Russell Kerr, the 81 year old living legend of New Zealand dance, returns to the Royal New Zealand Ballet to produce Petrouchka for the company’s triple bill season, Stravinsky Selection.
Described by ballet veteran Sir Jon Trimmer as “New Zealand’s oldest theatrical artist”, Kerr has enjoyed an impressive 52 year relationship with the RNZB and to mark his contribution the company will name their Green Room in his honour this week.
After being awarded a Government Bursary at the age of 20, Kerr spent 7 years performing in Europe with the likes of Jose Greco Spanish Company, Sadler’s Wells (Royal Ballet), Ballet Rambert and London Festival Ballet.
It was during his time with London Festival Ballet that Kerr learnt repertory directly from masters associated with ballets created during the Diaghilev era, one of these being Petrouchka.
He first prepared Petrouchka for the New Zealand Ballet in 1964 with the help of other former Festival Ballet colleagues June Kerr, Anne Rowse and Ken Sudell. Together they were able to ensure that the choreography remained faithful to the 1911 original.
Kerr also had the pleasure of performing as the Moor in Petrouchka under the baton of Stravinsky himself and he remembers sitting in the stalls during the first rehearsal soaking up every comment and direction the great composer made.
During his career Kerr has held many key positions in New Zealand dance, including, Artistic Director of the RNZB from 1962-1968, Director of the New Zealand Dance Centre from 1969-1877, Director of the Southern Ballet Theatre from 1978-90, Vice Patron of the Auckland Dance Company, Patron of the International Ballet Academy and a Trustee of the Christchurch Dance Education Bursary Trust.
In 1977 he was awarded a QEII Arts Council Fellowship, followed by a Queen's Service Medal for Services to Ballet in the New Zealand dance community in 1986 and was appointed an Officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2000.
NB – The Russell Kerr Green Room naming celebration will occur on Friday 6 May at 5:30pm. Media are welcome to attend. Please note, this will be a surprise for Russell Kerr, advance discretion is appreciated.