Just before heading to the airport for my flight to Los Angeles, it was my great pleasure to join the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) in hosting a reception in Auckland to celebrate the company’s upcoming U.S. tour. We gathered some good friends from Auckland’s business and culture communities at the Kelliher Trust in Parnell, served a few cocktails, made short remarks, and held a Q&A session about the Ballet and the tour.

Ethan Stiefel and Gillian Murphy. Click through for source.

Ballet superstars (and fiancé / fiancée) Ethan Stiefel and Gillian Murphy.

The main attraction of the evening was an interview of Ethan Stiefel and Gillian Murphy, two Americans who are in the first rank of global superstars of ballet.

As you may recall from a prior post, Ethan currently lives in New Zealand and serves as the Artistic Director of the RNZB. He was principal dancer at the great American Ballet Theater, New York City Ballet, and Zurich ballet, and has performed and taught across Europe, North America, Australasia, and Japan.

Gillian is principal dancer at the American Ballet Theater and a guest artist throughout Europe and North America. She now splits her time between the RNZB and the American Ballet Theater, and is principal guest artist for the RNZB’s current season of Swan Lake.

Ethan and Gillian have won countless awards in the United States and overseas, including the highly prestigious Statue Award of the Princess Grace Foundation, presented by the Crown Prince of Monaco – Ethan in 1999 and Gillian a decade later. Accomplished in media as well as dance, they each have several television and movie credits and starred together in the movie Center Stage, its sequel, and the television show Gossip Girl, in which they appeared as themselves.

As well as being brilliant artists, Ethan and Gillian are warm, wonderful people and great honorary ambassadors for the United States in New Zealand. Duane and I consider them to be part of our family, so it was with great pleasure that I stopped in Auckland to introduce them to a group of Kiwi friends. It was a fun, intimate evening. Ethan, Gillian, and other dancers mingled with the guests, and at one point I mounted a spirited defense of the great city of Minneapolis when someone lapsed into ill-informed, gratuitous snark during the Q&A.

Gillian Murphy and Qi Huan dance Giselle, which the RNZB will perform in the U.S. this winter [Credit: Evan Li]

Gillian Murphy takes flight in Giselle, which the RNZB will perform in the United States this winter.

The centerpiece of the evening’s discussion was the upcoming American tour. Any tour is an exciting prospect, but this first-ever tour of the U.S. by the RNZB is particularly important.

America has a large, engaged, sophisticated, and appreciative audience for ballet, as well as a history of explosive innovation in the art form. By my count, there are 68 professional ballet companies in the United States with annual budgets of more than US$ 1 million each.

There is simply no better platform than a U.S. tour for the RNZB to raise its visibility, elevate its stature even further, and win legions of new friends and admirers.

The tour is scheduled to launch in January 2014, and it will mark Ethan’s first trip home to America since assuming his current position in New Zealand. There is already buzz building in the U.S., particularly in the cities in which the RNZB will perform — Los Angeles (at the famed Music Center), Santa Barbara (at the historic Granada Theater), Minneapolis (at the University of Minnesota’s landmark Northrop), and New York (at the elegant Joyce Theater).

The program will include Giselle and a mixed bill of pieces choreographed by Ethan, Black Swan’s Benjamin Millepied, and Andrew Simmons, a New Zealander. Although quite demanding on the company, the tour will be an exuberant celebration of shared passion and a marvelous procession of cultural exchange that will enrich both societies. It will also provide the dancers with an extraordinary opportunity to explore and enjoy the great diversity, natural beauty, personal warmth, and pervasive dynamism of the United States.

Please check the websites of the theaters mentioned above for the RNZB’s performance dates. If you happen — or can arrange – to be in the right city at the right time, do consider attending. Dr. McWaine and I will be at the performances in Santa Barbara and Los Angeles, so please don’t hesitate to come over to say hello during intermission. In the meantime, if Ethan or one of the other nice folks from the RNZB knocks on your door during the next few months with a wide smile and outstretched hand, please consider the important enterprise that you could be supporting.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s current season of Swan Lake 2013 [credit: Evan Li]

Swan Lake, on the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s current home tour.

Of course, if you don’t want to wait for the American tour, you can enjoy the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Swan Lake, which is being performed on tour in eight cities across New Zealand this month to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the company. Gillian is electric, and the production is superb. You won’t want to miss it.

As I shuffle off the internet for today, I’ll repeat what I said in my remarks at the reception in Auckland. It is always a bit risky to quote a German existentialist philosopher on a light occasion, but Friedrich Nietzsche was absolutely correct when he opined, “We should consider every day lost on which we have not danced at least once.” I would offer the friendly amendment that we should also consider a day lost if we’ve missed an opportunity to enjoy the dancing of others.