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Speech at a reception in support of the West Australian Ballet Company.

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Mr Michael Chappell, Chairman of the West Australian Ballet Mr Louise Howden-Smith, Executive Director Mr Simon Dow, Artistic Director Professor Don Aitkin, Chair, ACT Cultural Facilities Corporation Dancers, staff and friends of the WA Ballet

It is a special pleasure for Marlena and me to welcome you all to Government House this evening and to welcome the West Australian Ballet to Canberra.

We are of course familiar with the work of the West Australian ballet. We were privileged to know at first hand how much the company contributed to the artistic and cultural life in the West. And we are thrilled that you are able to perform on tour so that other Australians are able to see and enjoy your work.

You are a company with a very special story, laying claim as Australia’s oldest professional dance company. This is particularly significant because the city that you call home is the most isolated capital in the world.

It says much for prescience of those who founded the company just over fifty years ago that the West Australian Ballet enjoys such an outstanding reputation. The great Kira Bousloff was determined to create a company noted for inspiration, flair and internationally competitive standards.

The company has exceeded her aspirations many times over. Indeed, for a company to win international acclaim in Moscow, one of the great homes of ballet, within eight years of its founding was no mean feat. This happened when one of WA Ballet’s dancers won the Ulanova Laureate prize in 1960.

Due to the standard the company has set itself since inception, WA Ballet has enjoyed many notable achievements. Recent performances in Thailand and China have won for the company the kudos of being a great Ambassador both for the West and for Australia.

At home, the West Australian Ballet has made an extraordinary mark. The Ballet is as well known for its interpretation of great classical works as it is for its evenings of innovative dance in outdoor venues under the stars. And the company has always been conscious of reaching beyond its home base. As early as 1961, the West Australian Ballet was the first ballet company to tour to Darwin.

Last year, as well as travelling overseas, the Ballet reached out through performances and education programs over the length and breadth of Western Australia - in particular through schools in Margaret River, Busselton, Carnarvon, Geraldton, Moora, Northam, Wundowie, Kununurra, Broome, Port Hedland, Yandiyarra, Tom Price, Paraburdoo, Karratha, Bunbury, Mandurah and Kalgoorlie.


I wonder how many companies of the calibre of the WA Ballet have had such a geographical reach, as they endeavour to share their talents and to enhance the lives of such an extraordinarily widespread community with their art and culture.

The Ballet’s work with schools, including its efforts to promote the “Adopt-a-School” program is a special interest to me. This is the hands-on end of the mentoring concept I spoke of in my Australia Day address this year. Developing interests among our young, teaching them and sharing excellence, as well as opening doors, is an important way of helping young Australians find their place in the world.

In fact the depth and breadth of the West Australian Ballet company’s vision is remarkable. Along with recognising their responsibilities in education and regional development, they are promoting good health in partnership with the Heart Foundation’s “Be Active Every Day” campaign. In addition the company takes a high profile role in relation to the State’s tourism industry.

So the West Australian Ballet company makes a significant contribution to its art and to its community. For all these things, the enormous commitment of the board of directors, the company directors, the dancers, choreographers, composers, designers, indeed, the whole team, Western Australia has much to be proud.

And from all accounts ES - West Australian shorthand for the rest of the continent (the Eastern States) - is in for a magnificent treat in La Boheme. Donning my Public Relations hat I am pleased to tell all the non-Western Australians here that La Boheme had record Box Office success in Perth, and outstanding receptions in South East Asia, last year.

It is of course only one of the outstanding works in the company’s diverse and eclectic repertoire.

Marlena and I wish you all a continuing great season with it, and commend the WA Ballet Company for the artistic pleasure it has brought to so many tens of thousands of people world wide over the years. Keep up the great work.