Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2017

April 22, 2017 at 1:48 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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Just as in 2013 and 2015, I went to the finals of the 2017 Alana Haines Australasian Awards (AHAAs) the other night at the St James Theatre – Wellington.

The AHAAs is the largest ballet competition in Australasia, and can justly claim to be the premier competition in Australasia – this year the finalists get preferential entry into the 2018 Youth America Grand Prix, in recognition that the two competitions clashed.

This year’s competition was bigger than before: there were more than 550 entrants; the competition started one day earlier than before too.

The Theatre was packed to witness the finalists (22) put themselves out there one last time. There were moments of thunderous applause – particularly for Nae Kojima and Cameron Holmes.

The night started with ‘set’ solos: Seniors followed by Juniors with their ‘set’ solos. Then the Seniors came back on with their ‘own choice’ contrasting solos. Then their there were performances by past winners – an audience favourite was Harrison Lee.

The finalists, and their solos, were:

  • Juniors (11 – 13):
    • Sonia Woods, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Jasmine Healey, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Brooke Wong, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Jenna Civin, CupidDon Quixote;
    • Macy Trethewey, CupidDon Quixote;
    • Rylie Wilkinson, Kirov Peasant Pas – Giselle;
    • Sotique Macuga, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Alfie Shacklock, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Madeleine Glassey, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Juliette Gray, Flower Festival; and
    • Honey Black, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle.
  • Seniors, 13 – 15:
    • Meg Newton, Odalisque 2nd Solo – Le Corsaire;
    • Stella Byers, Lilac Fairy – Sleeping Beauty;
    • Macy Cook, Kitri’s Wedding – Don Quixote;
    • Hyo Shimizu, Basil – Don Quixote;
    • Noah Benzie-Drayton, James Act 1 – La Sylphides;
    • Monet Galea-Hewitt, Giselle; and
    • Kayla van den Bogert, Odile – Swan Lake.
  • Senors, 16 – 21:
    • Abbey Lavery, Lilac Fairy – Sleeping Beauty;
    • Nae Kojima, Gamzatti – La Bayadere;
    • Saul Newport, Siegfried – Swan Lake; and
    • Cameron Holmes, Corsaire Variation 2 – La Corsaire.

It was nice to see Monet Galea-Hewitt back from 2015.

This year’s adjudicators were:

  • Lisa Pavane, Director of the Australian Ballet School, former Principal Ballerina of the English National Ballet;
  • Stephane Leonard, Director Aspirant Program of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, former Soloist Royal Winnipeg Ballet;
  • Leslie Hughes, Tutor at the Hamburg Ballet School, former soloist Hamburg Ballet Germany; and
  • Terence Etheridge, Choreographer Duchy Ballet Cornwall UK, former artistic Director Hong Kong Ballet, former soloist Festival Ballet (English National Ballet).

With 550 entrants, the panel must have put in a heroic effort. They were still on their feet and handing out scholarships and awards on the final night. Lisa Pavane, the head of panel, gave a wonderfully appropriate address to the contestants and audience: she praised all of the contestants for their hard work and dedication; emphasised the need for good technique (in the upper back and head); called for a round of applause for the parents; and thanked Katie Haines and the volunteers. She was also open about ballet not being for everyone – as its technical demands and work load were more suited to those born with the necessary per-requistes.

Congratulations to the winners:

  • Alfie Shacklock
  • Macy Cook
  • Nae Kojima

Nae Kojima received a huge round of applause for her Gamzatti solo; her technique and elevation were breathtaking. Cameron Holmes, the runner up to Kojima, received two huge rounds of applause for his Corsiare solo and his contrasting solo; he was strong and athletic, yet technically well controlled.

Macy Cook’s first place was well received; she is the first Wellington based winner in the competition’s 29 year history.

All of the competitors are to be congratulated for their hard work and willingness to put themselves out there. [Apologies for any transcription errors – Junior and Senior results are available the at the AHAA website]

This biannual competition is held in memory of Alana Haines – a promising young dancer who died in a car accident on Christmas Eve in 1989. The competition has become the launching pad for some wonderful talent.

I enjoyed the evening and for me the highlight was seeing Cameron Holmes do a jump 360 about an axis that was set at 45 degrees; and a series of 720’s where the last 45 degrees slowed was slower than the first 690 – giving an impression of great control.

As always, I hope fortune will favour all the contestants in the years to come, and I will be able to say “I saw them at the AHAAs”.

