A response to criticisms levelled at the Royal New Zealand Ballet by Fairfax Media (Sunday Star Times, stuff.co.nz and regional newspapers) on Sunday 28 January 2018
Fairfax has run a story over the weekend with a raft of claims about the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Some have substance, some are simply wrong.
In case members of our company, donors and friends are feeling alarmed by what they may have read, we have outlined below a number of corrections.
Has there been a mass exodus from the Company as Fairfax suggests?
The number of departures in 2017 was somewhat higher than in previous years. Reasons for leaving were as varied as the people involved. The dance market is an international one with dancers looking to be upwardly mobile. The important thing is that the RNZB has the right number of dancers to perform its repertoire for 2018, and this is certainly the case.
Since mid-last year and heading into 2018, three New Zealanders have retired, three internationals have signed to Queensland Ballet and four were not offered contracts for 2018 (including one New Zealand dancer). That is not a mass exodus.
Was the meeting with the Minister a crisis meeting as Fairfax suggests?
No it wasn’t. Regular meetings with the Minister, whoever it might be, are usual practice. We discussed a number of matters that the Minister had signalled as points of interest to her, notably, developing pathways and apprenticeships for New Zealand dancers to strengthen their ‘pipeline’ into the Company.
Has Patricia Barker employed her husband at the RNZB?
No she hasn’t. Her husband Michael Auer, himself from a long term and accomplished dance, production and technology background, is a welcome support to Patricia. His extensive knowledge of information and theatrical technology has been of assistance to the production team, but to date that assistance has been purely informal. It may be in the future that he could be considered for some sort of formal contribution to the Company, but if done, this would follow proper process recognising the potential conflict of interest involved.
Is Patricia Barker working for Grand Rapids Ballet (her former employer) when she should be working for the RNZB?
Patricia was appointed in June last year and came almost immediately to assist the RNZB with preparations for its 2018 programme. There was an understanding struck with the board that there would be a transition for Grand Rapids until they appointed a new Artistic Director, which they have now done. Patricia has twice returned to the US and has provided support to Grand Rapids during their transition. She also had to pack up her household to move to New Zealand and also took the opportunity to visit dance companies in the US, Canada and Australia, together with visits to watch New Zealanders dancing overseas. The Board believes the transition has worked well for all parties. At no point has there been any doubt that Patricia’s primary commitment is to the RNZB since she took up her position.
The company is well into its work for 2018 with The Piano: the ballet opening on 23 February. Ticket sales are strong and preparations are on track. Preparations for other productions later in the season are also advancing well.