The History of The Australian Conservatoire of Ballet


The Australian Conservatoire of Ballet was founded in 1991 under the name Christine Walsh Dance Centre. Co-founders Christine Walsh AM and Ricardo Ella brought to the school a wealth of experience from their own dance careers. With both possessing a desire to pass on knowledge and having adventurous and entrepreneurial spirits, the school developed rapidly.

From the outset, the aim of the School was to provide quality training in classical ballet and other dance styles, giving honesty, care and individual attention to the students. A training program based on the Russian method, was devised to cater for all ages and this program grew and developed along with the school itself. This method was named the Australian Conservatoire of Ballet and is now in demand by many teachers in Australia and overseas.

Within the first two years of the school being opened, Christine and Ricardo choreographed and produced The Nutcracker, which was the first of many major productions for which the school has become well known.

With the growing reputation of the school came new opportunities in the form of the Melbourne Youth Orchestra and the Australian Pops Orchestra inviting the school to perform with them, the first of which was the Nutcracker in 1995 with the 90 musicians of the Melbourne Youth Orchestra.

The bringing together of young aspiring musicians and dancers in rehearsals and performances was a memorable and beneficial experience to all. It was decided that this experience should be repeated on an annual basis. Consequently further productions with the collaboration of Melbourne Youth Orchestra have followed, such as the full-length production of Swan Lake at the Arts Centre and Melbourne Town Hall and Romeo and Juliet at the Melbourne Town Hall. The success of these full scale productions has led to extensive public following for all the school performances and events. Since 2000, the school has been invited to tour and perform regularly with the Australian Pops Orchestra. 

As the reputation of the school grew, new productions followed - Christine Walsh's production of Paquita, Hansel and Gretel and A Midsummer Night's Dream and Harry Haythorne's La Sylphide and since 2006 Christine Walsh's full length productions of The Sleeping Beauty, Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet, The Nutcracker and Maina Gielgud's Coppelia performing at Melbourne's premiere venue, Arts Centre Melbourne with international guest artists and its own 65 member ACB Orchestra.

Always with the quality of the training as a priority, Christine Walsh and Ricardo Ella made a decision to move the school to an inner city location in 1999. The school was intentionally scaled down in the number of students to retain only the most dedicated to train in a Specialized Coaching Program. From that time entry to the school has been by audition only. In the same year, the School was renamed The Australian Conservatoire of Ballet to reflect its international reputation and to consolidate the headquarters of the widely used training and assessment program. 

In 2001, the full-time course was nationally accredited and the reputation of the school was spreading internationally. Realizing the need for bridging the gap between the part-time school Specialized Coaching Program and the full-time Diploma of Dance and a new half day programwas introduced where students were able to train on a daily basis whilst continuing at their academic schools. In 2005, this program was accredited and has proven to be highly successful.

The Australian Conservatoire of Ballet is now one of the few schools in Australia to be able to offer comprehensively designed dance training from 6 years of age through to professional age with a strong basis in classical ballet and enhanced with the additional styles of Character, Contemporary, Jazz, Drama and Music.