RNZB: Three by Ekman

June 5, 2017 at 5:08 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s latest production- at the Saint James Theatre – of three of Alexander Ekman’s contemporary ballet pieces Tuplet, Episode 31, and Cacti. These are not narrative ballets:there is no story; but the nice thing was that are any given moment one might have been in the middle of a story!

Tuplet began before the official start time – of 7:30pm. When I went to take my seat, there were already two dancers on stage ‘doing there thing’. As more of the audience filed in, more dancers came on, and by the time the house lights came down, the dance was underway.

Episode 31 and Cacti were both introduced by a lengthy video featuring Ekman and the Company. This was a clever way to introduce a narrative into a non-narrative dance. The dance still doesn’t tell a story, but by telling the back story, the audience is much more connected with the dances.

Ekman created structure by having many of his dancers dance only on a square. they danced on their square, moved it around, and hid behind it.  The squares even stacked them up.

Episode 31 was my favourite. It had the most structure: clever use of  wide cream strips broke up the stage into zones that were almost street.

Cacti featured the New Zealand String Quartet on stage – playing and moving around the dancers. In effect, there were two dances – the musicians moving in one choreography (abeit simple) overlaid on top of the complex choregraphy of the dancers. At one time or another all of the dancers have a pot plant in their hands – hence the name. There was a third pattern – made by the various squares and blocks that the dancers danced on and stacked.

Worth going to. Oh, because the show just eased it being, the traditional ‘no photography; no recording’ announcement did not take place – and I saw people around me taking advantage of this 🙂

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Scope – NZSD Choreographic Season 2016

May 22, 2016 at 5:03 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I went to Scope last night at The New Zealand School of Dance to see original works choreographed by the third year contemporary majors.

In a new direction from previous years, all of the works were staged ‘in the round’, and were danced, essentially, in one costume. The traditional presidium arch was cast off and there were 4 banks of seating – one in the corner of a not quite square rectangle. The dancers came and went from the four sides. It felt intimate and yet spacious (when the lights were up).

The first and second works had the dancers wearing a white base layer; then at the beginning of the third piece – Obelus – the whole cast lined up and their clothes were dropped to them from the catwalks amongst the lights. The first thud of a neatly folded package of clothes caught the audience by surprise. Somehow each dancer knew which package – a light grey sleeveless shirt and grey light pantaloons – was theirs and they left the line to retrieve and put on their garments.

So Scope:

  • Tropics – by Tristan Carter
  • []3 – a square to the power of 3 – by Christopher Mills
  • Obelus – by Jag Popham
  • The Private Sphere – by Isaac Di Natale
  • Atlas of Intangible – by Breanna Timms
  • Come Along and Feel the Kairos – by Samuel Hall
  • Blight – by Tiana Lung
  • Shaving a Cactus – by Holly Newsome
  • XXX <cr> XXX – by Jessica Newman
  • Temenos – by Isabel Estrella

Even though there were 10 works, the whole show had a coherence to it. There was also some innovative use of boxes and ribbons. There is also an element of the observer as part of the art work: if you sit in any of the 4 front-rows be prepared to be ‘invited up, to part of the dance !

Worth seeing.

Legally Blonde: the musical

May 15, 2016 at 12:36 am | Posted in Dance Review, Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to Wellington Footlights‘ production of Legally Blonde:the musical last night, at Whitireia Theatre (in Wellington). Footlights put on an entertaining musical version of the Reese Witherspoon movie. Directed by Ben Emerson, apparently, this is the first time this musical has been staged in New Zealand.

This is a morality play about hard work, not judging-a-book-by-its-cover, being true to yourself, etc. In the end the bad people get their come-uppance and true love will out.

Standouts for me:

  • Kirsty Moir is fantastic as Wood COMMA Elle – Elle Wood –a UCLA blonde sorority queen turned Harvard law student.
  • Karen Anslow plays Paulette Buonofuonte, a  hairdresser fated to marry an Irishman, and Elle’s  fairy godmother.
  • Uncredited person playing the UPS “I have a package” Courier, who Paulette ends up marryingHis sense of timing and delivery stole every scene he had a part in.
  • Stacey O’Brien as Brooke Wyndham, charged with the murder of her husband, and Elle’s client. If she really were to putout a workout DVD it would be worth buying!
  • The Greek chorus Brigid Boyle, Ellie Stewart, and Kree MacMillan.

I don’t know how Michael Stebbings found time to be the musical director and perform in Jukebox Heros: The Legends of Rock’N’Roll. Briar Franks has done a good job with the choreography.

A good two hours, plus, of entertainment.

