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David McAllister, photographed by Greg Barrett.
From "Tutu," published by Allen & Unwin.

Flash News, 8-31: TAB Taps McAllister
Dancer Named Director in Australia

By Simone Clifford
Copyright 2000 Simone Clifford

MELBOURNE, Australia -- The Australian Ballet, one of the leading ballet companies in the world, yesterday tapped 36-year-old principal dancer David McAllister to succeed Ross Stretton as artistic director, effective at the beginning of the 2001-2002 season.

McAllister is known among dancers for his devotion to the company, which he has served unflinchingly since 1983, when he graduated from the Australian Ballet school. He was made a principal artist in 1989 by then-artistic director Maina Gielgud.

Dancers contacted yesterday were thrilled that someone from their ranks had been selected. Gielgud, who directed TAB for 12 years, was delighted at the news.

"Since I have always felt, and said, that I was developing future artistic directors and artistic staff as well as dancers and choreographers, this is a special moment for me, the first of 'mine' to become AD," Gielgud, reached in London, told The Dance Insider today. "I am extremely happy for the company, as although he does not have previous experience of directing a company, David is very intelligent, has always been interested in 'how the wheels turn,' and has tremendous enthusiasm and boundless energy."

McAllister's avidness has also extended to the realm of administration; he has been studying for a graduate diploma in arts and entertainment management at Deakin University.

The native of Perth, Australia, won the gold medal in the 1985 International Ballet Competition in Moscow, one of only three male Australians ever to capture the top spot.

Mel Ward, TAB board chairman, told Melbourne's morning paper The Age that the company had scoured the world to find the best available artistic director before unanimously picking McAllister from a short list of five candidates.

Ward said he was confident that McAllister would continue the direction set under Gielgud and strengthened by Stretton, who leaves TAB next season to take the reigns at London's Royal Ballet.

McAllister could not be reached for comment at presstime. He told The Age that his vision for TAB is to maintain a balance between contemporary and classical ballet, that classical ballet will always be the company's most important concern as well, and that it needs to develop new classics for the future. He said he would like to develop the company by collaborating with artists from other art forms.

The company will send McAllister abroad for several months early next year, to catch up on the dance scene and reacquaint himself with contacts from his time dancing with other troupes.


Paul Ben-Itzak contributed additional reporting to this story.

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