November 21, 2015 at 10:18 pm | Posted in Fashion Show, Show Review | Leave a comment
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This fashion show was organised to showcase the work of Massey University’ Design School’s 3rd year fashion students. The show was held in the first floor foyer of the St James Theatre, and organised by the students themselves.

And organised brilliantly: the foyer was transformed into a fashion venue – central was a raised runway, with subtle decorations and strong lighting; the sound system was top notch; the back panel at the stage end of the runway was an ever changing display of information and mode lighting; the red seating was striking, with appropriate mode lighting; there was a cash bar and complementary nibbles; and every seat came with a goodie-bag.

I felt the goodie-bag and its contents really announced that this show was to be taken seriously. The show sponsors had really gotten behind the show and the main sponsors got deserved round of applause. Centrepoint Fabrics, Zibibbo, Hotcopy, and 3 Wise Men were the big sponsors; Centrepoint Fabrics’ name was on the bag, they were one of the ‘platinum’ sponsors.

This show compared very favorably against the end-of-degree show  run by Massey in their great hall venue on campus.

The garments were shown in five sections:

  • Ethereal ;
  • Fun; (and it was one of the models did a cartwheel!)
  • High Fashion;
  • Sustainable; and
  • Ready to Wear.

Holly Dobson, the show director, definitely deserved the big bouquet she was presented at the end of the show. She and her team of fellow student volunteers did a fantastic job.

Hopefully this will become a regular event, because the fashion students do interesting work that should be seen. Without this, the students only show at their end-of-degree (or end-of-diploma) shows.

[Students – well done all – who showed have been tagged to this article.]


November 21, 2015 at 9:04 pm | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the latest James Bond film the other day.Spectre completes the reboot of the 007 universe: the multi-national crime syndicate, that gives its name to the film, is re-introduced; its leader Blofeld is re-introduced; Bond’s beloved Astin Marton DB5 is re-surrected; and other parts of Bond’s early life filled in.

Warning: plot elements discussed.

The film seems littered with homages to previous Bond films: Bond in a white tuxedo; “shaken not stirred”; destroying yet another car; a massive brute of an adversary; driving off with ‘the girl’ in the DB5 into the sunset; it goes on. There have been so many Bond films that it must be very hard to be ‘new’. My one disappointment was that there was no Rolex watch.

This being the information age, there is a new threat: big brother – big data. The Internet-of-Things has a dark side.

Bond is ably played by Daniel Craig; Blofeld is played by Christoph Waltz; and Madeleine Swann, Bond’s love interest, is played by Léa Seydoux. Only time, and the next film, will tell if these two plot lines progress.

The re-boot has tackled some big issues: water and big data; maybe global warming is next. This being the 21st century, it would be nice to see Moneypenny, played by Naomie Harris, and Swann characters do more.

The Ground that We Won

November 7, 2015 at 5:28 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I finally got to see Christopher Pryor and Miriam Smiths’ documentary film about the Reporoa Rugby Club’s mens team’s 2013 season.

The team have had a terrible 2012 season – they lost every game – and got relegated. Against a backdrop of a drought, the team sets out to: win every game and win the grade. Reporoa is dairy country, and the lack of rain hangs over the little community; the collective of relief at one of the early 2013 practice sessions is palpable.

The film is in black-and-white; early on in the film I expected the colour to slip in. But no. The black-and-white gives the film a timeless effect; but for a few details (like the quad bikes, but not the team bus) this could have been the 2003, the 1993, or even the 1963 team! The Reporoa valley on the early morning looks fabulous.

The film closely follows three members of the team: the youngest member (‘peanut’), the captain (‘Kevin’), and a member of the bench (‘Broomie’). Broomie is the oldest; possibly not by much, but he is the real find of the film. Broomie is single-handedly raising twin sons (seven years old), and running a dairy farm by himself, and finds time to go to practice, to play the odd game, and coach some of the ‘littlies’. Kevin is taking over the family farm from his parents; they are still live there, and step in when he has an injury. Peanut (if they said his real name, then I missed it) is just a young guy starting out.

We see the team at work (dairying) and at play (rugby games, rugby practice, and ‘sessions’), and some of their private lives. Peanut and Kevin are seen hooking the cows up at the herringbone shed; Broomie’s got a rotary shed. Kevin is seen helping deliver calves – he attaches a bungy cord to the exposed hoof and uses his body weight to give the calf a bit of help to come out. Broomie is often seen calling his twins on his mobile phone, while leaning on a cow, in the pre-dawn morning, checking that they are ready for school.

