From left: Colin Peasley OAM, Patsy Martin, Steven Woodgate, Josie Woodgate OAM, David McAllister AM
Our guest for the evening of 6th July 2010 was Steven Woodgate, Ballet Master and Répétiteur of the Houston Ballet. He was interviewed on our behalf by David McAllister AM and Colin Peasley OAM on the theme ‘Dancing Around the World’. The interview was packed with facts, shared reminiscences, and impressions of ballet companies and peoples around the world. Members enjoyed a warm evening with plenty of humour.
Steven's interest in dance started very early. By age three he was reproducing items from his favourite movie musical to entertain his family. At five he started classes with the late Kathleen Gorham. He was the puppet in Don Quixote on stage with Rudolf Nureyev - and at age six performed the role again for the film, made in a hangar at Essendon Aerodrome. Two years later he was on stage with Dame Margot Fonteyn in the Scottish National Ballet's Nutcracker and was invited to Dame Margot's dressing room to meet the great star. Not surprisingly, these experiences confirmed his interest in dance, and his involvement in the world of ballet.
Steven studied at the Australian Ballet School from 1983 to 1985. He told us he focussed hard on developing his technical skills, imagining that performance was something to be left until he was on stage with a company. A hint from one of his teachers persuaded him to let his performance skills blossom at the same time, and he was selected by Maina Gielgud to join The Australian Ballet in 1986.
Amongst his many roles were The Boy in Beyond Twelve with David McAllister and the late Kelvin Coe; one of the Ugly Sisters in Cinderalla (also with David McAllister); the leads in Coppélia and La Fille mal Gardée; Goro in Madame Butterfly; the choreographer in The Competition; and other roles in The Merry Widow and Swan Lake. Steven won the Victorian Green Room Award in 1988 for best male dancer for his role as 'Bim' in Gaieté Parisienne. He represented Australia in the International Ballet Competition in Moscow in 1989, where he was awarded the Moscow Music Magazine Award.
Touring with, and representing, The Australian Ballet took Steven to many centres of world ballet, including the Odessa Opera House; the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens; the Kirov in Leningrad; the Stanislavsky in Moscow; the Metropolitan Opera House in New York; the Kennedy Centre in Washington; the Opera House in Orange County; the Seattle Opera House; the Kennedy Centre, Washington; the Coliseum Theatre in London (with Princess Diana present); and theatres in China, Japan, Singapore, and Thailand. At Covent Garden in London he received an individual curtain-call for his performance as 'Bim'.
In 1996 he was promoted to the rank of Senior Artist, and in 2000 was awarded a Churchill Fellowship. This enabled him to observe ballet masters around the world and study their various teaching methods. He visited the National Ballet of Canada and its school in Toronto, the Seattle Ballet, American Ballet Theatre and the New York City Ballet, the Netherlands Dance Theatre, and the Stuttgart Ballet and its school.
Steven joined the Houston Ballet Company in January 2004. He has reproduced several of Stanton Welch’s ballets including Madame Butterfly and Clear for this company and for the Singapore Dance Theatre, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, the National Ballet of Canada, and ballet companies in throughout the USA. He has also put on various ballets in Spain - for Angel Corella’s company at the Royal Palace of La Granja near Segovia, and in five other towns.
Aided by reminiscences from David McAllister, Steven entertained us with many anecdotes and impressions and, in the best showbiz tradition, left his audience asking for more.