By Marissa DeSantis
4 June 2019
Though Australian Ballet coryphée Alice Topp has been dancing since she was four, when it comes to choreographing, she’s just getting started. Topp created her first piece, Trace, on a whim in 2010 as part of The Australian Ballet’s annual Bodytorque program. Since then, she has gone on to make several main stage works for the company, as well as music videos for artists like Ben Folds and Megan Washington; in 2018 she was named one of the The Australian Ballet’s resident choreographers.
Topp plays what she calls “a fine Tetris” to balance her responsibilities as both dancer and choreographer. Yet despite her jet lag and packed schedule of rehearsals and sightseeing, she was bursting with energy when we met in New York during The Australian Ballet’s visit to the Joyce Theater last month, where her ballet Aurum was given its US premiere. “This is the first time my work is being performed overseas,” she says. “To be able to bring it to New York, which is my favorite city in the world—what a debut!”
“I think the lack of female choreographers in ballet comes down to a combination of things, and I can only share this from my own experience. It’s not necessarily that the women work a lot harder, but we tend to be there until the end of the night in a lot of those big classical ballets. In Swan Lake, the guys are done after Act III, and we’re there at the very end—it’s the same with Giselle and the Willis and La Bayadère with the Kingdom of the Shades. I think it can be more demanding as a corps.
“Another big thing is just the nature of the work doesn’t lend itself to the individual artistic voice, so you never really nurture that. Those big scenes—the swans, shades, snowflakes, flowers—are about the women dancing in unison, and the guys don’t do as much of that. I think the guys tend to get away with a bit more individualism, and if they’ve got a bit of chutzpah and cowboy attitude, they stand out and it’s rewarded. Whereas women are taught to conform and to fit in, and not to stand out for the wrong reasons. Your goal for the first few years in the company is about fitting in—if you’re one of 24 swans and you spend all day, every day, thinking, ‘Is my arm higher than the other person?,’ or ‘I’m not on the red mark,’ you’re not exploring and exercising that creative part of your brain that’s making different artistic choices.
Read the full article on Pointe’s blog.