The film is not about rugby; it is about the role rugby plays in a small dairy community – at least for the men. It gives the lads (of all ages some structure); there is a lot of energy, and baggage of life to deal with when you are a dairy farmer – beholden to the banks, depending on fickle markets, at the mercy of the weather. Rugby provides a way for the men in the community to come together, to work off frustrations, let off steam, and pass on values. Peanuts, 17, gets a lot of stick, but it is never malicious. Honestly, some of the male bonding and coming together immediately before a game would have been recognised by the Spartans.

Peanut is learning to box, for a charity event, and like many teenagers is a bit uncoordinated, and uncontrolled. His boxing coach (also a rugby player) lays it out for him: no showing off or acting out in public; “not cool”. His coach tells him don’t get angry, don’t loose control; of course peanut does, and flays away at his coach. His coach just lets him get too extended and ‘pops’ him ; “get up … keep going”.

Broomie cuddles the twins, but certainly doesn’t molly coddle them. They have chores (make their own lunch, get dressed, tidy their room, etc) to do if they want to go to rugby practice and not sit in the car. Broomie’s lays it out: there have to be rules or its chaos. At one littlies’ practice, one of the twins, trips another player and gets sinbinned by their dad-and-coach to the car. Tears of frustration, of missing the rest of practice, and of letting dad down.

There is the bus ride to and from the game – typical of sports bus trips. The core of the team end up at the back ‘holding court’. The bus gets quite wet at times; but next morning Kevin and a helper are washing it down.

The swearing was a surprise – heaps of it in the changing room. The drink sessions after practice was not; nor were the special sessions to mark some milestone.

You don’t have to be a New Zealander, nor have played rugby to see this film. But it is a uniquely New Zealand story, that needed to be captured, before the corporatisation of farming changes the make-up of small town rural New Zealand. If you have played rugby then some of the practices and games will be a bit more interesting. [Actually, the film could not be of the 1963 team because there is lifting in the line-outs.] But the film does not try to show too much of the games – just enough to show that the players and their communities care about the result.

A great documentary film that shows a side of the New Zealand male psyche that is not seen in an increasingly urban New Zealand.

See it if you can – warning contains swearing, drinking, and carrying-on!

NZSD: Insight Studio Performances – 25 September 2015

September 25, 2015 at 9:33 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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I went to this last night, and as always something for everyone; and though not as well attended as other studio performances I have been to. Which is disappointing, as it is another of Wellington’s hidden dance gems.

As usual, there was a mix of classical and contemporary works. Most were pre-release glimpses into what will be danced at the Graduation Season in November. Some students also got to trial their piece for an up coming competition they are going to in Auckland.

The performance kicked off with the dancers in the Scholars Programme (a preparatory programme for dancers who wish to get into dance schools after secondary school).

Then it was:

  • As it Fades (excerpts) – contemporary
  • Paquita (excerpts) – classical
  • Conditions of Entry (excerpts) – contemporary
  • Agon (excerpts) – classical
  • Solos: Yuri Marques da Silva; Billy Keohavong; Emma-Rose Barrowclough; Jeremie Wen-Jian Gan; and Laura Crawford
  • Without Regard – contemporary
  • Concerto 1st (excerpts) – classical

I liked Paquita and Billy Keohavong’s contemporary solo.

Paquito was very tidy and Felipe Domingos Natel’s lifts were strong, controlled, and very impressive.

Billy Keohavong’s solo, Bait, danced to Tick of the Clock by Chromatics,  got a great round of applause. Unlike some contemporary work which I find very physical (to the point of being percussive),  Bait was by parts lyrical, loose, techno (good synergy with the music), and menacing.  The latter came across through with some martial arts undertones – kept well in check to avoid a  kataWhat is also very promising is that it was Billy’s own choreography.

I also recognised Felipe Domingos Natel, Yuri Marques da Silva and Jeremie Wen-Jian Gan from the Alana Haines’ earlier this year.

Whitireia Polytechnic: Year 1 Commercial Dance Variety Showcase

September 19, 2015 at 7:20 am | Posted in Dance Review, Event Review | Leave a comment
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As I have said in the past Whitireia’s commercial dance faculty put on a great show. There is very little commercial dance performed in Wellington, and while Whitireia produces around 15 dancers each year, most end up dancing overseas. So the only opportunity to see ‘commercial dance’ in Wellington, on a regular basis, is to go to Whitireia’s end-of-year dance showcases.

This year the choreography seemed to have a little extra from some other years.

Numbers that stuck in my mind: Amadeus Mozart Requiem; “Get the Funk Up” Batman (there can’t be a single piece batman outfit left in Wellington!); Tequila (the audience was smiling and probably remembering personal encounters with drink :-)); Rock ‘n’ Medley; and Waiting for the Train.

