Six dancers with The Australian Ballet have been announced as nominees for the prestigious Telstra Ballet Dancer Award 2018. Now in its 16th year, the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award is one of the longest-running arts partnerships and most prestigious ballet prizes in the country. Seven former winners of the award went on to become principal artists of The Australian Ballet.
The six nominees for the 2018 award are Coryphée Corey Herbert, Soloist Brodie James (also a 2016 nominee), Senior Artist Jade Wood (2014 and 2016 nominee), Corps de Ballet Lucien Xu, Soloist Rina Nemoto (2014 nominee) and Coryphée Nathan Brook.
The winner of the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award will be chosen by a panel of judges from Telstra and The Australian Ballet and announced at the opening night performance of Cinderella at the Sydney Opera House on 30 November. The winner will receive a $20,000 prize from Telstra.
Here, get to know a bit about the talented nominees and how they would spend the prize award if they won.
What does it mean to you to be a nominee for this year’s Telstra Ballet Dancer Award?
Corey Herbert, coryphée
“To be nominated for this award is absolutely incredible! To have not only acknowledgement but encouragement from my peers, David McAllister and Fiona Tonkin, is a dream. Knowing that I’m heading in the right direction further ignites the fire of ambition I have in my gut.”
Brodie James, soloist
“Being nominated for the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award is a huge honour and privilege within the dance community. It presents the opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of yourself as an artist, along with receiving the recognition from your peers for all of your hard work and achievements leading up to the nomination. One of my goals this year is to use the Telstra Ballet Award to send a message of pride. Use any challenge you are experiencing that suggests self-doubt and turn it into the motivation which drives you toward success. This is derived from my own personal experience and a story I wish to share because it has shaped the dancer I am today.”
Jade Wood, senior artist
“As I’ve been nominated twice before, I was completely surprised to be nominated again! I feel so honoured to be nominated by Principal Artists and previous winners of the award because the recognition of hard work, dedication and potential is a huge confidence boost. Being nominated for the award affords us with such a great opportunity to grow and learn, and in hindsight I can see how much I’ve grown from my previous nominations. I’m really excited for this year’s journey!”
Lucien Xu, corps de ballet
“I was shocked when I was first nominated because I look up to all the dancers who have won the award or who have been nominated before. They are all really amazing dancers. For me, being nominated means recognition by all the artistic staff and colleagues. It really asserts that all my hard work is paying off.”
Rina Nemoto, soloist
“I’m very honoured to be nominated for the Telstra Ballet Dancer of the Year Award, and I am so thankful for everyone who has given me this opportunity. As result of my nomination, I really hope that everyone gets to know me better and learn more about me and my love of dancing!”
Nathan Brook, coryphée
“For me, being nominated for the award feels like being welcomed home. I grew up on Sydney’s Northern Beaches and had a pretty iconic Aussie childhood. When I was 10 years old, my mum took me to see The Australian Ballet perform The Three Musketeers at the Sydney Opera House. Ever since that moment, it was my dream to dance with The Australian Ballet on the Sydney Opera House stage. When I graduated from The Australian Ballet School in 2013, I didn’t immediately get a job with The Australian Ballet. I went away and danced with Queensland Ballet for two years, and it was my determination to achieve this childhood dream that brought me home to dance with my national company on the stage of the Sydney Opera House. This award is the ultimate in peer recognition, and through this nomination I feel like I’ve been welcomed home by my colleagues, Telstra and The Australian Ballet.”
How would you spend the prize award if you won?
