Designing Dance – New Wings for Madame Butterfly

by Jenny Butler
Tuesday 26th October 2010

So far this week’s Guest Blog from The Australian Ballet is making me feel like a little girl in lolly shop! I’m giddy with excitement and overwhelmed by how beautiful everything is! Mostly I’m amazed by the talent of those who, piece by piece, contribute to every element of the production. – Jenny x

Photos by Thomas Dallas Watson

I’m ushered into a large workroom where seamstresses are quietly fastening hems with precision. Inside the wardrobe department of The Primrose Potter Australian Ballet Centre, swathes of silk are pinned to a mannequin named Pavlova, piles of tulle sprout from table corners, and huge wicker baskets filled with boots and slippers line the walls.

Photograph by Kate Scott

While The Australian Ballet is touring Tokyo and Nagoya, wardrobe production manager Michael Williams agrees to give me a sneak peek at the restoration process of Stanton Welch’s seductive production of Madame Butterfly. The ballet, an adaptation of Puccini’s classic opera, was designed by Peter Farmer, one of the dance world’s most experienced and revered artists. His costumes – all 170 of them – are currently undergoing necessary repairs before the company next performs the ballet, from February 2011.

Photos by Thomas Dallas Watson

In the workroom, amidst the maze of deep plum organza ball gowns and mossy green kimonos, there lie several ‘Kabuki Sailor’ costumes that appear to be bleeding deep crimson, and a set of black mesh masks that look suitable for fencing. It is a ballet of stark contrasts, with the ultra-feminine, languid kimonos placed against the warrior-like outfits worn by the dominating males.

Madame Butterfly pic by Paul Empsom

Diaphanous silks float delicately from the arms of the female dancers, seeming only to illuminate the pathos of Butterfly’s story. Sculptural black head-dresses worn by the Japanese men might have been plucked out of a Philip Treacy showroom, whereas Butterfly’s girlfriends wear flowers in their hair so delicate it is as though each young woman has been sprinkled with cherry blossoms.

Annie Carroll, a former dancer with The Australian Ballet who hung up her pointe shoes in 2009 to study media and communications. When Annie is not putting pen to paper, she is most likely found indulging her passion for independent publications, perusing pretty clothes, and digesting tea and biscuits.

by Jenny Butler
Tuesday 26th October 2010


  • Esther Navarro-Orejon 6 years ago

    What incredible images! The fabrics are divine. Thanks for sharing.

  • Stella Murphy 6 years ago

    Looking forward to the rest of the series – I hope there is one about their props/amazing scenery pieces too!

  • Edwina 6 years ago

    The costume in the last image is absolutely stunning.

  • Kelley Mancer 6 years ago

    Amazing costume! Would love to win the Madame Butterfly to put all theses incredible designs together.

  • Hila 6 years ago

    look at all those shoes! and the costume is so beautiful.

  • RHWKai 6 years ago

    Oh, the kimonos! Just stunning… I’ll be marking Feb 2011 in my calendar for sure..

  • margarita 6 years ago

    What a hive of activity that workroom must be! Such a wealth of talent behind the scenes & hours & hours of rehearsals for each & every performance….I am completely mesmerised by those graceful ballerinas on the stage & have such admiration for every aspect of what must go into each & every one of those amazing productions….& the backdrop ….our stunning Opera House…BRAVO!!…What a fabulous night out!!

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