The dancers all demonstrated an amazing versatility. Millie Moon, the dance captain, stood out. The dance captain seems to be a new innovation in the Whitireia dance programme – at least this is the first year that it has been publicised.

The dancers’ joy and energy made for a great performance. You should have gone.

There was a new feature this year: the Year 1 Circus students did a per-show, and a skit at the beginning of Act Two.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (RNZB, 2015)

September 5, 2015 at 12:45 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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I saw Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of this the other night at the Aotea Centre – ASB Theatre in Auckland.

This was a brand new production for the Company – choreographed by Liam Scarlett, stage design by Tracy Grant Lord, lighting by Kendall Smith, and music by Nigel Gaynor (after Mendelssohn).

Titania was danced by Lucy Green; Oberon by Shane Urton; Puck by Shaun James Kelly; Botton by Paul Matthews. Green and Urton were nicely paired, and their final pas de deux, when they are reconciled, very touching, very lyrical, with some innovative lifts. Matthews was comical; and played the part to perfection. In some ways, Matthews and Kelly had the more difficult roles, demanding more acting than in most other ballets. Matthews was assisted by a donkey head. Kelly was by parts athletic and mischievous.

I much preferred Act II over the first Act. I found Act I a bit slow, this was understandable, given that it had to set up quite a complex set of mis-understandings and mis-pairings.Puck tries hard, but it is hard to get good help! I would have like to see more of the fairies. Partly because their customs were so good; and mainly because Titania-and-Oberon are Queen-and-King of the fairies, so we should see more of the fairies.

The venue itself was a grand example of a modern theatre – the minimalist lines of wooden interior is very grand.

Back Beat

June 6, 2015 at 12:15 am | Posted in DVD Review, Film Review | Leave a comment
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I watched the DVD (2007) of this [1994] film the other night and it really added to my understanding of the origins of the Beatles.

The film revolves around John Lennon, Stuart Sutcliffe, and Astrid Kirchherr. Sutcliffe is Lennon’s best friend; Sutcliffe was also a member of the band that would go onto become known as the Beatles. In all, there have been six musicians who at one time were in the band – Sutcliffe left and Pete Best also ‘left’. Ringo was the ‘latecomer’.

Much of the film takes place in Hamburg; this is where the film really lets one know how formative Hamburg and Astrid for the Beatles.

Hamburg in the early 60’s, compared to Liverpool, was a cosmopolitan centre of new ideas – fashion, artistic, social, etc. Astrid a photographer was woed by Stuart; and inevitably they became lovers. It was she, who gave the Band their haircuts, and influenced their choice of clothing. After their second stint in Hamburg, the Band was recogisable as the Fab Four, and the jeans/blue-shirts/leather-jackets were gone.

At the time, Stuart was John’s best friend, and Astrid came between them. John is portrayed as ‘an angry young man’ – though preferred to think of himself as ‘desperate’. He did not like Astrid taking Sutcliffie, a very talented painter, away from music, the band and him, into the arts world.

The three leads are played by Ian Hart, Stephen Dorff, and Sheryl Lee. Gary Bakewell chips in as Paul McCartney.

Things I never knew: the Beatles started out as a cover band; their first recording work was as a backing band for Tony Sheridan; the 5th Beatle was actually Sutcliffe; and Ring was the 6th.

Worth watching for the history and the times.

Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2015

April 6, 2015 at 12:57 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | 1 Comment
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I went to the finals of the Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2015 (AHAAs) last night at the Opera House – Wellington.

The AHAAs is the largest ballet competition in Australasia, and can justly claim to be the premier competition in Australasia – more on this later.

All three levels of the Opera House was packed to witness the 22 finalists, in the three sections, ‘battle it out’ for the top placings. The knowledgeable audience – some of the top ballet teachers in Australasia, and their pupils – witnessed some exciting dancing. There were moments of thunderous applause – particularly for Harrison Lee and Wan Jin Jing. Both gave spectacular performances of Siegfried.

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.

