Six dancers are in the running to take home Australian ballet's highest honour, with the 2013 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award (TBDA) nominations announced today in Melbourne.
The 2013 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award nominees are Benedicte Bemet (Mackay, QLD), CameRon Hunter (East Fremantle, WA), Natasha Kusen (Maroubra, NSW), Christopher Rodgers-Wilson (Camberwell, VIC), Sharni Spencer (Tamworth, NSW) and Valerie Tereshchenko (Carnegie, VIC).
The Artistic Director of The Australian Ballet David McAllister said he was excited for the group of young dancers as they began the first steps of their TBDA journey.
"I'm also particularly thrilled that for the first time, the nominees will use Instagram to document their TBDA experience. Ballet fans can follow them with the hashtag #TBDA13," McAllister said.
Telstra's Group General Counsel, Carmel Mulhern said the Award plays an important role in recognising and rewarding existing talent within the company.
"Each year the announcement of the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award nominees is such an exciting occasion and one that is highly anticipated.
"Together, it is important we continue to support and encourage the next generation of The Australian Ballet," she said.
Introduced in 2003 to encourage young Australian ballet dancers to reach their full potential, the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award has catapulted some of The Australian Ballet's brightest stars into the stratosphere.
Last year Senior Artist Amy Harris from Ararat in regional Victoria was crowned the 2012 TBDA winner. Her win was a case of third time lucky, with previous nominations for the esteemed Award in 2008 and 2010. In both of those years she took home the public-voted Telstra People's Choice Award, but last year was the first time she had won the main accolade.
Five previous TBDA winners have ascended the ballet rankings to reach principal artist status, including Matthew Lawrence (2003), Amber Scott (2004), Lana Jones (2005), Daniel Gaudiello (2007) and Kevin Jackson (2008).
Audiences can see all the 2013 TBDA nominees in action at the free outdoor event Telstra Ballet in Bowl in Melbourne on Friday 8 March. Register for tickets at ticketmaster.com.au.
This year's nominees were chosen by The Australian Ballet's artistic staff, previous winners of the award and principal artists. The six dancers were judged on their performances throughout 2012, the ongoing development of their skills and their support of fellow company members.
The winner, announced near the end of 2013, will be decided by an industry panel - comprising of representatives from The Australian Ballet, Telstra and the media - and will receive a $20,000 cash prize from Telstra. The People's Choice Award has a $5,000 prize and is decided by public vote.
To vote for your favourite dancer, SMS their first name to 0439 BALLET (0439 225 538) or go to telstra.com/ballet to enter online and see full terms and conditions.
The Australian Ballet congratulates this year's nominees and wishes them the best as they embark on their quest for TBDA glory.
About the nominees
Benedicte Bemet was born in Mackay, QLD in 1994, and started ballet at the age of three. She grew up on the Gold Coast and began her training at the Ransley's Ballet Centre. She was accepted into The Australian Ballet School at age 14. In 2012 she joined The Australian Ballet.
CameRon Hunter was born in Bentley, WA, in 1991. Growing up in East Fremantle in Perth, he started ballroom dancing at age nine. At age 13 he made the move from ballroom to ballet after being offered a scholarship to train at the Perth City Ballet. A year later Cameron moved to Melbourne to study at The Australian Ballet School. Cameron joined The Australian Ballet in 2011.
Natasha Kusen was born in Maroubra, NSW in 1984 and started dancing at the age of four. She trained with Nicholina Kuner's Academy Ballet in Randwick in Sydney. In 2001 Natasha won a scholarship at the Prix de Lausanne competition to study at The Royal Ballet School in London. Upon graduation in 2003 Natasha came home to Australia to accept a position with The Australian Ballet. She was previously nominated for a Telstra Ballet Dancer Award in 2010.
Christopher Rodgers-Wilson was born in England in 1987 but grew up in Camberwell, VIC, starting ballet classes at the age of six. He trained at the Camberwell District Ballet School before moving to London to study at The Royal Ballet School. Christopher joined the Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2007 before returning to Melbourne to join The Australian Ballet in 2011.