Royal New Zealand Ballet artistic director Patricia Barker, 57, has welcomed a shining star to Godzone from the US to work alongside the extraordinary Kiwi dancers.
Washington-born Barker is three years into her tenure in NZ, but she didn't forget about a young male dancer, Levi Teachout, whom she discovered straight out of dance school when she was artistic director at the Grand Rapids Ballet.
"Levi is a rare breed of dancer – multi-faceted, with strength in both classical and contemporary movement," she tells Spy.
"This rare ability makes him a choreographer's dream dancer, as he can explore with them what is possible and what can be achieved."
Teachout came to New Zealand in September as a guest dancer with the company for Hansel and Gretel and after surviving lockdown here, he is with the company to stay.
"The people of New Zealand have welcomed me with open arms every step of the way, through injury and more recently lockdown," he says.
Teachout started dancing when he was 9 years old. He continued to study dance at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School in Seattle all through high school, after which he was hired by Barker. Their paths separated and now, a few years later, mentor and pupil are reunited.
Teachout is not your ordinary ballet type - he has tattoos.
"As a dancer, I believe in freedom of expression above all else," he says. "I don't like to talk about stereotypes in the dance world, because it takes away from what dance is really about."
Teachout's recommendation to a ballet audience is to throw all preconceived ideas of what a dancer or company should look like, and focus instead on what the dancers are saying to you and the performance they are giving, allowing, he says, the magic of dance to come into play.
He was impressed that our country showed where its priorities lay when the company was allowed to get back into the studios to start rehearsing for the next tour in August and September, Venus Rising.
"They could have easily made us wait until all restriction levels were lifted. Because of this, I believe New Zealand deserves nothing less than world-class dance and theatre, and that's what I'm here to do."
Teachout is excited that during the Venus Rising tour he will perform alongside some of the most amazing dancers from around the country and the world.