 

 

Promise & Promiscuity

May 9, 2016 at 9:09 am | Posted in Play Review, Show Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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A hilarious one-women play set in the Jane Austen Regency Period. I attended a sold out performance at the Circa Theatre the other night. The amazing Penny Ashton, played a multitude of characters, doing a number of voices and personalities, singing now and then (also as different characters), danced, and played the ukulele!

Ms Ashton has turned her novella (available on Amazon) into a one-women one-act play; or she may have turned her play into a novella.

The plot was very familiar to the audience: a pair of sister; living in reduced circumstances – as a result of their father’s poor decisions; they live in a little cottage; there is a wealthy neighbour; the neighbour has a wealthy stand-offish friend; and of course there is a ball.

Go see it if you can. Oh if you are a male, don’t sit in the front row, unless you can dance – Ms Ashton selects someone to dance at the ball!

Jukebox Heros: The Legends of Rock’N’Roll

May 8, 2016 at 1:05 am | Posted in Concert Review, Show Review, Uncategorized | 1 Comment
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This musical gem was from Backyard Theatre and staged at the Gryphon Theatre on Ghuznee Street. I don’t like crowds, so I am unlikely to ever go to a real rock concert, but for 2 hours I got to experience the next best thing: five amazingly talented singers – Alex Rabina, Flora Lloyd, Harriet Dawson, Ingrid Crispin, and Michael Stebbings – taking me on a musical journey from Bill Haley to the present.

Alex Rabina’s Mick Jagger, early on, really got the audience (a full house) really warmed up. Harriet Dawson’s Joan Jett had the audience singing and clapping with her. All through the show people were clapping and shifting in their chairs, by the last third of the show, the younger audience members were up on their feet.

There was a minimum of dialogue – partly because most of it was original words said by the original artists during interviews, and partly, it was all about the songs.

The band – Bruno Shirley, Steve “Shack” Morrison, Bernie Stander, Paul Gadd, Michael Stebbings, and Harriet Dawson – were also pretty amazing, with some excellent guitar solos. Bruno Shirley’s Bruce Springsteen was awesome. Bruno was also the music director.

I really enjoyed it, and hope they re-stage it next year. Kira Josephson did a great job, writing/directing/choreographing, bringing the singers and band together . Kira admits that the songs used are a combination of her picks and the singer’s vocal ranges. So next time, some other songs might make it onto the stage; though if the same amazing singers are in the production, that would be fine too.

Whitireia Polytechnic: Behind Closed Doors

December 3, 2015 at 8:10 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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November and it was Whitireia Polytechnic’s Commercial Dance graduates end-of-year show.

This show goes from strength to strength and this year’s was fantastic. The class of 2015 are a hugely talented and precise group: watching the pieces, I could not see anyone lagging behind or standing out for the wrong reasons. Anne Gare and the other lecturers have done a fantastic job. The show had a very contemporary / lyrical feel to it, even the hi-hop piece – Let’s Get Ruckus – was softer than the hard crumping of other years.

The pieces that stay in my mind are:

  • Welcome to the Asylum
  • Ding Dong – Mormons
  • The Argument
  • The Office
  • Cinderella’s Ballroom
  • 13 Disturbia Lane
  • The Ritz
  • The Club

Welcome to the Asylum and 13 Disturbia Lane were contemporary works that dealt with the subject of mental illness. These were powerful, yet entertaining works, that required the dancers to dance and act.

Ding Dong – Mormons comes from the musical of the same name. It was funny and gave door-to-door missionaries a gentle send-up. It was funny and a little challenging.

The Argument was another contemporary work that revolved around two friends having an argument. It was raw and compelling.

The Office was fun. There is little opportunity to see tap dancing in Wellington, and this little number showed that tap is not just dance, but also something that can be central to a story: Sophia Ristossa’s shoes provided the sounds for the typewriter of her harassed personal assistant character.

Cinderella’s Ballroom showed that most if not all of the graduating class come from classic ballet backgrounds. This was a fun piece – formal ball and crass wicked sisters – with good mixture of pointe work, classical technique, and character work. Michael Sinnung was outstanding as the Prince.

The Ritz  was all energy and theatrical dance at its best.

The show felt more coherent this year, and the standard of student choreography seemed higher; and as I have already mentioned the execution was clean and tidy; with the energy and joy that is commercial dance.

The show ended with The Club – an extended burlesque piece. Clean technique, good characterisation, introduced by Cher’s “Welcome to Burlesque”; another great show.

The evening ended with Leigh Evans – the show director – and Anne Gare – the head of faculty – go  well deserved gifts from their dancers.

I hope the student, in crutches, who joined the curtain call, gets better and that her injury does not prevent her from graduating.

[Dancers listed in the foyer tagged to this article.]

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