The finalists, and their solos,  were:

  • Juniors (11 – 13):
    • Milei Lee, Peasant Pas
    • Stella Nyers, Peasant Pas
    • Mio Bayly, Kirov Peasant Pas
    • Jadyn Bagayas, Cupid
    • Tynesha Hancock, Flower Festival
    • Monet Galea-Hewitt, Peasant Pas
    • Matthew Maxwell, Flower Festival
    • Sophie Smith, Peasant Pas
    • Kieren Bofinger, Peasant Pas Boys
    • Heidi Freeman, Kirov Peasant Pas
    • Alexandra Walton, Kirov Peasant Pas
  • Seniors, 13 – 15:
    • Madison Ayton, Esmeralda, We (too) shall rest
    • Talia Fidra, Odile, Seta
    • Makensie Henson, Aurora, Here and Now
    • Bianca Scudamore, Lilac Fairy, Dream
    • Emily Bray, Aurora, To warn the world
    • Harrison Lee, Siegfried, Poem of Atoms
  • Senors, 16 – 21:
    • Isabella Howard, Aurora, Broken Dancer
    • Vida Polakov, Giselle, Imagine
    • Felipe Domingos Natel, Siegfried, Sorrow Atoms/em>
    • Wan Jia Jing, Siegfried, I Am What I Am
    • Tirion Law Lok Huen, Giselle, La Neige

A number of finalists have previously entered the AHAAs – for example: Harrison Lee, Bianca Scudamore, and Tirion Law Lok Huem were here in 2013.

The adjudicators were:

  • Lisa Pavane, Director of the Australian Ballet School and former principal with the English National Ballet
  • Richard Bowman, Ballet Master at the Jackie Kennedy Onassis School New York (NY), examiner for the ABT National Training Curriculum NY, and former principal with the Leipzig Ballet
  • Christian Tatchev, Director of training at the Queensland Ballet and former dancer with PACT Ballet Company in South Africa
  • Zenia Tatchevia, Tutor at the Queensland Ballet and former dancer with PACT Ballet Company in South Africa

This year there were over 400 entrants, and the adjudicators must have put in a marathon effort.

Congratulations to the winners:

  • Sophie Smith
  • Harrison Lee
  • Vida Polakov

All of the competitors are to be congratulated for their hard work and willingness to put themselves out there.[Apologies for any transcription errors – results available the at 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. This is the 25 year of the competition and it has become the launching pad for some wonderful talent.

The AHAAs can rightly lay claim to being the premier Australasian ballet competition. Harrison lee who won the Junior section in 2013, was a winner at Prix de Lausanne Switzerland earlier this year. Vida Polakov won a gold meal at last year’s Genne, held in Belgium. Last year, Hannah O’Neill, 1st runner up in 2007, won the Varna International Ballet Competition in Bulgaria – past winners include Mikhail Baryshnikov and Sylvie Guillem.

I enjoyed the evening and for me the highlights were Talia Fidra’s Seta, Harrison Lee’s, Siegfried and Poem of Atoms, Wan Jia Jing’s Siegfried and Tirion Law Lok Huen’s Giselle.

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

Jingles the Musical

March 16, 2015 at 6:53 am | Posted in Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Dean Hewison’s Jingles the other night – at Bats Theatre.

Warning: Plot elements discussed

Hewison has cleverly worked some well known TV jingles to tell a story of farm girl to weather girl.

Wella, ably played by comedian, Hayley Sproull, leaves her home on her adopted father’s farm, in the back blocks, for the bright lights of Auckland. In true puss-in-boots style, she has a new pair of shoes, a parting gift from dad, and she is off to make her fortune (and to find her biological mother).

Jack Buchanan and Carrie Green, play all of the other characters: Wella’s mum, Wella’s adotive father, Wella’s adoptive sister, a dog, Coke, Wella’s brother, … .

All three of the cast: sing, joke, dance, and act their way through Wella’s adventure in the ‘big city’. From being greeted by the ‘dog’ on entering the theatre, to the free goodies tossed out during the ‘encore’, it was laugh out loud stuff.

The chocolates and cheese at the end was an apt way to finish off a show that was studded with jiggles from ‘golden age’ of New Zealand TV (when we made our own programmes and ads).

Definitely worth a go; and yes, the Wella hair ad gets an airing; as do lots of McDonalds’ ads.

Jupiter Ascending

March 2, 2015 at 6:47 am | Posted in Film Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see Jupiter Ascending the other day, and its worth a go. If you want to enjoy the great special effects see it at a suitably equiped theatre.

Warning: plot elements discussed.

This is a deconstruction of the Cinderella story: fairy godmother, step sisters, glass slipper, prince charming – they are all there, just a little mixed up.

Jupiter Jones, played by Mila Kunis, is Cinderalla. Jones does a lot of domestic cleaning. There are two brothers and a sister who are the Step Sisters. Caine Wise, played by Channing Tatum, is the Fairy Godmother and Prince Charming! Caine is a former genetically augmented soldier who gets Jones started on the road ‘to the ball’ and saves her life a number of times along the way (and afterwards). In another twist to the Cinderella story, Jones is also the glass slipper.

It is a space opera, full of boardroom intrigue, spaceships, explosions, and romance.

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