New Zealand News – April/May 2022

NZSD 3rd Yr Contemporary Dance Student Seth Ward. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
NZSD 3rd Yr Contemporary Dance Student Seth Ward. Photo by Stephen A'Court.

Find out what’s happening in New Zealand dance news!

Celebrated ballet dancer, teacher and choreographer Russell Kerr has died in Christchurch at the age of 92. Friend Jennifer Shennan said Kerr died after a life devoted to ballet and the arts. In the 1950s, Kerr danced with prestigious dance companies in Europe, including Ballet Rambert, Sadler’s Wells and Festival Ballet. He returned to his home country to lead New Zealand Ballet in the 1960s, the New Zealand Dance Centre in the 1970s, and the Southern Ballet Theatre in Christchurch from 1978 to 1990. His life of devotion to the arts was recognised with a Queen’s Service Medal for services to ballet in 1986, and his appointment as an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2000.

Russell Kerr in 1951 before he left New Zealand for Europe.
Russell Kerr in 1951 before he left New Zealand for Europe.

Shennan said his pioneering work with the New Zealand Ballet in the 1960s was still celebrated. “His term as artistic director is long remembered for his professional theatre standards and production values which were equal to anything in the company’s history. He had a vision, and he never took the absence of dollars as a reason to abandon that vision. He took such a joy in life. He was a candle you could not blow out.”

The New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) is excited to be presenting its Contemporary Dance Solo Season, For by Four, from 25 – 28 May. For by Four offers a unique glimpse at how New Zealand’s contemporary dance future is evolving. Four choreographers have been paired up with four graduating contemporary dance students to create new works. “Forging new paths, For by Four promises flawless artistry and original material in four solos, from independent thinking dancers and dance makers,” said Paula Steeds-Huston, head of contemporary dance at NZSD. This year marks 55 years since the NZSD was founded. The anniversary provides the perfect backdrop against which to showcase both the present and the future of the School’s creative talent. Innovation remains the lifeblood of the School. NZSD graduates Toa Paranihi, Olivia McGregor, Kit Reilly and Brydie Colquhoun each provide a springboard from which current third year contemporary dance students can take flight. For tickets and more information, visit bats.co.nz/whats-on/for-by-four

The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) might not be hitting the road to go on tour until later this year, but that has not stopped the company from pursuing digital growth and exploring new platforms to reach its audiences. The RNZB Education Team has been delivering an incredible suite of online classes and resources to continue engaging with students, teachers and young dancers across the country. Driven by the need to innovate during the ongoing pandemic, RNZB Education has turned to the virtual environment to find new ways to connect with schools in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Step Online Ugly Duckling primary schools’ resource offers compelling evidence that this initiative is meeting a need that the RNZB is ideally placed to address. This new digital resource, designed for year 1–6 primary school students, includes a performance of The Ugly Duckling (a ballet adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale) and a step-by-step tutorial where the children learn a sequence from the ballet. It supports curriculum delivery and brings the joy of dance to the students, all while exploring the fascinating world of ballet. As of early April, 405 teachers have requested the digital resource. This means that 36,407 students have had access to the resource this term alone, allowing them to have a go at the step-by-step tutorial as they are guided by RNZB dance educators to learn a sequence from the ballet. 

RNZB Dance Educator Jamie Delmonte in a Zoom dance workshop with students from Kaiapoi High School. Photo by Dan Harris.
RNZB Dance Educator Jamie Delmonte in a Zoom dance workshop with students from Kaiapoi High School. Photo by Dan Harris.

Following the success of the Step Online Ugly Duckling primary schools’ dance resource, the RNZB’s Education team has offered teachers and their students the chance to connect with the national ballet company on an even deeper level. The company has offered access to live Q&A sessions with RNZB Dancer and Dance Educator Jamie Delmonte, as well as free Zoom dance workshops with RNZB Dance Educator Lauren Byrne. Additionally, this year’s Open and Ballet for Boys online classes have been proving to be very popular with 828 views recorded so far. The next project in the pipeline is the development and creation of a brand-new resource – the RNZB NCEA Teacher Support Resource. This resource is being designed to support teaching and learning related to performance, choreography and dance perspectives in secondary schools. Based on the ballet genre, it is not aligned to a specific assessment but rather a series of tasks and material to support teaching and learning in various contexts. For more information on RNZB’s digital and educational offerings, visit rnzb.org.nz/education

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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