Paul Mathews To Retire After 17 Years With The Royal New Zealand Ballet

After 17 years with the national ballet company, Paul Mathews, the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s longest-serving dancer, will retire at the end of this month.

Last week, Paul reached a special milestone, graduating with a Bachelor of Business (Finance, Japanese minor) from Massey University. Paul completed his studies extramurally, over more than a decade, alongside his full-time career as a dancer. This year, he has also, as part of his degree work, undertaken a special research project for the New Zealand Local Government Funding Agency (LGFA).

Paul received a Massey University Scholar Award, having finished in the top 5% of his graduating class, and has already commenced an MBA.

Paul says:

‘I have loved and respected the opportunity to dance for the Royal New Zealand Ballet for such a long time. We have shared the world of ballet with New Zealand and brought New Zealand’s brand of ballet to the world. I have worked with and met many amazing people through this company, none more so than my wife Mayu Tanigaito. I feel well equipped to move from this chapter of my career to the next, and I look forward to watching all the talented artists of the RNZB from the other side of the curtain. The audience gives our work meaning, I would like to thank them for their appreciation, and I’ll be there soon.’

RNZB Artistic Director Patricia Barker says:

‘Today we celebrate the longevity of Paul Mathews and his seventeen-year career as a dancer at the RNZB. His journey from a student at the NZSD to Principal Dancer has been through hard work, love for an art form and dedication to his craft.’

‘He is a Prince, Pirate, Father, Lover and Comedian. I have had the pleasure of sitting in our audiences for countless performances, watching the artistic strengths of this wonderful artist. As Paul takes his last steps on stage this month, I remember how he made us all laugh, cry, sit in amazement, and feel pure joy – just to be watching! Bravo Paul, and thank you.’

During his time with the RNZB, Paul has performed in an exceptionally broad range of ballets, including working with many choreographers to create and perform memorable roles. Highlights include Demetrius in Liam Scarlett’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2015), Hilarion in Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel’s Giselle (2012), the Transformed Witch in Loughlan Prior’s Hansel & Gretel (2019), Tybalt in Francesco Ventriglia’s Romeo & Juliet (2017) and Gamache in Adrian Burnett’s Don Quixote (2008). His roles also include Scrooge in Massimo Moricone’s A Christmas Carol (2014), Von Rothbart in Russell Kerr’s Swan Lake (2013), the Toreador in Roland Petit’s Carmen (2017), the Sugarplum Cavalier in Val Caniparoli’s The Nutcracker (2018) and the Paquita grand pas de deux (2021).

Paul has also performed solo and principal roles in works by George Balanchine, Jiří Kylián, William Forsythe, Andrew Simmons, Benjamin Millepied, Alexander Ekman, Jorma Elo, Alice Topp, Danielle Rowe, Ethan Stiefel and many more.

Paul’s career with the Royal New Zealand Ballet has seen him perform in more than 50 towns and cities around New Zealand. It has also taken him beyond Aotearoa, performing with the company in China, the USA, Australia, the UK, France, Italy, and Hong Kong. He has also appeared as a guest artist with Ballet Chambre Ouest in Japan.

In addition to his work onstage with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Paul has been active as a ballet teacher, teaching open classes as part of RNZB Education’s programme for pre-vocational dance students, and has also been involved in the RNZB’s National Mentor Programme. He also teaches masterclasses in partnership with his wife, fellow RNZB Principal Mayu Tanigaito.

Soloists Shaun James-Kelly as Hansel and Kirby Selchow as Gretel, with former Principal Paul Mathews as the Transformed Witch in Hansel & Gretel, 2019. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

Paul’s final performances with the RNZB will be in Tutus on Tour, including those in his hometown of Auckland on 26 October (Due Drop Events Centre, Manukau) and 28 – 29 October (Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna). His roles include one of the solo men in Shaun James Kelly’s The Ground Beneath Our Feet, which he premiered in 2019, and gala favourite the pas de trois from Le Corsaire, which he performs with Mayu Tanigaito and Laurynas Vėjalis.

Paul would like to thank everyone who has supported him in his career so far, especially Patricia Barker and the RNZB’s previous artistic directors with whom he worked: Francesco Ventriglia, Ethan Stiefel, Gary Harris and Matz Skoog. He would also like to thank his teachers and mentors over many years training in the profession, and his sponsors: Todd Corporation, for the Todd Scholarship in his first year with the RNZB, and Dame Wendy Pye and the Pye Foundation.