The Royal New Zealand Ballet sets the scene for 2018

The Royal New Zealand Ballet sets the scene for 2018

The Royal New Zealand Ballet this week returned to its Wellington studios to begin rehearsals for the company’s first national tour of 2018, The Piano: the ballet, which premieres in Wellington on 23 February.

Dancers and the company’s artistic, technical and administrative team assembled on Monday 8 January to begin the New Year with a mihi whakatau, led by Māori advisor Moss Patterson, before Artistic Director Patricia Barker taught the first company class of the year.

The end of the first day of rehearsals saw more than 100 children from the Wellington region and beyond auditioning to perform with the company for The Piano: the ballet.

Message from the Board

RNZB Chair Steven Fyfe extended a welcome from the Board to returning and new company members at the mihi whakatau, and noted that there is an exciting and stimulating artistic programme ahead of the company in 2018.

Performances in 2018

2018 will be a busy year for the company, which will mark its 65th anniversary with the premiere of The Piano: the Ballet, Dancing with Mozart: a quartet of 20th and 21st century works set to music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; Strength and Grace: an evening of specially commissioned works by New Zealand and international women choreographers; The Ryman Healthcare Season of The Nutcracker; and Tutus on Tour, also presented in association with Ryman Healthcare, which will reach seven regional centres from Gore to Kerikeri. Sales for the 2018 season are strong, with availability already limited for some performances of The Piano: the ballet.

Education programme in 2018

The company’s community and education programme, which in 2017 visited 36 centres, will continue to grow, with a range of existing and new initiatives including schools’ workshops, open classes for young dancers and free ‘Ballet in a Box’ events. Opportunities for young dancers will again include open classes and Ballet for Boys, and the national mentor programme, while audience members have the opportunity to attend free Q&A sessions, pre-performance talks and ‘Warm Up, Curtain Up’ sessions before performances. The RNZB will continue to offer access to schools’ matinees for low decile students, audio-described performances for the blind and visually impaired, as well as sensory-friendly performances for children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and other special needs.RNZB Education will also continue working with the Department of Corrections at Arohata and Rimutaka Prisons and is expanding its programme of professional development for dance teachers.

Artistic Director

Following her appointment in June last year and transition to New Zealand, 2018 is Patricia Barker’s first full year as the RNZB’s 12th Artistic Director. The RNZB warmly congratulates Grand Rapids Ballet on the appointment of James Sofranko as their new Artistic Director.

New commissions and opportunities

In addition to commissioning four new works for Strength and Grace, commemorating both the RNZB’s 65th birthday and the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, Patricia is finalising the RNZB’s artistic programme for 2019, to be announced in September 2018. Plans for the 2018 Harry Haythorne Choreographic Award, providing opportunities for young New Zealand choreographers, are also well-advanced. As part of the company’s commitment to developing New Zealand talent in performance and production, Patricia, together with Executive Director Frances Turner and the Board of the RNZB, is also exploring opportunities for establishing an apprenticeship programme.

New company members

The RNZB welcomes the following new dancers:

Alyssa Kelty, previously of Queensland Ballet’s pre-professional programme and trained at the National College of Dance in Newcastle, New South Wales.

Caroline Wiley, previously of Grand Rapids Ballet, Michigan, and trained there and at Young People’s Ballet Theatre in Michigan.

Kate Kadow, previously of Barak Ballet, Los Angeles, State Street Ballet, Santa Barbara and Cuban Classical Ballet, Miami, and trained at the Kirov Academy in Washington DC.

Olivia Moore, trained at the New Zealand School of Dance and pre-professionally in Tauranga.

Rhiannon Fairless, previously of National Ballet of Canada, trained at the Australian Ballet School and pre-professionally in Auckland.

Luke Cooper, trained at the New Zealand School of Dance and pre-professionally in Palmerston North.

Nathan Mennis, previously of Queensland National Ballet School and trained at the Australian Ballet School and Houston Ballet II.

Tristan Gross, previously of West Australian Ballet’s Young Artists programme and trained at the National Ballet Theatre School.

Wan Bin Yuan, trained at the Beijing Dance Academy, Liaioning Ballet School and Tianjin Ballet Theatre.

Biographies and photographs for new company members will be posted on in the coming weeks.

New ballet staff

Following the announcement of their appointment in November, new ballet masters Nick Schultz and Laura McQueen Schultz also join the company, working alongside long-standing company member-turned-ballet-master Clytie Campbell and thus expanding the company’s permanent ballet staff to three full-time members.


The RNZB farewelled ten company members at the end of 2017. Alayna Ng, Harry Skinner and Katie Hurst-Saxton have retired from the stage. Tonia Looker, Kohei Iwamoto and Isabella Swietlicki have left New Zealand to take up positions with Queensland Ballet. Jacob Chown, Laura Saxon Jones, Shih-Huai Liang and Sophie Arbuckle are also pursuing new opportunities overseas. The company wishes them every success in their future careers.

Relocation from the St James Theatre in 2018

Mid-2018 will see the RNZB relocate to temporary premises next to the Michael Fowler Centre, while the company’s permanent studios, wardrobe and offices are seismically strengthened alongside the St James Theatre. The company is grateful to Wellington City Council for developing a creative and cost-effective solution to relocating the company, enabling the seismic strengthening of the St James complex to go ahead from winter 2018.

Board appointments

The RNZB will welcome at least three new Board members in 2018. Following the retirement of Board members Miriam Dean and John Meehan at the conclusion of their terms in 2017, Lisa Bates and Lilias Bell have both been appointed as trustees.

In addition, the RNZB is seeking expressions of interest from candidates with a professional background in dance or related performing arts. A public process will commence shortly.


As announced in December, the company will shortly be hosting a forum for stakeholders and supporters. More information will be available soon.

Independent review

The Board will receive the findings of the independent review into the company’s employment processes, commissioned in December by the Board and prepared by former senior public servant Doug Craig.