These boots were made for dancing. They are Blundstone work boots modified for tap dancing in the Sydney Olympic Games Opening Ceremony. Entering into the quirky, innovative spirit of Wallace & Gromit’s World of Invention, I selected them for display alongside the staid historic Wellington boots that came from Britain with the exhibition.
The boots were worn by a jazz drummer in the Eternity segment of the ceremony, which celebrated the generations of manual workers who helped build Australia. While other boots in the segment had steel taps added under their toes and heels, those worn by the jazz dancers had prominent steel strips attached at the front and back, reflecting the steel caps inside the boots that protect the toes of workers.
Innovation is a process that creates not only technological products. The Eternity segment, which involved over 1000 performers, was choreographed by innovative Australian theatre and film director Nigel Triffit. Best known for designing and directing the stage show Tap Dogs and movie Bootmen, Triffit also worked in puppetry, rock and roll and grand opera.
The finale of the segment was the erection of a huge model of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, complete with the word ‘Eternity’ in Arthur Stace’s immortal script and bursting with fireworks, reprising a dramatic New Years Eve event that had been broadcast from Sydney to the world.
It has been said that sports stadia are today’s cathedrals, grand design and building projects that make statements about national identity and aspirations. It is equally true that Olympic opening ceremonies are today’s nationalistic parades, embodying memory and aspiration, artistic and gymnastic skill, innovative design and youthful exuberance.
It is fitting that the PowerhouseMuseum has a large collection of material from the 2000 Games, including objects like these boots that remind us of the artistry and energy of the opening ceremony. We will draw on this collection in many different ways over coming years, and each time we will be reminded of how that event impacted on Sydney and shifted the world’s perception of our city.
Written by Debbie Rudder, Curator.