New Zealand Dance News – February/March 2024

The Royal New Zealand Ballet. Photo by Ross Brown.
The Royal New Zealand Ballet. Photo by Ross Brown.

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

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s (RNZB) popular Tutus on Tour returns in February, marking the end of summer and the start of a brand-new year of ballet. Dance lovers of all ages in Kāpiti, Ashburton, Gisborne, Oamaru, Hastings, Wānaka, Taupō, Tauranga, Blenheim, Whangārei, Nelson and Hamilton can look forward to a programme which uplifts classical favourites, showcases exquisite costumes, delivers breath-taking ballet technique, and presents a new tribute to the RNZB’s founding fathers. Tutus on Tour will feature excerpts from former Artistic Director Russell Kerr’s beautiful production of Swan Lake, ahead of the company’s full-length Swan Lake season in May. Featuring dazzling designs by Kristian Fredrikson, created in 1996, the performances will include the ‘Black Swan’ pas de deux, the famous ‘Cygnets’ quartet, the graceful Pas de Trois from Act I, and the grand Hungarian and Spanish dances – a special highlight of Act III. Complementing the classical splendour of Swan Lake is RNZB Choreographer in Residence Shaun James Kelly’s Prismatic, inspired by RNZB founder Poul Gnatt and choreographer Russell Kerr’s landmark Prismatic Variations, set to the music of Johannes Brahms. Commissioned to mark the RNZB’s 70th birthday in 2023, Prismatic unites all the hallmarks of Kelly’s confident choreographic style – grounded in traditional ballet technique and inspired by the rhythmic and melodic arcs of the soaring score. Closing the beautiful Tutus on Tour programme is Clay by Alice Topp, a mesmerising, emotionally charged pas de deux which opens her acclaimed Logos, first seen in Aotearoa New Zealand in 2023 in the RNZB’s popular 2023 season Lightscapes.

RNZB's Katherine Minor, Shaun James Kelly and Kirby Selchow. Photo by Ross Brown.
RNZB’s Katherine Minor, Shaun James Kelly and Kirby Selchow. Photo by Ross Brown.

Incoming Artistic Director Ty King-Wall says, “Tutus on Tour goes to the heart of what the Royal New Zealand Ballet stands for: sharing the beauty and power of classical ballet with Kiwis far and wide. From Whangārei to Oamaru, to begin our 2024 season traversing the length and breadth of Aotearoa New Zealand, with a collection of works that strongly represent the history and evolution of our company, is a joy. Look out for us at a theatre near you!” Tickets are now on sale. The full RNZB 2024 programme can be found on www.rnzb.org.nz.

The RNZB has become award-winning sustainable period company Hello Period’s inaugural Bloody Good Workplace. The Bloody Good Workplace programme aims to destigmatise workplace period experiences. By partnering with Hello Period, employers are supported in caring for their employees who menstruate and ensuring they have access to high quality, sustainable period products to help relieve anxiety around their monthly cycles. Being a Bloody Good Workplace means Hello Period becomes the RNZB’s official provider of sustainable period care, and the organisations will work together to raise awareness of the importance of period support for employees.

RNZB Director of People and Culture Sarah Griffiths says, “Workplaces can be environments in which employees who menstruate feel vulnerable, disadvantaged or quietly suffer because of the stigma around monthly periods. Given the nature of our business, everyone can find themselves working long hours, either on the stage or behind the scenes, and the dancers’ work involves performing in front of thousands of people, thus managing periods can become problematic. Hello Period products will provide our staff with a level of comfort and confidence when having their periods, and the RNZB is fully behind this brilliant partnership with a similarly pioneering New Zealand organisation.”

Hello Period Co-founder and Marketing Director Robyn McLean says, “Sustainable products last for years, provide greater security than single use tampons and pads due to their increased capacity, and don’t clog the plumbing. We approached the RNZB because we felt the organisation would have an interesting and aligned view on the importance of individualised period care and, as a company which tours and performs, we felt period confidence would be a pertinent issue. We are delighted that they agreed – with alacrity – and have joined us on this important mission.”

