We are very sad to report that Harold Collins passed away on Saturday 30 July. Harold was the Queensland Ballet’s longest serving Artistic Director and spent 19 years at the helm of the company. Harold was our mentor, friend and a creative inspiration – we miss him dearly. Harold created many memorable ballet roles for Michelle, Rosetta, Vanessa, Shane, Kimberley, Dale, Nik and Natalie when we were with the company. We feel fortunate to have known and worked with him for so many years.
Harold was a leading force in the ballet world for over 4 decades here in Queensland. Harold’s parents were champion ballroom dancers but it was when he was taken to a performance of the Borovansky Ballet that Harold’s love of ballet began. From the moment he first saw ballet, he was determined to have a career in the artform. Harold started his career as a dancer with the Queensland Ballet when it was first formed in 1960. He was a lead dancer for the fledgling company and toured the state countless times, sometimes they would tour for three months! Touring could be tough and he often recalled with amusement some of their challenges such as having to run across a field to enter the stage from another door.
In 1963 Harold married Marlene, who has been his loyal soulmate ever since. Harold then spent 4 years in London dancing with the Festival Ballet and met and worked with all the famous choreographers of the era such as Tetley and Rambert. Marlene recalled that “We went every night to every dance event we could in London and soaked it all in. It was an exhilarating time for us”.
Harold was appointed Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet in 1977. At the time the company was not particularly well resourced, but he managed to put the company on the map both artistically and financially. He created ballets like Carmen, Romeo and Juliet, Salome, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Camelot, Lady of the Camellias which were an absolute hit at the Box Office as well as attracting great artistic acclaim. It was not uncommon for the company to sell out with an audience of 12,000 people attending the Lyric Theatre seasons.
John Matthews was Chairman of QB at the time and he said “Harold had honesty, integrity and decency. He outlasted and outperformed us all. He found talent and confounded his critics. QB had the best ratio of audience numbers and Box Office of any performing arts company in Australia. I pay tribute to Harold Collins for rising to the challenge. Not very good at self-promotion, Harold your life and your deeds speak loudly for you.”
In the words of Anthony Shearsmith, dancer and former Rehearsal Director of QB, “Harold was not only interested in furthering dancer’s careers and helping them to become some of the best dancers that this country has produced, but he also made it his goal to make the experience of being in his company one that they would never forget. To this end, he engaged a diverse range of choreographers, designers, composers, and musicians all of whom benefited from his patronage but more importantly created a wonderfully collaborative and creative atmosphere… The company, his dancers and the repertoire meant everything to Harold and this dedication to his company did not go unnoticed… Harold loved his dancers more than anyone could possibly know. It was this care that Harold had about his company that made him special and we loved him because of it.”
We send our love and best wishes to Marlene at this sad time. Harold will be remembered by all the dancers, students, choreographers, designers, composers and artistic people he came into contact with through his long career.
Harold we salute you!