A Tribute to Philip Chatfield: 1927-2021

Wednesday 28 July, 2021

The Royal New Zealand Ballet acknowledges, with gratitude and affection, the life and work of Philip Chatfield, Artistic Director of the New Zealand Ballet, 1975 – 78, who has died at his home on the Gold Coast, in his 94th year.

Together with his wife of 63 years, Rowena Jackson, Philip made a wonderful contribution to the development of ballet in New Zealand throughout the 1960s and 1970s. Following distinguished careers onstage with The Royal Ballet in the 1940s and 50s, they brought immense knowledge, skill and artistry to the then-New Zealand Ballet and to the National School of Ballet, now the New Zealand School of Dance. As performers, choreographers, teachers, stagers and directors, Philip and Rowena had a profound influence on a generation of New Zealand dancers.

Philip and Rowena, his Associate Director, took the reins of the New Zealand Ballet at a time of uncertainty and, through their special blend of practicality and creativity, brought the company back to financial health and to new heights artistically. They expanded the repertoire of the company, culminating in a spectacular new production of The Sleeping Beauty in 1978, staged to mark the company’s 25th birthday.

Dancers and other staff who worked with Philip at the New Zealand Ballet remember his overarching love of dance, his nurturing of students as they took their first steps as professionals, his sense of humour and his kindness.

One of the works which Philip brought to New Zealand audiences for the first time was Paquita, staged for a Royal gala in Christchurch in 1977. As we bring our new production of Paquita to the stage on 29 July, we will think of Philip, and Rowena and their family, with love and thanks.

Read the tribute from The Royal Ballet here.

PA-Coll-8050-14-038B Rowena and Philip Chatfield at the New Zealand Ballet’s 30th birthday celebrations in 1983.