Arts Centre Melbourne is the proud custodian of the Australian Performing Arts Collection (APAC), which is dedicated to the collection, preservation and interpretation of Australia’s circus, dance, music, opera and theatre heritage.
Collecting began in the late 1970s and today, the collection holds over 680,000 items, including major acquisitions from Dame Nellie Melba, Kylie Minogue, Nick Cave, Barry Humphries, Bell Shakespeare and The Australian Ballet.
Drawing on the APAC we tell the stories of performance through the extraordinary objects, from concept designs to costumes, from personal and production archives to photography.
Opera performer Fanny Simonsen is the epitome of the phrase, 'the show must go on'. It has been said (by performing colleague James Shepherd in 1943) that she gave birth to one of her babies during a performance of Lucia di Lammermoor, then continued on with the show. Fanny made her Melbourne stage debut in 1865 with violinist husband Martin Simonsen. In 1877 she established The Simonsen Opera Company and in the following years produced over 30 operas, all whilst having 11 children. Now, that’s a multi-tasking leading lady.
Image credit: Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne
Actor, dancer and choreographer, Dein Perry drew on the sights and sounds of the Newcastle Steel works and his early days as a fitter and turner to develop a new approach to tap dance. In 1995, Perry teamed up with Director Nigel Triffitt and together they took a group of rough, robust and technically accomplished tap dancers, most of them from Perry's home town of Newcastle, and in a 6 week rehearsal period turned them into Tap Dogs. Wearing jeans, flannelette shirts and Blundstone boots, the dancers created a distinctively Australian production that became an international hit and continues to thrill audiences around the world.
Boots worn by Dein Perry in Tap Dogs, c.1990s; Gift of Dein Perry & Nigel Triffitt Management, 1999; Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne
“When I put the school uniform on, it once-removed me because I had a character, also the school uniform was very submissive. So then I had to juxtaposition myself against that, and I became assertive.” – Chrissy Amphlett
In 2006, Chrissy Amphlett donated a tunic she wore as the lead singer of Divinyls to the Australian Performing Arts Collection.
Image credit: Chrissy Amphlett performing with Divinyls at Australian Made, 1987. Photograph by Bob King
Hot pants worn by Kylie Minogue in her career-defining video clip for 'Spinning Around'.
From flea market to video clip to treasured museum showpiece, these iconic hot pants were donated to the Australian Performing Arts Collection by Kylie Minogue in 2004.
Legend has it that the now iconic gold hot pants were found by photographer Katerina Jebb at a flea market and just cost 50p. Kylie wore them in a photo shoot for her website and then to a fancy dress party, before they were re-discovered in a last minute search through her wardrobe the night before the ‘Spinning Around’ video was to be filmed.
Gift of Kylie Minogue, Cultural Gifts Program, 2004
At the height of his career, Australian entertainer Peter Allen was billed as 'The Premier Fun-Maker of the World'. Dance was an important feature Allen’s frenetic and flamboyant stage presence. These spectator shoes were donated to the Australian Performing Arts Collection by Bruce Cudd, Peter Allen's long-time assistant and friend in 2008.
Gift of Bruce Cudd, 2008
Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne