Tags: Alexander Idazak, Ballet, Coppelia, Franz, Martin Vedel, Mayu Tanigaito, Royal Danish Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Swanhilda
I saw the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2014 production of Coppelia the other night and really enjoyed it.
Martin Vedel has done a fantastic job; the story has been tweaked a little bit here and there, but it is still Coppelia – with the third Act retained. It is very much a ballet in three parts: down to the lighting, music and costumes. The general choreography is more to the Danish style – which given Vedel’s time with the Royal Danish Ballet School and Royal Danish Ballet, and the Company’s origins is perfect.
The first Act is lots of fast precise footwork. The lighting and costumes succeeds in creating a festival atmosphere in a peasant village. It is all fun and frivolity – just what you might expect at a harvest festival in Hungary. Mayu Tanigaito brings a bright mischevious perky touch to the role of Swanhilda. Alayna Ng playing the role of Swanhilda’ mother brings a number of (probably) unintended visual elements – she does look like she could be Ms Mayu’s mother and she looks like she might have stepped out of a Gauguin painting :-)!
Mayu’s dancing and acting are great; she is technically very proficient, and injects personality and character into her role. She is a perfect choice for the role.
The czardas – danced by Madison Geoghegan, Lori Gilchrist, Laura Jones and Kirby Selchow – are bright and a little saucy. Their red costumes, with match red-and-gold head bands, and red boots, looked like of what you might get if you dressed the Veela (from Harry Potter) in Wonder Woman outfits.
The friends – danced by Clytie Campbell, Abigail Boyle, Bronte Kelly, and Maree White – are by turns lead, cajoled, and flattered into all sort of mischief by Swanhilda. The dancing and acting of this group in interacting with Swanhilda sets the tone for the ballet. Act I ends with Swanhilda and her friends sneaking into the house of Dr Coppelia – to introduce themselves to the ‘new girl in town’; and her on-again-off-again fiance Franz (Alexander Idazak), using a ladder to climb up to the Dr Coppelia’s balcony – to checkout the ‘new girl in town’.
The second Act is darker and takes place entirely in Dr Coppelia’s workshop. Swanhilda and her friends discover that the ‘new girl’, who is always reading studiously in the window, is in fact a giant doll. In fact the whole workshop is full of dolls. Dr Coppelia comes in and ejects the friends; Swanhilda for some reason hides and stays behind. So she is on hand to save Franz from having his life-force drained from him and placed in a doll. Swanhilda manages to drag a semi-concious Franz out of the workshop, in the process she breaks the doll.
The beginning of the second Act contained one of the best use of contemporary dance I have seen. Maclean Hooper dances as a undressed androgynous doll – named aptly “Limbless”. It is both comic and slightly sinister.
The third Act picks up where the first Act left off: the festival draws to a close with various couples getting married. Swanhilda and her friends all get married. It is an opportunity to dress in white, for pas de deux‘s, for set pieces, and for solo’s. Ima and Zoltan (Clytie Campbell and Joseph Skelton) get solos – Skelton gets some amazing elevation. Some of Petipa’s characteristic choreography peaks through. There is a sequence where Swanhild and Franz, to show their joy and love for each other, do a series of pirouettes and jump turns. Vedel has a playful sequence which has Swanhida literal jumping into Franz’s arms – she lands in his arms in a horizontal position, chest out towards the audience.
Skelton and Idazack have excellent elevation in their jumps and great control in their turns.
Mayu is light and precise: her fouettes and arabesques are rock solid, and her sissonnes seem effortless.
Go if you can get tickets.
PS: The doll’s balcony is ‘stage left’.
Tags: Action Film, Captain America, Chris Evans, Film Review, Natasha Romanoff, Robert Redford, Samuel L Jackson, Scarlett Johansson, Steve Rogers, The Black Widow, Winter Soldier
I saw this the other day and was quite surprised by its depth and political commentary.
Warning: Plot details discussed.
Steve Rogers, Captain America (Chris Evans), is back; and he is having second thoughts. SHIELD is about to deploy a surveillance and anti-terrorist system with global reach – any terrorist can be located (by their DNA!) and killed (with a precise collateral free hyper round). Steve has the old “Quis custodiet ipsos custodes” question running through is head, and he isn’t comfortable.
Of course Steve’s concerns are borne out and he has to save the world – again! An old enemy re-emerges for a second attempt at world domination. Natasha Romanoff, The Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), is there to co-save – not even Captain America can be in two places at once.
Robert Redford makes a surprise appearance; and Samuel L. Jackson provides some continuity from the first film.
The action sequences are really good, the graphics great, the plot is rich and the deeper questions are there if you want. What do you do if the ‘wrong’ people take control of your overwatch system? Not very much! Better not to set up one in the first place. Transparency, not secrecy, is the watchword.
Evans and Johansson do a really good job of being action heros (true to their characters’ comic book origins), yet portraying lots of inner personal and moral dilemmas. Johansson gets to show off her physical and acting versatility. She really owns the Black Widow role – Finn/Hiller/John were spot on when they cast her for the role.
Tags: Amand, Comedy, Freya, Improvisation, Jed, Lawrie, Live, Oliver, Playshop, Sam
I went to this regular Friday night live comedy show at the Paramount Theatre – well last Friday night.
It is an improvisation style of thing and its funny, live, unrehearsed, and has audience participation. It even has live music – Amand Gerbault-Gaylor on an electric keyboard. There is an MC - Samuel Phillips - to warm-up the audience (simon-says) and provide a bit of continuity between the various improvisations.
Each of the players took it in turn to do a short humourous monologue on a topic from the audience, then the four of them - Freya Daly Sadgy, ‘Lorry’ Leigh, Oliver Devlin and Jed Davies - and Sam pitch-in with some improvisations – all accompanied by Amand on his keyboard.
Laugh out load funny, at time riotous; worth a go.
Tags: Bill Murray, Bob Balaban, Cate Blanchett, Donald Jeffries, Film Review, George Clooney, Hugh Bonneville, Jean Claude Clermont, Jean Dujardin, John Goodman, Matt Damon, Michelangelo, The Monuments Men
The Monuments Men is an ensemble movie starring:
- George Clooney,
- Matt Damon,
- Bill Murray,
- Cate Blanchett,
- John Goodman,
- Bob Balaban,
- Hugh Bonneville,
- Jean Dujardin.
With so many stars, it is hard getting everyone enough screen time. So Clooney (Frank Stokes), Damon (James Granger) and Blanchett (Claire Simone) get slightly more time than the others.
The film has the daunting task of telling a story that spans most of Western Europe, and takes place in the last three years of World war II. At times, the film feels like a series of miniatures.
Frank is in charge of small unit charged with recovering art looted by the Nazis. They also try to stop the Nazis stealing more art, as they retreat; and at the end, try to recover stolen art before it the Russians get to it. Claire is a french woman who collaborates with the Nazis in Paris to keep track of where french is sent.
From 1943 onwards, as the tide of war turns, the Germans retreat eastwards, but they take the art works – tens of thousands of them – with them. Even when most of Germany is overrun, there is no sign of the artwork. Eventually, they are found in salt, potassium and copper mines.
The members of the unit are not young men – all the young men were already in combat units. They are not particularly good soldiers: brave, unfit, with 4 weeks of basic training. Two of them are killed, perhaps in circumstances where other younger more experienced men would not. Bonneville’s character – Donald Jeffries – dies in a shootout trying to prevent the Nazis taking a statue by Michelangelo. Dujardin’s character – Jean Claude Clermont - gets caught in the cross-fire between a German patrol and an American patrol; he is lost and blinders in. Their deaths seem so needless.
A film about WWII looted artwork cannot avoid the holocaust. Much of the art was taken from Jews. There is a terrible scene down a mine, amongst looted artwork, there is are two barrels – one full gold rings, and the other full of gold fillings.
A nice history lesson.
Tags: Aids, Dallas Buyers Club, FDA, Film Review, Jared Leto, Matthew McConaughey, Rayon, Ron Woodroof
I watched the Dallas Buyers Club and was not surprised that a few days later Matthew McConaughey won an oscar for his portrail of Ron Woodroof. McConaughey must have cut his food intake to get his body painfully thin – to look the part of an AIDS patient. As must have Jared Leto – who also won an oscar – for his potrail of Rayon, another AIDS patient.
