Neil McNeill - Celebrating 35 Years at The Australian Ballet School

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Neil McNeill, alumna Lyndell Steer and Resident Choreographer Margaret Wilson. Photo by Nicholas Forster

Neil McNeill is a celebrated pianist, who has played in the studios at The Australian Ballet School for 35 years. Dame Margaret Scott invited Neil to join The Australian Ballet School by in 1985, and since then Mr McNeill has been instrumental in delivering a high standard of musical artistry that generations of young ballet dancers have been privileged to access at the School.  

Mr McNeill’s talents have been invaluable to The Australian Ballet School over the years and he has serviced our students with his exceptional improvisational ability; a skill that truly enriches the learning experience of a young ballet dancer. 

“Neil’s feelings and personality are the heart and soul of his music. Voluminous, grand, or quiet where needed, rhythmic with exquisite melodies, ephemeral, never to be fully captured again until suddenly there is another new sound with a slight shift of accents and tones just as good as the last.” – Margaret Wilson, Resident Choreographer. 

Having graduated with a Bachelor of Music and Diploma of Education from the Elder Conservatorium at the University of Adelaide, Mr McNeill has enjoyed a prosperous musical career inside the world of theatre and dance. Before joining The Australian Ballet School in 1985, Mr McNeill worked with the Centre of Performing Arts in Adelaide where he was able to hone his craft and develop his exceptional improvisational ability. 

A poignant time in his career was when Mr McNeill was invited to Russia where he played for classes at GITIS in Moscow and the Conservatorium in St Petersburg. This exceptional experience was instrumental in introducing the contemporary style of dance to Russia and a true testament to his playing ability. 

At The Australian Ballet School, Mr McNeill has enjoyed a successful career alongside many of our current staff members. Paul Brickhill, our Head of Music, recalls a three decade working relationship alongside Mr McNeill. “One of the things I remember about Neil’s playing was how elemental his playing was. He was very loud, passionate and very arresting - and that’s very helpful to inspire the dancers”. 

Mr McNeill has composed music for a number of ballets including The Pebbled Shore in 1984 for ADT, The Outsider in 1991 for Nicholas Rowe (The Australian Ballet choreographic workshop), Le Amour Reves in 1998 for Lucas Jervies (Dance Creation), Nuance for Margaret Wilson in 2009 (The Australian Ballet School Graduate Exhibition), and Continuum, Margaret Wilson in 2013 (The Australian Ballet School Graduate Exhibition). 

In addition to his wonderful musical contributions, Mr McNeill has been invaluable in preserving and digitising past performances and examinations of The Australian Ballet School. In March 2019, he produced a short film of selected footage from the 1970’s which was presented to, and received with enthusiasm, by School Friends and Alumni.

We are proud of the history The Australian Ballet School has shared with Neil McNeill and he has been an integral part of its history and musical development.

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