New Zealand School of Dance classical ballet students Joshua Linkhorn and Patrick Nawalowalo McCrory. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

The New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) is proud to announce its highly anticipated Performance Season, showcasing the extraordinary talent of its students. With two alternating programmes of ballet and contemporary dance, this season promises to captivate audiences with outstanding choreography and breath-taking performances. 

In these specially curated programmes, students from across the School’s three year groups will showcase their artistry in an impressive repertoire of legacy pieces, collaborations with inventive choreographers, premieres and commissions.  

The ballet programme features captivating works from three renowned American choreographers, staged by former Ballet Master for San Francisco Ballet, Betsy Erickson.  

Acclaimed dance maker Val Caniparoli will be represented by his quirky, playful Street Songs and intense duet, Double Stop.  Former Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet, Helgi Tomasson’s Meistens Mozart is sweet and charming, while Lew Christensen’s Vivaldi Concerto Grosso is an inventive, neo-classical gem that has not been performed previously by the School. 

New Zealand School of Dance contemporary dance student Aleeya McFadyen-Rew. Photo by Stephen A’Court

Expressing his excitement about this year’s programme, NZSD Director Garry Trinder said, “Coming out of Covid, we wanted to use this year’s ballet programme to reconnect with some of the international choreographers and répétiteurs we have long been associated with. This year’s programme comprises three works that have proven to be enduring and popular with our audiences, as well as a work that will be new to us, offering a fresh and invigorating challenge to our students.” 

In the world of contemporary dance, we take great pride in the involvement of our talented NZSD graduates, who are both re-staging existing works and creating new ones.  

Former Australian DMEDance Theatre Artistic Director, Garry Stewart, presents his enthralling creation, The Beginning of Nature. This powerful work explores the intricate relationship between humanity and the natural world, leaving audiences captivated by its thought-provoking narrative.  

The programme will also feature a revival of Australian Amber Haines’ critically acclaimed 2016 work, Incant. Haines’ piece delves into the depths of human emotion, inviting viewers on a mesmerising and intriguing journey.  

Lauded New Zealand choreographer Ross McCormack will be creating a new work alongside commissions from NZSD graduates, Felix Sampson and Kit Reilly, highlighting the School’s commitment to expanding the boundaries of contemporary dance.  

Performance Season at Southward Theatre and Te Whaea: National Dance & Drama Centre
16 Nov – 2 Dec 2023. Tickets from $19 – $42 are available at 

Sharni Spencer

‘Find the fun and enjoyment in what you do; It’s important to work out why you dance, what makes you tick’

Sharni Spencer and Pedro Cassiano for the New Zealand School of Dance – 2007. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court.

NZSD graduate, Sharni Spencer, was born in Lismore NSW and grew up in Tamworth and Newcastle. She began dance classes at three years old and studied at Sally Kefts School of Dance and Marie Walton Mahon Dance Academy before joining the New Zealand School of Dance. Sharni joined The Australian Ballet at the beginning of 2008 and was promoted to Coryphée in 2012. She was the recipient of the Khitercs Hirai Foundation Scholarship in 2012, and used it to spend three months rehearsing and performing Giselle with Dutch National Ballet. She was promoted to Soloist in 2017, to Senior Artist in 2020, and then to Principal Artist in 2022.

What’s your highlight from your time at the New Zealand School of Dance?

I have to say picking a highlight is hard! I have such fond memories of the 2 years I spent at NZSD. I really appreciated the positive and supportive environment. Once you join a professional company, you realise the luxury of time you had at school to work on things!  It’s such a huge time of growth, and so important to be able to experiment, fail and discover. It was also a really special time to bond with my year group. You are on a real journey of ups and downs together; for most of us, we were away from home and learning how to cook and care for ourselves, alongside all the dancing. 

A particularly memorable highlight for me was performing Romeo and Juliet Balcony Pas de Deux from Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Romeo and Juliet, with former NZSD graduate, dancer and now choreographer Craig Davidson.

