Ballet's enduring performer a Champion
A love of performing keeps Sir Jon Trimmer, KNZM, MBE, on stage and in front of loyal audiences.
The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s oldest dancer most recently took on the role of the Duke in Giselle.
The 77-year old has also become a SuperSeniors Champion, one of a handful of prominent New Zealanders who are outstanding advocates of positive ageing.
Sir Jon has performed many roles across the decades.
To celebrate his 50th anniversary with the RNZB in 2008, he took to the stage as ‘The Don’ in Don Quixote and in 2009, reprised his role as Hook in Peter Pan, much to the delight of critics and audiences.
He danced with Sadler’s Wells, the Royal Australian Ballet, the Royal Danish Ballet and performed with Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev, among the greats, before coming back to New Zealand.
Sir Jon also starred in the television series Fireraiser and toured with Meeting Karpovsky, the play.
His acting skills are brought to the fore in his current role.
“I’m there as a performer, playing the Duke in the first act. Now the Duke, by rights, should be a more mature person, so that’s me.
“It’s a walk-on role, it’s an acting role, in fact, and I do quite a lot of these now – old men, old ladies and witches.”
Adviser and mentor
Sir Jon no longer “throws” himself around.
“I don’t jump up and down or lift ladies above my head.
"That would look very silly, someone of my age, and well, who knows, I could tear the old muscle.
“I don’t go out of my way to dance in a grand manner any more, mainly acting roles or mime if you like.
“When the dancing started to fade, the big dancing I call it, jumping high and pirouetting, I went more and more into the mime work which is wonderful.”
Sir Jon also acts as a mentor for the ballet’s younger dancers.
“If I can give them help, I do. And if that’s what they want, they do ask.
“[They] often ask how to project personality from the stage to the audience- that’s a big thing.
"I suppose it’s the acting side I get asked about from our dancers.
“If sometimes there are the odd steps or movement that doesn’t quite go right, and they want to fix that up or try to fix it up, I also try to give them help on that.”
There are no plans to retire.
“It is a wonderful thing to be able to still perform.
"I’m very, very lucky.
As a society, we need people from all ages – that’s what makes a society, doesn’t it?”
Sir Jon in his role as Petrouchka
The dancer, actor and performer cannot imagine walking away from the stage.
“Just the fact of being onstage with an audience in front of you – feeling their response, not hearing their response because you can feel an audience out there.
“It has been my life.
"Even when I was in my early teens I was performing at concerts and parties, doing flamenco dancing, at cabarets in the early 50s.
“What keeps me going is the fact it is performing, it’s not actually a fantasy life.
"It’s another part of my being, an extension of my personality, playing the roles that I’m playing.”
For Sir Jon, slowing down is not really an option.
“I suppose at the back of my mind, there could be a little something saying ‘If you retire, you’ll just slow right down and you won’t even be going out down to the village or out into your garden.
'You might just slow down too much and I would not like that.’
"Keep going, why not!”
Sir Jon as Cinderella's stepmother
Staying connected important
He believes staying involved with what you love, as you age, is important.
“Keep doing what you enjoy, what you love, and also keep working, especially if the work is what you enjoy.”
If there’s time in between productions, Sir Jon likes to paint and throw pots, and would love to get back into cabaret.
“I’d like to do some more cabaret work because I found that wonderful being in a small space, an intimate space with the audience right there.
“You know exactly what they’re feeling and thinking – that is quite an amazing thing.”
Sir Jon says older people have to make an effort to stay connected.
“A lot of older people feel lonely and don’t actually help themselves, I don’t think.
"It must be difficult though feeling lonely and you’ve got to bring yourself up.
“I’m going to be rude and say stop feeling sorry for yourself.
“Stop feeling sorry for yourself, don’t look in at yourself all the time, look out.
"Look out at the world – it’s so beautiful.
"Paddle at the beach, enjoy what you’re seeing – the ocean, the wind.