"A Choreographic Celebration": The Royal New Zealand Ballet Announces 2024 Season
Published: Thursday 12 October, 2023
The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) has announced its 2024 season – a choreographic celebration and elevation of RNZB friends, fellows, and favourites, which includes the return of two classic productions, alongside the New Zealand premiere of a Wayne McGregor phenomenon, two new works created especially for the company, and a nation-wide Tutus on Tour season-opener.
RNZB’s popular ballet degustation Tutus on Tour; Swan Lake, in association with AVIS; Solace: dance to feed your soul in association with Ryman Healthcare; and the Ryman Healthcare Season of A Midsummer Night’s Dream make up the mainstage season, alongside the company’s digital, education, access, and community activities.
Our 2024 season is a choreographic opus – a homage to deeply valued RNZB choreographers who have passed, and a celebration of some of the best in the world right now, including two Aotearoa New Zealand favourites who have created new works for and with us. The 2024 season is in good hands with RNZB’s incoming Artistic Director Ty King-Wall who has a deep understanding of and connection with all the works.
David McAllster, Acting Artistic Director
RNZB principal partner Ryman Healthcare NZ CEO, Cheyne Chalmers, says, “As Principal Partner, it gives me great pleasure to celebrate the Royal New Zealand Ballet as they unveil their spectacular 2024 season. As we embark on our tenth year of partnership, we are more dedicated than ever to supporting the arts and the incredible talent on show. We are immensely proud of the remarkable work they do, and we look forward to another year of exceptional performances that will captivate and inspire audiences.”
Considered the greatest of all classical ballets, Swan Lake celebrates the dramatic and technical brilliance of a new generation of RNZB dancers in a production which honours the artistic legacy of former Artistic Director and RNZB kaumatua Russell Kerr. With Tchaikovsky’s sweeping score – lush, romantic, instantly recognisable – and Kristian Fredrikson’s opulent designs, all gorgeously lit by Jon Buswell, Swan Lake transports the audience from palace ballroom to lakeside in wave upon wave of beauty and emotion.
Acting Artistic Director David McAllister says, “We are thrilled to be able to present this beautiful production, not seen in Aotearoa since 2013, with the support of colleagues from the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Wellington, the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra in Ōtautahi, and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in Tāmaki Makaurau, all under the baton of Principal Conductor Hamish McKeich. Swan Lake is a ballet that all dancers aspire to perform and there is a huge excitement in the company to be performing this iconic production again, following in the footsteps of so many of the RNZB’s former stars.”
Winter 2024 brings a trio of premieres to stages in Wellington, Auckland, and Christchurch as the Royal New Zealand Ballet presents Solace: dance to feed your soul, with new and recent ballets by three beloved and globally regarded choreographers, Wayne McGregor, Sarah Foster-Sproull, and Alice Topp.
Britain’s Wayne McGregor is one of the most exciting choreographers on the world stage, and the New Zealand premiere of his Infra, created for London’s Royal Ballet in 2008, represents an artistic coup for the RNZB. Choreographed for an ensemble of twelve uniquely gifted dancers at the height of their powers, and set to a slowly drifting, soulful score by Max Richter, Infra is a profoundly moving meditation on the loneliness, connections and consolations that lie beneath the surface of a city. Julian Opie’s mesmerising 18-metre LED artwork echoes the constant movement of the dancers below as a steady stream of anonymous figures walk purposefully towards destinations that are forever unknown.
RNZB Choreographer-in-Residence Sarah Foster-Sproull (Despite the loss of small detail, Artemis Rising, Ultra Folly, The Autumn Ball) creates her fifth work for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, collaborating closely with the dancers to create a ballet that takes a new look at the astonishing machine that is the human body: shape shifting, endlessly inventive and always greater than the sum of its parts. Music by Eden Mulholland generates a surging, primordial sense of ‘becoming’ in the work, pushing and pulling the dancers through the space with urgency and power.