The BeatGirls’ 21st – All Grown Up

April 17, 2017 at 3:49 am | Posted in Concert Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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To commemorate their 21st year milestone, the Group put on a celebratory season at Circa Theatre. There have been 29 Beat Girls during history of the Group; this show featured Beat Girls #1, #4, #26, and #29.

The show was a walk down through the 21 years: intermixed with congratulatory video messages from past Beat Girls, projected photos of past performances; the Group performed numbers from their wide repertoire.

The BeatGirls – Andrea Sanders (#1), Carrie McLaughlin (#4), Kali Kopae (#26) – took the stage and launched into a Tom Jones number. After two more numbers, Sanders welcomed the audience and began a show long history of the Group. Apparently the Group began covering Beatles songs in Wellington pubs. To show off a little bit, the Group then sang the Beatles’ Daytripper in a bossa  nova style.

Dresses from past performances were suspended above stage, a strong reminder of the colourful nature of the Group. After a costume change Kopae utterly owned Amy Winehouse’s Valerie. This is the real power of the Group: their vocal versatility combined with great choreography and on stage energy guarantee a great show.

Just before the interval, the Group re-introduced the character of Doreen (Christina Cusiel). She gave a wonderful characterisation of a sex goddess covering  Aretha Franklin’s  Think. in the process, she gave a reluctant member of the audience bit of close attention.

After the interval, the Group came on in their 70’s psychedelic pants suits. Their was touching tribute to David Bowie – Modern love. McLauglin hammed it up a bit, by acting stiff and occasionally stuck in a pose!

The final costume change saw the Group in their characteristic beehive wigs and 60’s one-piece short dresses.

The show fittingly ended with Sanders (#1) singing a duet – No More Tears – with Ella Monnery (#29).

It was a fantastic night, with great music, great choreography, with the added bonus of a short history of the Group. Throughout the show, each of the Group took turns to explain a little of the history of the BeatGirls.

I’m glad I went.

 

 

 

Carmen (RNZB 2017)

March 27, 2017 at 9:44 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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The other night, I went to see the Royal new Zealand Ballet production of Roland Petit‘s Carmen, preceded by Petit’s L’Arlesienne, at the St James Theatre in Wellington. Petit’s Carmen is recognised as a significant neoclassical ballet. But I found L’Arlesienne a much gentler introduction to neoclassical ballet.

L’Arlesienne tells the story of a young man in a village set to marry a woman, yet obsessed with another, invisible, women. Frederi (danced by Massimo Margaria) clearly does not love Vivette (Katie Hurst-Saxon); who loves him and is confused by his distracted behaviour. Their pas de deuxs are choregraphed to emphasis their lack of connection; Viviette tries and tries, but Frederie is almost always facing away and cold.

The choreography for the rest of the villagers is geometric, yet without the grandeur of a romantic ballet. The villagers are starkly dressed and that is their general lot. Against a simple impressionist rendering of golden fields, the young villagers pair off and go about their lives.

Petit re-purposes the circular path so often used in romantic ballets to show joy, happiness, and love, into some darker, angst, yearning, and despair. The part of Frederi is a taxing role. In the final sequences, he is on stage constantly, working himself into every more frantic circles till he finally does a swan dive out a window – killing himself. Margaria does well, he is able to mute his power to stay within the role. Hurst-Saxon is by turns portrays confounded and confused.

After the interval the Company changed gears and put on Petit’s Carmen. This was nothing like the Company’s previous production of Carmen. Petit’s version  is shorter, condensed, and gritter. Don Jose is no sooner convinced that he is love with Carmen, than he has killed her; the story is pared down to the basics, as is the set.

Natalya Kusch, is a fiery independent  Carmen; her pose and attitude completely enslaves Don Jose – danced by Joseph Skelton. Paul Mathews, as the Toreador, has the difficult task of dancing a parody of Don Jose identifying moves – which he does, assisted by a suit of light that looks more like a clown suit!

The final scene when Don Jose overcome by jealousy stabs and kills Carmen shows the genius of Jean-Michel Desire – the lighting designer. A dimmed stage with minimalist props is used as backdrop for spot lights set at the edge of the stage. As Kusch and Skelton dance their pas de deux of death, their shadows fly around the stage – magnifying the emotions and interplay of the dancers. Carmen is defiant; Don Jose is possessive, frantic, desperate, and ultimately stupid.

Carmen is a disturbing story.

