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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.


Objects


Fanny Simonsen

Was there a busier performing mother than Fanny Simonsen?

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.

Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne

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Tap Dogs

Industrial Strength Dance

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 Newcastle, and 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.

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

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Chrissy Amphlett performing with The Divinyls

Chrissy Amphlett

“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.

Chrissy Amphlett performing with Divinyls at Australian Made, 1987
Photograph by Bob King
Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne

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Kylie Minogue Hotpants

Kylie Minogue

Hot pants worn by Kylie Minogue in her career-defining video clip for 'Spinning Around'.

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
Australian Performing Arts Collection, Arts Centre Melbourne

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Peter Allen's shoes

Peter Allen

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 of 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

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Featured Stories


Circus, slides & roller skates: before Arts Centre Melbourne

Circus, slides & roller skates: before Arts Centre Melbourne

Did you know that on the site of Arts Centre Melbourne, there were once circuses, a roller skating rink, a dance hall, and even a water slide?

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Objects of Fame: Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger

Objects of Fame: Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger

Dame Nellie Melba and Percy Grainger were two of the most famous Australians of their time. Both achieved success on the world stage and became household names in the country of their birth.

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How do you collect the performing arts?

How do you collect the performing arts?

Australia has a rich performing arts culture but how do you capture this in a museum collection?

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Travelling with Nick Cave's Portfolio

Travelling with Nick Cave's Portfolio

The Australian Performing Arts Collection goes on tour, and sometimes it needs a chaperone.

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