Truckdriver Andrew Wood and dancers from the Australian Ballet warm-up in Melbourne before taking off on a 5 ½ week tour. LAN CUTHBERTSON
EVERY year for 15 years, Andrew (Woody) Wood has hauled lights, tights, tutus and scenery from one end of the country to the other for the Australian Ballet Dancers Company.
While members of the company, made up of students from the Australian Ballet Schools and experienced guest dancers, travel by car, bus and plane, Wood moves their sets and costumes 10,000 km around the nation’s highways each year.
In the process, the father of two and grandfather of six has become a huge ballet fan. He gets a particular kick out of seeing the young dancers, who go out on tour two years in a row, improve from their first to second years.
“It’s not just that they improve as dancers, it’s about watching visibly grow up and handle things so much better, “Wood said.
But he admits that the performances are mesmerizing. “I am transported by seeing them on-stage. I think of nothing but what I am seeing and hearing, and I stay in that zone, every time until the curtain comes down, “he said.
Wood, a compliance and maintenance manager for a trucking company, begs his boss each year to take the ballet truck on the road. He even sleeps in the truck for the duration. “I love the entire atmosphere of the ballet tour. For me, it’s like a paid holiday.”
Bronte Kelly, 18, who has been dancing since she was three is on her second tour with the company. “Last year, it was all about learning how it works and what it means to be part of touring company. “she said. “But this year the whole tour is just much more fun.”
Kelly says that when the dancers turn up, Wood is always there before them. “We are so lucky to have him, “she said. “He gets so involved with the dancers and he watches and so obviously loves the ballet.” Celebrating 30 years of touring regional Australia, the Dancers Company sets off this week to open a new version of Don Quixote, staged by Russian Ai-Gul Gaisina, at the Kyabram Plazza Theatre in northern Victoria on Wednesday. The company will then travel to South Morang, Warrnambool Hamilton, Mount Gambier, Renmark, Tanunda, Port Pirie, Whyalla, Kalgoorlie, Geraldton, Mandurah, and Bunbury.