Ron is a Texan: a blue collar worker, working in big oil, with a conservative attitude towards women and gays, hard drinking, fond of rodeo, and rodeo groupies. It is this last fondness that results in him getting HIV – the AIDS virus.
After passing out, he is diagnosed with AIDS and given 30 days to life – doctors advise him to get his affairs in order, and reach a state of self acceptance. Ron is a stubborn kind of man, what Texans call ‘onery’ – “I ain’t a homo, and I ain’t checking out” (or words to that effect).
The film takes a poke at the US Food and Drug Agency: the claim is that AIDS epidemic outstripped the systems ability to trial drugs and get them to market. The medical profession is also painted out to be complicit with ‘big pharma’.
People in trouble do what they have always done, they band together and the stubborn ones like Ron find a way to save themselves. You cannot sell drugs not licensed by the FDA; but you can buy them for yourself. Ron and others like him formed buyers clubs all over the US. Ron imports drugs and supplements when he can, and smuggles them in when he can.
The film tosses out the hairy chestnut: what do you do when the law and those charged with enforcing it are killing people. Ron taught himself a lot about immunology and with some help worked out that vitamin and protein derivatives can fortify the body. Many others came to the same conclusion. Yet, the FDA would not allow any to be imported for sale.
It is surprising that no FDA officials were shot – this is Texas after all.
The double blind trials portrayed of AZT (a failed anti-cancer drug with anti-viral properties) killed patients, not only because the dosages were too high, but because half the patents in the trial got a placebo. In the case of AIDS, a double blind trial of anti-AIDS drugs kills half of the patents; in reality, most of the double blind trials were abandoned, as it became obvious who got the placebos. At one stage Ron buys stolen AZT – what did he have to loose.
Ron lived for over 2000 days – much more than the 30 days the hospital expected. Along the way Ron, develops a respect for AIDS sufferers, some he even considers to be his friends – like Rayon. When you walk in another man’s shoes you understand him, even if you still disagree with his life choices. He also prolonged the lives or many others. Sometimes the world needs ‘orney’ people like Ron.
McConaughey does a great job.
Tags: 2014, Andrew Paterson, Anna Flaherty, BATS Theatre, Danielle Lindsay, Emma Coppersmith, Fringe Festival, James Wasmer, Modern Dance, Muted Crane Productions
Last night, I went to a Fringe Festival event The ‘I’ Test. Billed as a dance and dance-theatre. I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I liked the unrequited love and love triangle sequences.
The ‘He is so not into you’ segment was very well choreographed and danced (and acted). The man just does his thing and she literally fits herself around and on him. It was an anti pas de duexs: there was no connection emotional connection, just a physical connection; the woman is not allowed to achieve eye contact.
This set things up nicely for the ‘love triangle’. The man encounters another woman who he is interested in and who is not indifferent; but there is a second man who keeps popping up.
Good to see Anna Flaherty, Danielle Lindsay, and Emma Coppersmith – now Muted Crane Productions – again. They were joined by Andrew Paterson and James Wasmer.
The temporary Bats Theatre was nice – my first visit.
Tags: Abscam, American Hustle, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Con-artist Movie, Edith, Irving, Jennifer Lawrence, Richie, Rosalyn, Sydney
I haven’t seen a con-artist movie or TV program for a while, but I recently found time to see American Hustle. It is quite good, it has a genuine surprise end – and satisfying. I enjoyed it.
Warning: Plot elements discussed.
Irving, played by Christian Bale, and Sydney/Edith, played by Amy Adams, are a team of small time con-artists caught Richie the FBI agent, played by Bradley Cooper. Richie then forces them to help him catch other con-artistis; and before you know it Operation ABSCAM was born. The film is loosely based on this 70′s FBI operation to target public corruption.
There is a fake sheik who will invest in casinos and Irving and Richie are his intermediaries. As they meet with politicians, the FBI video tapes them.
Richie spins out of control and goes after the mafia. Irving and Sydney know that if he succeeds there will be lots of bodies – starting with theirs.
Rosalyn, Irving’s wife, played by Jennifer Lawrence, is a loose cannon amongst the play acting; any moment she will expose them all. She is also the other side of the love triangle with Irving and Sydney.
