David McAllister got the surprise of his life yesterday when he attended a gala lunch to celebrate his career at The Australian Ballet and was presented with the prestigious Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Award – the highest award from the Royal Academy of Dance.

Elizabeth Toohey, David McAllister and David Hallberg. Photograph © Chris Pavlich

The award, which had been kept a closely guarded secret, was presented to him by RAD President Dame Darcey Bussell – the British prima ballerina and a longtime friend of McAllister’s – who appeared via a video link.

“The RAD believes that David McAllister’s contribution to the international world of ballet is outstanding and that he is most definitely worthy of this prestigious award,” said Bussell from her UK home.

“His brave decision to step down and leave the company he loved triggered tears from his colleagues, teachers and dancers as they said goodbye to their leader in the worst of times.”

“Instead of a glorious farewell to celebrate his years at the company, 2020 became a year of lockdowns. Today, however, we can celebrate David and his legacy knowing...