#36: Graeme Murphy on the Genius of Kristian Fredrikson


24 October 2019

Multi-discipline designer Kristian Fredrikson was an extraordinary influence in Australian Dance, Opera and Drama.

His collaborations with Graeme Murphy saw scenes of unleashed imagination, breathtaking beauty and impeccable craftsmanship, pulsing with human emotion. Memories of Kristian’s sets and costumes for Shéhérazade, Daphnis and Chloe, An Evening, The Selfish Giant, After Venice, Late Afternoon of a Faun, King Roger, Beauty and the Beast and later stagings of Poppy, are his legacy to us all.

Graeme Murphy’s ‘Daphnis and Chloe’ (1989)

“Kristian brought such an incredible depth to every collaboration,” says Murphy, Sydney Dance Company’s Artistic Director from 1976 to 2007. “His background as a journalist meant he knew the back story to the back story allowing me to go off on a tangent. His eccentricities were just delightful. Sometimes they aligned beautifully with mine and sometimes he would head off in crazy different directions, but it was always amazing. I think we took him out of the baroque excesses of classical ballet because at Sydney Dance Company everything had to be pared down. In this way, he found a new voice: his works for Sydney Dance Company had a clarity and simplicity, as well as an apparent measure of opulence. These works somehow contained the essence of Kristian.”

Graeme Murphy’s ‘After Venice’ 1984

“Sydney Dance Company was a wonderful world where the creation of sets, costumes and new works all happened under one roof, so Kristian was endlessly in the building. Halfway through a rehearsal, if you had a question, or if you had an inspiration, you could run to Kristian’s space and say, ‘Come and have a look at this section of choreography and see where it takes you’. The dancers, of course, loved to wear his costumes which became a part of their characterisations. Janet Vernon would always take his costume illustrations and set them up on her dressing room mirror. They were so exquisitely drawn that when she was doing her make-up and psyching up for the show, they would take her straight into the world she needed to inhabit. It’s wonderful when a costume is not something you throw on but a doorway to the character you become on stage.”

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