NZSD 50th Anniversary Graduation Season

November 26, 2017 at 3:07 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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Last night I went to The New Zealand School of Dance 50th Anniversary Graduation Season at the St James Theatre.  The School decided to mark its 50th year with a special graduation season – held at the St James rather than its more modest little theatre.

The Programme began with the [Junior] Scholars doing a simple piece choreographed by Sue Nicholls (alumni); Beginners, Please  had four Scholars and two full-time students dancing a very static short piece at the barre. The Programme finished with a piece by the Royal New Zealand Ballet – In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. The ‘normal’ graduation programme was thus bookend-ed by the students of tomorrow and the students of the past.

My high lights:

  • Tempo di Valse: this was a symphonic piece choreographed to Tchaikovsky‘s Nutcracker, Op.71. by Nadine Tyson (alumni). The 19 dancers were a mixture of second and third year dancers. It was classical and very seasonal.
  • Wedding Pas de Deux from Don Quixote: this was dance by Mayu Tanigaito and Joseph Skelton from the RNZB and staged by Patricia Barker (RNZB Artistic Director). Ms Tangigato’s  kitri was checky and playful; and her technique excellent – her 30 something fouttes got a massive round of applause, and her stability off-and-on pointe was rock solid. Joseph Skelton’s amplitude, endurance, strength, and technique also earned him some well deserved applause. I have never before seen a one handed lift – he pulled out two!! The two dancers also had some chemistry – a good thing for their wedding dance.

Works I found interesting;

  • Forgotten Things: This contemporary piece, choreographed in 2015 by Sarah Foster-Sproull (alumni), at times used the 23 dancers, dressed in black, in close packed formations, using their exposed hands and lower legs, to create animistic shapes and extensions to some of the soloists. It strikes me that the use of multiple dancers to create ‘creatures’ may be a direction worth exploring.
  • S.U.B. (Salubrious Unified Brotherhood): danced by 3rd year students Connor Masseurs and Toa Paranihi. This was choreographed by Victoria Colombus (alumni), and explored what is dance – there were times when both men just stood still, and moved individual muscle groups.
  • The Bach: choreographed by Michael Parmeter (alumni), originally in 2002, to capture and express the emotions felt after 3 years of dance study. 16 2nd and 3rd year students did a contemporary take on JS Bach’s Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen.

Works of renown:

  • Concerto Pas de Deux: a Sir Kenneth MacMillan piece.
  • Allegro Brillante: a Balanchine piece debuting in New Zealand for the first time at the Graduation Season.
  • In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated: a piece originally commissioned by Rudolf Nureyev for the young dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet, and choreographed by William Forsythe, in 1987. This piece was staged by Thierry Guiderdoni and dance by nine members of the RNZB. as it said in the Programme, it is as modern today, as when it first premiered.

So something for everyone who was fortunate to get a ticket to one of the three shows – unlike the regular 2 week graduation season.

The School had arranged a weekend of celebratory activities, and a number of alumni and RNZB alumni  were in evidence at the Saturday night show.

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Eyes of Egypt

November 20, 2017 at 7:46 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to Whitireia Polytechnics’ Commercial Dance Diploma graduation show the other night. I was fun and very professional.

This year’s theme was Egyptian – the show was arranged in four segments: a market place, a desert, a pyramid, and a banquet.

The choreography was very sharp and entertaining; the dancing was very precise, yet enthusiastic and fun. There was a nice mix of hip hop, lyrical, jazz, ballet, and show girl. This year the lighting and back projection seemed particularly sharp and bright.

My favourite section was the banquet – the harem girls teased the eunuch, the court sequences were touching, and there were multiple fan dances!

Another year, another fantastic show; get tickets while you can. Also it will be your last chance to experience the Vivian Street venue; next year they should be in the new Cuba Street facility.

 

Whiterea Commercial Dance: Year One Variety Showcase (2017)

September 5, 2017 at 9:24 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to another enjoyable evening of energetic dancing at the Whiterea Performance Centre. The year one commercial dance students were showcasing what they had learnt during the year.

One thing that I realised about commercial dance compared to other dance professions,is that there are no intervals! 14 students danced non-stop for over an hour – in 22 numbers. These ranged from contemporary, jazz, classical ballet, tap, hip hop, and showgirl. There was even singing – by Tamsin Howe, who sang and danced her way through “Rule the World”

This year’s intake had a strong tap contingent and it was nice to see a whole chorus line of tap dancers doing their thing to ‘Puttin’On the Ritz”.

This year’s showcase only had one ballet number, which was artfully disguised as show girls doing a fan dance – to strains of Swan Lake – entitled Fanfare – choreographed by Anne Gare. There was the crowd pleasing circle of fans – where the dancers arrange themselves in a circle and appear to descend down onside and up the other;there was also two lines of fans doing a ‘Mexican wave’ effect. This was all nicely intermixed with some classical ballet.

There was a nice little musical theatre number, with another take on a love triangle, sung and danced around the Charleston. It was little cheeky and fun – the ‘boy’ (Cole Bockman) doesn’t end up with either ‘girl’, one off whom walks off with the ‘mike’!

There were some ‘darker’ pieces – one that stayed in my mind was Lost in a Book Choreographed by Shenna Dunn. In fact six of the numbers were choreographed by the first year students; with Georgia Wilson doing two – Escalate You and Roxie.

Mr Bockman was a busy man; being the only male dancer in this year’s intake, I and sure he appeared in more numbers than most of the other dancers. He was in the chorus and partnering – so was on stage a lot. He got to showcase his agility with some nice gymnastic moves (as did some of the other dancers); he got to do lots of lifts, supports (dancers high kicking to rest on his shoulder, dancers doing forward walkovers over him), catches, and jumps. In one sequence he does a ‘frog jump’ over his standing partner. In multiple numbers he ends up catching his partner who literally runs then jumps into his ‘safe’ arms.

Another fun night at one of Wellington’s best kept secrets.

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 | 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.

 

 

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