What makes you proud?
It was pride that changed angels into devils. I am so proud of what we [the Royal NZ Ballet] have achieved in the past couple of years, the choreographers we have had in our house, the work we have showed to our audiences, the giant leap we have made with our Strength and Grace programme. I have such pride when my dancers go on stage and they open the minds and the hearts of the audience. I am proud to have my ballet masters excited to come to work to help the dancers be better.
There has been a lot of change at RNZB since you became artistic director, which must have been difficult.
Change is never easy. I come in every day and push the company towards what I believe it can achieve. When either small or large things happen, I am very proud of that. It means a lot to me for each and every dancer to be successful on stage and for each audience member to leave a performance with joy in their hearts, that they have gone through emotions, that they have been taken away from their own troubles for the two hours that they have spent in the darkened theatre and that they want to come back again.
Is it hard to get people into theatres to see the ballet?
Time management is people's biggest obstacle in life. If you dedicate two hours to something, you want to make sure that you will enjoy it. Sometimes people have an idea of what a ballet is. A lot of people won't try something unless it's been recommended to them. So most people won't go on a vacation to a place they have never been to. I guess I am unusually adventurous because when I took the job with the RNZB, I packed up my bags in two weeks.
What is it about envy that speaks to you?
I envy other organisations for having greater support from [the Ministry for Culture and Heritage]. I envy ballet companies that have a mentor programme and can support young dancers to join their company. I envy other companies for the resources that they have. I envy schools and companies that attract our New Zealand dancers offshore. I do not achieve peace because of this envy. I want more for our dancers. It means a lot to me that they have beautiful facilities where they can hone their art form, that they have the support of a community to do so - of a nation and of a ministry. Every single day there is something else for me to do, there is something else for me to fight for, and there is something else for me to get others to believe in, in the Royal New Zealand Ballet as a company, as a pathway for their careers, for other artists to join us and to create the best performances we can. Hopefully we will be envied one day.
What got you excited about coming to lead the RNZB?
When I was a younger dancer embarking on my career [in the United States] we heard about the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Somewhere along the line it fell off the radar for dancers in America, and that's a shame. It's a national company, it's a royal company and it should have its place in our industry and in the history of dance and it should be celebrated. I came here to see if this organisation really wanted to go where I could see it going and I'm honoured to be here.
What are you greedy for?
I have always been a person who sees their glass as half full rather than half empty but I would really love to have it filled to the brim. I would love to gorge on corporate sponsorship, on funding for our outreach programmes. I would like our dancers to be able to support themselves with living wages. They're artists in our community and I would like them to be fulfilled that way - it's hard to be hungry every day.
How long do you think it might take to fill your cup to the brim?
I want it tomorrow. I believe we can achieve it but how long it takes depends on other people - our ministry, our sponsors, our audiences.
Do you feel we don't appreciate our national ballet company enough?
Our audiences say they would like to see us in as many cities as possible. We have expanded Tutus on Tour, we have expanded our programme, and it is expensive. We are not always sold out. Is that us? Is that you? Are you asking for something you don't want? -Eleanor Black
Patricia Barker is the artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, which takes its latest work, Bold New Moves, to Wellington, Auckland, Palmerston North, Christchurch, Dunedin and Napier from August 16-September 15.