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RNZB Education and Community programme reaches out beyond the bars

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Education team has begun a project with Corrections at Arohata Women’s Prison in Wellington as part of ongoing accessibility and inclusion initiatives.

RNZB Dance Educator Pagan Dorgan, dancer Laura Saxon Jones and Education and Community Manager Pascale Parenteau held the first of six workshops last week, in response to an invitation from Corrections to create a dance project with a group of prisoners to be presented as part of a Christmas fundraising event to support the Women’s Refuge.

A primary goal of the RNZB Education and Community programme is to make dance accessible to New Zealanders of all ages by providing a gateway to connect with their national ballet company.

More than 27,000 New Zealanders have taken part in RNZB education and community initiatives across Aotearoa this year.

The current project aims to enhance prisoners’ confidence, communications skills and ability to work with others. Participants were incredibly positive about the experience saying it gave them hope and inspiration, provided a chance to grow as individuals, and made them appreciate life outside of prison walls.

RNZB Executive Director Frances Turner believes that the arts have a tremendous power to enrich lives: “We are very proud to be able to extend our reach to more New Zealanders through our work with Corrections and other communities”. 

This is the fourth in a series of significant new initiatives devised this year which included three highly successful projects beginning in May to coincide with New Zealand Sign Language week.

These included the first sign language interpreted guided tour of the RNZB headquarters at the St James Theatre in Wellington during, followed by  a sensory-friendly ‘Ballet in a Box’ performance for children and adults with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and special needs.

During the Auckland season of Romeo and Juliet the RNZB in collaboration with Auckland Live staged New Zealand’s first audio described ballet performances for visually impaired children and adults, both followed by a guided touch tour of the stage, costumes and props and a ballet terminology session.

The Arohata Prison project is generously supported via a grant from the Wellington Community Trust. The project will culminate in performances for fellow prison women prisoners, family members of staff and invited guests on December 7 and 8, co-ordinated run by the Arohata Staff and sponsored by the Zonta Mana women’s volunteer group. 

The Royal New Zealand Ballet would also like to acknowledge the Lion Foundation as the major supporter of its Education and Community programme with additional generous funding provided by the Four Winds Foundation, Rata Foundation and the Les and Sonia Andrews Cultural Foundation.

RNZB partners with Department of Corrections

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