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Kelvin Ho’s powerful, striking sets for the Australian Ballet

Kelvin Ho’s powerful, striking sets for the Australian Ballet

Kelvin Ho’s powerful, striking sets for the Australian Ballet

Opening Thursday 27 August is the Australian Ballet’s world premier of 20:21 – a contemporary production featuring set designs by Sydney-based architect Kelvin Ho.


It is the Australian Ballet’s Year of Beauty in 2015 and the launch of their latest production, 20:21, is a modern and muscular taken on the art form’s use of body, movement and space.

Australian architect Kelvin Ho of Akin Creative was brought in to conceive the set design for Filigree and Shadow – a new piece choreographed by the Australian Ballet’s Tim Harbour, and the opening performance in 20:21.

“It’s very forthright and direct in its delivery, quite earth-bound [and] dense choreographically,” hints Tim. “It’s very here and now, and it’s about being aggressively present, which I think is quite beautiful,” he says.

Tasked with designing the set for this world-first performance Kelvin took his staff to the ballet, to experience first-hand the relationship between physical movement and space making.

“A huge part of our work is being able to shape people’s experiences through spatial design,” says Kelvin. “I have always thought ballet was the purest form of physical expression, as the dancers’ movements can communicate feelings and emotions… and can transport the audience to an imagined physical space.”



Within Kelvin’s unique design philosophy is his belief that designed space should amplify and strengthen the experience of the user. This translates quite beautifully into the sets he has designed for 20:21 ­– “a backdrop for the experience”, as he describes it.

The design of the sets, choreography, lighting and music has come together in a very collaborative way with Tim providing Kelvin with a “blank canvas” for the project – and the simple over-arching brief of “a powerful striking set”.

“I like to think the backdrop can amplify the experience. In the case of the ballet, I would like the set to be a physical extension of the choreography,” says Kelvin.

So what is the result of this cross-disciplinary collaboration? Well, you’ll have to see it in person.

20:21 opens in Melbourne 27 August and Sydney 5 November. Visit australianballet.com.au/20:21 to book tickets, read about the production and watch behind-the-scenes videos.

Australian Ballet

Akin Creative