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World-First Dobell Ballet Premieres in Lake Mac

Dancer Alexander Abbot plays the adult Dobell

The first ballet to put acclaimed portrait and landscape artist Sir William Dobell on centre stage has launched to a sold-out audience at the Multi-Arts Pavilion, mima, in Lake Macquarie.


MAP mima Curator Pippa Budge said Friday night’s premiere of the new ballet Storm Approaching Wangi and Other Desires played to a capacity crowd.

The ballet fuses dance, music and art, with four talented creatives the driving force behind the work.

“The stage of the arts pavilion opens to the sky and lake, providing a perfect place to showcase an exploration of Dobell’s life, art and relationship to Lake Macquarie,” she said.

Taking its name from Dobell’s epic landscape painting Storm Approaching Wangi, which took out the prestigious Wynne Prize in 1948, the ballet follows the artist from childhood to his later years, spent reclusively in his Wangi Wangi home and studio.

It is the brainchild of award-winning local artist James Drinkwater, whose direction has influenced everything from the storytelling and music to the costumes and sets.

Drinkwater said he was driven to create the ballet after reading about Dobell and being awed by his work.

“Everyone wishes there was something they had done,” he said.

“For me, it was always ballet.”

The artist raised his idea of a Dobell ballet with people he knew in opera and dance circles, “but the opportunities weren’t there, and I’m not the type to wait around for them”.

“I just thought, ‘Let’s do it’,” he said.

Choreographers Belle Beasley and Skip Willcox assembled a troupe of four professional dance artists – Alexander Abbot, Allie Graham and Strickland Young, along with Beasley – and two young dancers, Drinkwater’s son, Vinnie, and Matthew Mortimer, portraying Dobell as a boy and his friend.

Alexander Abbot, who has performed across Australia and internationally, plays the adult Dobell, interpreting his multifaceted personality and career through dance.

While there are many biographies and stories about Dobell’s life, Skip Willcox said there was yet to be a dance work.

“So it’s very exciting to be able to interpret his life into dance and to bring the characters of his life into the show,” she said.

“It’s going to be relationships-focused. It’s really about who he was and the people that influenced him and that he had connections with.”

Beasley said she hoped audiences would take away a sense of who Dobell was and the era in which he emerged as one of Australia’s most influential artists.

“I would be thrilled if the audience goes away not just knowing Dobell’s name, but getting a sense of who he was as a person, and also of the world he lived in,” she said.

Storm Approaching Wangi and Other Desires, with music composed by Joseph Franklin, continues with a 7pm performance on Saturday and a 5pm performance on Sunday.

Go to for tickets and more information.


Storm Approaching Wangi and Other Desires is part of the MAP mima presents program, supported by Lake Macquarie City Council, the NSW Government through Create NSW, and through the Australian Government’s Restart Investment to Sustain and Expand Fund.


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