Why did you audition for NZSD?

I auditioned to join NZSD because my dance teacher, Marie Walton Mahon, said this was a great school. I had recently returned from overseas after completing a term at Elmhurst School for Dance in Birmingham. It wasn’t the right fit for me at the time, and I left feeling a bit unsure of what direction to take and whether I should continue with dancing at all.

I took a class back at my dance school in Australia and realised how much I loved dancing and made the decision to continue with dancing. Marie suggested New Zealand School of Dance might be a better fit, so I packed my bags and headed over to audition last minute with the 1st Yrs who were beginning in 2006. It fortunately, turned out that after auditioning, I could start immediately!

What inspires you to dance and move? 

Music always inspires me and moves me to dance. I also love the physicality of dancing and the nitty-gritty of the work day in and day out. I love to perform, how it makes me feel and how freeing it can be to get lost in the movement or a story, but it’s the rehearsal process really makes the performance satisfying for me. I also love that there is no end to learning; there are so many aspects to dance that you are constantly inspired. 

What have been your highlights since graduating from NZSD?

A recent highlight was my promotion to Principal Artist with The Australian Ballet. The promotion to Principal Artist is an onstage tradition at the Australian Ballet. I was dancing Columbine alongside guest artist Daniil Simkin (Principal Artist with the American Ballet Theatre and Berlin Staatsballett) the night of my promotion in Alexei Ratmansky’s production of Harlequinade. It was such a wonderful experience to share the stage with Daniil, and when Artistic Director David Hallberg came out and announced my promotion at the final curtain call, I couldn’t believe it. 

What advice would you give to aspiring dancers?

To work hard at what you do but also stay open and curious; there is always an opportunity to learn something in any situation. Find the fun and enjoyment in what you do; It’s important to work out why you dance, what makes you tick, and what really inspires and motivates you intrinsically because there will inevitably be ups and downs throughout your career, and to have those things behind you gives you resilience and grit through the highs and lows.


“…enjoy the process and have fun with dance. Aspire for greatness and strive towards your goals with determination and passion.” – Robert Mills

Robert Mills 2023. Photography by Ron Fung. Design by Kirryn O’Neil

Robert is a Distinguished Graduate of the New Zealand School of Dance and holds the Graduate Diploma of Elite Dance Instruction from The Australian Ballet School.
During his career, he danced with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Singapore Dance Theatre and West Australian Ballet.
Robert has performed principal roles including The Nutcracker Prince, the lead dancer in The Rite of Spring, and Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet.
Career highlights include dancing in works by inspiring choreographers Jiří Kylián, George Balanchine, Glen Tetley and John Cranko.
Recognised as an outstanding member of The Australian Ballet School faculty, we know Robert brings passionate and generous commitment to his teaching.

What’s your highlight from your time at the New Zealand School of Dance?

It would undoubtedly be the family-like environment that envelops you while you’re here as a student. The commitment and dedication needed for the art form bring together people with a like-minded dedication to their goals and dreams, which is incredibly inspiring. Being in the midst of such a community was both enriching and motivating. The tutors, including Garry Trinder, Yuriy Klymenko and Christine Gunn, deserve special mention because they managed to bring out the best in me. The classes were also amazing, giving me the space to focus and work without any distractions. The repertoire was another highlight because the School offered various performance opportunities, the most remarkable being Balanchine, which was an incredible experience for me as a student. Finally, I am thankful that the School encouraged lifelong friendships among its students, which means that even after two decades, my peers and I can still come together with the same spirit and enthusiasm.

What drew you back to the New Zealand School of Dance as a tutor? Was it always part of your plan to return to the School?

After retiring from the stage in 2014, I went through a period of uncertainty where I wasn’t sure what my next step would be. I started exploring different options, including personal training, but it didn’t click with me. Tutoring students pursuing a career in dance was something that I had never done before other than teaching adult dance classes. However, I discovered that I loved it and felt inspired by the students. It felt like a way to give back to the community that I had learnt so much from during my own dance career.

