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Wise on the prize: Jill Ogai, winner of 2019 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award

Jill Ogai. Photo by Lisa Tomasetti.
Jill Ogai. Photo by Lisa Tomasetti.

The Australian Ballet Soloist Jill Ogai has been awarded the 2019 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award.  

Jill Ogai in 'Coppélia'. Photo by Kate Longley.
Jill Ogai in ‘Coppélia’. Photo by Kate Longley.

The Telstra award, which exists to promote the artform, to nurture talent and provide them with new opportunities, is frequently a gateway to becoming a principal dancer with The Australian Ballet. Ogai has already been dancing principal roles with the company, notably in Sylvia and The Nutcracker. Dancers at The Australian Ballet are judged throughout the year on their contributions both on and off the stage to the company, and the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award winner is awarded a $20,000 cash prize.

Jill Ogai in 'Giselle'. Photo by Daniel Boud.
Jill Ogai in ‘Giselle’. Photo by Daniel Boud.

2019 winner Jill Ogai grew up in Sydney, and attended ballet classes with her twin brother. She joined The Australian Ballet in 2011, after training at and graduating from The Australian Ballet School. Nine years later, her focus is on rehearsing repertoire in the 2020 season. She is anticipating with some excitement Dyad 1929. “It will be my first-time dancing in a piece by Wayne McGregor,” she says.   

Ogai finds inspiration in other dancers and in music. One such performer is Nancy Obsbaldeston, a principal dancer with the Royal Ballet of Flanders. “I saw her perform a few years ago,” says Ogai, “and was struck by her charisma, artistry and strength. I follow her on Instagram and love the variety of repertoire she performs.”

Jill Ogai in The Australian Ballet's 'Cinderella'. Photo by Jeff Busby.
Jill Ogai in The Australian Ballet’s ‘Cinderella’. Photo by Jeff Busby.

Ogai is also inspired by music, some of which she has worked to. “A few years ago, we performed the ballet, Nijinsky, and since then the Scheherazade music, which was a part of the score, has been a regular on my most played. It’s very beautiful.” She also enjoys alternative music. “I saw both Gang of Youths and Chvrches live early this year,” she explains. “David Le’aupepe (GOY singer) and Lauren Mayberry (Chvrches singer) were incredible performers, and I’ve loved their music ever since.”

We asked Ogai how she intended to utilise her 2019 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award money. “Wisely,” she responds pithily. 

For more information on The Australian Ballet 2020 season, on Soloist Jill Ogai or the Telstra Award, visit australianballet.com.au.

By Tamara Searle of Dance Informa.

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