The 2010s
Timothy Brown, Artistic Director 2014 ongoing

The 2010s

2010 was the last year of a four year term for Christine Spencer as BTQ President.  Her dedication and inspiring leadership earned her a very well deserved Life Member’s award. Her successor was Michelle Platz who held the position of President until 2013, sharing that final year with Leah Radford.

It was in her final years that Michelle guided a timely change to the government structure of BTQ, bringing it up to date and in line with expectations of an incorporated body: in 2013  Denise Richardson was appointed in the paid position of Executive Director; and in 2014 the old committee structure was replaced by a Board of Directors. Craig Spencer was appointed Chair and Sharon Christodoulou, Barbara Eversen, Michelle Platz and Jeremy Wicht were appointed Directors. In 2015 Nicole Kielly-Coleman as (BTQ Parent Liason Representative) joined the team of Directors, replaced by Maree Sandford in the position for 2016/17 and Karen Hammermeister in 2017/18. Another innovation was the widening of BTQ’s digital presence and reach with the design of a new logo, the setting up of a new company website and a new Facebook and Instagram page.

Artistic Directors Jodie-Anne White and Boris Bivona presented three outstanding productions in the first three years of the new decade. Continuing the proven successful strategy of choosing story-based ballets with great appeal to young audiences, they staged Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 2010, Alice in Wonderland in 2011, and to celebrate BTQ’s 75th year, a delightful production of Cinderella in 2012.

Alice in Wonderland, however, fell victim to an extraordinary weather event - Brisbane’s January 2011 floods. Booked for a January season in QPAC’s Playhouse, the production had to be postponed to a shorter season in QPAC's Concert Hall in April, due to serious flooding within the QPAC building and precinct.

BTQ’s  75th Anniversary was celebrated with a delightful production of Cinderella. To heighten the celebrations there were guest appearances by professional dancers Aeden Pittendreigh and former BTQ members Lily Spencer and Nathan Mannis. There was also an Opening Night pre-performance party organised by Leah Radford that featured a power-point presentation of photographs from the last 75 years. The invitees represented those who had made significant contributions to BTQ’s long history.

The celebratory year was tinged with great sadness however. Suffering from terminal cancer whilst still preparing the cast for Cinderella, co-artistic director and choreographer Jodie-Anne White courageously made it to Opening Night but passed away on the day of the final performance. President Michelle Platz paid tribute to them both in her Annual Report for the 2011/2012 season:

Jodie and her husband were Artistic Directors of BTQ for 10 years. Under their directorship we saw BTQ grow from strength to strength. My sincere thanks and gratitude go to Boris and Jodie who during a very difficult personal time still put BTQ and the production of Cinderella as their main concern. Jodie was extremely grateful that she was able to see her dream alive on stage and it was so heart-warming to see the standing ovation for her on Opening Night. She was an amazing person – her love of BTQ was inspirational. We thank you Boris, for the amazing commitment and dedication you have given to BTQ.

A memorial Scholarship was set up in Jodie’s memory with Boris donating a perpetual trophy in her honour. After 10 years, he stepped down as Artistic Director. In 2012 Boris Bivona was honoured as a Life Member of BTQ.

Another Life Member, Theda Lowe, was honoured in 2013 with an Order of Australia Medal (OAM) for her almost 60 years contribution to Brisbane performing arts.  Mrs Lowe had dedicated her time and talents to Ballet Theatre as a skilled costumier, wardrobe mistress and long-term committee member as well as a variety of roles for Queensland Light Opera Company, Queensland Modern and Contemporary Dance Company, and wardrobe mistress to the Ashgrove Dance Studio run my Principals Judith and Wendy Lowe. In fact the Lowe family of Theda, daughters Judith and Wendy and Judith’s late husband Ken McCaffrey were actively involved with BTQ between the 1960s and  late 1980s with Theda Lowe active as Wardrobe Mistress until 1991. To honour her OAM, artist Max Hurley (who worked closely with her in his role as costume designer on many BTQ productions) created several cartoon images of Theda which you can see in the gallery below.

Succeeding Boris and Jodie as Co-Artistic Directors were Timothy Brown and Libby McDonnell. A graduate of the Australian Ballet School, Tim choreographed and performed extensively nationally and internationally with Queensland Ballet and Expressions Dance Company before joining BTQ.  Libby McDonnell brought with her skills as a choreographer, performer and designer. Her design history included costumes for Circa and Expressions Dance Company productions. Their first and only Ballet Theatre production together was Peter Pan (2013) with both sharing the choreography credit, and  with costume design by Carmel Wenck. They dedicated this production to “the loving memory of Jodie Anne White-Bivona”, noting that Peter Pan was the first ballet Boris and Jodie had created together for BTQ and wishing to acknowledge “the legacy of dedication, passion and artistry that came before us” (Program notes).

In 2014 Timothy Brown was joined by Rehearsal Director Elizabeth Whelan for their production of The Little Mermaid which was choreographed by Tim, set design by Rozina Suliman, costume design by Carmel Wenck and lighting design by Andrew Meadows. It was a stunning production in every way. As one reviewer stated:  “With choreography by Artistic Director Timothy Brown, the ballet was a delight to watch and the contrasting scenes of ‘under the sea’ and ‘in the prince’s court’, gave greater scope for variety in dance style, costuming, and set design” (from Review by Bobbi-Lea Dionysius, Aussie, 27thJanuary 2014). The same creative team worked on the 2015 season, The Sleeping Beauty, an equally delightful production.  For the following year two years esteemed set designer Bill Haycock came on board for Aladdin (2015) and BTQ’s 80th Anniversary season of Cinderella (2017). In her Welcome address in the Cinderella program, Executive Director Denise Richardson wrote:

Eighty years ago, in Brisbane, a small band of dedicated ballet teachers, lead by the indomitable Miss Phyllis Danaher, established the Queensland branch of the newly formed Australasian Society of Operatic Dancing, an umbrella organisation for teachers or ballet (or operatic dancing as it was then called). This was the genesis of Ballet Theatre of Queensland, now arguably Queensland’s, if not Australia’s, leading youth ballet company.

Ballet Theatre’s 80-year history reads like a who’s who of the State’s dance luminaries, who have supported this unique organisation over the decades as it performed ion regional and city centres, giving talented young dancers the chance to perform at a professional level.

Researcher and writer: Dr Christine Comans

Sources: 2011/2012 AGM President’s Report; 2012 Cinderella program; 2013 Peter Pan program; 2017 Cinderella program; Review by Bobbi-Lea Dionys

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