George Bizet’s music used in both pieces – provides the perfect emotional backdrop.

Worth seeing. Especially, since Francesco Ventriglia, the choreographer, danced in productions of Carmen, staged by Petit; and worked as a choreographer with Petit.

Star Trek in the Park (Aro)

January 17, 2017 at 8:13 am | Posted in Show Review | Leave a comment
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It is the beginning of a new year, so it is time for Summer Star Trek.

This year they put on Journey to Babel – notable for introducing Spock’s father (Sarek)  and mother (Amanda Grayson).

This is the best production yet. The adaptation for the open format was very good, and the acting did not take itself too seriously, so it was fun! Spock and Kirk were borderline  parodies of themselves – just brilliant. The introduction of the actors shaking created a real sensation of movement.

As usual the pre-show was talented and enjoyable. The singing of ‘Star Trekking’ was done particularly well on the night I went.

If you are a Star Trek fan, this it is definitely worth a go.

Le Ride

January 17, 2017 at 7:48 am | Posted in Film Review, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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I went to see this film of  Philip Keoghan‘s documentary of his recreation of the 1928 Tour de France. The film tells two stories: the remarkable Australasian team who rode in 1928; and Keoghan’s ride of the ‘same’ route in 2013.

Keoghan is inspired by the 1928 ride of New Zealander Harry Watson and three Australians (Hubert Opperman, Percy Osborn, and Ernest Bainbridge) who competed in that year’s Tour de France. This was in a time when teams normally numbered 10 riders; the Australasians would have to work three times as hard on comparatively primitive bikes – they weighed twice model road bikes and the derailleur gears were still two years away.

Keoghan was so inspired that he decides to ride on the original route, to the same timetable – that is 28 days. Keoghan and his friend, Ben Cornell, procure original 1928 bicycles via the Internet, recondition them, spend at least a year scouting their eventual route, training, getting sponsorship, assembling a team of friends and family, and then doing the ride.

Keoghan and Cornell faced a number of significant challenges: the pair are significantly older than cycling professionals, they can’t train at the intensity and manner that professionals can, because they have day jobs; their bikes for all intents and purposes do not have gears; and there are only two of them, so they cannot rest at the back of a team.

The duo must cycle an average of 150 miles a day, if they are to complete the ‘course’ in the target time; some days they will cycle 200 miles; some days they will cycle for 23 hours. The 1928 route was a circumnavigation of the France’s borders, but starting and stopping in Paris.This includes a stage through the Pyrenees mountains and another through the French Alps! The duo did not take rest days!! they can’t ride the original route, because much of it has been turned into motorways; and despite scouting, getting lost seemed a constant threat. The duo are able to utilise the original start and finish lines. Along the way, local riders ride occasionally ride with them and guide them.

The 1928 era bikes weighed twice as much as the modern bikes that our dynamic duo are use to. The greatest physical challenge is that while the bikes have gears, to change gear requires the rider to stop, get off, detach and re-attach the chain on a different cog!

It is an amazing feat: two middle aged men of above fitness ride 3,400 miles in 28 days. Over some of the most physically challenging terrain for cycling.

It is a great feel good movie: a lighthearted documentary about the duo’s adventure; and a fitting celebration of the original team of four Australasians.

Swan Lake

January 10, 2017 at 2:52 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I went to see the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s touring production of Swan Lake, at the St James Theatre, in Wellington, last night. I took the opportunity to watch a traditional Russian staging of this iconic ballet.

The performance suffered a little bit from two things: no orchestra; and a small stage. Being a touring company, the St Peterburg Ballet tend to perform to recorded music – as was the case last night. By international standards, the St James has a small stage. While the Company must be very use to adjusting its choreography for a variety of stages, the smaller stage meant that some of the choreography looked a bit cramped; some of the larger swan formations were slightly compromised.

The lack of an orchestra meant that the ballet proceeded at a set rate. The was no conductor to adjust the pace to fit in with the audience’s clapping or the dancers’s energy.

The undoubted star of the show is Irina Kolesnikova; she is lyrical as Odette and fierce as Odile. The ballet comes to life in Act III, when she dances Odile – Rothbart’s daughter – at the ball. Dimitri Akulmin is Siegfried – the feckless prince. Akulmin’ Siefried is an adequate foil for Odile and suitor for Odette. But the duo only connected in the scene when Kolesinkova does her amazing 30+ fouettes.

