With much celebration, the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) presents its 2022 season, comprising two glorious ‘story ballets’ and two dazzling programmes of shorter works. Ballets and productions by some of the country’s – and the world’s – most respected choreographers will touch down in theatres across the country from February, including the RNZB’s long-awaited return to their beloved home, Wellington’s splendid St James.
For the Ryman Healthcare Season of Cinderella (August to September), RNZB Artistic Director Patricia Barker re–unites the dream team of Loughlan Prior and Claire Cowan (Hansel & Gretel) to fashion a brand-new ballet which will vibrantly re-open Wellington’s St James Theatre before heading off on a national tour.
Feisty, funny, fizzy and fabulous, Cinderella is choreographed by master storyteller Prior (The Firebird) and set to a magical new score by boundary-pushing composer and performer Cowan, with fashion-forward designs by Emma Kingsbury and lighting by Jeremy Fern.
Expect the unexpected as highs, lows, fairy-tale endings and happy-ever-afters spill from the stage in every shade of the rainbow. Prior sprinkles a sparky, stylish twist on the classic tale, with a heroine who knows her own mind and a hero who follows his heart.
The Ryman Healthcare Season of Cinderella is presented in association with Orchestra Wellington, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra. A recording by Orchestra Wellington will accompany performances in other centres.
Patricia Barker says, “The last 18 months have uncovered many truths about people in a crisis, with one of the most significant being how much we turn to the arts for escapism and joy. The arts have helped New Zealanders through lockdowns, recover from lockdowns, and helped us all realise one of the things we celebrate and hold most dear – connecting through art and performance brings people together in the most fulfilling and beautiful ways.”
Taking centrestage in five centres through May and June is an opulent, shimmering production of Swan Lake. Guided by New Zealand ballet legend Russell Kerr’s 1996 production, Patricia Barker is revisiting this timeless ballet to uplift the dramatic and technical brilliance of a new generation of RNZB dancers, while celebrating the company’s rich past and bright future.
RNZB Artistic Director Patricia Barker says, “When you mention ballet, many people think immediately of Swan Lake. It is truly iconic and we are thrilled to collaborate with a New Zealand ballet luminary in Russell Kerr, and with support from our colleagues from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Wellington, the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. This season of Swan Lake, carefully polished as a precious jewel in our repertoire, is a tribute to Russell and his enormous body of remarkable work.”
With Tchaikovsky’s sweeping score – lush, romantic, and instantly recognisable – and Kristian Fredrikson’s breath-taking designs, gorgeously lit by Jon Buswell, Swan Lake transports the audience from palace ballroom to lakeside in wave upon wave of beauty and emotion. Audiences are inexplicably drawn into the unfolding tragedy as the dancers bring every nuance of their iconic roles to life.
The first of the mixed-bill works will arrive in February, in the spirit and power of Venus Rising – the brightest of stars, and herald of the dusk and of the dawn. Three extraordinary short works by inspiring and internationally celebrated choreographers will alight in Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland, in partnership with the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival and the Auckland Arts Festival.
Aurum by Royal New Zealand Ballet alumna Alice Topp glows with inner light and profound peace. Meditative and moving, this award-winning ballet, created for The Australian Ballet in 2018, is shaped by kintsugi, the Japanese art of healing cracks with pure gold – celebrating the beauty of the broken.
Royal New Zealand Ballet’s choreographer in residence, Sarah Foster-Sproull’s The Autumn Ball, commissioned in 2021, dances through the circle of life with tenderness, grace and floor-filling fun.
Barker says, “This magnificent piece took people’s breath away at its sold-out Wanaka Festival of Colour season in 2021. We’re delighted to be able to bring Sarah’s unique and beautiful artistry to a wider audience.”
Global dance legend Twyla Tharp closes Venus Rising in the most delightful way with the New Zealand premiere of her Waterbaby Bagatelles. 27 dancers are sent spinning across the stage, sparkling in an ever-changing ocean of light.
Finally, the RNZB will welcome summer with New Zealand’s favourite Tutus on Tour, which spins into 11 theatres across Aotearoa.
The pas de trois from Le Corsaire offers firecracker virtuosity, while the joyful ‘Waltz of the Flowers’ and the grand pas de deux from Val Caniparoli’s production of The Nutcracker look forward to Christmas with warmth and grandeur.
On the contemporary side, Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain pas de deux (2005) makes its RNZB debut. Gentle and tender, showing a profound connection between its performers, it is a work that is cherished by every dancer lucky enough to perform it.
Olivier Wevers’ The Sofa (2013) introduces this rising star of contemporary choreography to Aotearoa. Rounding out this generous programme of dance is RNZB Choreographer Shaun James Kelly’s The Ground Beneath Our Feet (2019), an exuberant ballet, tailor-made for the RNZB, that rides the scintillating rhythms of its music like a rollercoaster.
Barker says, “This is a generous, glorious celebration of ballet and the joy of pure dance created by some of the finest choreographers working today. Tutus on Tour brings a ray of Summer sunshine to stages from Auckland’s North Shore down to Invercargill.”
Further information on all the productions can be found on www.rnzb.org.nz, as well as education activities, schools’ performances, accessible performances, and subscription packages. Subscriptions are on sale now.
For further information, images and interviews, please contact Siobhan Waterhouse, Publicist, on email@example.com or 022 126 4149.