#31: The Birth of Sydney Dance Company (1965)


13 September 2019

The seeds of Sydney Dance Company were sown in 1965 with the development of a touring dance education program called Ballet in a Nutshell. It was the brainchild of Peggy van Praagh, the founding director of The Australian Ballet and Suzanne Musitz was a founding member/dancer of the same company, who’d already had a successful and eclectic dance career in Europe. They were a force to be reckoned with, although Musitz was initially reluctant.

“Peggy rang me and asked me to run the program. I’d just had a baby, and told Peggy no, but she kept on and eventually I said, ok, I’ll book ten dance demonstrations at boys high schools and see how it would go. At this time, all the TV channels were in the process of shutting down their dance troupes, and there weren’t any new J.C. Williamson’s musicals either, so there were dozens of really good professional dancers out of work. That was the thing that really convinced me I should give it a go.”

“I picked four graduate dancers from The Australian Ballet school and we rented a great big station wagon. I rang up a couple of high schools and spoke to the boss in each case. One of them said he thought it was a very good idea, but the boys would never go to anything with ballet in the title. And I said, well, leave it to me.”

“So we went and it was a huge success. The boys just loved it. It was very interesting, whenever we arrived in a school, they all stand hanging around the entrance, making disparaging remarks. By the time we finished, they were all round the kids saying, what sort of exercises do you do to give you the strength to lift up the girls and how do you do this? They helped to load the truck.”

“In 1967 we did a whole term. In 1968 we did two terms and in 1969, with a program choreographed by Garth Welch, we did the three full school terms. There was huge enthusiasm. I could see that it was really was needed.”

From small beginnings, something monumental would grow…

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