Patricia Barker, Artistic Director
Patricia Barker was born in Richland, Washington, USA, where she received her early ballet training. She later studied on scholarship at Boston Ballet School and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. At age 17, she joined Pacific Northwest Ballet, under the directorship of Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, and quickly rose to the rank of Principal Dancer.
During her 27 year career, she performed extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and North America in many of the great full-length classical ballets and contemporary works by renowned choreographers. She appeared as a guest artist with national and international ballet companies and performed in many galas throughout the world. Barker danced the lead role of Clara in Nutcracker the Motion Picture, and starred as Titania in the BBC’s film, A Midsummer Night’s Dream in a celebratory re-opening of the Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. She graced the covers of Dance Magazine, Danser, Pointe Magazine, Dance Australia, Dance Teacher, Dance Pages, Ballet Review and Dance International.
Barker, along with Jiří Kylián, was co-artistic advisor to the Slovak National Ballet from 2006 to 2010. She has staged works for the Balanchine Trust for companies including Pacific Northwest Ballet, Slovak National Ballet and Hungarian National Ballet.
Barker became Artistic Director of Grand Rapids Ballet and Director of the Grand Rapids Ballet School in 2010. She curated a compelling and dynamic repertoire ranging from full length classical ballets such as Petipa’s Swan Lake and Sleeping Beauty, to neo-classical masterworks including Balanchine’s Serenade and Four Temperaments, Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs and Taylor’s Company B.
Barker also commissioned several full-length classical world premieres including Bruce Wells’ Cinderella and Val Canaparoli’s The Nutcracker with sets and design by award-winning children’s book author Chris Van Allsburg and Emmy award winning set designer Eugene Lee.
Contemporary full-length commissions include A Midsummer Night’s Dream by Olivier Wevers, Dangerous Liaisons by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Alice in Wonderland by Brian Enos and Luis Grane, and Black & White, Beethoven and Romeo and Juliet by Mario Radacovsky.
In 2011, Barker conceived the contemporary dance series MOVEMEDIA for which over 30 works have since been commissioned from some of the leading contemporary chorographers. Notable choreographers include Brian Enos, Olivier Wevers, Robert Dekkers, Sagi Gross and Mario Radakovsky. MOVEMEDIA’s dual purpose was also to prominently feature works by female choreographers such as Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Andrea Schermoly, Susan Jaffe, Gina Patterson, and Princess Grace Award winners Robyn Mineko Williams and Penny Saunders, Grand Rapids Ballet’s resident choreographer since 2014.
Under Barker’s direction, Grand Rapids Ballet renewed its commitment to touring nationally by performing in Detroit, Saint Louis and Seattle. In addition, Barker led the Grand Rapids Ballet School with an enrolment of nearly 400 students; an expansion of two additional campuses, planned for the 2017-18 season, will double the student body. She also oversaw the Outreach Programme serving over 600 public school students annually, the Dancing with Parkinson’s Disease programme, the Explorer Dance for children with Down Syndrome classes, and the Open Division Adult Ballet classes.
Barker staged several works for the Balanchine Trust and is an active educator. She has adjudicated faculty, is a frequent guest teacher and lecturer, and judges at competitions, most notably at Youth America Grand Prix over the last ten years. She is a member of numerous boards including Pointe Magazine and the Tateuchi Center, a performing arts centre in Bellevue, Washington State.
Barker was appointed as the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Artistic Director in June 2017. Barker will be the RNZB’s 12th Artistic Director and the second woman to hold this position in the RNZB’s 65 year history, after Una Kai first held the position from 1973 – 75.