Michael Pappalardo, former Artistic Director and CEO of the Melbourne City Ballet

TheatrePeople (#57) - Michael Pappalardo | Theatre Avenue

Howdy TheatrePeople! Another week!

Today I'm excited to introduce you to a wizard in the worlds of ballet and dance, Michael Pappalardo. Formerly the Artistic Director and CEO of the Melbourne City Ballet, Michael now works in San Jose. He's produced in Japan and even pulled a classic Devil Wears Prada move to ship his over-sized set across the world.

I hope you enjoy his interview as much as I did! Folks, Michael Pappalardo...

Michael Pappalardo, Artistic Associate and Business Development Manager at San Jose Dance Theatre

What’s a show that inspires you? (explain away!)

I am inspired by a lot of things. I love all ballet but I also love contemporary dance, musical theatre opera and everything in between. I love everything by Matthew Bourne but my very favorite is Christopher Wheeldon’s Alice in Wonderland. These works are at the forefront of classical ballet and I feel really demonstrate the intersection of many dance forms. 

What’s one of your happiest moments in theatre/ballet?

A few years back I was invited to produce my production of Carmen in Osaka, Japan. By far one of the biggest and most challenging projects I have ever done. It was an incredible experience and I would love to do it again one day in the future.

What’s the biggest ‘fail’ or goof you’ve seen on stage? (do tell the story)

Well it isn’t a fail or a goof on stage but still a little funny theatre story. I had my New Zealand tour of Alice in Wonderland all set and ready to leave Melbourne, Australia when we discovered we incorrectly built our sets to one inch more than would fit into the plane just one week shy opening night.

This was not only to get them from Australia to New Zealand but also from the north to south island. It was like the scene from The Devil Wears Prada “Please, it’s just - I don’t know, drizzling. Someone must be getting out. Call Donatella, get her jet.” 

Me on the phone to my booking manager “What do you mean the plane isn’t big enough, they can transport entire space shuttles.” 

Turns out the cargo hold does have a very strict length limitation and we had to hire a charter flight to get the sets around. 

Why do you love theatre/ballet?

I love the way that movement can portray so much more than what the written word can. Dance has so much emotion, soul and feeling that can’t be expressed in other forms. 

Theatre is for...


Because it is the only place that I feel at home. Where work and life are one thing and where I can find a little bit of joy and meaning.

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More about Michael

Michael is currently the Business Development Manager and Artistic Associate at San Jose Dance Theatre and has spent 2020 establishing a professional company and pre-professional training program with SJDT. He has also recently launched their new Digital Subscription program bringing dance performance and training right into viewer's living rooms and last year choreographed three new contemporary works with the organization.

Prior to this position, Michael was Artistic Director and CEO of Melbourne City Ballet. He began his classical training with Janice Heale School of Dance in Brisbane, Queensland before being accepted to studying with Queensland Dance School of Excellence and the New Zealand School of Dance‭. ‬Michael worked with the Royal New Zealand Ballet during his time in New Zealand‭. ‬After returning to Australia‭, ‬Michael worked with Queensland Ballet before turning his talents towards business ventures‭.‬
However, Michael and his love of dance found him return to the arts industry, ‬training with Expressions Dance Company and Australian Dance Theatre. He also performed with Melbourne Ballet Company, Leigh Warren and Dancers, and various independent projects before following an artistic leadership pathway. 
Michael joined Melbourne City Ballet as Artistic Director in 2013 and was promoted to Artistic Director/CEO in 2016. There he was able to leverage his business and dance talents building the organization to become Australia’s largest classical touring company, performing over 100 shows across Australia, New Zealand, and Japan annually. Over his 7 years as Artistic Director, Michael also choreographed many of the company’s main works.

1 Response


April 11, 2021

A stunning interview. Melbourne mourns the loss of this extraordinary artist. You are so lucky to have him.

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