The Royal New Zealand Ballet is pleased to share the following company news and updates.
Harrison James joins the company as Principal Guest Artist for The Firebird and Paquita. Harrison grew up on the Kāpiti Coast and trained at the New Zealand School of Dance before entering the Trainee Programme at San Francisco Ballet. He danced with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet and Béjart Ballet Lausanne before joining The National Ballet of Canada in 2013, becoming a Principal Dancer there in 2016.
Saul Newport joins the company as an Artist. Saul grew up in Rotorua and trained at the New Zealand School of Dance, graduating in 2017. He returns to Aotearoa after three years in Houston, Texas, where he danced with HBII, the junior company of Houston Ballet, joining Houston Ballet as an Apprentice in 2019 and as a member of the corps de ballet in 2019. Saul joined the RNZB as a guest dancer last year, rehearsing for the Venus Rising tour which was unable to go ahead due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Damen Axtens joins us as a guest dancer for The Firebird and Paquita. Damen was born in Pukekohe and grew up in Mangatangi, Waikato, and Winton, Southland, before moving to Melbourne to study at The Australian Ballet School 2014 – 16 and then to The Royal Ballet School in London. On graduating from The Royal Ballet School in 2019, Damen joined Birmingham Royal Ballet.
We are delighted to welcome Harrison, Saul and Damen home.
We say a fond haere ra to Soloist Caroline Wiley and Artist Jack Lennon, who are returning to the USA where Jack will take up a place at the University of Notre Dame. Caroline and Jack joined the RNZB in 2018 and 2020 respectively. We wish them every happiness as they celebrate their wedding in August and embark on a lifetime of new adventures together.
Following the success of Tutus on Tour (February – March) and Giselle (May – June), with more than 26,000 tickets sold in 20 venues around New Zealand, the company is now in rehearsal for The Firebird and Paquita. The Firebird is a new commission from Choreographer in Residence Loughlan Prior, to Stravinsky’s iconic music and with designs by Tracy Grant Lord. Artistic Director Patricia Barker, together with Michael Auer, will stage 19th century Russian classic Paquita, the first time that this virtuoso showpiece has been seen on New Zealand stages since 2008. The Firebird with Paquita will open in Wellington on 29 July, touring to Auckland, Christchurch, Dunedin, Napier and Palmerston North.
RNZB Education has had a busy start to 2021 with free Tutus on Tour for Schools performances in seven centres, 25 open classes, and long term residencies at Onehunga High School, Wellington East Girls’ College, Wainuiomata High School and Evans Bay Intermediate – the last two being through the Ministry of Educations Creatives in Schools programme. 34 workshops were delivered in schools during Tutus on Tour.
A new production of The Ugly Duckling, performed by an all-male cast, was created by Ballet Masters Nick and Laura Schultz for free performances at Te Papa during the April school holidays. More than 1,800 people attended performances, including a relaxed performance for neurodiverse children and their families, and performances narrated in Te Reo and New Zealand Sign Language. For the fifth year, RNZB Education is working with the Department of Corrections to offer dance programmes in Arohata Women’s Prison, Auckland Regional Women’s Corrections Facility, Rimutaka Men’s Prison, Christchurch Women’s Prison and Rolleston Prison.