Generally, the production was tidy, if a little clinical. The swan formations were most impressive: large, precise, and unified (in time and moving as one). The dance of the signets was the most staccato that I have ever seen – somehow each step was separate from the next – yet faster than I have seen before too; of course, the four dancers (Valeriya Andropova, Arisa Hashimoto, Olga Naumova, Anastasia Chaya) were wonderfully synchronised.

Two other dancers stood out: Seiyu Ogasawara and Saadi Imankulov; Ogasawara as the Jester, was an energetic, with all sorts of leaps and bounds; and Imankulov as the male member of the pas de trois in Act I, had height in his jumps, and control in his vertical 720s.

Being the Russian version, not only is there a jester – who replaces the Siegfried’s companion in western versions – but there is a happy ending! How happy? go see the ballet.

 

 

 

 

 

Rogue One

January 2, 2017 at 1:10 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Rogue One, or as I like to think of it: Star Wars III.IX (3.9), the other night.

Warning: plot elements discussed.

The overwhelming question in my mind was: “How many will survive?” Pre-release trailers show a small group of rebels stealing the plans to the Death Star – the plans ‘stolen at great cost’ delivered in Episode IV to the Rebel Alliance. The mission is a suicide mission -a forlorn hope.

Rogue One is a difficult film to make: it must fit within the canon of the existing seven films, and not constrain (nor contradict) the two remaining films. It cannot be a re-boot: so the clothes and technology must be exactly the same as Episode IV, V, and VI. This means that the the storm trooper’s armour is useless as ever: it offers no protection against blaster fire, offers no protection against blunt force, and offers no protection against fragments. Also, the storm trooper’s marksmanship is deplorable as ever.

Since Rogue One leads directly into Episode IV, some characters from IV need to appear in this movie – some of the original cast are still alive, and some are there is spirit through CGI. One day, not too far away, CGI will be so good, that once an actor has created a sufficiently large body of work – provided enough samples for the computer – the actor can appear in films forever.

It is not quite ‘The Seven Samurai’, ‘The Guns of the Magnificent Seven’, nor ‘Ice Pirates’, but it is close. A bunch of misfits lead by Jyn Erso (played ably by Felicity Jones), another misfit, leads a bigger band of misfits against the might of the empire – albeit composed mainly of inept storm troopers. The tie-fighter pilots are pretty good though. Despite loosely following a classic plot line, Rogue One makes a refreshing change from the cyclic repetition of episode III, IV, and V; and I, II and III.

So Rogue One  is the back story of how the plans for the Death Star were stolen; the back story of why Jyn Erso is the best operative to steal the plans is the real story of Rogue One. We see the forces unleashed at the end of Episode III continue to fracture the republic. The Death Star is intended to re-unite the republic and bring peace to the galaxy. The rebels disagree!

We see Jyn rescued from an imperial prison colony; a band forms around her; and then a one-way mission to a library archive! It is an information manager’s heaven – the rebellion can only be saved by ‘getting out the right book out’.

The are the obligatory gun fights and space battles; but there are many of the same elements as Episode IV: a switch, trapped in a passage with no other way out, fighter bomber runs on a heavily defended target, trust in the force, a talkative droid, Darth Vader walking through blaster fire (the Force works for him too). It is a prologue for Episode IV.

Felicity Jones is no longer the ‘chalet girl’, but she still wears a helmet, and she still has that determined look – just before the last run down the hill and about to enter the heart of the imperial archive.

As to how many of the little band make it out the other side: go see the film.

Suicide Squad v Ghostbusters(2016)

August 15, 2016 at 9:32 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I m comparing these two movies – a comic cast made real and a remake of a classic because I realised the only thing I want to talk about is  Dr Harleen Quinzel  and Dr. Erin Gilbert.

Dr Harleen Quinzel is better known as Harley Quinn – the Joker’s crazier girlfriend. Dr Quinzel appears for less than a minute, but she is the Joker’s psychiatrist, who after some serious mis-treatment, casts aside her lab coat, dons skimpy tight bright clothes, develops a fondness for blunt instruments, and joins ‘the darkside’. Margo Robbie’s portrayal of Harley Quinn absolutely steals the film (Suicide Squad); in an ensemble movie that is quite a job. But Harley Quinn is the most interesting character; and Robbie, assisted by a rumoured rigorous pre-filming workout regime, and fishnet tights and skimpy sequin shorts, is a nerd fantasy come to life. Harley Quinn is crazy and zany and sexy and … and … and; the audience is hangs onto her every move and word –  wondering what she will do next. The romance between Harley Quinn and the Joker provides the bedrock of the film – Sid-and-Nancy meet Bonnie-and-Clyde.

