New moves at Queensland Ballet

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Alison McWhinney. Photo supplied by QLD Ballet.

Alison McWhinney. Photo supplied by QLD Ballet.

In her first addition to the Company since taking the helm as Artistic Director of Queensland Ballet, Leanne Benjamin has announced the homecoming of the elegant, expressive Australian born dancer, Alison McWhinney. 
Hailing from Port Macquarie, Alison McWhinney started dancing at the age of 4. She later moved to Sydney where she trained with Jane Allyn and Ashley Killar at Ecole Ballet Studios, before heading to London and the English National Ballet School.

 A Genée Silver Medal winner and Prix de Lausanne Prize winner, Alison was also nominated for ENB's Emerging Dancer Award in both 2013 and 2014. She was joint winner of the award in 2014. Alison has carved out a distinguished career in the UK with the prestigious English National Ballet, ascending to the position of First Soloist in 2017. 

Her repertoire boasts a range of iconic Principal roles, including Juliet in Rudolf Nureyev's Romeo and Juliet, Myrtha and Giselle in Mary Skeaping's Giselle, Manon in MacMillan's Manon, the Sylph in Frank Andersen/Bournonville’s La Sylphide and Clara/Sugar Plum Fairy in Wayne Eagling’s Nutcracker. More recently, Alison appeared in the title role of Cinderella in Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella
"Alison is a remarkable talent, and I am thrilled to welcome her back to her Aussie roots. Her extensive experience and artistry will undoubtedly enrich our Company and delight Queensland Ballet audiences," said Ms Benjamin. 

Speaking of her impending return to Australia after a successful career abroad, Alison said she was thrilled to be coming home to continue her career at Queensland Ballet.  

“I am so thrilled to be coming home to continue my career at QB. It is such a vibrant company with beautiful people, and I can’t wait to be part of this exciting new chapter with Leanne as director,” she said.  

Now set to return to her homeland, Alison commences her journey with Queensland Ballet as a Senior Soloist from late July. Brisbane audiences can look out for her first on-stage performance in Coco Chanel: the Life of a Fashion Icon in October. 

In June 2020, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, she participated in Qld Ballet’s 60 dancers : 60 stories project in a duet with Qld Ballet Principal Artist Joel Woellner titled A Love Like Ours. You can watch their duet on YouTube here.


Joel Woellner. Photograher David Kelly

At the time of preparing this news item, Queensland Ballet had only just announced that Principal Artist, Joel Woellner, is set to embark on an exciting new chapter in his career as he accepts an international contract with Ballet Zürich in Switzerland, under the Artistic Direction of Cathy Marston. 

Since joining Queensland Ballet in 2015, Joel ascended through the ranks, showcasing his exceptional talent and dedication. He was promoted to Principal Artist in June 2021, and audiences enjoyed portrayal of iconic roles such as 'Prince Désiré' in The Sleeping Beauty, Des Grieux from Manon and Oberon from A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

Joel's repertoire highlights encompass a multitude of classical and contemporary works, including performances in masterpieces by renowned choreographers such as Sir Kenneth MacMillan, Liam Scarlett, Stephanie Lake and Christopher Bruce. 

In addition to his outstanding performances on stage, Joel has garnered numerous accolades throughout his career, including being a finalist of the Youth America Grand Prix, receiving a full scholarship to the Ben Stevenson Academy, and being a dual prize winner of the Prix de Lausanne. 

Commenting on his new endeavour, Joel expressed his gratitude to the Company. 

“Queensland Ballet is a place that has nurtured and developed my skills as a ballet dancer over the last 9 years, for which I will always be thankful. I would like to thank the Artistic Directors, artistic staff, all those behind the scenes, patrons and audiences for making my time at Queensland Ballet such a wonderful experience.” 

“To the Artists of Queensland Ballet, I’m forever grateful for your passion and commitment to this art form. I'm lucky to have shared in so many moments together. Each of you has made a lasting impact on my life, and I can’t thank you enough. It has been an absolute privilege to share my journey with you.” 

“It’s with mixed emotions I make this career change, but I look forward to the new challenges. This is not goodbye, but rather see you again soon,” he said. 

Leanne Benjamin, Artistic Director of Queensland Ballet, extended her heartfelt congratulations to Joel. 

"Joel's journey with us has been nothing short of inspiring. In his 9 years with Queensland Ballet, he has not only been an exceptional artist but also a cherished member of our family,” she said. 

“We’re proud to see him take this next step in his career and begin a new adventure with another world-class company. Queensland Ballet will continue to support him every step of the way.” 

He starts with Ballet Zürich August 13. Joel's final performance with Queensland Ballet will be the evening performance of Coppélia on Saturday, 22 June.  

Leanne Benjamin has also promoted Luke DiMattina, effective immediately, up a rank from Company Artist to First Company Artist. Luke was born in Melbourne and began dancing at the age of 4. At the age of 12, he began training full time at the Victorian Collage of the Arts Secondary School. After graduating in 2017, he moved to Brisbane and joined Queensland Ballet Academy’s Pre-Professional Program. In 2018 Luke became a Jette Parker Young Artist and was promoted to Company Artist in 2019.


First Company Artist Luke Dimattina. Photography David Kelly.

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