At a gala lunch attended by hundreds of ballet lovers, David McAllister AM, the immediate past artistic director of The Australian Ballet, was surprised when the event took a turn and became “David McAllister This Is Your Life”. The lunch entitled “Celebrating David McAllister AM with a little help from his Friends” was a joyous occasion with many surprise guests.
“David McAllister This Is Your Life” was hosted by Elizabeth Toohey, currently ballet mistress of The Australian Ballet and long-term dance partner and close personal friend. Toohey surprised McAllister with the following guests either in person or by video who recounted stories from McAllister’s career. They included Don McAllister (McAllister’s father) and Dianne Morris (McAllister’s sister); Wesley Enoch AM (McAllister’s partner and outgoing director of the Sydney Festival); Graeme Murphy AO and Janet Vernon AM; Maina Gielgud AO; past General Managers of The Australian Ballet Ian McRae AO and Richard Evans; and Darren Spowart (an ex-dancer of The Australian Ballet and childhood friend of McAllister).
The big surprise of the event was the presentation to McAllister of the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award, recognised internationally as one of the most sought-after in the world of dance and the highest honour from the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD). Past recipients of the Award include Sir Frederick Ashton, Dame Marie Rambert DBE, Rudolf Nureyev, Dame Gillian Lynne DBE, Sir Peter Wright CBE, Sir Matthew Bourne OBE, Maina Gielgud AO and Carlos Acosta CBE. The Award administered by the RAD was presented by Dame Darcey Bussell DBE and Audrey Nicholls OAM FRAD on behalf of the RAD.
Bussell said, “I am absolutely thrilled that David is receiving the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award, the highest honour the Royal Academy of Dance can bestow, given in recognition of outstanding service to the art of dance.”
McAllister said, “To be awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation award from the Royal Academy of Dance is such an incredible surprise and honour. It is the highest achievement in ballet, and without the Royal Academy of Dance, I would not be here today. This award has been given to such extraordinary people, and to join them is mind-blowing. You don’t expect to receive such an award or recognition when you are lucky enough to do a job you love, with such incredibly talented people. I am incredibly touched and moved.”
The lunch was planned as a fundraising event for The David McAllister Fund and raised in excess of $150,000. The Australian Ballet established The David McAllister Fund to recognise and celebrate the extraordinary career of McAllister. McAllister has generously donated to the company for many years; this gave him the freedom to invest in the people around him and make special projects possible. The vision is that The David McAllister Fund will give future artistic directors of The Australian Ballet the same opportunities.
Organised by the Friends of The Australian Ballet (NSW), this not-for-profit organisation has been connecting members and inspiring ballet audiences for almost 50 years with a goal to make ballet accessible, inviting and inclusive.