Three dainty figures in gossamer white danced lightly through the trees on the shores of Lake Burley Griffin yesterday. Three pairs of pretty blue eyes sparkled as the Canberra sunshine smiled on them in preparation for tonight's Telstra Ballet in the Park, the first time the Australian Ballet has performed here in seven years.
Taking to the stage are Canberra-raised principal artists Lana Jones and Rachel Rawlins. They will be joined by Queanbeyan-born 2012 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award nominee, corps de ballet member Dimity Azoury and the 2011 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award winner, Chengwu Guo, who starred as the teenage Li Cunxin in the smash-hit film Mao's Last Dancer.
The Australian Ballet artistic director David McAllister said he hoped the weather would remain fine as Australia's best dancers performed a selection of vignettes from ballet's greatest hits - Swan Lake, The Nutcracker and Giselle.
''This … will be the only opportunity to see the Australian Ballet in Canberra this year. The company will return in 2013 to stage a brand-new ballet in celebration of Canberra's centenary,'' he said.
''We have a long history of touring to Canberra. This free performance is our birthday present to our passionate Canberra supporters.''
Rawlins said she and Jones last performed in Canberra in 2005 in the White concert. ''It always feels lovely to come back here and perform,'' she said.
Rawlins said performing outdoors was always a special experience. ''It definitely has that feeling of freedom, the wind and atmosphere that being outside creates. ''There's always a big, very excited, crowd often with people who wouldn't usually come to the ballet in a theatre.''
It will be the first time the Australian Ballet has performed an outdoor concert in Canberra and fans are expected to come from as far as Batemans Bay.
Mr McAllister said a specially selected array of repertoire would be performed featuring company highlights from throughout the decades. ''Sumptuous divertissements from La Favorita, Don Quixote, Giselle, The Nutcracker, Le Corsaire and Molto Vivace will sit alongside an emotionally charged pas de trois from Graeme Murphy's 2002 masterpiece Swan Lake,'' he said.
''Finishing off the evening will be an excerpt from the Russian classic La Bayadere. Featuring 12 female dancers in a sea of white tutus, tiaras and tulle, the Kingdom of the Shades scene is a superb showcase of a strong corps de ballet with ensemble work that demands absolute precision.''
The 90-minute concert, with no interval, is a free event at Stage 88 in Commonwealth Park which starts at 7pm.