With just over a month to go until Graeme Murphy's new Romeo & Juliet debuts on the Arts Centre stage in Melbourne, anticipation is at an all-time high.
Who will dance the suite of principal roles? Are there new characters? What will Akira Isogawa's costumes look like? How will Murphy's innovative choreography tell this remarkable story?
The answers will be revealed at the world premiere on 13 September 2011 in Melbourne. The production then travels to Sydney from December 2.
Murphy has created the iconic roles of Romeo and Juliet on two of the company's most riveting principal artists: Kevin Jackson and Madeleine Eastoe.
Both have worked extensively with Murphy. Jackson shone in the lead male role in 2009's Firebird, while Eastoe garnered critical acclaim for her portrayal of Odette in Swan Lake, performing the role on opening night of the company's 2008 Paris tour.
The Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet, David McAllister, says the production will be visually arresting with a deep emotional core.
"Prepare to be to be taken on a balletic journey. Murphy's unique blend of storytelling and choreography in the hands of our exceptional dancers will be pure magic on stage, evoking all the romance and tragedy of this timeless narrative."
There are 20 full-time costumiers working on 300 pieces, with the more detailed designs consuming up to 80 hours of sewing power. Over 5,000 metres of assorted fabrics have been used, from saris to snake leather.
Add 1,000 Swarovski crystals, 2,000 sequins and 580 pairs of pointe shoes and the scale of this opulent production becomes clear.
Meanwhile, set designer Gerard Manion has used a hyper-real, vivid lily - a flower symbolic of death - as the opening backdrop. Bursting with colour, this motif suggests both beauty and death, encapsulating the deeper themes of Romeo & Juliet.
This work has been dedicated to living dance legend Dame Margaret Scott, a key player in the development of The Australian Ballet. She was the founding artistic director of The Australian Ballet School and discovered a young Murphy, nurturing him throughout his career as he moved from dance to choreography.