In May, The Australian Ballet announced a new initiative, supported by Telstra, to nurture aspiring choreographers. More than 60 people across Australia, representing all genres of dance, submitted an application for the inaugural Telstra Emerging Choreographer (TEC) Award.

The Australian Ballet and Telstra have now named the four finalists: Mathilda Ballantyne, Aimee Schollum, Feras Shaheen and Geoffrey Watson.

Aimee Scollum

Aimee Schollum is one of the four finalists in The Australian Ballet’s 2021 Telstra Emerging Choreographer Award

The theme for TEC 2021 is the Joy of Dance. The finalists will each receive $2,500 to create a work of four to six minutes in length. The winner will receive a $10,000 prize from Telstra to support the development of their work. There will also be the potential for TAB Artistic Director David Hallberg to invite them to work with the company’s artistic team and dancers to create a new work for TAB’s 2022 Bodytorque program.

“The finalists for our inaugural TEC Award have shown the range and diversity of the dance community here in Australia,” said Hallberg. “We received a substantial number of entries, giving a clear indication of so many burgeoning creatives. Fellow judges Damian Smith, Lucy Guerin and I will review the unique pieces submitted by each finalist with great interest, as they all have their own diverse choreographic voice, expanding across many styles of dance. Working with Telstra on this initiative has already uncovered some great choreographic talent and enables us to create greater opportunity for the young Australian dance makers of today.”

Mathilde Ballantyne is based in Melbourne. She began her training at the Melbourne School of Classical Dance and was accepted into The Australian Ballet School in 2010. In her graduating year, she performed in Coppélia as part of the Regional Tour and was commissioned to co-choreograph a piece for the School’s Gala Dinner. She was a finalist in the Brisbane International Contemporary Dance Prix and has performed with Projection Dance Company.

Aimee Schollum was born in New Zealand but is now based in Melbourne. She holds a Bachelor of Art and Design (Honours) and a Diploma of Dance. She was a member of the Dancehouse Emerging Choreographic Program (2019/20). Her choreographic credits include Sonos, which won Best Dance/Physical Theatre at the 2018 Melbourne Fringe, Eyes Wide Open and Moth. Her performance credits include Colossus for the Stephanie Lake Company at the 2019 Melbourne International Arts Festival and a Chunky Move ChoreoLab performance with Contact Gonzo at the National Gallery of Victoria in 2020.

Feras Shaheen was born in Dubai but moved to Sydney at the age of 11. Drawing from his street dance background, as well as Palestinian cultural dance traditions, he works as a performer, teacher, choreographer and digital artist. He performs with Marrugeku, Buggy Bumpers Crew, Cultural Renegades and Klappsquad. He holds a Bachelor of Design from Western Sydney University and alongside his artistic practice he is a freelance graphic designer, photographer and filmmaker.

Geoffrey Watson is a Melbourne-based artist whose work is rooted in choreography but extends into wearable design, text, lighting, sculpture and photography. He has been creating performance works since 2016, which have been staged in Melbourne and Berlin. He has also performed with BalletLab, Nana Biluš-Abaffy, Lucy Guerin Inc., Lee Serle, Alisdair Macindoe and Gekidan Kaitaisha.

The winner of the Telstra Emerging Choreographer Award will be announced in December.

More information can be found on The Australian Ballet website.