Jonathan Lo

From Beethoven to Michael Bublé, Australian Ballet’s music director selects his favourite tracks. But which ballet score was his lucky charm for a job interview and marriage proposal?

Dance Gazette | Playlist | Issue 9 – Feb 2024

1 Allegro con Brio from Beethoven’s Symphony No 7

Conducting always demands for you to give yourself entirely, but whenever I conduct – or even just listen to – Beethoven 7 I am always overcome by the inexorable energy and incredible vibrant freshness in this music. It makes every fibre in my body want to dance, and I challenge anyone not to feel the same way when they hear it! No wonder Wagner called this symphony ‘the apotheosis of dance.’

2 The ending of Prokofiev’s Romeo & Juliet

2022 was my year of Romeo: MacMillan’s at the Royal Ballet, Cranko’s in Australia, and a stunning production by Veronica Paeper in South Africa. I managed to persuade Laura to marry me in Cape Town, and the Australian Ballet to employ me during the Cranko, so Romeo will always have a special place in my heart. I must have done the piece nearly 40 times in that year, and every time we got to the ending it would turn me into an emotional wreck. Isn’t it just the saddest C major in the history of music? Listen in particular to the last few bars, and to how the harmony resolves. Now listen to Bernstein’s West Side Story: there wouldn’t be one without the other!

3 Erbarme dich from JS Bach’s Matthäus-Passion

It seems a cliché to say that music and dance have always gone together, but for Bach I think music is always danced, often to surprisingly emotive effect. This is why his music, together with so many of the Baroque masters, holds such appeal for choreographers. The St Matthew Passion is one of my desert island pieces. It is a masterpiece of drama and I wish somebody would make a full length ballet of it. I love how melody and the harmony of this aria grabs at your heart, but the dance within it means that there is something visceral about one’s response.

4 The Ice Hotel by Stacey Kent

As a conductor, an amateur pilot, and also growing up with families scattered all around the world, I have been very fortunate to have travelled a lot. Honestly, it never gets any less exciting. I love all of Stacey Kent’s songs, and especially her collaboration with Kazuo Ishiguro. Ice Hotel is one of the songs they penned together, and it will always ignite my wanderlust, taking me at the drop of the first piano notes to far-flung places around the globe.

5 A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square, arr Callum Au and sung by Michael Bublé

I love jazz standards, and I love Bublé (though I think he should be banned at Christmas). Growing up in the UK as an immigrant from Hong Kong, London has always held this sense of romance for me and this song preserves and enhances it for my hopelessly romantic self. This particular version was arranged and orchestrated by my dear friend Callum Au, who is one of the most talented people I know. As a composer and arranger he works with some of the best in the world, but I keep thinking how he would write a really fine ballet one day…


Jonathan Lo discusses the music of Swan Lake with Australian Ballet artistic director David Hallberg

Why Dance Matters post

Jakob Wheway Hughes

Dance Gazette

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REST OF Issue 9 – Feb 2024

Big Picture post

50 episodes of Why Dance Matters

Olga Smirnova marks 50 episodes of the RAD podcast, writes David Jays.


Dance Gazette Top 40

Music and dance are intimately linked. Sanjoy Roy explores this essential relationship, and we share the Dance Gazette Top 40 – music for movement ranging through place, time and style.

Musicality is phrasing… 000 rehearsing for The Fonteyn. Photo: Martin Bell

Inside the music

Dancers are often praised for musicality – but what does that mean? Lyndsey Winship asks dancers, musicians and coaches at The Fonteyn.


Scene Change

Ballet classics can contain beloved dance and music – but also outdated cultural stereotypes. Can we reimagine them? Phil Chan offers a sound solution to problematic music.


Think fig

Ballet, music and more are on the syllabus at the Fig Club in Erbil, in the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Bekir Aydoğan visits the only RAD-registered school in Iraq.

Inside RAD post

Power in Motion

Darcey Bussell helps launch the RAD’s new leadership training programme.

RAD Q&A post

Holly Pooley

Australian teacher Holly Pooley describes the appeal of the Rambert Grades syllabus – and why RAD teachers should explore it.

Advice Bureau post

Germaine Acogny

Short but sweet advice from the mother of contemporary African dance.

Why Dance Matters post

Jakob Wheway Hughes

Meet the gold medallist at The Fonteyn 2023.


Swan songs

The RAD’s Silver Swans programme brings older students to ballet classes. As the RAD launches the next stage of the programme, Emily May meets dancers in Germany and the UK.


Fight the power

Celebrating 50 years of hip hop, expert voices – including the rapper Ice T – talk dance, relevance and sneakers.


Music matters

Dancers and singers live and breathe music. In this special audio feature, we visit the Royal Opera House in London to ask a leading soprano and principal ballerina about working with music, and how it feels to perform to a mighty score.