‘Once a dancer, always a dancer’ is a phrase that springs to mind when looking at how David McAllister is managing retirement after serving for two decades as artistic director of the Australian Ballet. Since leaving that directorship role at the end of 2020, McAllister has published Soar, his autobiography; created a new Swan Lake for the Finnish National Ballet; been honoured with various awards; and taught for many organisations and dance schools across Australia (amongst a variety of other activities).
But the most recent news is perhaps the most interesting of all his recent engagements. In a commission that he has described as ‘an exciting retirement opportunity’, he will act as interim artistic director for the Wellington-based Royal New Zealand Ballet until a replacement is chosen to take over from Patricia Barker, who has announced her retirement. McAllister will take up the role early in March. Barker will return to the United States following the regional tour, Tutus on Tour, which concludes on 12 March.
Barker’s retirement comes at a significant point in RNZB’s history. The year 2023 is the 70th anniversary of the company’s foundation in 1953 by Poul Gnatt. Over those 70 years, and looking at the book The Royal New Zealand Ballet at 60 (edited by Jennifer Shennan and Anne Rowse), it is clear that the company has appointed directors from around the world. But was the last New Zealander to hold the post really Bryan Ashbridge in 1971? One wonders if, in celebration of the company’s stellar history, it is an appropriate time to appoint once more a New Zealander as director? Time will tell and, in the meantime, I’m sure McAllister will do a terrific job and will be admired by all involved. Interesting times for dance in New Zealand.
Michelle Potter, 10 January 2023
Featured image: David McAllister, 2019. Photo: © Georges Antoni