Janet Vernon, Sonia Humphrey, Graeme Hudson and Arthur Raymond were the first Ballet in a Nutshell dancers, kick-starting the ensemble that would eventually become The Dance Company (NSW) and later Sydney Dance Company. The group, aged between 18 and 21 and newly graduated from The Australian Ballet, would present the Nutshell program at up to three schools a day in Sydney. With two ballet barres strapped to the roof of the station wagon, they would bump-in, warm–up, perform the program, bump-out and travel to the next school. No production crew, no stage manager, and no nonsense.
Ever mindful that the success of the program hinged on enthusiastic audience engagement, director Suzanne Musitz started to weave so-called “daring and modern” jazz forms into the program. By 1968, the pas de deux was replaced with go go; pas de bourees with step-ball-change; and tulle tutus with miniskirts. “We didn’t want to go out and do tutus,” says Musitz. “We weren’t a tutu company.” Bare feet became increasingly common, and pink tights made way for polka dots and fluoros. Fittingly (it was the 60s, after all) Tchaikovsky took a rest while feel-good hit of the summer Up, Up and Away got to work.
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