Harrison Lee on stage at the 2015 McDonald's Sydney Eisteddfod. Photo: WinkiPoP Media
Congratulations and thunderous applause for Harrison Lee and Katherine Sonnekus on their triumphs in the 2015 Sydney Eisteddfod McDonald’s Ballet Scholarships. As outright winner, Harrison receives a $15,000 Scholarship and $3,000 cash, while Katherine, who was selected by adjudicators Margaret Illman, Leigh Warren and David McAllister AM as the best dancer of the opposite gender to the winner, picks up a $10,000 scholarship, along with $2,000 cash.
With wins in five major Australian and International competitions already to his credit, Harrison had a lot of supporters in the audience and with his strength, grace and innate musicality, he did not disappoint. In his victory speech, Harrison thanked the McDonald College, his teachers Jane Kesby, Josephine Jason, and Allan Cross, his family and Sydney Eisteddfod for encouraging his journey in dance with engaging humility and a hint of disbelief.
Harrison discovered dance at the age of six when he tagged along to his sister’s dance class and found himself joining in. He entered Sydney Eisteddfod for the first time in 2008. He was soon collecting prizes, and after enrolling at the McDonald College at age 11, he developed a passion for classical dance. After attending the Sydney Eisteddfod McDonald’s Ballet Scholarships at the Sydney Opera House, he determined that one day he would dance in the final himself. This year, he made the age limit by celebrating his 16th birthday and his long-held dream came true.
When Harrison won the gold medal at the Prix de Lausanne earlier this year, he had the world’s greatest ballet academies bidding for his talents. After careful consideration, he accepted an offer from The Royal Ballet School and is now preparing to head to London in September on a full scholarship. While Australians invariably do well at the Prix de Lausanne, the only dancer to previously strike gold is Steven McRae, who as a principal of The Royal Ballet is now widely regarded as one the greatest male dancers in the world. Harrison still has a long road to travel, but on his present form, he may well follow in McRae’s footsteps.
Seventeen-year-old Katherine Sonnekus hails from New Zealand. In 2014, she competed in the Sydney Eisteddfod McDonald’s Scholarships, and after making it into the semi final, she relocated to Australia and is now studying with Lucinda Dunn OAM at the Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching Academy at St Leonards. Katherine recently attended the Royal Danish Ballet Summer School in Copenhagen on a scholarship she won at the Alana Haines Australasian Awards in Wellington, New Zealand, earlier this year. While she aspires to become a professional ballerina, she enjoys all types of dance, and in 2013 won the national Sir John Logan Campbell Trust Award at the Auckland Caledonian Dancing Competition.
Sydney Eisteddfod takes pride in both these wonderful young dancers and wishes them every success in their future studies.