Royal New Zealand Ballet

The Royal New Zealand Ballet is a ballet company based in Wellington, New Zealand. It was originally known as The New Zealand Ballet Company.


New Zealand Ballet was established in 1953 as an independent charitable trust by Royal Danish Ballet Principal Poul Gnatt, Beryl Nettleton, Bettina Edwards,[1] another female dancer, and pianist Dorothea Franchi.

In the late 1950s notable New Zealand dancers Rowena Jackson and Philip Chatfield, her English dancer husband, returned from overseas to join the company. A third returning dancer, Russell Kerr, had been dancing in Europe with the Jose Greco Company since 1950, Sadlers Wells Ballet and Ballet Rambert, and from 1952 to 1957 with London Festival Ballet as their principal character dancer. In 1959 Kerr joined forces with NZ Ballet director Poul Gnatt, bringing with him a number of dancers from his own company, Auckland Ballet Theatre, for the 1959–60 season. As United Ballet, the augmented company presented a ground-breaking season which prefigured the things to come. Included amongst the classical works was a major contemporary work, "Prismatic Variations, a collaborative piece between Gnatt and Kerr, with guest artists the celebrated New Zealand dancers Rowena Jackson and Sara Neil.

In 1962 Jon Trimmer returned to the company after studying at the Royal Ballet School in London and performing with the Sadlers Wells Company. He remains a leading artist with the company in 2007 and has performed many character roles over the last 20 years. Russell Kerr succeeded Gnatt as company director from 1962 to 1969.

In the 1960s and 70s the company survived by touring extensively throughout the country. It has been directly funded by the New Zealand government (currently through the Ministry for Culture and Heritage) since 1998.

In 1984 Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II as Queen of New Zealand granted the title Royal to the company making it the fourth ballet company to receive this honour, along with The Royal Ballet, Birmingham Royal Ballet and Royal Winnipeg Ballet.

In 2006 the company had 32 dancers, and in 2016 had 36. It performed nationally and overseas.[2]

In 2011, Ethan Stiefel (USA) became Artistic Director, and brought his partner, American Ballet Theatre principal dancer Gillian Murphy, as a guest dancer and coach to the company during his tenure. In November 2014 Francesco Ventriglia (Italy) became Artistic Director.[3] In June 2017 he was replaced by Patricia Barker (USA).[4]

Some of the dancers

  • Abigail Boyle (since 2005)[5]
  • Adriana Harper (2005–15), subsequently assistant to magician Andre Vegas[6]
  • Alayna Ng (2007–17)
  • Ben Conquest (2000 - 2005)
  • Bronte Kelly
  • Clytie Campbell (2005–16), in 2017 became Ballet Mistress under Francesco Ventriglia[7]
  • Harry Skinner (2008–17)
  • Jacob Chown (2006–17)
  • Sir Jon Trimmer
  • Joseph Skelton (since 2011)
  • Katherine Skelton (nee Grange) (since 2010)
  • Kilian O'Callaghan (1988-1989 Soloist, 1990-1994 Principal Dancer)
  • Kohei Iwamoto (2010–17), then Queensland Ballet as a soloist[8]
  • Laura Saxon Jones (2013–17)
  • Loughlan Prior (since 2010)
  • Lucy Green (2010–16), then Queensland Ballet as a soloist and subsequently Principal Dancer[9]
  • Maclean Hopper
  • Madeleine Graham (since 2013)
  • Mayu Tanigaito (since 2012)
  • Nadia Yanowsky (since 2018)
  • Paul Mathews (since 2006)
  • Rory Fairweather-Neylan (2007–2015)
  • Shaun James Kelly (Since 2014)
  • Tonia Looker (2008–17), subsequently Queensland Ballet[8]
  • Yang Liu (since 2010)

See also


  1. "Gnatt, Poul (1923 - 1995)". Australia Dancing. 29 January 2009. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  2. "Agencies we fund". Ministry for Culture and Heritage. 17 November 2011. Retrieved 25 November 2011.
  3. "New RNZB artistic director". The Big Idea. 15 September 2014.
  4. "RNZB appoints artistic director". Royal NZ Ballet. 7 June 2017.
  5. "Cupcakes & Conversation with Abi Boyle". Ballet News. 27 April 2011.
  6. @c0ra_z0n, Corazon Miller Reporter, NZ Herald corazon miller@nzherald co nz (6 October 2017). "Ballerina's latest stage role is no illusion" via
  7. "RNZB dancer Clytie Campbell becomes RNZB's Ballet Mistress — RNZB".
  8. "QUEENSLAND BALLET ANNOUNCES 2018 DANCER ENSEMBLE - Ballet News - Straight from the stage - bringing you ballet insights".
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