Butterfly with Ms Putty Foot, also known as David McAllister

When David McAlistair decided to leave his role as the artistic director at The Australian Ballet he said “It was my decision to leave the Australian Ballet, and I was thrilled to be able to do it on my own terms. I felt that it was the right time for me to take that step out into the big world, and I left with a joyful heart. One of the things I really wanted to do when I left the Australian Ballet is to have some time off.  I’m doing some small projects with the Australian Ballet School and a bit of teaching. But I am not looking for a job. I am going to experience freelancing for the first time in my life which I am actually enjoying so far”. In the beginning of 2021, he handed the reins of the Australian Ballet to David Hallberg and flew to Helsinki to create a new production of Swan Lake for the Finnish National Ballet.

As for projects with the Australian Ballet School and a bit of teaching, that came when on the evening of June 18, McAllister stood on the stage of the Concourse Theatre, (Chatswood Sydney) where he was wearing a red wig, red glasses, red lipstick, a cardigan, and a blue and white dress along with dancers in The Australian Ballet School. McAlistair took the role of ‘Ms Puttyfoot’, the teacher of mischievous school children.

The show called Butterfly, based on Marius Petipa’s Le Papillon, was first staged at the Paris Opera Ballet in 1860 and has continued on the stage in several versions choreographed by Ronald Hynd for the Houston Ballet, the Johannesburg company, PACT and entered the repertoire of the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet.

 The Australian Ballet School presented Butterfly in Sydney. The 60 full-time students at The Australian Ballet School showed that Australia has many talented dancers. Some, such as Amy Ronnfeltd who was a prize winner at the Prix de Lausanne, (an international ballet competition) will move on to The Australian Ballet or dance companies around the world.

A highlight of the show was Hugh Colman’s set designs and the vivid, multiple colours of the butterfly costumes. The Monarch Butterfly has two sets of wings with deep orange with black, white borders and white spots along the edges.

Lucas Jervies said “I’m honoured to have this opportunity to create for these young artists, who are now in the position I was in 24 years ago at The Australian Ballet School. This production is a full circle story particularly with David McAllister in a guest role – himself also a graduate of the Australian Ballet School. Reflection and journey are the heart of Butterfly. For me, the metaphor of the butterfly – to transform – is infinite. It doesn’t happen just once or twice. It’s a constantly evolving process, one that we must always strive for. To be better, kinder, smarter”.

Meanwhile, after writing a memoir, McAllister has a plan to write a new book. Of course it will be about ballet and maybe a book that will help new-to-ballet audiences what ballet really is, from pointe shoes (no, they’re not made of wood) and when or not to clap their hands.


All photos by Lynette Wills

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