Tim Harbour: Dance, Choreography and Entertainment

Tim Harbour Photo:  Lynette Wills
Tim Harbour
Photo: Lynette Wills

Recently appointed resident choreographer for The Australian Ballet Tim Harbour discusses his latest endeavors with the Company and the exciting 2014 program that blends classical favorites with innovative contemporary choreography.

You’ve recently been made the resident choreographer for The Australian Ballet, the first in ten years, are you enjoying the role?

It’s wonderful to be a part of the Aussie Ballet again and a real privilege to be given this position. Right now I’m working on some upcoming choreography with one of the newer dancers in the company. I’m also having a good look at the dancers I’m not familiar with. There’s so much different talent and I see it as part of my new role to put those individual talents on show with the work I make.

This is not the first time you’ve worked with the Australian Ballet, you were originally a dancer with the company before making the transition to choreographer. What prompted you to take the leap (pardon the pun) into choreography?

I began choreographing in the last few years of my dancing career and it came as a surprise how quickly it became important to me. Being able to dance at that professional level can’t last forever and when I stopped dancing I was lucky to have opportunities to choreograph. Of course I leapt at the chance (pun apology!).

Can you tell me a little about the program Bodytorque DNA and your role?

Bodytorque was the program I first made dance for. It’s an amazing thing for any choreographer to be able to work with such excellence – great dancers, a big theatre and high production levels. Bodytorque has been popular with audiences because of the variety of dance you get to see. The pieces are shorter and you see more of them. It’s also a chance to see Australian Ballet dancers who may not yet have had featured roles put front and center. So far Bodytorque has only been seen in Sydney but this year it will be presented in Melbourne for the first time. I will make a new work. The theme this year is ‘DNA’ and right now I’m thinking about extroversion and introversion as dualities existing within a performers’ personality.

Are there any particular choreographers who inspire you?

I love George Balanchine for his inventiveness within the classical lexicon. His choreography projects so strongly and his musicality is peerless. I also admire Jiri Kylian for his musicality and his choreography felt wonderful to dance. Today, I look at Alexei Ratmansky and am inspired by his unabashed classicism. He doesn’t try to be ‘cool’ with his choreography; his perspective is fresh but comes from a deep heritage. But my soft spot goes to Jerome Robbins. I like that he made such a range of dance, from musical theatre classics like West Side Story to his concert work for New York City Ballet. His steps convey human personality so well. They effortlessly tell you a story.

The 2014 Australian Ballet repertoire is quite a varied season; is there a particular performance you are most excited about sharing with Australian audiences?

Tim Harbour centre in rehearsals for The Australian Ballet's Halcyon.
Tim Harbour centre in rehearsals for The Australian Ballet’s Halcyon.

Bodytorque is such great entre to the Australian Ballet especially if you’re unfamiliar with ballet. It would actually be a great date night! You’re sure to get plenty of conversation starters. Adelaide will get a chance to see the new Cinderella created for the Company by Alexei Ratmansky. This was quite a coup internationally – definitely a must see. Melbourne and Sydney will get Sir Peter Wright’s Nutcracker the perfect ballet for the family.

2014 has already seen a lot of change within the company, with new graduates joining the troupe and seasoned performers retiring. Do you think things will quiet down as the season progresses?

There’s always fresh blood coming into the company, which I think is great. Dance is a short career but this is what makes it such a vibrant art form. The Australian Ballet doesn’t really ever quiet down.

You’ve seen the ballet world as both a dancer and a choreographer, do you have a preference?

Dancing was a magical thing and I miss the physical act, the music and the camaraderie. Choreography is not so different except I can’t do the physical act very well any more and I’m more alone in my work. But the music is still there and I am in the audience more, which I love.

What are your thoughts on dance/reality TV shows? Are these programs a realistic portrayal of the audition process?

I enjoy the shows and the drama of the audition process, which is a bit exaggerated but fun. It’s entertainment and dance does entertainment really well. Dancing goes deep in people, it’s been with us for as long as there have been people. When you dance you understand things that can’t be put into words.

What advice would you have given yourself as an aspiring performer?

I think I’d steer clear of advice. I needed to make the mistakes I made to be my best. I had a lot of luck and I try not to forget that. If anything I’d say to myself: ‘Dance doesn’t always have to be performed; it’s great to just do it for yourself’.

For more information on the upcoming Australian Ballet season head to www.australianballet.com.au

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