Cinderella Delivers A Touch Of Fairy Dust And Rainbows Across Aotearoa

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s (RNZB) world premiere and Ryman Healthcare season of Cinderella, choreographed by Loughlan Prior and with original music by Claire Cowan, has now closed in Dunedin, the final stop on what has been a hugely successful month-long national tour.

The RNZB’s first tour in a year welcomed over 24,000 people to theatres in Wellington, Auckland, Napier, Christchurch and Dunedin.

Reviews described it as, “Fun, it is entertaining and simply put, it is magic,” (TVNZ); “A carnival of excess, packed full of joy and beauty and delight,” (The Wellingtonista); “Quite startlingly different from anything we might have seen before,” (Dance Australia); and “A joyous occasion…a fairy-tale for our challenging times.” (Stuff).

Three school matinee performances saw close to 4,000 children in Wellington, Auckland and Christchurch enjoy the production, with cheers of delight. The RNZB undertook 33 creative dance workshops in schools around the country for hundreds of children, and 14 Musical Moves dance workshops, in collaboration with Orchestra Wellington, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, were attended by 348 students. Over 2,000 copies of the RNZB’s free Cinderella classroom resource were downloaded.

The RNZB hosted seven Audio Described Performances and Touch Tours for 216 blind or visually impaired students and patrons and their companions during the Cinderella season.

Three “Ballet in a Box” events at the Due Drop Events Centre in Manukau saw over 1,024 people attend a Royal New Zealand Ballet performance free of charge – with one being a relaxed, sensory-friendly performance with New Zealand Sign Language – along with 15 free dance workshops with local schools.

In Christchurch, RNZB Dance Educator Jamie Delmonte also lead a workshop with Jolt Dance involving 19 dancers with a range of disabilities, supported by four musicians from the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra.

Additionally, during the season, the RNZB’s National Mentor Programme saw 20 young dancers meeting in person with their RNZB dancer mentors.

For the general public, 317 people attended the RNZB’s free pre-performance talks, over 220 came to one of the free post-show Q&A sessions with the dancers, and over 700 attended the RNZB’s popular Warm Up, Curtain Up events, watching the dancers warm up prior to the show.

The company cherished the opportunity to perform, to sell-out crowds with uproarious standing ovations, back at its home at Wellington’s St James Theatre for the first time since 2018. Brilliant new, bespoke animations – a partnership between RNZB, Wellington City Council and two Wellington creative companies, Click Suite and Streamliner – lit up the facade of the St James and brought some RNZB sparkle back to Courtenay Place for two weeks.

Artistic Director Patricia Barker says, “We are utterly delighted Loughlan Prior’s contemporary retelling of the classic fairy tale delivered so much delight to both our audiences and our company alike from August to September. Our first national tour since the chaos of COVID was a glittering success and it doesn’t feel long at all before we return to all centres, and some additional stops in Tauranga, Palmerston North, New Plymouth and Invercargill, for our popular Tutus on Tour, opening 7 October in Wellington.”

Cheyne Chalmers, Ryman Healthcare New Zealand CEO, said it was privilege to be able to support the ballet which had been such an unqualified success.

“We’re enormously proud of our partnership with the ballet and this season of Cinderella has been a highlight. Hundreds of our residents and team members have been able to get along to see it, and they’ve loved it. It was bold, funny, beautiful and a wonderful comeback for the RNZB after COVID. We’re looking forward to next year already,” Chalmers said.

Feisty, funny, and fabulous, Cinderella, commissioned by Barker for the RNZB as a follow-up to 2019’s fabulously successful Hansel & Gretel, is the brainchild of award-winning ballet storyteller Loughlan Prior, with a magical new score by Cowan and fashion-forward designs by the San Francisco-based Australian designer Emma Kingsbury.

Highs, lows, fairy-tale endings, and happy-ever-afters spilled from the stage in every shade of the rainbow – including an RNZB mainstage first; a hotly-discussed same-sex kiss between two princes who fall in love. As dancer Shae Berney said in Express Magazine, “As a young queer boy who grew up believing that the prince is to live happily ever after with the princess, seeing this storyline would have helped me confirm that the feelings and thoughts I was having were OK… Representation matters! I hope that this story touches people in a way that makes them feel supported.” A self-assured Cinderella forged her own path, too, falling head over heels in love with – and proposing to – the Royal Messenger (he said yes!).

For the RNZB, the Ryman Healthcare season of Cinderella was pure joy from start to end. As Dance Australia’s review closed, “There is no doubt that we will never see another Cinderella like this one.” And TVNZ’s, “Fairy Godmother would be proud.”