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.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.

Eye in the Sky

May 7, 2016 at 11:41 pm | Posted in Film Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2057392/ ostensively a film about drone warfare, but really, the Trolley/Tram Dilemma brought to the screen – the ethics of killing one innocent in order to save many.

Helen Mirren in Colonel Katherine Powell, British Army, in command of a mission to capture two British Islamic Terrorists in Kenya. The Kenyan Army and Security Services are proving ‘boots on the ground’, and the US Armed Forces are providing air support (a Predator with two Hellfire missiles and amazing optics) and targeting assessment.

Terrorism may have gone global, but so too has the response to it. It is a bit alarming: smiting the enemies of the state as a video game.

The film sets out the issues, and leads the viewer down a nice ethical and moral corundum.

Mirren/Powell is the calm voice in the drone pilots ear: “do it now lieutenant” and “fire again”. The film also explores the outcome versus the process debate; the people participating in the mission are not necessarily bad people, they are doing their jobs, they push back as much as they can. Another chestnut is explored: following orders – legal orders. Being a multi-national mission, there are many outcomes, differing risk appetites, and processes to satisfy. The whole mission is an exercise in consensus building – both before the mission is approve and as the mission proceeds.

The mission moves very quickly from ‘capture for repatriation-and-trial’ to ‘shoot-to-kill’; the terrorists are not just meeting, they are about to launch a multiple suicide-bomber attack.

Worth seeing: the film creates tension through the actors being confronted by an ever more narrow and harrowing set of options, the drone effects are amazing, Mirren does a fine job, and this was Alan Rickman’s last film (before he died).

NZSD: Graduation Season 2015

November 30, 2015 at 8:03 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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November, and another Graduation Season at the New Zealand School of Dance. These have become very popular, and my session was sold out – as were other. There was a solid feel to the programme: three chunky contemporary pieces and three significant classical pieces.

Three pieces stay in my mind:

  • Paquita Grand Pas
  • Forgotten Things
  • Concerto

The staging of the Grand Pas and Concerto, with  Tarentella in between, provided the audience with three exemplars of classical ballet down through the ages. The Grand Pas from Paquita provided a wonderful showcase for Yeo Chan Yee and Felipe Domingos’ individual (those fouettes! and jumps) and collective talents. Tarentella, by George Balanchine, suggests that Ethan Stiefel may be gone but his influence remains. Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto, was an example of the latter’s abstract ballets – neo-classical in nature, with the dancers in simple yellow, red, and orange, unitards and leotards, with small blocks of dancers moving like guardsmen on parade, while couples danced in the spaces.

The show was the world premiere of Sara Foster-Sproull’s contemporary work: Forgotten Things. This was an innovative work that had dancers dancing in tight groups – clever lighting emphasized bare hands, fists, legs (contrasted against dark 3/4 unitards). This created movements and forms not possible with a single body. The use of single dancers was carefully edited, to create extra focus. At times it looked like there was a long spine, other times very long sinuous legs, and at other times elephant like ears. This work probably got the biggest round of applause for the night.

This was one of the schools more memorable shows.

[Dancers listed in the programme have been tagged to this article.]

La Grande Boucle (Tour de Force)

September 1, 2014 at 11:00 pm | Posted in Film Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I went to see this film set around the Tour de France last week, and really enjoyed it.

Clovis Cornillac plays François Nouel – a man obsessed with ‘Le Tour’. It must be many a French boy’s dream to take part in ‘Le Tour’, and François never let go of his dream. François works in a cycle store (part of an global chain of stores); his garage is a ‘bike room’. When events conspire against him and he ends up loosing his job, his wife, his son, and his sobriety, it seems the most natural thing to go for bike ride.

It just so happens that ‘Le Tour’ starts near his town and he ends up riding on the course – one day early. Despite feeling awful (hungover) he manages to finish the section. And decides that he will do ‘Le Tour’ one day ahead of the official riders: having lost everything, he can do anything.

So one ordinary man’s attempt to ride ‘Le Tour’ becomes the film and the vehicle for showing what is good and back about sport and professional sport. At first it is all about the ride – his ride. But he builds up a following – first word of mouth, then national television – and next thing you know he has sponsorship; so much so that he has obligations again! François becomes a mobile billboard – just like his heros! The professionals are a little piqued, but the big sponsors and ‘Le Tour’ are not amused at all. Even drug doping gets a look-in.

Some of the scenery is magnificent. The effort required to ride day in and day out is staggering. This requires the biggest suspension of dis-belief, can a slightly chubby, albeit cycle-fit middle age man ride every day for 20-odd days covering 3,500 km, sleeping in a tent, and relying on the help strangers (in lieu of a support team)? But who cares – films are dreams given form.