As the stakes get higher and higher more an more pressure piles up on Irving.
The film is morally ambiguous: would any of the politicians acted the way if the sheik was not offering money to invest in ‘jobs for Americans’; all they were doing is making things go faster – and they may never have actually taken a bribe for this particular set of circumstances. Richie is coercing Irving and Sydney to con the politicians and mafioso sails very close to entrapment; and his actions lack equity. Will he get his just desserts.
Bale, Adams, Lawrence, and Cooper turn in great performances. Bale is just great as a flawed man, with heart issues, trying to get out of a stressful high stakes situation. Adams shows she is not just a pretty face. Lawrence shows her amazing versatility.
The music is well thought out: a mixture of keynote 70′s music and jazz; Irving is jazz; and Richie is the flashy 70′s disco.
Tags: Ballet, Benesh Notation, Exhibition, RNZB
I went to the Turnbull Gallery in the National Library to see the Assemblé exhibition.
Last year was the Company’s 60th ‘Birthday’, and the exhibition focused on the creators of the ballets – the choreographers, the designers, and the lyricists. There was a very nicely framed colour wheel of all the materials used for the costumes for Romeo and Juliet.
The exhibition is crafted around the ballets of significance to the Company, like: Romeo and Juliet, and Swan Lake. There are posters, photos, notes, and excerpts of music from the ballets.
I found the benesh notation and choreographers notes interesting. Though, it would be nice if they had a plain-english translation to go with them.
The Exhibition finishes on Saturday 15 February, fans of the Royal New Zealand Ballet should go see and hear the items in the exhibition.
Tags: Adam Scott, Ben Stiller, Cheryl Melhoff, Danny Kaye, Film Review, Kristen Wiig, Ted Hendricks, Walter Mitty
I saw the original black-and-white version with Danny Kaye, and I was curious to see Ben Stiller’s take on this story.
The film goes through a number of phases: cringing, joyful innocence, and new found understanding.
The cringe phase is mercifully short, and I did not enjoy it. Walter, played by Ben Stiller, frequently zones out as he imagines himself out in the world ‘doing things’. This segment introduces Kristen Wiig as Cheryl Melhoff, who Walter pines after. Cheryl has a son, who Walter bonds with. There is also Adam Scott as Ted Hendricks: Walter’s mean boss. He plays a wonderful two-dimensional heartless arrogant corporate “suit”, who is responsible for all of the bullying.
Walter works for Life Magazine, and it has been taken over by some vast corporate who will make it an online only publication. There will be lots of jobs loses – though Ted keeps reassuring people that things will be alright. His job is to produce the last printed edition and at the same time shed staff – it is a tough balancing act but someone has to do it, and it helps if you don’t have an imagination.
Walter finally gets out of the print room – where they look after the negatives. After some improbable adventures he ends up in Iceland – in the middle of a massive volcanic eruption. Along the way he innocently endangers a number of people. It struck me that the icon of the ‘American abroad’ was alive and well.
Finally the film moves to the end-pahes, where Walter realises that the world is full of adventure, and that he can enjoy some of it.
The Iceland sequences are great advertisements for Iceland.
The film critercises corporate greed. At the end Walter says to Ted, words to the affect that “The people that you are getting rid of; they put a lot of themselves in the magazine and made it great.” By and large, the people working at the coal-face do their job well; the grave injustice is that someone like Ted comes along and tells them that they are very good at doing something that is no longer required – but is was an earlier Ted that told them to do what they do, and encouraged them to be the best they could at it!
Worth seeing for the Icelandic scenery and the unbelievable skating sequences – if you don’t like cringe moments come in 15 minutes late !
Tags: Ballet, is Opera, Paris Opera Ballet, Pierre Lacotte
The original title is Une vie de ballets; the film is in French, but it doesn’t matter – most of the important stuff is the ballet sequences.
The film is centred around Pierre Lacotte (dancer, choreographer and living repertoire repository for romantic ballet) and Ghislaine Thesmar (ballerina, his wife and muse). The two chat about their lives, the choreographers and dancers they have worked with. Of course, there is footage of famous dancers and ballets.
Being a French, we see a more Euro-centric recent history of ballet.
This DVD/film is a must see for balletomanes.