New Zealand Dance Company in 'Uku - Behind the Canvas'. Photo by John McDermott.
New Zealand Dance Company in ‘Uku – Behind the Canvas’. Photo by John McDermott.

The New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC) will present Whenua, a new double bill program showcasing unique and brilliant creative voices from Aotearoa New Zealand. Choreographer Malia Johnston has collaborated with celebrated indigenous artist Rodney Bell to create Imprint. This new work explores our deep connection to our bodies, the world around us, our connections to each other and our ancestry. Paired with Eddie Elliott’s Uku – Behind the Canvas, which premiered in 2022 to rave reviews, Whenua presents a distinct yet complementary program. These artists draw from nature, exploring our humanity, our relationship to land, and our coexistence with the natural environments and elements. NZDC’s Whenua tour will kick off on 9 February 2024, at the Holland Dance Festival, and will tour throughout New Zealand from 8 March – 12 April. For all dates and to book tickets, visit nzdc.org.nz/stage/works/whenua.

The New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) is delighted to welcome Amber Scott, who joins the school as a new ballet teacher for 2024. Having recently retired as a Principal Artist at The Australian Ballet since 2011, Scott looks forward to a new chapter in her dance career and says, “I am absolutely delighted to be joining the New Zealand School of Dance faculty in 2024, and cannot wait to work with the next generation of dancers in beautiful Aotearoa.”

The NZSD is very proud to have had two 2nd-year students who participated in the 2024 edition of the Prix de Lausanne, held from 28 January to 4 February at the Beaulieu Theatre in Lausanne, Switzerland. Miguel Herrera competed in the international competition, while Joshua Linkhorn participated in the Prix’s Partner School Choreographic Project.

NZSD student Miguel Herrera. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
NZSD student Miguel Herrera. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

Following a highly successful Performance Season, NZSD is excited to announce the following graduates who gained positions and contracts: Ruby Ryburn joins the Royal New Zealand Ballet as the Todd Scholar, Joshua Douglas joins Queensland Ballet as a Jette Parker Young Artist, and Deija Vukona joins Footnote New Zealand Dance. The School also congratulates the following alumni on their exciting new contracts: Ngaere Jenkins, who has joined the Sydney Dance Company, and Timothy Ching, who has joined the Royal New Zealand Ballet as an Artist.

NZSD is excited to share that 2023 1st Yr classical ballet students Ruby Clarke and Eleanor Bond are on a three-week exchange to Canada’s National Ballet School in Toronto.

The Eileen May Norris Dance Scholarships are awarded bi-annually to individuals who have demonstrated outstanding dance talent in New Zealand, with an appropriate university, polytechnic, dance school or academy, or for those dancing with a professional body or company. The scholarship is open biennially to individual dancers of any genre undertaking a specific project, and applicants must be New Zealand born or naturalised citizens and be aged from 18 years and under 25 years of age (as at the closing date of applications).

Eileen May Norris created the Eileen May Norris Dance Scholarship by her will in May 2003, and she died a few months later at 88 years old. Norris was born in a village north of Queenstown called Charleston on 18 September 1914, and moved to Whangarei as a young child where she received her education. As an adult, she moved to Christchurch and worked the majority of her working life for the NZ Post Office. She had a passion for dance and a love for music. Norris played the piano proficiently and was heavily involved with the performing arts in her local community. A ballroom dancing medal winner until her middle-aged years, Norris was also a keen Latin American dancer, performing the tango and rumba. She enjoyed watching ballet and any form of dance. The Eileen May Norris Dance Scholarships are an opportunity for Norris to give back to the arts and offer young dancers the means to continue to build on their talents. The scholarship will be open for applications through 31 March. To apply, visit publictrust.smartygrants.com.au/2024Norris.

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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