As the recipient of Telstra’s Ballet Dancer Award in 2013, at 26, Chris Rodgers-Wilson is already a celebrated member of the Australian Ballet Company. Appearing in Manon – a tale where love is blind and wealth is blinding – he will be sure to charm audiences as Melbourne prepares for another stunning season of dance.
With all of Manon’s glamour and opulence, is there a particular act or set that most excites you as a dancer?
The designs for this production of Manon by Peter Farmer are stunning. They span several different scenes, completely evoking the atmosphere of 18th-century Paris and America. I think my favourite scene is the dark and glamorous bordello in act two – it's a great setting for all the frivolity and scandal in the story and it’s great fun to dance in those surroundings.
This season will be the first time Australian audiences will hear the new orchestration by long-time Manon conductor Martin Yates. How does the new orchestration improve on the original score?
Martin Yates’ new arrangement of the Manon score retains all the wonderful melodies of Jules Massenet's score, along with a few subtle adjustments to improve the flow of the storytelling in the ballet. It sounds absolutely beautiful – we were very lucky to start our 2014 season accompanied by the Queensland Symphony while in Brisbane – and now the equally brilliant Orchestra Victoria will be bringing the music to life for Melbourne audiences.
How do you make your interpretation of the character unique when other dancers have performed the role before you?
It is definitely important to take inspiration from great artists of the past and their interpretations. The fun part for us now as the current dancers is to explore the possibilities of ourselves being the various characters, in rehearsals and throughout the performance seasons. Hopefully our own individuality can give something new, dynamic and spontaneous to the production.
Where does Manon speak most vividly of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s celebrated choreographic style?
Sir Kenneth Macmillan was a master at creating beautiful pas-de-deux for his leading characters – the movement capturing the essence of human emotions as they live through their story. Manon is no exception, the choreography soars to the music with an energy and passion that moves audiences to gasp, laugh and cry.
As the debut piece for the Australian ballet in 2014, does Manon give us a glimpse of what to expect from the company this year?
Similar to the epic scale of Manon, throughout the year the company will perform La Bayadère and The Nutcracker – two great classics, both showcasing fantastic dancing, production design and narrative. There are also several other programs of more varied classical and contemporary dance from world-renowned choreographers during the Chroma and Imperial Suite that I am sure audiences will love!
What draws you to continue working and performing for a company in Australia, and in particular, Melbourne?
I love being based in Melbourne. The city has a great local arts scene, and The Australian Ballet shares the arts precinct with many other performers and companies both local and international, so there is always something new to see and experience. The Australian Ballet is a motivated and passionate company, and we are fortunate with our touring schedule to perform all over Australia and internationally.
Manon is showing at the Art Centre Melbourne until March 24. For more information and tickets, click here.