An enduring partnership

Graeme Murphy AO and Janet Vernon AM first met as students at The Australian Ballet School, Melbourne, in . Vernon was to become Murphy’s muse, and he choreographed many works for her over the ensuing decades. The pair became life partners as well as creative collaborators, working within Australia and on a global stage to push the boundaries of contemporary dance and offer innovative interpretations of the classical ballet canon.

Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon, 1981. Photo: Branco Gaica.
Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon,
© Branco Gaica,

Murphy was Artistic Director of Sydney Dance Company (SDC) for 31 years () with Vernon as Creative Associate/Dancer. In the early years of their tenure, Murphy choreographed and directed while still dancing. The company also offered opportunities for Australian and overseas choreographers to create works.

Murphy created numerous ground-breaking and often controversial works for SDC and The Australian Ballet, both narrative and abstract. Many of these reveal the strong influence and inspiration of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes (for example, Poppy 1978, Shéhérazade , Daphnis and Chloé , Nutcracker – the Story of Clara ). Others are quintessentially Australian (for example, Glimpses , Rumours , Beyond Twelve , Vast , Forty Miles – A River of Dreams ).

Murphy and Vernon continue to work with diverse national and international companies. These have included The Australian Ballet, The Royal New Zealand Ballet, Opera Australia, The Australian Bicentennial Authority (1988), Olympic ice skaters Torvill and Dean, Tasdance (Launceston), MADE – Mature Age Dance Experience (Hobart), The Metropolitan Opera (New York), The Shanghai Song & Dance Ensemble, Bayerisches Staatsballett (Munich), Universal Ballet (Seoul) and Opera de Montreal.

Their body of work reflects boundless curiosity and explores life, identity, sexuality, love, power, desire, ambiguity, seduction and death.