Li Cunxin vs David McAllister? Settle down, the game’s not on, or not yet

A cover story for today’s Review section in The Australian newspaper more than hints that the Queensland Ballet’s artistic director, Li Cunxin, is after the job of David McAllister, artistic director of the Australian Ballet.

“There is speculation”, wrote the reporter, Sharon Verghis, “that once he (Li) kicks a few more goals he’ll be zooming in on the AB’s artistic directorship. McAllister’s contract will expire at the end of this year”.

Neither McAllister nor Li will be happy with this speculation that comes at the end of a feature mainly promoting the Queensland Ballet’s season of Romeo & Juliet later this month as well as the fund raising abilities of Li.

The fact that McAllister’s contract expires at the end of this year is completely irrelevant, as he has already announced that he will produce a new Sleeping Beauty for the Australian Ballet next year and has also programmed a 2015 season including Maina Gielgud’s Giselle and some Ashton ballets.

In 2012, McAllister told me that the Australian Ballet’s then chairman, Chris Knoblanche, told McAllister that “I wasn’t allowed to say that [2014] was the end”.

That meant he could well see another two or three year term, ending in either 2016 or 2017.

By 2017, Li will have completed his four-year contract as artistic director of the Queensland Ballet. (Although he took up the job in July 2012, his first official season was for 2013).

The significant move in all this speculation is the number of years the board will extend McAllister’s contract at the end of this year.

McAllister and Lee share have much in common. They were both principals of the Australian Ballet and Li was a board member of that company. When McAllister won the job as artistic director of the Australian Ballet, Li was on the short list. They are both about the same age, Li is 53 and McAllister, 50, and they both have excellent contacts in the ballet world.

Then again, the role play may never happen. Something quite unexpected could come along. Look at the Royal New Zealand Ballet where the artistic director, Ethan Stiefel, stayed for the remarkably short time of three years before flying off to New York for what he obviously saw as a much better gig choreographing a new TV series.