David McAllister

Surprise! David McAllister is taken aback to receive the RAD’s highest honour.

Dance Gazette | Inside RAD | Issue 1 – June 2021

David McAllister had no idea what awaited him when he arrived at a special event held in Sydney in April. To his surprise, he was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award, the RAD’s highest honour. 

McAllister, who stepped down as Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet at the end of 2020 and is also a Vice-President of the RAD, receives the award in recognition of his contribution to the Australian Ballet as a dancer and director, as well as being a vital supporter and advocate for dance. 

David McAllister is surprised by Darcey Bussell’s filmed announcement. Photo: Chris Pavlich

‘It is the highest achievement in ballet,’ he said, ‘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.’

First presented (to Dame Ninette de Valois) in 1954, the QEII Coronation Award has been given to some of the greatest names in dance, including Marie Rambert, Frederick Ashton, Rudolf Nureyev, Carlos Acosta and most recently Karen Kain. This year’s award was presented at a special lunch gala organised by the Friends of the Australian Ballet, arranged to mark the end of McAllister’s incredible four decades with the company, and provided a perfect opportunity to surprise him with this coveted honour. 

David McAllister. Photo: Chris Pavlich

David McAllister danced with the Australian Ballet for 20 years and then became its Artistic Director for a further 20 years, growing its international reputation immeasurably. Dame Darcey Bussell, who guested with the company and is the RAD’s President, joined the event virtually to announce the news (Audrey Nicholls presented the medal in person). ‘David, you are so deserving of this award,’ she said, adding that he achieved everything ‘with complete humility and integrity.’

The event was compered by McAllister’s close friend and former dance partner Liz Toohey, who told the Sydney Morning Herald that ‘the legacy and the mark he has made on Australian ballet can never be underestimated.’


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