Woman Hassall, Nanette

Choreographer, Dance Advocate, Dancer and Director

Written by Grace Edwards, The University of Melbourne

Nanette Hassall was born in Sydney in 1947. Trained in both classical and modern dance, she was particularly inspired by teachers at the Bodenwieser Centre in Sydney. Hassall's first dance work, Solus, choreographed to a score by Peter Sculthorpe, won the inaugural Ballet Australia choreographic award in 1969. Following this achievement, Hassall accepted a scholarship to the Juilliard School in New York, where she studied with Antony Tudor, José Limón and members of the Martha Graham company. Following graduation, Hassall joined the Merce Cunningham Dance Company and toured with them both within the United States and abroad. Hassall subsequently went to England in 1973 where she performed, choreographed and taught for Ballet Rambert and Strider Dance Company.

After a period of studying and teaching at Dartington College for the Arts, Hassall returned to Australia in 1975 to join the Dance Company (New South Wales) under Jaap Flier and created many works for the company. She subsequently co-founded Dance Exchange in Sydney with Russell Dumas, choreographing many works for this company too. In January 1983, Hassall founded Dance Works in Melbourne, whose work was primarily directed towards the development of Australian choreography and choreographers. As Artistic Director from 1983 to 1989 she choreographed over forty new works for major public seasons both in Australia and overseas. She resigned in 1989 for 'moral' reasons: 'If I stay it will become a company like the rest of them. If I leave I think it has the chance to be different. I think that's important in Australia. It's a moral issue really.' (The Age, 10 March 1989, p.14) She has remained a strong advocate of Australian dance and has served on numerous panels and boards including The Australia Council, the Australia-New Zealand Choreographers and Composers Project, the Green Mill Dance Board and Buzz Dance Theatre.

Hassall was awarded a choreographic fellowship in 1994 to research movement at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in conjunction with a Masters program. As a teacher, she has worked at Deakin University, where with James McCaughey she established an integrated performing arts program, Rusden State College and the Victorian College of the Arts. Hassall was appointed Head of the Dance Department at The Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (WAAPA) in 1995.

In 1996 she choreographed a new work entitled The Ethereal Eye for the Adelaide Festival. In 2000 Nanette was appointed the Chair of the Tertiary Dance Council of Australia and has also been the Chair of the World Dance Alliance Choreography and Performance Committee for the Asia-Pacific Region. In 2002 Nanette received the Ausdance National Award for Services to Dance Education. She has made works for Dance Works, Tasdance, Dance North, Australian Dance Theatre as well as a number for the students at WAAPA.

Archival Resources

National Library of Australia Oral History Collection

  • Nanette Hassall interviewed by Shirley McKechnie for the Australian choreographers oral history project, 13 September 1990 - 15 September 1990, ORAL TRC 2634; National Library of Australia Oral History Collection. Details

Published Resources

Newspaper Articles

  • 'Nanette Hassall to part company with Danceworks after six exciting years', The Age, 10 March 1989, p. 14. Details

Resource Sections

Online Resources

See also