The world-renowned dancer, choreographer and founder father of Australian ballet was born on 2nd February 1902 in Přerov as Eduard Skřeček. His father was a railroad worker who also happened to be an enthusiastic supporter of folk dance and a music enthusiast. Edouard studied at the ballet school at the National Theatre in Prague, from 1921 he performed in a theatre in Olomouc, then on the Prague scene, before landing a position in prestigious artistic groups in Hamburg and Monte Carlo, with whom he traveled the world. At the end of the 20s he first visited Australia, which were to became fateful for him a decade later.
He led a ballet school in Prague for some time, but saw his future in the land down under. Australia fascinated him and he saw a big potential for cultural development. Just before the Second World War he moved to Melbourne with his wife, Russian ballerina Xenia Nicolaeva Smirnoff, where he founded his own ballet troupe, which eventually developed into the Australian Ballet Company.
Borovansky was a visionary. He hired dancers, musicians and designers and got his own costumes, outfits and extravagant backdrops made without any government funding. He would carefully create the program of each performance so that it would be both entertaining as well as to a high aesthetic and artistic standard. He pioneered the idea that it is better to have cheap tickets and a full audience than an empty auditorium. He and his troupe even traveled to smaller towns and laborers, miners and those from the lower middle class became his regular audience in run-down theatres and dance halls. He caused a revolution by popularising dance and music and turning it into mass entertainment.
The Melbourne Ballet Club, later known as the Borovansky Ballet, performed professionally from 1944 and was the first to perform Tchaikovsky’s famous Ballet, Schumann’s Carneval and Stravinsky’s Petrushka in Australia. The troupe also prepared their own arrangement of Smetana’s Vltava.
Borovansky died unexpectedly on the 18th December 1959 in Sydney. His partner took over leadership of the company. In 1962 the Borovansky Ballet was restructured and renamed the Australian Ballet Company, which is active to this very day and is one of the best in the world. The man from Přerov raised future generations of top-level dancers and wrote himself into the history books of Australian culture for good.
In conclusion I would like to add that a large collection of archival documents regarding Borovansky can be found in Canberra, in the National Archives of Australia, as part of the Geoffrey Ingram Archive of Australian Ballet collection (MS 72336).
Text written by Martin Nekola
Cover image: Vltava as performed by Borovansky’s dancers