Art & Design


Interview with the Ballerina: Alice Topp talks Romeo & Juliet

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The Australian Ballet Company’s Romeo and Juliet is shaping up to be one of the year’s must-see productions, as the classic love story is re-interpreted through contemporary dance.

Alice Topp, who has been cast as Lady Montague, was kind enough to take time out from a break in rehearsals to have a chat with Milk Bar about what’s been happening behind the scenes.

When we spoke to Topp a couple of weeks ago, the dancers had been rehearsing five days a week for the past five weeks.

‘Leading up to the opening night it will get busier, and because this is a new interpretation everything needs to be choreographed from scratch. There’s a lot of material to get through,’ says Topp.

The roles of Romeo and Juliet are being played by principal artists Kevin Jackson and Madeleine Eastoe, while Graeme Murphy is the choreographer and mastermind behind the new production. Topp has worked with Murphy several times before on The Silver Rose, Firebird and Swan Lake. She describes working with Murphy on Romeo and Juliet has been nothing less than another wonderful experience.

‘When you work with Graeme you feed off each other. He’s so passionate about what he wants for the role and he draws the best out of you. Romeo and Juliet is the first epic ballet he’s taken on since Swan Lake. It’s a blockbuster and I think being involved in that from the beginning is something really special.’

As always the costumes, which have been designed by Akira Isogawa, are going to be a talking point. There are over 300 being made for the production with 1000 Swarovski crystals, 2000 sequins and 580 pointe shoes. Like any girl, Topp is excited to wear her costume.

‘I had my costume fitting and I was like “can I wear this out on Saturday night?”’

Topp, who has been with the Australian Ballet Company for five years, is also a budding choreographer. For the past two years she has taken part in Bodytorque, an annual program that gives dancers the opportunity to try their hand at choreography. Her most recent piece Trace — which explores how garments interact with, and are very much an extension of our bodies — was well received. Choreography has also given Topp a greater understanding and appreciation of what it is like to be on the other side.

‘When I’m choreographing, I don’t want to dictate steps the dancing aren’t comfortable performing, because I know how it feel to do moves that don’t feel natural to my body. Therefore, I am more inclined to develop the language of movement on the dancers.’

Romeo and Juliet begins on September 13 and runs for less that two weeks. When asked why people should go along to see it Topp promises ‘The production is going to be a feast for the eyes!’

Romeo and Juliet by the Australian Ballet Company runs
September 12 – 24
at the State Theatre at The Arts Centre
For more information and tickets click here.

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