As a freelancer, I spoke to Garry, who directed me towards The Australian Ballet School Teaching Training Programme, where I gained invaluable experience and knowledge from the staff and students. This experience further solidified my desire to become a full-time tutor. Even during the pandemic, I continued to work hard and remained flexible and open to opportunities that came my way.

Eventually, the opportunity to return to the New Zealand School of Dance as a tutor presented itself. It was a rare chance to return to my roots and teach alongside the tutors who had been instrumental in my own dance journey.

For me, this is not only a huge responsibility but also a chance to give back, guide and support a new generation of students, just as my own tutors had inspired me. It’s about passing on the knowledge and experiences that have touched me so deeply and inspiring the students the way I was inspired. It’s a way to give back to a community that has given me so much.

Singapore Dance Theatre (Singapore Ballet) 2009
A MILLION KISSES TO MY SKIN – Choreographed by David Dawson.
Dancers: Ginny Gan and Robert Mills. Photography Robin Chee
What is your teaching philosophy and how does it align with the values of the School?

It is focused on bringing out the best in students by inspiring and nurturing them, as well as developing a mindset of growth that will help them thrive in the art form. I believe my role as a dance tutor is to guide and encourage them to push their limits and create a supportive environment as part of the School faculty.

What advice would you give to aspiring dancers?

Follow your passion and remain positive. If you truly love dance and are willing to put in the hard work, then go for it. Allow yourself to imagine what it would be like to achieve your goals, but also be realistic and stay grounded.
Life is an adventure and there is so much to explore in the world of dance; it is a global art form that can take you to many exciting places.
Remember that success requires consistent effort, dedication and hard work.

I encourage you to never give up and always give your best effort because, at the end of the day, it is your journey and it is up to you. Don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things. Stay curious and always seek to improve your skills and knowledge. Most importantly, enjoy the process and have fun with dance. Aspire for greatness and strive towards your goals with determination and passion.


The New Zealand School of Dance is internationally recognized as producing versatile and employable dancers, skilled in classical ballet and contemporary dance. The School’s unique training develops qualities that meet the needs of the dance profession while extending the boundaries of the art form.

Applications for entry in 2024 are now open and close on Monday, 11 September




Front Cover: NZSD Classical ballet student Patrick Nawalowalo McCrory. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

The New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) has recently published its new prospectus, which is sure to become a valuable resource for aspiring dancers and students alike. The prospectus is available both in print and online, making it easily accessible to anyone considering auditioning for full-time training at the School.

The NZSD has long been recognized as one of the southern hemisphere’s leading dance training institutions, preparing students for careers in professional dance performance. The new prospectus provides a wealth of information on the School’s programmes, facilities, and everything else one needs to know before making the decision to apply.

One of the key features of the prospectus is the detailed information about the classical ballet and contemporary dance training programmes that the School offers. Along with this, the prospectus also includes practical information on how to apply for a place at the School.

For international students, the prospectus also contains information on visas and support services available at the School.

This is an essential resource for anyone considering auditioning for full-time training at the School. With a comprehensive range of information and stunning imagery, the prospectus provides an incredibly valuable insight into training life at NZSD.


Congratulations to Deputy Chair of the New Zealand School of Dance Board of Trustees, Helene Quilter

Helene has been recognised as a Dame Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit in the King’s Birthday Honours for her service to the public service and the arts.


The New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) is proud to present this year’s choreographic season, titled Axis. The season celebrates the students’ creative process and offers an insight into the development of their choreographic skills.

·        NZSD 3rd Yr contemporary dance student – Caterina Moreno. Photo by Zoe Whaley

Third-year contemporary dance students collaborate to create their own individual works, guided by tutor, Holly Newsome. Eight short pieces are combined to create a full-length work, allowing students to showcase their talents and perspectives with Newsome’s expertise and guidance.

