Recently, a panel of judges spent an afternoon locked in a room deliberating on who would take out the 2019 Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards’ ‘Rising Star’, while over the last couple of months, you have been casting votes for the ‘People’s Choice’ winner. With the votes now counted we’re proud to crown the winners.

Our CEO, Andy Penn, took the stage at the Sydney Opera House on the Opening Night performance of The Nutcracker to make the announcement.

It’s a pleasure to announce that the 2019 Rising Star winner of the Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards is Jill Ogai, Soloist with the Australian Ballet. Jill receives a cash prize of $20,000 for her amazing win.

Born in Sydney in 1993, Jill Ogai grew up in Bondi Beach. At the age of four, she and her twin brother begged their parents to start ballet classes after their tennis-coach father played a film of Swan Lake. Her family later moved to Adelaide where she continued training before moving to Melbourne at age 14 to begin full-time studies at The Australian Ballet School.

Jill joined The Australian Ballet in 2012 and was promoted to Soloist in 2018. The award follows an exciting year for Jill, who this Sydney season is playing lead roles in Sylvia and The Nutcracker. Earlier this year she also starred with Kevin Jackson in Stephen Baynes’ Unspoken Dialogues at the prestigious Joyce Theater in New York.

Speaking to us as part of this year’s awards, Jill said that her biggest career highlight so far is dancing a piece called Unspoken Dialogues in New York earlier this year. “I was lucky enough to dance it…only a handful of dancers have ever danced that piece, and it was a huge accomplishment for me,” she added.

Meanwhile, the People’s Choice vote was hotly contested this year. After a tight race, Marcus Morelli emerged as the winner. With over 52,000 votes counted, 2019 represents the biggest ever year for the People’s Choice category. Marcus’ win represents his second in the category, after taking out the People’s Choice award in 2015 also. He receives a $5000 cash prize for his win. We congratulate him for this amazing achievement.

The nominees were judged by a panel of incredible talent. This year David McAllister, AM (Artistic Director, The Australian Ballet), Libby Christie (Executive Director, The Australian Ballet), Carmel Mulhern (Group General Counsel, Telstra), Nadia Fairfax (Editor, Fairfax Journal), Sophie Tedmanson (Executive Editor, Qantas Magazine) and myself came together to assess the contributions of the dancers both on and off the stage.

The crowning of Jill and Marcus marks the 17th year of the Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards. The awards are designed to nurture Australia’s ballet talent and support rising artists in the field. We want to recognise and showcase the passion and artistry of these dancers and elevate their work to the national stage.

Not only do we congratulate the winners, but we also congratulate the other four nominees who make up a prestigious cohort of dancers. We applaud Corps de Ballet Dancer Isobelle Dashwood; Senior Artist Cristiano Martino; Soloist Sharni Spencer; and Corps de Ballet Dancer Yichuan Wang for their efforts this year.

We’re proud to continue supporting these talented artists and the contribution this partnership has done to raise the profile of ballet in Australia. Congratulations to both Jill and Marcus on their wins.