australian Ballet's season in Melbourne, before being performed in Sydney.

The unique tribute will mark a half-century since Murphy joined the national company's corps de ballet.

Murphy said: “I thought that’s not even possible! I had no concept that it’s been 50 years.”

The dancer left Tasmania as a 14-year-old to enrol at the Australian Ballet School.

The Australian's Arts correspondent, Matthew Westwood, wrote: "From his acceptance into the Australian Ballet, to his first steps as a choreographer, and through his three-decade leadership of the Sydney Dance Company (SDC), Murphy established himself as a distinctive individual and leader in contemporary dance in Australia.

"He created many memorable dance works for his own and other companies: from emblematic SDC pieces such as Poppy and Some Rooms to his widely admired version of Swan Lake for the Australian Ballet and The Silver Rose for the Bavarian State Ballet."

The headline dance in the Murphy tribute will be his version of Firebird, to music by Stravinsky.

Other pieces from his career will be selected.

Murphy told Westwood that he had turned to choreography to make himself look good as a dancer.

“I wasn’t the most conventional ballet dancer," he said. "I didn’t have all the princely qualities. I felt like I came into my own when I created something for myself.”

The Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet, David McAllister, said Murphy was notable for his inventive ensemble work and his collaborations with other artists, including composer Michael Askill, designer Kristian Fredrikson and Murphy’s wife Janet Vernon.

“He is a master of being able to intermingle bodies and create incredibly intricate partnering that is very beautiful,” McAllister said.

“He is the one who really delved into storytelling from a very early point in his career. He did a lot of narrative dance, as well as abstract.”

Murphy, who lives with Vernon on a rural property near Launceston, said he was looking forward to again working with the Australian Ballet's dancers.

“My basis and Janet’s basis was very much classical dance, we just took it in a different direction,” he said.

“We have so much respect for good technique, but we have a lot more respect for good artistry.”

Murphy's 50-year career has been studded with honours. He was named a member of the Order of Australia in 1988 for his service to ballet.

In 2001, he received a Centenary Medal for "service to the development of dance in Australia and Tasmania".

In 2012, he was named an Officer of the Order of Australia for "distinguished service to the performing arts, both nationally and internationally, particularly ballet and contemporary dance, as a choreographer and director, and to the enhancement of Australia's cultural environment."

As well as the Murphy tribute, the Australian Ballet's 2018 season will include a new version of Spartacus, a contemporary program called Verve, an Adelaide season of McAllister’s The Sleeping Beauty, and return seasons of The Merry Widow, Giselle and Cinderella.

5 December 2017, Edition 190

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