There are nights at the theatre when the stars align to deliver an experience that exceeds all expectations. Friday night’s premiere of Kunstkamer by The Australian Ballet was one of them. To say it was perfect is to do it an injustice. The ability to encapsulate the entire history and DNA of an artform in one performance requires genius – not only of its creators, but those executing their vision as well. The Australian Ballet and the musicians of the Opera Australia Orchestra under the baton of Nicolette Fraillon had it in spades.

Kunstkamer TAB

Adam Elmes and David Hallberg in Kunstkamer, The Australian Ballet, 2022. Photo © Daniel Boud

Kunstkamer can be loosely translated as a “cabinet of curiosities”. It is derived from the homonymous tome compiled by collector Albertus Seba between 1734 and 1763, as well as Peter the Great’s museum in St Petersburg, to which Seba contributed. The idea of using this as the thematic backbone for a 60th-anniversary celebration of the Nederlands Dans Theater (NDT) in 2019 may never have come about had choreographer Sol León not given Seba’s book to then Artistic Director Paul Lightfoot as...