The RNZB mourns the passing of courageous leader, Sue Paterson ONZM

Kua hinga te tōtara i te wao nui a Tāne

The Royal New Zealand Ballet is deeply saddened by the death of Sue Paterson ONZM, our General Manager from 1999 – 2006.

Sue’s contribution to the Royal New Zealand Ballet, coming at a time when the company had just moved into our new home at the St James, and had started to receive direct government funding from the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, was immense. Sue’s vision for the RNZB was to ensure its financial security, to offer challenges to staff, to take artistic risks and to be accessible to a wider public. In all of these, she succeeded. Her work built on and fully respected the foundations of the past, but always focused on building and sustaining a ballet company that would serve New Zealand in the 21st century.

In 2004, Sue was made an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to ballet, and in 2017 was named Metlifecare Senior New Zealander of the Year in recognition of her 40 years of service to arts and culture.

In 2013, Sue described her time at the RNZB as a highlight of her 30 year career in the performing arts. In turn, we would describe her tenure as a highlight in the history of the RNZB.

Matz Skoog, RNZB Artistic Director from 1996 – 2001, says: ‘Sue was a colleague who became a lifelong friend, someone I will always remember with love and respect. Working with her was one of the highlights of my time as Artistic Director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. She and I were a great team and together we brought some exceptional New Zealand and international work to the company repertoire. One that particularly springs to mind was the groundbreaking production of Ihi Frenzy, very much a collaborative effort between the two of us. Sue was a visionary who provided exceptional leadership during a time when RNZB faced great change and development; one of her many qualities was her ability to pull people together under one flag, working towards a common goal. But Sue’s contribution did not limit itself to the Royal New Zealand Ballet; she was an arts manager who truly loved all aspects of the performing and visual arts and it is impossible to fully appreciate the influence she has had on New Zealand’s cultural landscape as a whole. I will always miss her.’

Gary Harris, who was the RNZB’s Artistic Director from 2001 – 10, says: ‘I’ve been thinking so much about her all week, and I just think of laughter! I had the best time working with and getting to know Sue, and we used to scream our heads off with laughter. Obviously we got our work done, but with Sue there was always a wonderful energy, passion and positivity, and above all a brilliant sense of humour. She was one of those people that you could always get a giggle out of, even in the most inappropriate places or moments. I loved her for that.’

‘My time with RNZB is without doubt one of the highlights of my career, and to have had the privilege of working alongside Sue made it even more special. She became my friend and mentor and I will always be grateful for the time I had with a very, very special person. An extraordinary person.’

As she moved on to other roles, Sue remained a wonderful professional colleague, advisor, friend and advocate for the RNZB. We will miss her rich wisdom and knowledge of the dance world and the wider arts universe, her gentle kindness, her good company at performances and events, her insightful advice and most of all her sheer delight in dance and the joy that comes in sharing it with others.

Sue was an incredible advocate for the arts in Aoteraoa and her spirit will remain an inspiration to the entire arts community here in New Zealand and around the world.

We are profoundly grateful to have had Sue as a part of the RNZB whanau.  Sue will be deeply missed and affectionately remembered by everyone who worked with her.

The RNZB will honour Sue during our Wellington season of Strength & Grace – qualities which Sue exemplified in August 2018

From RNZB whanau all around the globe, we extend our very deepest sympathies to Sue’s sons, extended family, friends and colleagues at this very sad time.

Sue Paterson and Gary Harris. Photo by Stephen A'Court Sue Paterson and Gary Harris. Photo by Stephen A'Court