New Sydney Festival director aims to rekindle city nightlife



For her debut as artistic director of the three-week artistic extravagance, Olivia Ansell sought to tap into the histories of the city, including a strong First Nations component. In many ways, it seems that Olivia Ansell’s entire life has groomed her to be artistic director of the Sydney Festival. His great-grandfather and grandfather were both circus masters, his maternal grandmother was an opera singer and performer on the Tivoli circuit, and his paternal grandmother was a classical violinist.

The next generation was also in the arts. Ansell’s father was a jazz musician and songwriter, responsible for ABC’s television news theme from 1985, among other compositions, and his mother was a choreographer, dancer, and dance teacher.

Even at his Gymea Bay home in Sydney, Ansell lived and breathed the performing arts, with a recording studio downstairs and a dance and theater rehearsal studio in the backyard. “I was encouraged to study as many types of performing arts as possible, but also with caution,” says Ansell. “My parents would have liked me to be a lawyer or a scientist, but you can’t have all this stimulation around you and not develop a love for the arts yourself.”

It was the dance she loved the most, however – as she went every morning to the Anglican Girls’ School in Danebank, only to secretly finish at the Bodenweiser Dance Center in Chippendale. Even when she transferred to Newtown High School of the Performing Arts in eleventh grade, she only lasted one term. “I had run from Newtown to Bodenweiser, so my parents ended up saying I could study dance full time as long as I finished my HSC by correspondence,” she laughs.

Read the full article on Australian Financial Review.


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