Sydney Dance Company's New Leader Killed Before She Could Assume Post

Classic Arts News   Sydney Dance Company's New Leader Killed Before She Could Assume Post
Tanja Liedtke, who just three months ago was named the Sydney Dance Company's next artistic director, died early this morning. She was hit by a garbage truck while crossing a highway near her home shortly after 2 a.m. local time and was declared dead at Royal North Shore Hospital shortly afterward.

She was 29 years old and would have taken up her new position in October.

Born in 1978 in Stuttgart and raised in Madrid, where she began studying dance at age 4, Tanja Liedtke graduated from the Rambert School of Ballet and Contemporary Dance in London and settled in Sydney in 1996. She was a member of Australian Dance Theatre (based in Adelaide) for four years; beginning in 2003 she performed several times with the British company DV8 Physical Theatre, with which she toured Europe.

Liedtke worked as a freelance choreographer for a number of years as well, for ADT and for other companies in Australia, Europe, Brazil and Taiwan. Her first full-length work, Twelfth Floor (2004), won the 2006 Australian Dance Award for Outstanding Achievement in Choreography.

In early May, Liedtke was appointed artistic director of the Sydney Dance Company. Longtime SDC heads Graeme Murphy and Janet Vernon, who led the troupe to international fame, had submitted their resignations the previous July out of weariness with the company's persistent financial problems and with what they saw as a perpetual struggle to wheedle sufficient support from state and federal governments. (The week after Liedtke's appointment, SDC received a funding boost following an increase in money for the arts in the Australian federal budget.)

SDC board chairman Tom Dery had told the Melbourne newspaper The Age about Liedtke's selection, "There was a remarkable list of people who applied. But what Tanja brings is great relevance to the company in terms of contemporary dance. She has amazing emerging talent that we're very excited about. But much more than that, her intellect, her passion and personality, together with her ideas, will allow us to move forward in terms of contemporary dance in Australia at a world-class level."

Sydney Morning Herald dance critic Jill Sykes said of the choice at the time, "She's the most interesting new choreographic talent in a decade or more I've seen in Australia. She's got such a fresh voice."

According to the Herald, the truck that hit Liedtke was not speeding, had its lights on and was otherwise obeying traffic rules. The vehicle is being examined for mechanical problems and the driver, who summoned emergency help immediately, is cooperating fully with the investigation.

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