There is something deeply disturbing when the glammed up abused white girl with violent tendencies character makes such an impact.

Dr Gilbert is Dr. Raymond Stantz from the original Ghostbusters re-written as a women. Kristen Wiig plays a dedicated women physicist struggling in a man’s world to make tenure. Erin, to her friends, eventually breaks out, when passed over, casting aside her tweeds for overalls, develops a reluctant fondness for proton packs, forms the Ghostbusters with her friend Abby Yates, and wrangles ghosts. Kristen Wiig has to compete for mind-share and screen time with Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon, Leslie Jones, and Chris Hemsworth; its tough going. McKinnon’s character – Jillian Holtzmann –  is the more interesting gadget genius on steroids – looking like Scarlett Johansson meets Tank Girl.

Erin is much closer to the reality for many professional women. It is good to see her have some fun, and turn the tables a little on the men. She is much more PC.

Go see both films: if you don’t like chicks with attitude, Suicide Squad, has lots of bullets, violence and a killer sound track; unless you can’t stand the idea that a woman can do as good a job as a man, the Ghostbusters re-make provides a modern perspective on an old story, plus many of the original cast make cameo appearances. [I thought that they overdid this, and it made it hard for the older members of the audience to let go.]

 

Giselle (RNZB 2016)

August 15, 2016 at 8:25 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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The Royal New Zealand Ballet has re-staged it’s Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel choreographed 2012 production of Giselle.

There have been some tweaks – there is now a clever front projection to create the extensive roots of a tree that appear to move.

Lucy Green dances the part of Giselle. Her solo during the wedding was technically strong – all the pointe work was precise and steady; yet she conveyed the image of a young girl in love. She continued this mix of technique and artistry in the second Act – to save an unworthy Albrecht. 

Qi Huan, as Albrecht, reprising his role from 2012. Once again his leaps and jumps were breath taking high; his turns fast and precise. The struggle to dance all night was well conveyed. He got a well deserved big round of applause after an astonishing number of back to back entrechats.

Clytie Campbell was as Myrtha – the Queen of the Willis.

Ben Chown gave a good characterisation of the gamekeeper; he was the ‘country’ to the Prince’s polished. This was to foreshadow the final outcome when they were caught out in the woods after dark in the second Act.

A must see.

 

Captain America: Civil War

May 23, 2016 at 7:56 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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The third film in the Marvel Film-verse. This film picks up from the second film – The Winter Soldier.

This film is definitely worth seeing: its well put together; it does overdo the action (restraint in an action movie; and it raises a basket-load of ethical and moral questions.

The cast consists of most the those from the second film with some additions: Paul Rudd (Ant-Man), Chadwick Boseman (Black Panther), Tom Holland (Spider-Man), and Marisa Tomei (Aunt May). Of course Chris Evans (in the title role), Robert Downey Jr (Iron Man), and Scarlett Johansson (Black Widow) return; as does Sebastian Stan (Winter Soldier), who’s character Bucky cause the big split-up.

Spider-Man  gets the shortest reboot on record – 10 minutes in his bedroom. Marisa Tomei was a surprise choice for Aunt May. Good luck to her and newcomer Holland in their upcoming Spider-Man movie.

I am not going to talk about the film, because the plot is available on IMDB. For a large ensemble film, it managed to hold it together – staying to a story that threw moral dilemmas everywhere. The film was over two hours long, but things moved quickly.

So the dilemmas:

  • Must one act within a recognised legal framework?
    • After all, such a framework grants a mandate for actions, and a form of oversight.
    • In a self-referential way, a legal Framework grants legitimacy.
    • All actions and collateral damage within the Framework is sanctioned.
  • Can a legal framework ever work against the interests of the wronged? Therefore, staying out of  Frameworks preserves the freedom to act for those wronged (or in peril).
  • Should one stand by one’s friends? in all situations? And by extension, are there times when the unity is preferred over all other considerations?

Steve Rogers (Captain America), Paul Stark (Iron-Man), and Natasha Romanoff (Black Widow) all fall on different sides of these dilemmas; and so there is tension, and ultimately fisticuffs! Honourable friends become honourable unfriends. How are they going to put things back together?

Worth a go at the cinema for the big screen and surround sound.

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