The Sydney premiere of The Australian Ballet’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland wasn’t the only thing worth celebrating last night. Valerie Tereshchenko, a newly made soloist at the company who had just played a flower and a playing card onstage, was announced as the recipient of the prestigious Telstra Ballet Dancer Award. The $20,000 cash prize is awarded annually to an outstanding young artist within the company.

Telstra Group Executive Media and Chief Marketing Officer Joe Pollard made the announcement onstage last night during curtain calls. “One of the greatest successes in our 33-year partnership with The Australian Ballet has been the establishment and legacy of the Telstra Ballet Dancer Award, which is dedicated to supporting the growth and future of The Australian Ballet’s rising stars”, she said. “On behalf of Telstra I’d like to congratulate Valerie on this outstanding achievement. Adding this remarkable accomplishment to her list is a sure sign of a thriving career with The Australian Ballet”.

“I’m thrilled to see rising star Valerie Tereshchenko acknowledged for her dedication and artistry as this year’s winner, and I look forward to watching this award boost her trajectory”, added The Australian Ballet’s Artistic Director, David McAllister.

Kiev-born Tereshchenko began ballet lessons at the age of seven after migrating to Australia with her family. She joined The Australian Ballet in 2009, was promoted to coryphée in 2015, and was made a soloist in 2017. She recently danced the Lilac Fairy in David McAllister’s The Sleeping Beauty when it travelled to Brisbane.

Also announced last night was the recipient of the $5,000 Telstra People’s Choice Award, Jake Mangakahia. Decided by an online vote open to the public, the Award takes into account the onstage and offstage contributions of those nominated, as does the Ballet Dancer Award. As testament to his popularity, this is the second time Mangakahia has taken home the Award, the first being in his debut year with The Australian Ballet at the age of 18.

“Jake Mangakahia exemplified what it takes to be the people’s choice winner this year, showcasing the loyalty and support of his fans, friends and family to take out this award,” McAllister said.

The other nominees were Drew Hedditch (Canberra), Isobelle Dashwood (Toowoomba), François-Eloi Lavignac (Melbourne), and Sharni Spencer (Lismore). Telstra and The Australian Ballet produced a series of short films this year to showcase the finalists, ringing in a record number of votes for the People’s Choice Award.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland plays at The Capitol Theatre, Sydney until December 22. 


Read Limelight‘s review of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland here 

Read Editor Jo Litson’s feature about the ballet here 

Read our interview with composer Joby Talbot about his music for the ballet here