Newsome is a graduate of the School and has a profound appreciation for the importance of this choreographic undertaking. “Axis is a celebration of dance, where students can begin to find their voices both as artists and as performers. It is the culmination of years of training, and a testament to the many people who have guided and influenced the performers along their journey.” said Newsome.

3rd Year contemporary dance student Elliot Gordon talks about his work with passion and dedication. His choreographic work, a duet, is a beautiful portrayal of love and the conversations that come with it. “The energy of the piece is centred around love and how it can relieve and comfort us during difficult times, which I wanted to capture through movement. Through this duet, I wanted to highlight the unique and special relationship that can be found between two people and how it can be life changing.”

NZSD 3rd Yr contemporary dance students – Cate Leong & Deija Vukona. Photo by Zoe Whaley

After two years of using BATS theatre, the 2023 season is returning to its home base, Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre, located in Newtown.

Choreographic Season will involve a thrilling partnership with Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School. Toi Whakaari’s costume and production team will play an integral role in the development and execution of this exciting season. Additionally, emerging Scenographic Designer, Max de Roy, will lend his creative talents to the project, contributing to its lighting, costume, and stage design. With such a talented group of artists and designers working together, audiences can expect an awe-inspiring performance that resonates long after the last note of music falls away.

With its focus on exploration and experimentation, Axis is not merely a showcase of skill, but a celebration of the creative process itself. The season promises to be a memorable event that will inspire and captivate diverse audiences.

Axis opens at Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama School on 23 June and runs until 29 June 2023. Tickets are from $12 – $25.

Visit for details.

A long-awaited welcome: Australian and International Students Return to the New Zealand School of Dance

After a two-year hiatus due to Covid-19, earlier this month, the New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) welcomed back a handful of international and Australian students.  This includes students from Western Australia, Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland as well as the USA, Hong Kong, Singapore and Thailand. With their return, the School is able to tap into a new wave of talent and creativity.

Since its founding in 1967, the NZSD has welcomed students from all over the world to take part in its renowned world-class training programme. Led by some of the most experienced and talented tutors, the School offers students the opportunity to major in either classical ballet or contemporary dance, while maintaining a strong grounding in both disciplines. Additionally, the School benefits from the diverse cultural perspectives that international students bring to their studies and the increased mobility of students and professionals across the Tasman Sea.

During the past two weeks, we were able to sit down and talk to the students about why they chose to join the NZSD. Many of them already knew that it was the right choice, as it had been highly recommended by graduates they know as well as their dance teachers. Others were drawn to the School due to its excellent reputation for providing a comprehensive and high-quality education in dance. They want to learn from the best and gain the knowledge and skills needed to excel in their dance career. They are committed to taking their abilities to the next level and are determined to make the most of their time at the School.

1st Year student Milly Maden decided to join the New Zealand School of Dance because of its reputation for promoting creativity, “The NZSD is very well-known for delivering a programme that develops and enhances one’s creativity. My dream is to come out and help shape the world of dance.”

With its unique location, the School provides students with the opportunity to experience New Zealand’s vibrant culture and dramatic landscape. Wellington is known for its creative and cultural heart, stunning scenery, and diverse population, with people from all around the world calling the city “home”.  All these factors make the New Zealand School of Dance an ideal choice for anyone looking for a comprehensive and rewarding dance education.

NZSD 1st Year students Hannah and Janelle, both from Singapore,  think of Wellington as a “breath of fresh air”, not only because of its weather but also due to the openness and kindness of the people.  One of their favourite things is to watch the sky at night, “You can see the stars!”. This will be, without doubt, an all-round experience for our new students.

Although their dance training at the NZSD has just started, many students already have a clear vision for their future. Most of them aspire to dance professionally and also become choreographers. For example, Hannah, who has a strong passion for painting, envisages creating a show based on her artwork.

With the reopening of the borders, more students will be able to experience what makes the NZSD so special – a unique combination of technical excellence and creative exploration that fosters growth.