Following the dazzling impact of her Aurum (Venus Rising, 2022) and Logos (Lightscapes, 2023), RNZB alumna and Resident Choreographer at The Australian Ballet Alice Topp creates High Tide, her first original work for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, inspired by the music of Australian composer Graeme Koehne. High Tide is a tender depiction of the never-ending morphosis from birth to death and is inspired by the human condition: growing pains, growing apart and growing together and learning to love and live with the light and shade, youth and age, within us all. Alice’s regular collaborator Jon Buswell, one of the Southern Hemisphere’s most distinguished and creative designers for dance, will again work with Alice to transform the stage into a living sculpture of light and shadow with the dancers as its heart and soul.
A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a co-production between the Royal New Zealand Ballet and Queensland Ballet.
Following its hugely successful premiere in 2015, the Royal New Zealand Ballet is thrilled to be bringing The Ryman Healthcare Season of A Midsummer Night’s Dream back for Christmas 2024. Created for the RNZB by Liam Scarlett, A Midsummer Night’s Dream was an overnight sensation at its premiere, with capacity audiences throughout its first New Zealand tour, followed by successful performances in Hong Kong in 2016.
Distinguished New Zealand designer Tracy Grant Lord created the glorious vision of Shakespeare’s iconic characters and enchanted wood, illuminated with lighting by Kendall Smith.
The ever-popular Tutus on Tour returns to regional theatres throughout Aotearoa to mark the end of summer and the start of a brand-new year of ballet. Dance lovers of all ages can look forward to a programme which celebrates classical favourites and virtuoso ballet technique as well as offering a timely tribute to one of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s founding fathers.
As a prelude to 2024’s major revival, Tutus on Tour will feature excerpts from Russell Kerr’s beautiful production of Swan Lake, in the dazzling designs created by Kristian Fredrikson in 1996. 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, always a highlight of Act III. Complementing the classical splendour of Swan Lake is Choreographer in Residence Shaun James Kelly’s Prismatic, inspired by Poul Gnatt and Russell Kerr’s landmark Prismatic Variations, set to the music of Johannes Brahms. Commissioned to mark the RNZB’s 70th birthday in 2023, Prismatic will include 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. Rounding out the programme is Clay by Alice Topp, the mesmerising, emotionally charged pas de deux which opens her acclaimed Logos, first seen in Aotearoa in 2023.
Reflecting on the season, as a relative newcomer to the company with fewer than two months in the role, I have found an organisation that is comfortable and proud of its history. In looking to our past, we celebrate the achievements of those who have come before. Looking forward, our Kaitiakitanga for our artform guides us and recognising this has created the conditions for the RNZB to take bold new steps into the future.
Tobias Perkins, Executive Director
Celebrating its 20th birthday in 2023, RNZB Education shares the joy of dance with over 70,000 people each year, in person and increasingly via digital events and resources.
Children and adults of all backgrounds and abilities participate in activities and attend performances and events. This is reflected in the steady growth of the three main strands of the RNZB’s education programme: audiences and communities; dance teachers and dancers; and schools, and in an expanding range of accessibility initiatives. Experienced Dance Educators offer tailor-made, curriculum-linked dance workshops, together with NCEA resources, for primary and secondary schools throughout Aotearoa. Long-term residencies and collaborations are also available. Free digital resources to inspire and support practical engagement with the national ballet company.
Access to the joy of dance through the Royal New Zealand Ballet is a core value for everyone at the company. RNZB Education is at the heart of this mission, ensuring that barriers to participation and enjoyment are overcome and that inclusion is central to everything the company does. Current initiatives include audio described performances and touch tours for blind and low vision audience members, including children, sign language interpreted events, relaxed and sensory-friendly performances, subsidised tickets and transport for schools with financial barriers to participation, workshops for dancers with diverse or limited physical movement, and a long-standing partnership with the Department of Corrections to deliver dance activities in facilities across the country.
As the recipient of the Arts Access Aotearoa Creative New Zealand Arts for All Award (2019), the RNZB team advises and works with many organisations across Aotearoa, including Arts Access Aotearoa, Audio Described Aotearoa, Blind Low Vision NZ and Blind and Low Vision Education Network NZ (BLENNZ), Parents of Vision Impaired (NZ) Ltd., Association of Blind Citizens of New Zealand Inc., the Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, Manukau Due Drop Events Centre, Department of Corrections, the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, Orchestra Wellington and the Ministry of Education.