Along the way François: re-discovers himself, gets his son back, gets his wife back, and fulfills his most cherished dream.

Deep Breath (Dr Who: Series 8, Episode 1)

August 24, 2014 at 6:33 am | Posted in Film Review, Show Review, TV Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Having hidden behind the family sofa, as a young boy, while watching Doctor Who, I found myself unable to resist seeing the ‘new Doctor on the big screen. I went to see Deep Breath (Doctor Who: Series 8, Episode 1) at the Embassy Theatre this afternoon – it was a sellout.

Warning: Plot elements discussed.

The new Doctor, played by Peter Capaldi, looks and sounds like a serious cross between Rowan Atkinson and Billy Connelly!

The ‘old’ Doctor is gone – regenerated. How will Clara, played by Jenna Coleman, cope? What would you do if your best friend (maybe more than that) went from looking like your cousin to looking like your uncle?

There is a hilarious deprecating send up by Stax, a Sontaran turned butler (with mixed results), played by Dan Starkey. All of the past Doctors are introduced in Strax’s “blog”! The rest of the Paternoster Gang also appear. Madame Vastra (a Silurian, played by Neve McIntosh) and Jenny Flint (a human) provide an example of how you can make an odd relationship work. They also provide some local colour and a bit of intelligent muscle – though less so in the case of Strax.

No sooner does the Doctor appear – dazed and confused after a regeneration – than London needs to be saved. Watch it when it screens on TV to find out from what. He really does need Clara’s support; but, who will support Clara while she comes to grips with the change in the man in her life?

Having explored the companion dynamic when the Doctor is the same physical age as the companion, in Series 7, the writers can now look at a relationship between a older man and a younger woman. Where will it go?

While still pitched at a wide audience, this episode deals with some meaty issues.

Certainly by the end of the extended episode, Clara has come to accept an older looking Doctor. But it does take a phone call from the previous Doctore to tip her over the edge. This sets a dangerous plot device precedence – the Doctor can phone ahead and presumably phone back. There is no need to contrive to bring the actors al together: a voice will do. Causality is dead.

Still I enjoyed it. The special effects are world class CGI: long gone are the Jon Pertwee days, when half the props looked like they were borrowed from the producer’s son’s toy box.

As with any good episode 1, it hangs out some very tempting glimpses of where the series might go – like an official girl friend for the Doctor! who runs heaven (or does she?).

Dior and I

August 4, 2014 at 10:55 am | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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Another ‘visit’ to the NZ International Film Festival: Frédéric Tcheng’s “Dior and I“.

This is a ‘beautiful’ film: beautiful clothes; beautiful locations; beautiful people; and no shouting, but a surprisingly collaborative creative process.

It is 2012 and Belgian Raf Simons is being welcomed as the new Creative Director at the House of Dior; with him is his “right hand man” Pieter Mulier. The pair have eight weeks to create a collection.

This film gives a wonderful behind the scenes at one of the last great fashion houses. Go-Pro cameras planted everywhere give candid access to all parts of the creative process. Frédéric Tcheng artfully weaves historic footage of Dior and words from his biography into the candid footage.

What surprised me the most was the relationship between the Raf, and Florence and Monique. The latter are the premiers – they run two teams of ateliers. It is actually the ateliers who do the detailed design on all of the haute couture: Raf sets out how the garments will look and drape, but it is the atelier who does the detailed design and chooses how to cut and assemble the garment. As, one ateliers says; “I sketch the dress, make it, and it is Raf’s interpretation of my dress”. It is Florence and Monique decide which of their ateliers is responsible for a particular garment. Florence looks after suits and Monique looks after dresses.

The ateliers are the guardians of Dior’s legacy. Many have been there for decades; some have been there for 40 years! being french, they are beautifully turned out and work in heels – even on the control pedal of the sewing machines.

There really was no shouting. There was emotion and passion.

The showing takes place in a house with each room decorated with a separate flower – so many flowers that it takes 50 men two days to install all of the flowers.

If the ateliers are well turned out, then everyone else is ‘beautiful’ everyone of them could step straight into an editorial shoot. The fit-models are tall and thin; the runway models are ‘just so’. The Managing Director is an elegant french woman.

Anna Wintour, Marion Cotillard, Sharon Stone and Jennifer Lawrence make cameo appearances at the showing. I just hope that the Dior client who spends over 330,000 Euro a year, and received a personal fitting in New York from Monique, was also there.

My only question is how do they make the model’s shoes look so small?

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