Our History


 Dr. Elizabeth Cameron Dalman OAM (1965 – 1975)

Jonathan Taylor (1977 – 1985)

 Anthony Steel & Lenny Westerdijk (artistic caretakers) 1986

Leigh Warren (1987 – 1993)

Meryl Tankard (1993 – 1999)

Garry Stewart (1999 – 2021)

Daniel Riley (2022 – current)




Elizabeth Cameron Dalman founds Australian Dance Theatre, aiming to ‘open the horizons for provocative contemporary dance’. The premiere performance takes place in Adelaide’s new Shedley Theatre. Critics are divided over the company’s new and adventurous approach, but audiences are enthralled from the beginning.


The Elizabeth Dalman School of Modern Dance begins, attracting up to 300 students a week. Education is a key component of the Australian Dance Theatre from the start, with workshops, educational programs and open discussions before and after performances. The School also helps fund the theatre.

Over the next decade, the company builds a substantial repertoire and win an Australian audience base, attracting government funding. The company also wins international acclaim with tours to North America, Europe, Asia, India, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand.



Jonathan Taylor is appointed artistic director. A former dancer from renowned UK company Ballet Rambert, he brings a distinctive style that revitalises the company. He creates a highly regarded body of work including Wildstars and Transfigured Night.

Ballet Victoria also ceases operations after 30 years. In a first-of-its-kind agreement, Australian Dance Theatre acts as the contemporary dance company for both South Australia and Victoria until 1984.


Australian Dance Theatre becomes the first Australian company invited to perform at the Edinburgh Festival.


As the company seeks a new director, former Adelaide Festival Director Anthony Steel and in-house Rehearsal Director Lenny Westerdijk are appointed artistic caretakers.


Molissa Fenley’s Descent into the Maelstrom is presented as part of the Adelaide Festival.


Leigh Warren is appointed as Artistic Director. A student of the Australian Ballet School, Warren became the first Australian performer to receive a Churchill Scholarship, forging his dance career with Ballet Rambert, Nederlands Dance Theater and Rudolf Nureyev before becoming a freelance choreographer. Warren’s aim is to ‘develop a truly Australian form of dance that expresses our culture’ and invites other Australians to create work for Australian Dance Theatre – Kate Champion and Graeme Murphy answer the call. A collaboration with America’s William Forsythe also comes to fruition.



With a background honed in Pina Bausch’s Tanztheater Wupperthal, Meryl Tankard is appointed artistic director, and bringing her own unique style.

Through works such as Furioso and Aurora she introduces a range of additional performance elements to the company, including acrobatics, mime and image projection. It wins over audiences world over, finding particular success in Germany.


Elizabeth Cameron Dalman is awarded an Order of Australia Medal for service to contemporary dance.


Meryl Tankard departs from Australian Dance Theatre, and Bill Pengelly steps in as an interim artistic director until the appointment of Garry Stewart. During his time at the helm Pengelly produces two programs of new choreography, including Split.



Artistic director Garry Stewart’s first piece is Housedance, performed on the western sails of the Sydney Opera House for the Millennium Broadcast in 2000.

Stewart creates a distinctive new dance vocabulary for the company, incorporating photography, video, robotics and other forms of new media. His ground-breaking work Birdbrain becomes the most performed work in the history of contemporary Australian dance.



Australian Dance Theatre celebrates 50 years of innovation as the country's pre-eminent contemporary dance company.



ADT celebrate 20 years under the artistic direction of Garry Stewart, making him the longest serving director in the company’s history. In his time with he has created over 18 original works for the stage, screen and public spaces which have toured extensively to some of the most prestigious theatres in the world.


After 22 years at the helm of ADT, our Artistic Director Garry Stewart leaves the company this December. Garry Stewart’s passion for contemporary performance and the boundaries of the body and its modes of expression leaves a strong legacy for the company.



Daniel Riley joins ADT as the new Artistic Director. A Wiradjuri man with cultural ties throughout western New South Wales, Daniel Riley is one of Australia's leading dancers and choreographers.




F I F T Y  B Y  M A G G I E  T O N K I N

To celebrate half a century of innovation in dance performance, Fifty traces the very different trajectories ADT has taken under the successive artistic direction of Elizabeth Cameron Dalman, Jonathan Taylor, Lenny Westerdijk and Anthony Steel, Leigh Warren, Meryl Tankard, Bill Pengelly and Garry Stewart. Each of these directors has pushed the boundaries of dance performance and explored new modes of movement, theatrical expression and artistic collaboration, creating a repertoire of groundbreaking works that have challenged and delighted audiences both in Australia and internationally.

In Fifty Maggie Tonkin explores ADT’s fertile – and at times tumultuous – history through interviews and archival research, and showcases the company’s most noted works through stunning images.

Maggie Tonkin is a lecturer in the English Department at the University of Adelaide, where she publishes and teaches in the areas of nineteenth- and twentieth-century fiction. She has a background in dance and writes and reviews for the national dance press.