We spoke to a few of his closest friends and colleagues as we celebrate his 30 year anniversary.
Maina Gielgud AO, former artistic director of The Australian Ballet 1983 – 1996
“I can see him now – David rehearsing and performing Suite Saint-Saens, in which he loved doing the split penches arabesques (his were the envy of all the women!) His very strong and neat technique, and delightful exuberance, made him a favourite with audiences instantly. His partnership with Elizabeth Toohey captured their imagination, making their success in the Moscow Ballet Competition in 1985 a big talking point back in Australia.
I can never forget him bounding out of my office when I told him of his promotion to coryphée – three jetés of joy across and through the corridor, and some whoops too if I remember rightly!
David and I always got on well, although as is the case almost always between director and dancer, there were times when we did not quite see eye to eye. It was typical of David’s honesty and openness that very soon after he started his tenure as artistic director that he contacted me to say “Now I understand!”
And in turn, some day one of his dancers will perhaps say the same to him … happy 30th anniversary David!”
Elizabeth Toohey, former dancer with The Australian Ballet 1980 – 1991
“We had a wonderful partnership and it was one to cherish; dancing-wise, put quite simply, he could split, I could jump and we could both turn! We just clicked from the start and we loved being with each other, on and off stage. We could spend weeks guesting in extraordinary places where we couldn’t speak the language, and these could be intense situations, but we would spend the whole time laughing – he was and is a flawless mimic!
I left the company for Europe in 1991 and we’ve spent every Christmas or New Year’s Eve together since, and we speak often as we can – any time of the day for any reason. He’s been such an inspiring director but also an incredible friend – he will drop everything to be there when you need him. No matter what’s happened in our lives we’ve been right beside each other, if not physically, then in spirit.
David, congratulations on this amazing journey. Thirty years has passed so quickly but you’ve given a lifetime of love and devotion to The Australian Ballet.”
Miranda Coney, former principal artist with The Australian Ballet 1991 – 2001
“I treasure the many special times and roles that David and I danced together during our time in the company. It was always an honour to share the stage with him. His immense love, dedication and passion for dance radiates from him like a beacon. I will never forget how he charmed and dazzled Princess Diana and the audience at the Coliseum in London with his Franz opening night of Coppélia and how engaging he was with her at the supper afterwards at St James Palace.
It was an honour to share the stage with David in his final deeply moving performance of Giselle with the company in 2001. As I watched him take his final bow, I felt a great sense of sadness but an even greater sense of excitement as he embarked on his new journey as artistic director with The Australian Ballet. We are all immensely proud of him as he continues to shine his light and guide the company toward a bright future.”
Vicki Attard, principal artist with The Australian Ballet 1993 – 1999
“Congratulations on achieving 30 years with The Australian Ballet. I know it’s a company that has offered you more than a job; it’s the place you return to everyday, a place you have given most of your life to, and in return, it’s the place you call ‘home’.
You once said that I inspired, goaded, pushed, helped and supported you in our dancing years together, and that my persistence took you to places you never would have gone. These are the very qualities that have helped you achieve this milestone and have enabled you to do a brilliant job in the process. I am so very, very proud of you David; you are my long lost partner, but my ever present friend. If I could have one wish in life, I would ask for another night onstage with you.”
Graeme Murphy AO, choreographer
“I bet those 30 years have flown! That’s because every second has been infused with love, passion and loyalty; first expressed through the body of a young colt, later in the artistry of a mature principal artist and over the last twelve years as you serve the wonderful company and the Australian public the very finest dance can offer as artistic director. Janet Vernon and I salute and thank you for allowing us to be part of your exuberant life and your ever-evolving artistic journey.”
Jim Cousins AO, Chair of The Australian Ballet
“We’re incredibly lucky to have someone like David at the helm of The Australian Ballet; he has a deep love of the art form and understands its traditions but is always looking for ways to keep ballet relevant to today’s audience. He’s a fantastic leader and well respected in the arts and dance community, both here and internationally. I don’t think you could find someone who has a bad word to say about him, and he remains as enthusiastic and passionate about the company and dance as he was 30 years ago, which is just remarkable.”