Shaun James Kelly has shown himself to be a versatile and compelling artist over his past eight years at the Royal New Zealand Ballet, taking on leading classical and contemporary roles and creating new, exciting work for the Company.
In 2021, Shaun revisited the role of Wedding Couple in Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel’s Giselle. Shaun also danced the role of Ziggy (Scavenger) in the world premiere of The Firebird by Loughlan Prior. He relished dancing the pas de trois in Michael Auer and Patricia Barker’s staging of the beloved classical ballet Paquita. At the end of 2021, Shaun got to return to one of his favourite roles, Puck in Liam Scarlett’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, where he was reviewed as ‘the perfect Puck… with needle sharp technique.
2020 saw Shaun creating a new work for the RNZB RAW studio performances—The Things We Left Unsaid was born starting with a pas de deux created via Zoom during Covid-19 lockdown. The duet was also performed as part of RAD 14+ Gala.
Although Covid-19 disrupted performances, Shaun was taking on solo roles in Twyla Tharp’s Waterbaby Bagatelles, Andrea Schermoly’s Within Without, Alice Topp’s Aurum, and working on new choreography with Sarah Foster-Sproull in Ultra Folly.
2019 started strongly for Shaun. As an RNZB Choreographer-in-Residence, he created his first mainstage work The Ground Beneath Our Feet for the New Choreographic Series, alongside performing in James O’Hara’s The Sky Is Not So Different To Us, Perhaps…
Throughout the year, Shaun danced the roles of Rothbart in Black Swan, White Swan by Mário Radačovský, Waltz Boy in George Balanchine’s Serenade and one of the two lead couples in William Forsythe’s Artifact II. Shaun finished the year on a high, creating the character of dreamy, innocent Hansel, for the world premiere of Loughlan Prior’s Hansel & Gretel.
In 2018, New Zealand audiences saw Shaun as the Reverend Campbell in The Piano: the ballet, in Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort and Sechs Tänze as part of the Dancing with Mozart programme, and in three works in Strength & Grace, including one of the ‘sons’ in Danielle Rowe’s Remember, Mama. He closed the year performing the title role of the Nutcracker in Val Caniparoli’s The Nutcracker, as well as Chinese Tea. In 2017, Shaun received critical acclaim as Frédéri in L’Arlésienne by Roland Petit and Mercutio in Francesco Ventriglia’s Romeo and Juliet.
Other highlights in Shaun’s career to date include Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, first male soloist in Johan Kobborg’s Les Lutins, soloist in Jiří Kylián Soldier’s Mass, William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, the duet in Alexander Ekman’s Cacti, and Puck in Liam Scarlett’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, a role he subsequently reprised in both Hong Kong and Wellington. Other international performances include the Wedding Couple pas de deux in Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel’s Giselle, works by Andrew Simmons and Neil Ieremia, and Andonis Foniadakis’s Selon désir in the UK and Italy.
Born in Perth, Scotland, Shaun trained at the Dance School of Scotland before undertaking training at the English National Ballet School. While at the School he toured and performed with English National Ballet in numerous productions, including Derek Deane’s Swan Lake.
On graduating in 2011, Shaun took up a contract with the Tivoli Ballet Theatre in Copenhagen, where he danced solo roles in Bournonville repertoire including Napoli, La Ventana, Flower Festival at Genzano and Le Conservatoire. He also took the title roles in Dinna Bjorn’s The Steadfast Tin Soldier and danced the Nutcracker Prince in Peter Bo Bendixen’s The Nutcracker. Shaun joined the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2014.
Shaun was the winner of the 2016 RNZB Harry Haythorne Choreographic Award for his work Blanc. In 2017, he subsequently created Aura for Tutus on Tour and choreographed a work that featured in New Zealand designer Andrea Moore’s catwalk show at New Zealand Fashion Week. Shaun was appointed as Choreographer in Residence with the RNZB in 2018 and created a children’s ballet, Little Red, for Te Papa’s school holiday programme.
Shaun is supported by Mark and Louise Binns.
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Black Swan, White Swan
Hansel & Gretel
The Piano: the ballet