The news has finally been released! Leanne Benjamin, AM OBE, is to take over from Li Cunxin as artistic director of Queensland Ballet. Rockhampton-born and trained, and former principal dancer with London’s Royal Ballet and other major ballet companies, Benjamin will take up the directorship early in 2024. Her autobiography, Built for Ballet (written in conjunction with Sarah Crompton), was published by Melbourne Books in 2021.
My reviews of productions in which I have had the pleasure of seeing Benjamin perform have been filled with superlatives, beginning in 2002 when she visited Australia with the Royal Ballet then under the direction of Ross Stretton. But I recall in particular her performance in London in 2010 in the first movement of Balanchine’s Symphony in C when I wrote, ‘She was beautifully self-assured, a ballerina always aware of her audience with a technique that shone from the moment she stepped onto the stage.’ And of her autobiography I wrote, ‘an engrossing read’ and ‘honest to the core’.
Since her retirement from the Royal Ballet in 2013, Benjamin has coached dancers and companies across the world, and has engaged in a variety of dance-related activities. Everything suggests that she will make a committed director and will constantly interact with a range of dance communities in a variety of ways.
I guess my major interest at present, however, is in the kind of repertoire Benjamin will bring to Queensland Ballet. The 2024 season has already been announced and has been curated by Li Cunxin so we won’t really have an idea of how Benjamin will approach repertoire until the 2025 season is announced. It is very clear from changes to directorship here in Australia and elsewhere that artistic directors have their own specific interests and I am under the impression that they (perhaps rightly) feel the need to step away from previous approaches and be themselves. Sometimes this works, sometimes not to any great extent. I wonder in particular whether she will continue Queensland Ballet’s encouragement of Australian choreographers, both established and emerging (side by side of course with the classics from across the decades/centuries)?
Time will tell but the outlook seems positive! It is a more than interesting appointment and Benjamin is even the first female artistic director of Queensland Ballet.
Below is the photo of Benjamin that accompanied the official announcement of the appointment.
But of course I could not have any other featured image than the amazing shot of Benjamin in the outback, which I have used before on a number of occasions. Both photos are by Jason Bell.
Michelle Potter, 20 December 2023
Featured image: Leanne Benjamin dancing at a location outside of Alice Springs. Photo: © Jason Bell, 2006