Bold and Beautiful: The Creative Vision of Ann Church

A new acquisition capturing the creative vision of Melbourne born designer Ann Church joins Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection. In a career spanning the late 1940s to the early 1970s, Church designed the set and costumes for companies such as the National Theatre Ballet, Victorian Ballet Guild, The Australian Ballet and the West Australian Ballet. This new acquisition  features set and costume designs, notebooks, photographs and newspaper clippings that provide a valuable insight into our early dance repertoire.

Set design by Ann Church for Les Belles Creoles, National Theatre Ballet, 1949 Gift of the Estate of Ann Church, 2017. Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection. Reproduced courtesy of Mrs Collins.

There are vibrantly coloured set and costume designs for one of Ann Church’s earliest commissions for the stage, Les Belles Creoles. Presented by the National Theatre Ballet in 1949, this production was choreographed by Australian dancer Rex Reid and was the first of many ballets on which they collaborated.

Church continued to design for the National Theatre Ballet’s following seasons.  A selection of costume designs from Margaret Scott’s production of Peter and the Wolf (1950) and the full-length version of Swan Lake (1951) are also represented and show the designers bold use of colour. They capture a sense of movement that makes her designs so in tune with the needs of dance.

Notebooks compiled by Ann Church during the 1950s and 1960s. Gift of the Estate of Ann Church, 2017, Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection. Reproduced courtesy of Mrs Collins.

Notebooks containing fabric samples and working drawings provide a rare glimpse into the creative process Church followed when developing new designs. In some we see whimsical ideas for future  ballets, while other pages tackle the practicalities of fabric selection, measurements and garment construction.

Set design by Ann Church for Melbourne Cup, The Australian Ballet, 1962. Gift of the Estate of Ann Church, 2017 Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection. Reproduced courtesy of Mrs Collins.

The costumes designed by Ann Church for the production of Melbourne Cup were donated by The Australian Ballet in 1998, as treasured pieces from the company’s inaugural season of 1962. This recent acquisition provides further representation of Melbourne Cup through a selection of set designs that formed the backdrop to these costumes. Based on the very first running of the famous horse race in 1861, Melbourne Cup presented a number of challenges for the designer. One of these was to capture the historic setting of the event on stage. A carefully compiled scrapbook of newspaper clippings and articles reveals the depth of research she conducted to recreate this spectacle. The scrapbook also includes photographs that capture the magical journey from page to stage.

Margot Anderson
Curator (Dance and Opera)

 

 

Ballet & Horses – Melbourne Cup, The Australian Ballet, 1962

Costume design for Rex Reid's Melbourne Cup, The Australian Ballet, 1962 Gift of The Australian Ballet Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998 Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection
Costume design for Rex Reid’s Melbourne Cup, The Australian Ballet, 1962
Gift of The Australian Ballet
Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998
Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection

Rex Reid’s Melbourne Cup was the first work to be commissioned by The Australian Ballet and premiered on 16 November 1962. Based on the inaugural running of the legendary horse race in 1861, the inclusion of Melbourne Cup in the company’s debut season fulfilled Peggy van Praagh’s wish to present new repertoire featuring Australian themes. The premiere performance featured Kathleen Gorham as Archer, Karl Welander as Archer’s Jockey, Leonie Leahy as the Debutante and Garth Welch as the Jackaroo.

The set and costumes were designed by Ann Church and featured ballerina “horses” in tutus with flowing headdresses. A selection of the original costumes were donated to Arts Centre Melbourne’s Performing Arts Collection by The Australian Ballet in 1998 . You can see photos of the original production on The Australian Ballet’s website.

Costume for Archer in Melbourne Cup, 1962 Designed by Ann Church Realised by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust Wardrobe Department Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998 Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection
Costume for Archer in Melbourne Cup, 1962
Designed by Ann Church
Realised by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust
Wardrobe Department
Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998
Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection
Costume for Archer in Melbourne Cup, 1962 Designed by Ann Church Realised by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust Wardrobe Department Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998 Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection
Costume for Archer in Melbourne Cup, 1962
Designed by Ann Church
Realised by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust
Wardrobe Department
Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998
Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection
Costume for Tory Boy in Melbourne Cup, 1962 Designed by Ann Church Realised by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust Wardrobe Department Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998 Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection
Costume for Tory Boy in Melbourne Cup, 1962
Designed by Ann Church
Realised by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust
Wardrobe Department
Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998
Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection
Costume for Tory Boy in Melbourne Cup, 1962 Designed by Ann Church Realised by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust Wardrobe Department Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998 Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection
Costume for Tory Boy in Melbourne Cup, 1962
Designed by Ann Church
Realised by the Australian Elizabethan Theatre Trust
Wardrobe Department
Gift of The Australian Ballet, 1998
Arts Centre Melbourne, Performing Arts Collection