Trimmer reflects on legendary career

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Sir Jon Trimmer, of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, with Invercargill's La Muse dancers (back, from left) Molly Cole (9), Ava Skeggs (9), Lachie McGregor (8), Sophie Meijer (8), (front) Pyper Brown (8), Haylee Springford (6) and Nicola Schol (8) at the Rowena Jackson Retirement Village on Saturday. Photo: Petrina Wright

SIR Jon Trimmer, the mainstay of the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) for nearly 60 years, is considering retirement at the end of this year – well, maybe.

“I thought I would retire at about 36. I am now thinking I might possibly retire at the end of this year, but it would depend on what the RNZB programme is for next year,” he said.

Sir Jon Trimmer as Carabose in The Sleeping Beauty (1979). Photo: Courtesy of the Royal New Zealand Ballet

The 78-year-old still performed character roles in RNZB productions, playing Friar Laurence in the company’s production of Romeo and Julietthis year.

“I play old men, old women and witches. I love playing witches. They are the best to play.”

If there was a good character role in the RNZB’s programme next year, it would be difficult to turn it down, he said.

Although he was still performing, he had given up doing the splits two years ago, he said.

“I thought it was probably not a pretty sight anymore.”

Trimmer started his illustrious dance career at the age of 12 at his sister’s ballet school.

When he grew tall enough he partnered his sister performing flamenco in Wellington nightclubs, he said.

He trained at the New Zealand Ballet School, the Royal Ballet School and at the Sadler’s Wells in London, joining the RNZB in 1958. He has also danced with the Australian Ballet and Royal Danish Ballet companies, performing alongside many of the world’s leading dancers including Dame Margot Fonteyn, Rudolf Nureyev and Erik Bruhn.

Friar Laurence (Sir Jon Trimmer) with Romeo (Joseph Skelton) and Juliet (Madeleine Graham) in the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s current production. Photo: Stephen A’Court

Among his career highlights were playing the lead in Petrouchka and Albrecht in the Danish ballet’s Giselle, he said.

When asked if Nureyev had been one of his role models, Trimmer said no.

“[Nureyev] was a bit of a crabby person, but I suppose he could afford to be.”

Bruhn, who danced with the Royal Danish Ballet company, was one of his role models because he was “absolutely fabulous and enough older than me to be a role model”, he said.

Photo credit: Stephen A’Court.

The low point in his almost six-decade career was when, in the early 1970s, the arts council announced its intention to close the ballet and opera companies for a period of time to save money, he said.

Trimmer and his wife Jacqui broke their contracts to dance with the national ballet company in Washington DC, where they would have danced with Dame Margot Fonteyn, to fight the

Jon Trimmer rehearsing in 1967. Photo: Supplied

arts council’s decision and keep the New Zealand ballet company going, he said.

“If it had closed down, it may not have started up again.”

The company reformed with eight dancers, growing to a troupe of about 30 dancers a year later, he said.

“I am very proud of our ballet company and it has an excellent reputation when we travel overseas. It is known for being very versatile.

“We are very proud to be the company’s grandma and grandpa.”

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