Built for ballet

Mon 11, 2022
  • Around The Centre
Written by Cassandra Houghton
Built for ballet

The Thomas Dixon Centre is a treasure trove of behind-the-ballet glimpses…

Sleek lines and perfect pointes: onstage, ballet is a showcase of flawlessness, with agile athletes telling stories through graceful movement. And behind the scenes at the revitalised Thomas Dixon Centre is now where the magic is created.

The Thomas Dixon Centre’s design ethos is all about sharing. It was redeveloped as Queensland Ballet’s home, and a second home for the Queensland Ballet Academy, with ballet studios, a wellness suite, costume workroom and dancer break-out spaces.

As the State Ballet Company, Queensland Ballet also understands its responsibility to the wider dance and arts community, and integral to our ethic of sharing, the Thomas Dixon Centre is ensuring access to the spaces for sector.

The design objective was to give people the opportunity to experience ballet beyond the stage. There is much mystery and intrigue about what happens behind the scenes of ballet, so where possible, the team have incorporated viewing windows into the costume and art finishing departments, pointe shoe room, music rooms, studios and even, the Talbot Theatre.

The Executive Gallery overlooking the Talbot Theatre is heavily influenced by the ethos of sharing and insight, as a large glass-walled viewing gallery is suspended over the whole theatre in a generous morphing of behind-the-scenes and audience experience. Another part of the treasure trove of backstage glimpses into the home company.

Former Head of Building Projects and Precincts Lucas Gilroy describes opportunities like these as extraordinary. He remembers the first time he was invited backstage during a performance of Swan Lake.

“It was like the dance version of a Formula One pit crew. Silent, organised chaos,” he recalls.

“It’s very different to watching a Queensland Ballet production, but it’s just as entertaining.”

Visitors enter the Thomas Dixon Centre through the Ian Potter Promenade, with its soaring timber ceilings, natural light, and play between heritage and contemporary design. To the right, large shopfront windows offer views and insight into the Costume department, pointe shoe and music rooms, and further along, the Wellness Centre and spaces for arts workers.

While moving through the building, visitors should also take a moment to notice the air quality, cascades of natural light, and thriving greenery. It’s a space that focuses on the sustainability of the environment. Grounded in evidence-based research, WELL is a performance-based system with seven core concepts across light, air, mind, water, fitness, nourishment, and comfort, all aimed to holistically improve productivity, sleep patterns, mood, fitness, and nutrition of the building occupants and visitors.

From unveiling elements of intrigue from behind the ballet, and creating opportunities for sector, to enhancing community and artist wellbeing, the Thomas Dixon Centre offers a range of unique visitor experiences.

Lucas says it has been designed as an inspiring home for Queensland Ballet artists, arts workers, and the wider community.

“The Thomas Dixon Centre, at its core, is a space for collaboration, engagement, and cultural exploration.”

Pictured: Former Head of Building Precincts and Projects, Lucas Gilroy and Architect, Tamarind Taylor.
Photography: Johnny Harkin

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