General manager of RNZB Amanda Skoog "is sad, but not surprised" that star act Ethan Stiefel will return to the United States when his initial tenure as artistic director ends in August.
"We would have loved another three years but even if we had known he would leave after one term, we would still have given him the job. We are very grateful for what he has given us," she says.
The high-profile Stiefel and his fiancee Gillian Murphy, principal guest artist and an inspirational role model here, have "upped the ante" for the dancers and raised the company's profile internationally, largely through their successful American tour in January and the newly filmed Giselle.
"Ethan comes from a highly competitive world, where you are only as good as your last class, your last performance," Skoog says. "His attitude is that the dancers are so lucky to be doing what they do that if he asks for harder and higher, they should grab that opportunity."
A panel of five now faces an arduous and rapid selection process for a new AD.
"We have had lots of fantastic people applying immediately," she says. "But our biggest challenge is geography. People have families, children, lives in Europe and America. But we also offer a great opportunity here for repertoire planning, some choreography, the opportunity to present full-length works as well as mixed bills, an international tour - and we are a national organisation.
"Whoever succeeds will have demonstrated an understanding of the strength of the RNZBC as a company with a distinct artistic point of difference. Smaller, younger - and edgier," she says.