Words by Jill Brown

The best words in their best order — Coleridge

I am currently a writer and researcher.

I am a student in the Master of Philosophy in Creative Writing program at the University of Queensland. The working title of my thesis is The Last Ballerinas: The Demise of the Prima Ballerina Assoluta and the Future of Classical Ballet. It compromises 2 separate but interrelated parts: a relational biography and a critical essay that explores relational biography.

The relational biography traces the lives of 3 ballerinas: Margot Fonteyn, Sylvie Guillem and Misty Copeland. It explores their lives and their artistry and it highlights the ways in which they are connected across time in the competitive, high-stakes world of ballet.

All 3 were pioneers in their own way (Misty is still dancing, of course.) Margot was the first British ballerina and the first international ballerina. She epitomised the grand lady with her gowns, pearls, hats and furs. Her lyrical dancing flowed freely in the great story ballets that link her to the traditions of Russian imperial school.

image of Margot Fonteyn as Odette

Sylvie was the first dancer to excel equally in classical and contemporary dance. Her lithe suppleness was matched by steely strength. Throughout her career she was determined to be captain of her soul: ‘You want, you take.’ She epitomised the sacred monster. She danced with a fearlessness that gave us a new way to look at ballerinas.

nude image of Sylvie Guillem

Misty is the first African-American principal artist with American Ballet Theatre. She uses her accomplishments to advocate for young people and to show other minority dancers what can be achieved.

Image of ballerina Misty Copeland

In the critical essay I provide close readings of  two biographies also concerned with artists: The Lamberts by Andrew Motion (George, Constant and Kit Lambert); and Stravinsky’s Lunch by Drusilla Modjeska (Stella Bowen and Grace Cossington-Smith). I investigate the techniques used by these biographers to link their subjects in meaningful ways and reflect on my own practice. Biography is hard!

You can see my professional experience on my LinkedIn profile.

My website is my place for writing ad libitum. It offers me an outlet where I can play with some of the ideas and off-cuts that arise from researching and writing my thesis. Here I can wrangle my thoughts into the best prose I can. No client, no brief, no deadline, no supervisor — just me and the words.

HOW TO CONTACT ME:  jillbrown15@gmail.com