The Royal New Zealand Ballet has appointed Patricia Barker, a former prima ballerina and current Artistic Director of Grand Rapids Ballet in Michigan, USA, as the RNZB’s new Artistic Director.
RNZB Board Chair Steven Fyfe says: “We are delighted to announce the appointment of Patricia Barker. She has a wealth of knowledge and experience having held positions of artistic leadership for more than a decade, following a distinguished performing career. “
“From a large number of excellent applications from New Zealand and all over the world, the Board was greatly impressed by Patricia’s vision for all aspects of the RNZB’s activities, together with her experience as an artistic leader. Her knowledge of both contemporary and classical repertoire, as a dancer, coach and director also makes her an outstanding fit for the RNZB.”
Patricia Barker was born in Richland, Washington, USA, where she received her early ballet training. She later studied on scholarship at Boston Ballet School and Pacific Northwest Ballet School. At age 17, she joined Pacific Northwest Ballet, under the directorship of Kent Stowell and Francia Russell, and quickly rose to the rank of Principal Dancer.
During her 27 year career, she performed extensively throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and North America in many of the great full-length classical ballets and contemporary works by renowned choreographers. She appeared as a guest artist with national and international ballet companies and performed in many galas throughout the world.
Barker, along with Jiří Kylián, was co-artistic advisor to the Slovak National Ballet from 2006 to 2010. She has staged works for the Balanchine Trust for companies including Pacific Northwest Ballet, Slovak National Ballet and Hungarian National Ballet and for the last ten years has served as a judge for the Youth America Grand Prix.
Patricia Barker became Artistic Director of Grand Rapids Ballet and Director of the Grand Rapids Ballet School in 2010. She curated a compelling and dynamic repertoire ranging from full length classical ballets such as Swan Lake and The Sleeping Beauty, to neo-classical masterworks including George Balanchine’s Serenade and Four Temperaments, Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs and Paul Taylor’s Company B. She also commissioned both full-length and short works by leading contemporary choreographers including Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and Mario Radacovsky.
She also oversaw Grand Rapids Ballet’s Education Programme serving over 600 public school students annually, the Dancing with Parkinson’s Disease programme, the Explorer Dance for children with Down Syndrome classes, and the Open Division Adult Ballet classes.
“I am honoured and delighted to provide the artistic leadership to a company full of opportunity, achievement and with a unique creative voice and spirit. I will preserve the rich tradition of the Royal New Zealand Ballet while building on the company’s impressive repertoire by curating works to build on a distinctive New Zealand personality to enrich the lives of New Zealanders and showcase our dancers’ versatility to the world. I look forward to working with the Board of Directors, Frances Turner and the staff to present a broad spectrum of accessible, stimulating, and entertaining programing to a diverse national audience and to present the RNZB as a cultural ambassador of New Zealand.”
Patricia Barker will take up the position of Artistic Director later this month, joining the company as rehearsals for the RNZB’s brand new production of Romeo and Juliet begin. Francesco Ventriglia, the company’s current Artistic Director, is also the guest choreographer for this major new commission for the RNZB, which opens on 16 August.
“We are fortunate that Francesco and Patricia have the opportunity to work together over the next two months and this will make for a seamless transition,” says Steven Fyfe. “Francesco has made a significant contribution to the RNZB and has brought works by some of the world’s most exciting choreographers to New Zealand for the first time. Francesco has already programmed the company’s three national tours for 2018, and Patricia will bring these to the stage.”
Patricia Barker will be the RNZB’s 12th Artistic Director and the second woman to hold this position in the RNZB’s 64 year history, after Una Kai first held the position from 1973 – 75.
Patricia Barker will lead the RNZB with Executive Director Frances Turner, who says: “I’m looking forward to working with Patricia and enabling her artistic vision. As the RNZB heads towards our 65thseason I know that we will continue to inspire New Zealanders with great art. It’s also exciting to be leading the company in partnership with another woman; I suspect there are very few national companies worldwide that can say this!”
- Patricia Barker takes on the role of Artistic Director following Francesco Ventriglia’s resignation, announced in November 2016.
- During Francesco Ventriglia’s tenure as Artistic Director the RNZB has enjoyed success both in New Zealand and internationally, with highlights including the world premiere of Liam Scarlett’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, tours to the UK, Italy and Hong Kong and the New Zealand premieres of works by landmark European choreographers Roland Petit, William Forsythe, Alexander Ekman and Andonis Foniadakis. His own production of The Wizard of Oz was the RNZB’s biggest tour of 2016. Francesco also brought back the beloved regional tour programme Tutus on Tour, invested in supporting choreographers from within the company, with the establishment of the Harry Haythorne Award in 2015, and has fostered ties with the New Zealand School of Dance, now the RNZB’s Official School. RNZB dancers have also enjoyed individual success on the international stage, guesting with companies including Scottish Ballet, The Australian Ballet and the National Ballet of Greece.
- The Ryman Healthcare Season of Romeo and Juliet opens on 16 August in Wellington ahead of touring to Christchurch, Auckland, Rotorua, Dunedin, Invercargill, Palmerston North and closes in Napier on 24 September.
- Tutus on Tour will be performed in Queenstown on 18 June, in Oamaru 20 June, Timaru on 21 June, Ashburton 23 August, and Gisborne 27 September.
The RNZB’s 2018 programme will be announced in mid-October.