It was a full house at Australia House in London this week for the launch of Leanne Benjamin’s autobiography, Built for Ballet. As the High Commissioner for Australia George Brandis noted in his speech, the room was sparkling with ballet stars.
Special guests included retired ballet dancer Monica Mason, former Artistic Director and Principal Dancer of The Australian Ballet, David McAllister, and Resident Choreographer of The Royal Ballet, Wayne McGregor.
The outgoing Agent General for Queensland, Linda Apelt, gave a warm welcome and was justifiably proud of Leanne’s Queensland pedigree.
Design Museum Director Tim Marlow elegantly conducted an interview with Leanne and her biographic collaborator, Sarah Compton. And while not every biographer admires their subject after learning the ‘warts and all’ story, Sarah’s admiration of Leanne shone through. ‘Leanne illuminates whatever she does. I felt privileged to write her story,’ she said.
Tim, Leanne and Sarah emphasised Leanne’s longevity in a profession which is notorious for its brevity. Leanne played particular tribute to choreographers Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon for ‘enabling [her] to stay relevant by including [her] in their new work’.
Leanne wants her book to inspire people to be themselves, declaring: ‘You don’t have to act like a ballerina to be a ballerina. Just be yourself.’
Being Leanne has clearly been the right call, judging not only from her long and stellar career but also her popularity as a mentor to the next generation of dancers – there were a large number of young swans whooping and cheering for her in the back row.
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