We’ve watched her as the childlike Clara in The Nutcracker and she’s about to grace the stage as princess Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty. But first, Australian Ballet dancer Benedicte Bemet has added the prestigious title of Telstra Ballet Dancer Award-winner to her growing list of achievements.

Following the curtain call of the company’s lavish production of The Sleeping Beauty, the 21-year-old received a huge bunch of white roses and the $20,000 cheque on stage at the Sydney Opera House.

“It was a shock. It’s such a wonderful group of nominees, including principal Ako Kondo and Robyn Hendricks, senior members of the company,” says Bemet, who is still in the relatively junior rank of coryphées.

The Mackay-born dancer joined the company just three years ago, and the win puts her among prestigious company. Now in its 12th year, the awards have seen seven former winners go on to become principal dancers, including Amber Scott, Kevin Jackson and Chengwu Guo.

Australian Ballet artistic director and a judge of the annual award, David McAllister, says Bemet’s win is recognition that her talents go far beyond her beautiful dancing.

“You want someone who exhibits the qualities of a great artist, someone who will inspire and be the face of the organisation and put ballet in the right perspective,” McAllister says. “Benedicte has had an extraordinary career but she is a beautiful, sunny personality as well; and has charisma as a performer but also as a person.”

Bemet says the money will enable her to see other dance companies while she’s touring with her own company. She also hopes to put some toward helping younger dancers who may not have the means to afford classes.

“I’m interested to see if I can use it to help other ballet dancers who haven’t had the opportunities I’ve had, because not everyone has been as fortunate as I’ve been,” she says.

The $5,000 People’s Choice Award, voted on by the public, went to Marcus Morelli, the only male of the six finalists. The remaining two finalists included Jasmin Durham and Amanda McGuigan.

Audiences can see Bemet and Morelli on stage in The Sleeping Beauty at the Sydney Opera House until December 16.

sydneyoperahouse.com