Celebrating 25 Years of Leadership: Garry Trinder’s Journey

This year, Garry Trinder is celebrating 25 years of directing the New Zealand School of Dance. 

Garry’s impressive career began when he was 18, joining Scottish Ballet, as a dancer.  In moving into management, he served six years as Artistic Director of Hong Kong Ballet & two years as Director of Dance for the Natal Performing Arts Council (NAPAC) in South Africa.  He holds a Master’s degree from Trinity Laban Conservatoire & an Advanced Diploma in Education from Newcastle University.

Garry Trinder, Artistic Director, New Zealand School of Dance. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court. COPYRIGHT ©Stephen A’Court

Garry joined the New Zealand School of Dance on 15 January 1998, and since then, he has been a driving force in modernising the school and ensuring the highest quality of dance instruction. His direction has been instrumental in producing some of the world’s most accomplished dancers, with many NZSD alumni now appearing in top-tier dance companies all over the world.

Under his leadership, the School has extended its professional training reputation globally. Garry has forged relationships with acclaimed international ballet competitions and established exchange programmes with highly regarded conservatoires. In 2005, the School was endorsed by Youth America Grand Prix and, in 2006, became a Partner School of the prestigious Prix de Lausanne. These connections have helped further the reputation of the School as a world-class training institution. 

In recognition of his services to dance, Garry was made a Member of the New Zealand Order of Merit in 2013.

Garry has seen NZSD through significant milestones and successes, including the move from Cable Street to Te Whaea: National Dance & Drama Centre,  launching The New Zealand School Of Dance Foundation and creating both the School’s Associates and Scholars Programmes.

Furthermore, his leadership during the last two years has been critical as the School navigated some of the most difficult and challenging times throughout the pandemic. Despite the immense disruptions, Garry ensured that students were able to continue their learning in a safe, secure and effective manner. The School would like to express its heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to Garry Trinder for his tireless dedication to the ongoing success and excellence of dance training in New Zealand. His unwavering belief in his students’ abilities to excel has been an inspiration to all. His commitment to providing the best possible training and resources to his students has been an invaluable asset to the School, as well as his leadership and guidance throughout the pandemic. We thank him for his continued commitment and contribution to the School and the cultural landscape of New Zealand.


Prix de Lausanne Announcement

NZSD Ballet Student Accepted to Compete at the Prix de Lausanne 2023

Aidan Tully for the New Zealand School of Dance, April 2022. Photo credit: Stephen A’Court. COPYRIGHT ©Stephen A’Court

New Zealand School of Dance is proud to announce that Aidan Tully, a classical ballet student at the school, has been selected to take part in the 50th-anniversary edition of the Prix de Lausanne 2023. This is a tremendous achievement and a testament to Aidan’s hard work, dedication, and talent.

The Prix de Lausanne is an international ballet competition open to pre-professional dancers of all nationalities aged 15 to 18. Its goal is to discover, promote and support the finest talents around the world.

A total of 429 hopeful classical ballet students from renowned dance institutions across the globe applied to participate in the competition, with only 76 dancers selected from this process. Aidan is the only New Zealander to be included.  This is the second year in a row that the New Zealand School of Dance has presented a student for the competition.­­

The competition’s raison d’être is to showcase the potential of exceptionally talented young dancers by having them perform before a panel of world-renowned dance personalities representing different countries and a broad range of ballet styles. The competition is scheduled to be held in Switzerland from 29 January to 5th February 2023.

The New Zealand School of Dance has enjoyed a formal relationship with the Prix de Lausanne since 2006, when we became one of the Prix’s Partner Schools.

“And just the fact I came from a small town where I could practically name everyone to this… just don’t ever think ‘it can never be me’, because that’s what I thought, and here I am.”  – Aidan Tully

The School is very proud of Aidan’s success and wishes him all the best as he prepares for the Prix de Lausanne. We are confident that Aidan will put forth his best and make New Zealand proud.

– NZSD Director, Garry Trinder