50 Years of Australian Dance Theatre
A celebration of innovation
Elizabeth Cameron Dalman founds the Australian Dance Theatre, aiming to ‘open the horizons for provocative contemporary dance’. The premiere performance takes place in Adelaide’s new Shedley Theatre. Critics are divided over the company’s new and adventurous approach, but audiences are enthralled from the beginning.
The Elizabeth Dalman School of Modern Dance begins, attracting up to 300 students a week. Education is a key component of the Australian Dance Theatre from the start, with workshops, educational programs and open discussions before and after performances. The School also helps fund the theatre.
Over the next decade, the company builds a substantial repertoire and win an Australian audience base, attracting government funding. The company also wins international acclaim with tours to North America, Europe, Asia, India, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.
Growth and Change
Jonathan Taylor is appointed artistic director. A former dancer from renowned UK company Ballet Rambert, he brings a distinctive style that revitalises the company. He creates a highly regarded body of work including Wildstars and Transfigured Night.
Ballet Victoria also ceases operations after 30 years. In a first-of-its-kind agreement, Australian Dance Theatre acts as the contemporary dance company for both South Australia and Victoria until 1984.
Australian Dance Theatre becomes the first Australian company invited to perform at the Edinburgh Festival.
As the company seeks a new director, former Adelaide Festival Director Anthony Steel and in-house Rehearsal Director Lenny Westerdijk are appointed artistic caretakers.
Molissa Fenley’s Descent into the Maelstrom is presented as part of the Adelaide Festival.
Leigh Warren is appointed as Artistic Director. A student of the Australian Ballet School, Warren became the first Australian performer to receive a Churchill Scholarship, forging his dance career with Ballet Rambert, Nederlands Dance Theater and Rudolf Nureyev before becoming a freelance choreographer. Warren’s aim is to ‘develop a truly Australian form of dance that expresses our culture’ and invites other Australians to create work for Australian Dance Theatre – Kate Champion and Graeme Murphy answer the call. A collaboration with America’s William Forsythe also comes to fruition.
The Tankard Era
With a background honed in Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wupperthal, Meryl Tankard is appointed artistic director, and bringing her own unique new style.
Through works such as Furioso and Aurora she introduces a range of additional performance elements to the company, including acrobatics, mime and image projection. It wins over audiences world over, finding particular success in Germany.
Elizabeth Cameron Dalman is awarded an Order of Australia Medal for service to contemporary dance.
Meryl Tankard departs from Australian Dance Theatre, and Bill Pengelly steps in as an interim artistic director until the appointment of Garry Stewart. During his time at the helm Pengelly produces two programs of new choreography, including Split.
Artistic Director Garry Stewart’s first piece is Housedance, performed on the western sails of the Sydney Opera House for the Millennium Broadcast in 2000.
Stewart creates a distinctive new dance vocabulary for the company, incorporating photography, video, robotics and other forms of new media. His ground-breaking work Birdbrain becomes the most performed work in the history of contemporary Australian dance.
Australian Dance Theatre has undergone a renaissance, winning 28 industry awards since 2002.
Firmly established as one of the world’s best known dance companies, it continues to perform to thousands across the globe. Garry Stewart’s ongoing and passionate interest in film, text, and multimedia mean the company is at the forefront of exploration of contemporary performance, the boundaries of the body and its modes of expression. 2014 saw the premiere of Multiverse, a major new live 3D performance, and the foundation of an Australian Dance Theatre Youth Ensemble.
In June 2015 we celebrated our 50th anniversary. We concluded a highly successful European season of Multiverse. We attended the Founder’s Celebration in Adelaide Arcade – the original ADT studios, organised by Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM.