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Five minutes with RNZB's Lester McGrath

The Royal New Zealand Ballet is soon to bring a dramatic and provocative retelling of Swan Lake to the capital. We caught up with new executive director Lester McGrath to chat all things ballet, and get the inside scoop on this exciting twist of an old classic.

350x500 Lester Photo credit: Stephen A'Court

With a 30-year career spanning a variety of roles in theatre and dance, the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) is excited to have Lester McGrath as their new executive director. With his wealth of experience, he's determined to see their artistic excellence and international reputation scale new heights, as they continue to delight audiences across the country.

Ahead of their performance of Black Swan, White Swan this Queen's Birthday weekend, we talked with Lester about his first few months in the role, his favourite ballets, and what to expect from their upcoming show.

Black Swan 2 1000x600 Photo credit: Ross Brown

You’re a few months into your first season as executive director for the Royal New Zealand Ballet.  What’s been the best part of your job so far?

I’ve loved meeting all the talented and passionate people who are part of the RNZB whānau, and it’s been great to see how audiences respond to the shows we’ve presented.

How does the RNZB decide on which ballets to perform each season?

Artistic Director Patricia Barker curates the annual season. It is demanding job to create a season which appeals to a broad range of tastes, upholds the traditions of classical ballet and reflects New Zealand on stage.

What is your personal favourite ballet?

There are many ballets I love – both classical and contemporary.  A personal favourite would have to be Manon choreographed by Sir Kenneth MacMillan.  It has it all – ambition, love, power and lust – with extraordinary dancing and choreography.

Black Swan 1000x600

How does Black Swan, White Swan compare to the traditional Swan Lake?

In this contemporary version, as in the modern world, temptation is all around.  It has an immediacy which makes the story all the more compelling as we see our hero, caught between two women, struggle with ideal love, pure evil, and most of all himself.

What can the audience expect from Black Swan, White Swan?

A great night of ballet for everyone! Love, seduction and betrayal are an intoxicating mix.  Combined with superb dancing, and performed to Tchaikovsky’s magnificent score, Black Swan, White Swan is a journey of epic emotions.


With plenty of thrilling and enchanting performances lined up, RNZB's 2019 season has something for everyone. Find out more here.