Royal New Zealand Ballet Cancels Swan Lake National Tour 

4 April 2022

The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) has cancelled the national tour of Swan Lake, set to take centre stage in five New Zealand cities through May and June.  

Guided by New Zealand ballet legend Russell Kerr’s 1996 production, RNZB Artistic Director Patricia Barker had been working with Kerr on this timeless ballet in the lead up to opening night in Wellington on 5 May. He passed away on 23 March and this loss to generations of dancers has been felt around the country.   

RNZB Artistic Director Patricia Barker says, “Russell Kerr was a New Zealand ballet icon and I cherish the time I was able to spend with him. Together we shared a deep love of Swan Lake and I’m sorry to not have the opportunity to bring his beautiful work back to the stage.”  

While the Omicron outbreak may well have peaked and moved on in some places, the ongoing Red Traffic Light setting in the COVID Protection Framework, even with an extended 200-person limit, removes the RNZB’s ability to conduct a viable tour.  

Executive Director Lester McGrath says, “COVID is still spreading in the community and may do for some time. Even with the prospect of moving to the Orange Traffic Light setting on the horizon, simply put, we have passed the point of no return to be able to successfully stage and tour Swan Lake, even if restrictions ease further in coming days or weeks. It was important that we made a call about our tour before getting any further into rehearsals, marketing and staging. 

“As ever, our entire company, but especially the dancers and creative team, are saddened by this news; Russell Kerr’s Swan Lake is a jewel in the RNZB’s crown and one which we were excited to bring back to the stage after an absence of almost nine years. However, we are also extremely resilient and will now turn all our attention to Loughlan Prior’s sparkling new production of Cinderella, moving back to our St James Theatre home base, and then delivering two superb national tours in very quick succession – Tutus on Tour and the postponed season of Venus Rising – at the end of the year. Additionally, we will soon be announcing an exciting new RNZB digital collection, building on the success of our free broadcasts and streaming over the last two years and connecting with audiences across the country,” McGrath says. 

Swan Lake ticket holders will be contacted directly to arrange a refund, credit or donation. 

RNZB Principal Mayu Tanigaito in Swan Lake promotional image, 2022. Photography by Ross Brown.