Surprise Award for McAllister

David McAllister AM finds out from Dame Darcey Bussell, DBE, he has won the Royal Academy of Dance internationally coveted Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award. All photos by Chris Pavlich.

David McAllister Receives the Coveted Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award

With a Surprising Little Help from His Friends

At a gala lunch held on 28 April 2021, attended by hundreds of ballet lovers, and hosted by Friends of The Australian Ballet, 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.  Elizabeth surprised David with the following guests either in person or by video who recounted stories from David’s career.  They included Don McAllister (David’s father) and Dianne Morris (David’s sister); Wesley Enoch AM (David’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 David).

The big surprise of the event was the presentation to David 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.  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.

Upon receiving the surprise award David 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 Award administered by the Royal Academy of Dance was presented by Dame Darcey Bussell DBE and Audrey Nicholls OAM FRAD on behalf of the Royal Academy of Dance.  Dame Darcey 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.”

The lunch was planned as a fundraising event for The David McAllister Fund.  The Australian Ballet established The David McAllister Fund to recognise and celebrate the extraordinary career of David McAllister.  David 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.

Royal Academy of Dance (RAD), established in 1920 to improve standards and re-invigorate dance training, is one of the most influential dance education and training organisations in the world with a strong global membership in 85 countries, with around a quarter of a million pupils per year going on to take RAD exams.

David McAllister AM with his long time dance partner Liz Toohey and the new Artist director of the Australian Ballet David Hallberg.
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