07/11/2019 - 10:28

WA Ballet goes to China

07/11/2019 - 10:28

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The West Australian Ballet has announced it will tour China with a performance of ‘Giselle’ in October of next year, as part of the company’s recently announced 2020 season.

Jessica Machin says international tours provide opportunities for the ballet’s corporate partners. Photo: WA Ballet

 WA Ballet’s upcoming tour of China will help foster sought-after cultural exchanges with Australia’s fast-growing neighbour.

The West Australian Ballet has announced it will tour China with a performance of ‘Giselle’ in October of next year, as part of the company’s recently announced 2020 season.

The tour, overseen by artistic director Aurelien Scannella, will mark WA Ballet’s first visit to China in 15 years, and aims to build on existing cultural exchanges in the region.

WA Ballet executive director Jessica Machin said the 2020 tour would form part of a broader strategy of engagement with the region that followed on from its recent tours of Indonesia.

“The last three years we’ve been working on building an international touring strategy for the company, and that’s had a focus on the Indo-Pacific region,” Ms Machin told Business News.

“We’ve had five years of working in Indonesia, and the last two years we’ve been building relationships in China.

“We hope to be going there every two years and, much like Indonesia, we hope to have a cultural exchange program.”

Ms Machin said the demand for ballet in China had risen alongside its emerging middle class, with a tour of the country providing the company an opportunity to build its brand in that market.

As for why it has chosen to tour ‘Giselle’, Ms Machin explained that it offered a combination of a simple story, elaborate costumes and highly technical physical performances, while also being an alternative to the classics that had dominated the Chinese market in the past.

“Their thirst is for classic ballet,” she said.

“You can go to Beijing and there’ll be different companies doing ‘Swan Lake’ at any time.

“When I first went, one of the first things I was asked by a Chinese presenter was, ‘Do you have a ‘Swan Lake?’

“We thought if we’re going to enter the market in China, we need a point of differentiation.”

The choice of ‘Giselle’ will also minimise touring costs. Estimating the cost of the tour at $600,000, Ms Machin said the performance’s minimal production values would allow for ease of travel between cities.

“If you’re trying to take a huge work with three containers, you triple your costs,” she said.

“Logistically, you can’t get in and out quickly, and that’s where costs can go up on a tour.”

With the ballet seeking private and matched government funding for the tour, Ms Machin said the ballet would work closely with government and corporate partners to create networking opportunities.

That’s similar to work the ballet has already done in Indonesia, where in a submission to the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade concerning Australia’s soft power abroad, WA Ballet principal partner Woodside Petroleum credited its association with the ballet as aiding in the signing of a 15-year agreement with Pertamina Oil and Gas.

Corporate sponsors can also play a key role in assisting where the company tours.

Though Ms Machin said the ballet would visit Shanghai, Beijing and Guangzhou, she said the tour could expand to Chengdu and other cities, pending input from corporate partners.

“A whole lot of business networking happens behind [a tour],” she said.

“When we approach sponsors, we look at where they’re operating and what sort of deals they’re doing at the moment.

“If they [corporate partners] have interest in a particular city, we can potentially go there.

“There’s a whole lot of publicity that happens around these trips, so they get their brand recognition.”

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