Leaping into 2021

The year is off to a roaring start with eight works, including three newly commissioned works by local choreographers, currently in rehearsal in Wellington.

The company’s popular regional touring programme, Tutus on Tour, presented in association with Ryman Healthcare, takes to the road this month for a fifth consecutive year, with 23 performances in 16 theatres from Kerikeri to Gore and plenty of stops in between. With some shows already sold out, the tour opens with three performances at Te Raukura ki Kāpiti on 26 – 27 February and will be on the road until 16 March.

At the same time we will be collaborating with our friends at the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra on a new staging of Stravinsky’s The Soldier’s Tale. Choreographer in Residence Shaun James Kelly is working with dancers from the company, together with acclaimed local director Sara Brodie, conductor Hamish McKeich and an ensemble of actors and musicians, on a new version of this dark story ‘to be read, played and danced’. The Soldier’s Tale also opens at Te Raukura ki Kāpiti tours to nine venues in the Lower North Island and South Island between 24 February and 13 March, with further performances planned for Upper North Island venues later in the year.

Following two sold-out performances at the Festival of Colour in 2019, the RNZB returns to Wanaka on 12 April for the premiere of two new ballets by our Choreographers in Residence: Ultra Violet by Loughlan Prior, to a score by Claire Cowan, and The Autumn Ball by Sarah Foster-Sproull, to a commissioned score by Eden Mulholland  (Ngāti Uepohatu). Tickets are on sale from 12 February.

The RNZB’s first ‘main stage’ national tour for 2021, a revival of Ethan Stiefel and Johan Kobborg’s acclaimed production of Giselle (2012), will open in Wellington on 12 May. It will be followed in July – August by a double bill of a new production of The Firebird by Loughlan Prior, with designs by Tracy Grant Lord and lighting by Jon Buswell, together with Artistic Director Patricia Barker’s new staging of Russian classic Paquita, with costumes by Donna Jefferis. The year will conclude with a revival of Liam Scarlett’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, first seen in 2015. The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Hamish McKeich, will accompany the performances in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland. The Ryman Healthcare Season of A Midsummer Night’s Dream opens in Wellington on 28 October.

On 1 September 2020, the Trustees of the Ballet Foundation of New Zealand received a letter from the Governor General confirming that Her Majesty the Queen had approved the use of the word ’Royal‘ in the Foundation’s title and that it may henceforth be known as The Royal New Zealand Ballet Foundation Trust. This was the culmination of a year’s work reaching through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage all the way to Buckingham Palace. The name change better reflects the close relationship between the RNZB and the Foundation. We are delighted that this is now formally reflected in the Foundation’s new name and logo, its revised Rules and a new Memorandum of Understanding, recently signed by the Chairs of both Boards of Trustees.

With the support of generous organisations and individuals, Artistic Director Patricia Barker continues to develop pathways for young dancers to enter the profession. Four young Kiwi dancers have taken their first steps into the professional studio this year: Todd Scholar Dane Head, born in Auckland and trained at the New Zealand School of Dance; Friedlander Foundation Scholars Macy Cook and George Thomson, from Wellington and Christchurch respectively; and inaugural Royal New Zealand Ballet Foundation  Scholar Jemima Scott, born in Wellington.

RNZB Education activities for 2021 are already well underway. Patricia Barker, together with Ballet Masters Clytie Campbell, Laura McQueen Schultz and Nicholas Schultz, hosted 16 ballet teachers from around Aotearoa for a two-day professional development seminar in late January. A record number of young dancers have applied to be a part of the RNZB’s National Mentor Programme which runs throughout the year.  Tickets for Tutus on Tour school matinees are in hot demand with a number of performances already fully booked, together with in-school workshops in most of the centres where Tutus on Tour is being performed.

Strengthening ties with educators around the country, RNZB Education has this year set up a Teachers Advisory Panel to meet quarterly, to assist with planning and evaluating activities for schools. RNZB Education will also this year be producing a new NCEA Dance Resource, based on The Firebird. In partnership with the Department of Corrections and with the support of the Four Winds Foundation, the Royal New Zealand Ballet Foundation, the Kelliher Charitable Trust, Wellington Community Trust and the Clare Foundation, workshops in women’s and men’s prisons in Wellington and Christchurch and the women’s prison in Auckland will continue into a fifth year.

Lastly, the company announces the appointment of two new Board members: Dorian Devers and Louise Marsden, both of whom are based in Wellington. Dorian is currently the Chief Financial Officer of Contact Energy, with broad business experience in multiple countries and markets. He is experienced in business transformations and has also driven large scale acquisitions as a mechanism to improve performance and shareholder value.   An accountant by profession, Louise is employed by ACC’s Investment Fund to invest in infrastructure across New Zealand.  She is a Chartered Member of the Institute of Directors and holds several Board roles on large infrastructure projects. We welcome Dorian and Louise to the RNZB and thank them for volunteering their time and expertise as members of our Board.

P1466666Kat Paul lift 2 colour_image Jeremy Brick Soloist Katherine Skelton and Principal Paul Mathews rehearse the 'White Swan' pas de deux from Swan Lake in preparation for Tutus on Tour 2021. Photo: Jeremy Brick