16 December 2003

Although Sir Robert Helpmann was one of Australia’s most famous international performing arts stars, his work and life in Australia have received very little academic attention.

But that has changed thanks to University of Queensland Faculty of Arts PhD scholar Dr Anna Bemrose, who recently completed her thesis “A Servant of Art: Robert Helpmann in Australia.”

As well as researching private and public collections, Dr Bemrose personally interviewed many of Helpmann’s professional collaborators in Australia and overseas. These included Garth Welch, Richard Bonynge, Peter Sculthorpe, Dame Alicia Markova and the late Dame Ninette de Valois.

Dr Bemrose said while there was information on Sir Robert’s work during his time overseas, very little had been done on his time before that or on his triumphant return to Australia.

“Most people seem to think that he went to England and that was where he learnt his craft, but even before he left Australia he had explored most aspects of the arts. He had been involved in experimental theatre in Adelaide and had already choreographed his first ballet.

“While Helpmann’s artistic versatility led him to explore many areas of the arts, it was initially ballet that drew him back to Australia to work with the Australian Ballet, which he showcased to the world.”

Dr Bemrose is now developing her research into a book which she hopes will portray a more complete picture of one of Australia’s truly great performers.

Media: For more information contact Lynda Flower at UQ Communications (telephone 07 3365 2339).