As the dancers took their bows at the Sydney opening night of The Nutcracker, you could glimpse the streamers that some of them had hidden in their hands in readiness for the announcement of this year’s Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards.

After the final bow, The Australian Ballet Artistic Director David McAllister and Telstra CEO Andrew Penn took to the stage to announce the names of the winners. As the six nominees stepped forward, joined by last year’s winner Jade Wood, it was finally the moment which has now become an Australian ballet tradition at the end of the year.

Jill Ogai (centre) with Marcus Morelli on her right, and Andrew Penn and David McAllister on her left. Photograph © Lisa Tomasetti

Jill Ogai, a Soloist with TAB, looked as if she could hardly believe it when she named the 2019 Rising Star of the Telstra Ballet Dancer Awards – a cash prize worth $20,000 from Telstra, a Principal Partner of TAB for 35 years. Marcus Morelli, a Senior Artist, took out the 2019 Telstra People’s Choice Award worth $5,000.

“Jill has had an exceptional year,” said McAllister. “She has worked extremely hard and taken...