Royal New Zealand Ballet marks 70 years

Image: Ross Brown

RNZB Lightscapes Requiem 1263 Credit Ross Brown

Image: Ross Brown

RNZB Lightscapes Serenade 2395 Credit Ross Brown

Image: Ross Brown

RNZB Lightscapes Whenua 0166 Credit Ross Brown

Image: Ross Brown

Royal New Zealand Ballet marks 70 years

It all began on 30 June, 1953. At the Playhouse Theatre on Auckland’s Karangahape Road, Danish dancer Poul Gnatt, the founding father of ballet in New Zealand, assembled a small group of young dancers to present two evenings of short ballets and excerpts from the classics.

70 years and more than 300 national, regional and international tours later, the Royal New Zealand Ballet will celebrate its platinum anniversary with a special programme, Lightscapes. The programme premieres in Wellington on 27 July. It then travels to Christchurch (5 – 6 August) and Auckland (10 – 12 August).

Lightscapes includes the world premiere of a work created specially for this moment, Whenua, by Moss Te Ururangi Patterson. Inspired by haka and powered by the strength of the men of the company, this striking new ballet will be a lasting addition to the RNZB’s repertoire.

Serenade (1934) was staged for the then-New Zealand Ballet by former Artistic Director, the late Una Kai, in 1975. It holds a special place in the hearts of generations of dancers and audiences, both in Aotearoa and around the world. George Balanchine's first full-length ballet in America, it is plotless yet laden with meaning and fills the stage with exquisite movement and deep emotion.

The second half of the programme features two New Zealand premieres by choreographers making waves across the globe.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa will stage her Requiem for a Rose, created for Pennsylvania Ballet in 2009 as an exploration of love, romantic and idealised, versus lasting and real.

Closing the programme is Logos by company alumna Alice Topp (Aurum, Absence of Light), created for The Australian Ballet in 2020 and inspired by the storms we all weather – fears, fights, darkness and demons.

Topp says, “Logos is the story of internal conflict and of navigating a world of storms. Since its premiere in 2020, the world has been in and out of turbulence and conflict, and revisiting this work now I feel is the perfect time to look at how far we’ve come, and where we can go.”

RNZB Interim Artistic Director David McAllister says, “For 70 years, the Royal New Zealand Ballet has reflected our place in the world, presenting unique works that tell our stories while also staging the most exciting works from around the world to delight our New Zealand audiences.

“Lightscapes celebrates this rich heritage of innovation. From Moss Patterson's powerful new work drawn from his Māori cultural heritage through to George Balanchine's modern classic Serenade. This programme also celebrates the work of creative women: Alice Topp, an RNZB alumna, with her moving Logos, and internationally recognised choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa's romantic Requiem for a Rose.

“This programme honours the company’s seven decades of dance excellence and also points boldly to the boundless future that lies ahead for the RNZB,” McAllister says.

Lightscapes, Royal New Zealand Ballet; Wellington (27 – 29 July), Christchurch (5 – 6 August) and Auckland (10 – 12 August)



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