Two country boys have walked away with the Australian Ballet’s prestigious annual Award and People’s Choice.

The streamers flew after the curtain call at Saturday’s Sydney opening night of Coppélia for the announcement of the 2016 Telstra Ballet Dancer Award.

Callum Linnane and Jarryd Madden receive their awards at the Sydney opening of Coppélia, photo © Lisa Tomasetti

The prestigious Australian Ballet Award went to 21-year old Callum Linnane, the son of a Ballarat brickie. Worth $20,000, the Award is supported by the Company’s principal sponsor Telstra. Born into a family of bricklayers, Linnane’s love of dance was inspired by a fascination with Michael Jackson’s moves. He started tap dancing at age seven and began studying ballet at age 11. In 2008, he joined the Australian Ballet School, then toured with the Dancers’ Company in 2013 and 2014. Accepted into the AB in 2015, he has featured in performances of Symphony in C and In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated. Most recently, he was selected to perform the lead role in John Neumeier’s Nijinsky – quite an achievement for such a young dancer.

Congratulating Linnane on his win, AB Artistic Director David McAllister said: “In his short time with The Australian Ballet, Callum has established himself as a dancer on the move. He has all the attributes of a great dancer and a very charming stage presence, which has caught the eye of many of our visiting choreographers. After his debuts in William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, the title role in John Neumeiers’ Nijinsky, and now winning the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award, the year so far has been stellar!”

The $5,000 People’s Choice Award, which is decided by a public vote, was won by Jarryd Madden, another country boy from Wauchope in New South Wales, who joined the AB in 2008 and who was promoted to soloist in 2015. Madden was also a finalist in 2012 when the Award was won by his now wife Amy Harris.

 For the first time in the Award’s history, there was an equal gender representation among the nominees, which also included Brodie James, Jill Ogai, Nicola Curry and Jade Wood.

 As part of the nominations, Telstra and The Australian Ballet created a video series that went behind the scenes in order to delve into the nominees’ life and careers at The Australian Ballet, and explore what inspired these talented young dancers to follow a career in dance.

Now in its 14th year, the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award has helped catapult the careers of some of the AB’s brightest stars, with seven former winners being promoted to Principal Artist with the Company. They include Chengwu Guo (2011), who starred as Franz in the opening of Coppélia, Ty King-Wall (2010), Kevin Jackson (2008), Daniel Gaudiello (2007), Lana Jones (2005), Amber Scott (2004) and Matthew Lawrence (2003).