David McAllister AC
A graduate of The Australian Ballet School, Perth-born David McAllister began his training in Perth with Evelyn Hodgkinson and joined The Australian Ballet in 1983. He quickly moved through the ranks, culminating in his appointment to Principal Artist in January 1989. His principal roles have included those in Onegin, Romeo and Juliet, La Fille mal gardée, The Sleeping Beauty, Don Quixote, The Sentimental Bloke, Coppélia, Manon, La Sylphide, Sinfonietta and Stepping Stones.
In 1985 he won the Oceanic Equity Arts Award for Young Achievers in Perth and awarded a Bronze Medal at the Fifth International Ballet Competition in Moscow. David was invited to return to the USSR as a guest artist and made numerous appearances with the Bolshoi Ballet, the Kirov Ballet, the Georgian State Ballet and other companies. David’s talents also saw him perform with The National Ballet of Canada, the Birmingham Royal Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre and in London in 1992, where he took part in the Royal Gala performance of Coppélia in the presence of the Princess of Wales.
David danced for the final time in Giselle on 24 March 2001 at the Sydney Opera House and became Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet in July 2001.
Over the next two decades, on his way to becoming The Australian Ballet's longest-serving artistic director, David invigorated the company's repertoire with a series of new commissions from the world's foremost choreographers, including Alexei Ratmansky, Graeme Murphy and Wayne McGregor. He appointed two new resident choreographers, Tim Harbour and Alice Topp, and, through co-productions with leading international companies, secured major works such as John Neumeier’s Nijinsky, Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland© and Yuri Possokhov's Anna Karenina. In 2015, as a director/choreographer, David gifted the company with a lavish and widely acclaimed new production of The Sleeping Beauty.
He led the company on 11 international tours and created numerous programs to support and develop dancers including a Parental Leave Policy, through which he enabled a generation of female dancers to extend their careers like never before.
David has worked as a guest teacher and has supported dance as a panel member and adjudicator for a wide range of awards and scholarships including the Helpmann Awards.
David was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) in the 2004 Australia Day Honours List, which was elevated in 2021 to see him become a Companion of the Order of Australia (AC) for service to the performing arts, particularly as Principal Dancer with and Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet. In 2019, David received the Creative Partnerships Australia Award for Arts Leadership. He was awarded the Live Performance Australia J.C. Williamson’s Award for Artistic Leadership and in 2021, the Royal Academy of Dance Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award.
In 2019, David announced that the 2020 season would be his last with the company. Since leaving The Australian Ballet, David has completed a new production of Swan Lake for the Finnish National Ballet which premiered in 2022. He has also written two books – the memoir, SOAR with Amanda Dunn and in 2023, Ballet Confidential. In 2023 he was the Acting Artistic Director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet and currently holds a similar role as the 2024 Guest Artistic Director of West Australian Ballet
He serves as a trustee for the Fredrick Ashton Foundation in London, a board director of Project Animo at The Australian Ballet School, Vice President of the Royal Academy of Dance, and Patron of Ballet Theatre Queensland.
Photo by Justin Riddler