Juliet Burnett is one of Australia's most recognised dancers, who also works as a writer and activist.
She made her mark at The Australian Ballet from 2003-2015, leaving to become a freelance dancer, performing in Australia and Indonesia and collaborating with a variety of dance and cross-disciplinary artists. In 2016 Juliet made the move to Europe to join Ballet Vlaanderen, Belgium's premier dance company, under the directorship of renowned choreographer Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui.
Juliet grew up in Sydney, Australia, with lots of visits to her Mum's home country, Indonesia. Her parents enrolled her in the local ballet school at age 5 to see if there was latent dancing blood from her grandmother, who was the Sultan’s star dancer at his court in Jogjakarta.
She trained in classical ballet in the Cecchetti method with Valerie Jenkins, and later also with Christine Keith. She was fortunate to receive special coaching and mentorship from the late Valrene Tweedie. Through the Cecchetti Society, Juliet received the Big Brother Movement Scholarship to further her study in London at The Royal Ballet School, where Gailene Stock invited her to train. But, feeling homesick, she returned to Australia where had been accepted into The Australian Ballet School under the direction of Marilyn Rowe. She trained there from 2000-2002, during which time she performed in Paris as a select group of students at the Danses de Mai Festival, and in two tours of The Dancers Company, the regional touring arm of The Australian Ballet, and received numerous awards including the Friends of The Australian Ballet Scholarship, the Elizabeth McDonald Memorial Scholarship, the Caltex Best All-Rounder Award and the George Garrat Award for Academic Excellence. In her graduation year, two works were created on her: a neo-classical pas de deux with The Australian Ballet's Kevin Jackson choreographed by Mark Annear, and the role of Clara in Leigh Rowles' production of Nutcracker.
Juliet was offered a contract with The Australian Ballet upon graduation, and began her career there in 2003. In her first year she was chosen by Balanchine repetiteur Vicki Simon to dance the Theme One pas de deux in The Four Temperaments, then in her second year was Guest Artist on The Dancers Company 2004 tour, reprising the role of Clara in Leigh Rowles' Nutcracker. Also whilst in the early years of the Corps de Ballet, Juliet danced the Earth Fairy in Stanton Welch's The Sleeping Beauty, and the ballerina role of the Prelude and Pas de Deux in Mikhail Fokine's iconic Les Sylphides. Promoted to Coryphee in 2007, she was plucked from this rank to create the title role in Canadian choreographer Matjash Mrozewski's Semele, after which she was promoted to Soloist, in 2009, and then following her critically acclaimed performance as Sophie in Graeme Murphy's The Silver Rose, she was promoted to Senior Artist for the 2011 season. Juliet's repertoire continued to expand, with highlights including Odette in Graeme Murphy's Swan Lake, the title role in Maina Gielgud's production of Giselle, her namesake role, Juliet, in Graeme Murphy's Romeo and Juliet, the title role in Auguste Bournonville's La Sylphide, Polyhymnia in Balanchine's Apollo, 2nd movement pas de deux in Kenneth MacMillan's Concerto, Sugar Plum Fairy in Peter Wright's Nutcracker grand pas de deux, Valse in Mikhail Fokine's Les Sylphides, Flute Variation in Serge Lifar's Suite en Blanc, Queen of the Dryads and Lead Bridesmaid in Rudolf Nureyev's Don Quixote, Theme Three in George Balanchine's The Four Temperaments, Princess Tsarevna in Graeme Murphy's Firebird, 3rd Solo Shade in Stanton Welch's La Bayadere, 2nd Variation and Pas de Trois in Marius Petipa's Paquita, Duchess (Act 1 Pas de Trois) in Stephen Baynes' Swan Lake, Prayer in Peggy van Praagh's Coppelia, as well as leading roles in Wayne McGregor's Chroma and Dyad 1929, Jiri Kylian's Petite Mort, Nacho Duato's Por Vos Muero, Nicolo Fonte's The Possibility Space, Christopher Wheeldon's After the Rain, and principal roles in Stephen Baynes' Beyond Bach, Molto Vivace, Requiem and At the Edge of Night. Juliet has worked in creation with Wayne McGregor, Stanton Welch, Alexei Ratmansky, Krysztof Pastor, Nicolo Fonte, Matjash Mrozewski, Stephen Baynes, Gideon Obarzanek, Graeme Murphy and Stephen Page, and has also danced in existing works by Jerome Robbins, John Cranko, Leonide Massine, Frederick Ashton and Harold Lander. Particularly treasured experiences include working in creation with Stephen Page on Warumuk: In the Dark Night, a collaboration with Bangarra Dance Theatre (Australia's indigenous dance company), legendary choreographer Glen Tetley on Voluntaries, Ballets Russes ballerinas Irina Baronova, Anna Volkova and Valrene Tweedie on Les Sylphides, Maina Gielgud in crafting the role of Giselle, and Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon on the roles of Odette, Juliet and Sophie.