“The first thing I would do is give my parents the opportunity to come to visit me in Australia. They have never been to Australia before, and they also haven’t seen me perform for at least five years. I wouldn’t have been able to get to where I am right now without the gift of dance from my father. He was a dancer as well when he was younger, but he wasn’t able to continue his dream after three years of training. I was not a very strong kid when I was younger, so it was my father’s idea to send me to dance school, and a month later, I got into the Beijing Dance Academy. After seven years of training, I was given the opportunity to take part in the Youth America Grand Prix in New York. I was lucky enough to be offered many scholarship opportunities from different places such as New Zealand, Canada, the US and Australia. I chose Australia because I know an excellent Chinese dancer, Chengwu Guo, in the company, who has also won the award back in 2012. Now I’m in Australia continuing my father’s dream and also living mine. Helping them to come to visit Australia is definitely one of the top things I would do if I win the prize award.”
“In Japan, we don’t have a ballet school like The Australian Ballet, and so many young dancers want to be professional ballerinas. When I was little, I was lucky enough to be given the opportunity to take class by professional dancers and guest teachers. I remember I was so excited to take their classes, and I leant so many things from them. Now I want to share my experiences with young dancers and support them through their dancing career. So with this prize, I wish to do winter school in Japan over my holiday time.
Also, my grandmother has always supported me and cheered me on for my whole ballet life. If I didn’t have her support, I wouldn’t be here. Unfortunately, I can’t show her my dancing anymore, because it’s hard for her to travel to Australia at her age. I would love her to see me dancing with The Australian Ballet, because I love this company. But if it’s not possible, I want to do a little performance for her and for all who supported me back in Japan, as I wouldn’t be a ballet dancer without all their love and support.”
“We are so lucky to have Telstra, who has been supporting our company for 34 years, and also this Award for 16 years. Telstra’s investment in our careers is outstanding. If I was to win the award, I think I would save the money for the time being.”
“If I was to win the prize, I would use it help kickstart my dance career and have it in my bank for further training.”
Is there anything you’re working on artistically or technically as a dancer? Things you’re working on or hope to achieve this coming year?
“I’m always looking for ways to improve and grow as a dancer. Being open to change and always striving to be the best version of myself I can be in this career. Facing my fears and weaknesses head on and enjoying every moment on and off the stage.”
“I am constantly working on my technique in class and rehearsal and really pushing my allegro. I feel like over the last two years, I have really started to find my artistic voice, and I would like to continue to find that throughout new artistic opportunities in the upcoming Spartacus and Cinderella seasons.”
“Artistic development and growth is on the forefront of my mind for my career. I have been so lucky to have danced some fantastic roles, but physicality and technicality have been the priority. I will always pursue technical excellence, but I am at a point in my career where I am ready to layer this with genuine emotional storytelling, which will allow me to access many more dimensions of my dancing. I am currently understudying a few exciting roles which will allow for this growth to begin.”
“Working on my artistry and technique is a non-stop journey for me as a dancer. It’s not an easy journey, but nothing compares to the joy of dancing. I want to grow more mature as a dancer, gain more stage experience and hopefully work up to doing some feature roles in the coming year.”
“As a dancer, I am constantly working on my technique so I can have a strong foundation to support my performances on stage. However, now I am fortunate to be dancing some principal roles, my storytelling ability and characterisation in my performances is something I am really working on. I absolutely love playing different characters on stage, and to get those feelings and narratives across to the audience members is one of most challenging but rewarding parts about being a dancer.”
“As a dancer, I work on improving myself every day. Each performance is very important for me, and I can be very strict with myself. Last year, I performed the role of Alice in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. It was such an amazing experience, and I gained so much more confidence after dancing this role.
At the beginning of the rehearsal period, I experienced a bit of struggle. As it was my first main role with the company, and I was thinking about acting and practicing technical stuff a great deal every day, trying to make my own story within the role. But at the end of the day, on stage I just trusted myself and trusted my partner and followed my heart. I still have lots of improving to do, but I thoroughly enjoyed the show, and it was of my biggest career highlights. Now I know that if I never give up and continue to work hard at improving myself every day, I can do anything.
So every day in class and rehearsals, it’s very important to me to work hard at making my own future. On stage, I just follow my heart and dance with love.”
By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.