Hello and goodbye at the Australian Ballet and Royal NZ Ballet

It’s that time of the year when companies announce the dancers who are joining and those who are leaving.

After a few years with limited changes at the Australian Ballet, the company has offered contracts to five graduates of the Australian Ballet School – Drew Hedditch, Corey Herbert, Emma McFarlane, Marcus Morelli and Simon Plant.

I don’t know if five dancers are leaving, but the principal, Olivia Bell, recently retired, the coryphée, Halaina Hills, is leaving to move to Hamburg with her partner, while the corps de ballet dancer, Jake Mangakahia is to quit the company due to his commitment to the Mormon religion, one that other members of his family have also embraced.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet has also announced that five new dancers are joining the company and two are leaving.

The newcomers are Bryn Watkins (formerly with American Ballet Theatre), Lori Gilchrist (from Northern Ballet) Jiang Peng Fei (a graduate of the New Zealand School of Dance), and Alexander Idaszak (from the Queensland Ballet).

While she is snot mentioned in the RNZB media release, another joiner is reported to be Kirby Selchow, one of 20 graduates of the Australian Ballet School.

Also joining RNZB is Oscar Hoelscher who will be the 2014 Todd Scholar. The scholarship is awarded annually by the Todd Corporation to an outstanding graduate of the New Zealand School of Dance.

Matthew Slattery and Helio Lima are leaving the company to join the Boston Ballet while earlier this year. Lucy Balfour left to join Rambert Dance Company and Medhi Angot joined Ballet Nice.

Australian Ballet School graduate, Phebe Sleeman, has been offered a contract from the West Australian Ballet.


  1. Adrian Ryan
    Posted December 14, 2013 at 10:00 pm | Permalink

    I was fortunate in being able to see Emma McFarlane and Marcus Morelli dance the leading roles of Gerda and Kai in the ABS’s performance of Petal Miller-Ashmole’s extremely enjoyable “The Snow Queen” this past weekend. And I look forward very much to seeing their respective progression through the ranks at the AB. He is highly proficient with a good jump and light ballon, technically precise and clean, and a good dramatic sense, enabling us to really feel his terror as the Snow Queen’s shards freeze his body and emotions. She too is very precise and clean and her pirouettes come off 100% without any coming off the vertical. They both gave highly finished performances in a very well rehearsed production which looked good in the smaller confines of the Playhouse, rather than the physically demanding [at this stage in their careers] State Theatre stage.

    I am sorry to hear of the departure of Jake Mangakahia. He has lit up the stage for me with his sunny disposition in many performances.

  2. valerie
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Adrian, thanks for your insights on the performances of Emma and Marcus. I’m looking forward to seeing them next year.

  3. james
    Posted December 15, 2013 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    What about the other Australian companies? Is it true Qld ballet has taken on Steven Heathcote’s daughter?

  4. valerie
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 7:01 am | Permalink

    I think she has been offered more than one contract but the other companies have not made any announcements yet about next year.

  5. valerie
    Posted December 18, 2013 at 8:17 pm | Permalink

    The Queensland Ballet has now announced that four new dancers will join the company in 2014: Tara Schaufuss, Jack Lister, Mia Heathcote and Zhi Fang.

    Tara Schaufuss joins from The Royal Danish Theatre; Jack Lister from Queensland Ballet’s Pre-Professional Program; and Mia Heathcote and Zhi Fang are graduates from The Australian Ballet School.

    Mia’s father is the much loved former principal with the Australian Ballet, Steven Heathcote.

  6. Anita Mangakahia
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 6:17 am | Permalink

    Hi there, just a comment on Jake Mangakahia,
    Yes he is leaving the ballet for a time, but (quit) is very much the wrong word to use, His life has been ballet since 5 years old, he is an incredibly devoted member of the company, and has every desire to return, with strength, determination, new perspective and drive. He is going to serve others, and forget self, with the belief that it will open his eyes to the true needs and feelings of others, in order to best use his God given talent, to contribute once again to the ballet in Australia.
    I know one thing about Jake, he never( Quits)on anything.
    His story is amazing and it would strengthen youth to know it, coming up in the arts in Australia.
    Many thanks

  7. valerie
    Posted December 16, 2013 at 7:59 am | Permalink

    Hi Anita – I’m glad that Jake is going to return to the company. He will be missed by audiences during his time away.

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Jake Mangakahia, Australian Ballet, photo © James Braund

Jake Mangakahia, Australian Ballet, photo © James Braund

Nathan Brook and Kirby Selchow in Jabula, Australian Ballet School, photo © Sergey Konstantinov

Nathan Brook and Kirby Selchow in Jabula, Australian Ballet School, photo © Sergey Konstantinov