In mid-2015 Juliet left The Australian Ballet after her final show as Giselle, with her husband, family, friends and teachers watching at the Sydney Opera House - the stage where her dancing dreams began as a starry-eyed young student. She embarked on a successful stint as a freelance Guest Artist, dancing in the 1st Indonesian Ballet Gala in Jakarta (Giselle pas de deux); Ballet Stars Under the Stars Gala in Melbourne and Falls Creek (Tim Podesta's Alta Stare and Simon Hoy's Infinite Spaces); the Arts Club Winter Gala at the Arts Centre Melbourne, (Swan Lake Act 2 Pas de Deux); with Chunky Move, in Melanie Lane's new creation on Juliet, Re-make; and in West Australian Ballet's Jakarta Tour, which she initiated, dancing Christopher Hill's Echoes of a Possible Future and Melanie Lane's Megatruh. For the latter work Juliet created the concept with Melanie, drawing on their shared Indonesian culture and inspired by the writing of Juliet's late uncle W.S. Rendra, Indonesia's foremost poet, playwright and activist. Megatruh marked the second time Juliet collaborated with her husband, composer and music producer Nicholas Robert Thayer; their first collaboration was in June 2016, along with designer Gabrielle Adamidis, a dance based video work titled Letting Blood, presented at MONA by the Dark MOFO festival with assistance from the Australia Council for the Arts.
Since 2016 Juliet has been a First Soloist with Ballet Vlaanderen, where she has had new creations made for her by Édouard Lock in The Heart of August and The Heart of August ... continued and Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui in his Requiem. Other leading roles include the title role in Akram Khan’s Giselle, in William Forsythe's Approximate Sonata and Workwithinwork, Pina Bausch's Café Müller, as Marguerite in Jean-Christophe Maillot's Faust, as Queen Fabiola in Jeroen Verbruggen's Ma Mére L'Oye, in Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui's Firebird, Memento Mori, Exhibition and Fall, and as the Snow Queen in Demis Volpi's Nutcracker. In 2017 she has danced as Guest Artist with Dutch National Ballet, in Remi Wortmeyer's new creation, Passing Shadows.
In 2010 Juliet was awarded the Khitercs Travelling Scholarship, which she used to broaden her development at The Royal Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Dutch National Ballet and Ballet Vlaanderen. She also utilised the opportunity to further her understanding of her mother's culture, spending time in Indonesia learning her grandmother's art of Javanese classical dance with renowned master teacher Bu Rusini, and taking tuition with famed actor Adi Kurdi in the acting and theatre techniques pioneered by Juliet's uncle, seminal poet, playwright, actor and activist W.S. Rendra.
Other accolades include nominations for Most Outstanding Female Dancer in Dance Europe’s Critics Survey 2018 (Édouard Lock’s The Heart of August … continued), Most Outstanding Performance by a Female Dancer (Re-make by Melanie Lane), and Outstanding Achievement in Dance on Film (Letting Blood) in the 2017 Australian Dance Awards, Telstra Ballet Dancer Award 2009, and being named as Dancer to Watch 2008, 2011 and 2012 in Dance Australia’s Critics’ Survey.
Juliet is also a writer, having been a regular contributor for Dance Tabs, MDM Dancewear's website and The Australian Ballet's blog Behind Ballet. She has written for other publications since, including Vogue Australia, Dance International and Gourmet Traveller magazines.
Juliet has been an Ambassador for Bloch Dancewear, Youth Ambassador for NSW Friends of The Australian Ballet, Official Ambassador for charity CARE Australia's Walk In Her Shoes Challenge, Ambassador for The Future climate justice initiative, and was an active member of the Greening The Australian Ballet committee.
She was featured in Vintage Girls, a book by Nadia Barbaro, and has modelled for Australian swimwear and activewear label We Are Handsome at Australian Fashion Week 2015, as well as for various publications and websites including Harper's Bazaar, Women's Fitness, Vogue Australia and Net-a-Porter.
Juliet has also been a guest ballet teacher around Australia and in Indonesia, for everyone from children to elite-level students to professional dancers (including Sydney Dance Company) to adult beginners. She has conducted workshops and intensives in Indonesia in 2016 and 2018.
In 2015, Juliet fulfilled a lifelong dream to bring the magic of ballet to the underprivileged in Indonesia, realised through the Ballet Goes to Ciliwung workshop with the assistance of Ballet.Id Foundation and the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, and she returned there in 2016. In 2018, she continued this work with Ballet Goes to Banten and Ballet for the Kampung. Her hope is to continue to promote the accessibility of ballet to all Indonesians, regardless of socioeconomic background, and to continue strengthening the relationship between Indonesia and Australia through the universal art form of dance.
W.S. Rendra once told her that the role of an artist is to be a voice for the people. She looks forward to finding more possibilities each day to fulfil this aspiration.