Lady Gaga – The Ballet

May 10, 2010 at 2:28 am | Posted in Ballet Review | Leave a comment
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After I saw the newspaper article, I could not resist looking up the YouTube video of Lady Gaga – The ballet. The sound track wasn’t too great, but the dancing was very nice.

Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer Jaered Glavin‘s short choreograph for six dancers to Lady Gaga’s song Bad Romance puts classical ballet steps into a new setting. The dancers execute well and it is a nice bit of fun.

The clip got enough attention that Jared was interveiwed on Campbell Live and the six dancers got to dance the piece live on national television. The TV sound track is better, and the roving camera work give you a different perspective on the piece.

I think this piece is part of the Company’s professional development programme. In the past it has produced such crowd pleasers as Koo Koo Ka Choo – by Catherine Eddy and Brendan Bradshaw; which made it onto the playbill of Tutus on Tour 2009. So I look forward to Tutus on Tour 2011, where this piece will be a little more polished – the workshop only had 12 hours to work the piece up.

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Peter Pan

November 2, 2009 at 2:57 am | Posted in Ballet Review | Leave a comment
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I went to a performance of Peter Pan put on by the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Warning: plot revealed.

October 31, 2009 by Show_Hanger

I went to see the the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2009 production of Peter Pan, at the St James, in Wellington; they have made some changes since I last saw it in 2004.

There were lots of children in the audience, and one little girl even gave a big cheer part way through! There were even boys in the audience.

Alessia Lugoboni, was wonderful in the part of Wendy; she was by turns a light little girl; and a girl on the verge of womanhood (she mothers the Lost Boys and unknowlingly gets into a three way tustle for Peter’s affection).

Sir Jon Trimmer seems to have found a fifth or sixth wind; his portrayl of Captain Hook was brilliant – better than when he last danced it. He even did a little Michael Flattery sequence when he thinks he has won – poisoned Peter, and about to make the Lost Boys, Wendy and her Brothers, walk the plank

Rory Fairweather-Neylan danced Peter, bringing energy and boyish charm to the part.

The fly-out-the-window sequences have rally come along since 2004; it really does seem like they are flyiong out the window and climbling up towards the “Star on the right.” In terms of flying, the additional use of projection really gives a sense of flying to and from Neverland.
But, the Company should ditch the dummies on poles. This is the 21st century, and they should either be bold enough and put in aerial dance trained dancers; or just let the dancers dance – afterall Swan Lake is able to carry off the swans swimming on a lake without recourse to painted decoy ducks pulled by ropes.

I really liked the end of the Second Act, when Peter and Tinkerbell danced together. It wasn’t quite a pas de deux, but the nature of their relationship is explored and exposed.

Catherine Eddy took on the challenging role of Tinkerbell; Tink, must be light (she is a fairy after all), fun loving (that is why she is jealous of Wendy – because she sees that Peter will ave fun with the latter rather than with her), impulsive (short the girl-monster boys!), and given to displays of emotion (fist pummeling empty air and the odd swipe at the Lost Boys and Peter). The displays of anger and frustration seemed out of place in a fairy; aren’t they
suppose to be happy creatures – isn’t that why clapping revives them? Hopefully the choreograper gives Tink some other motif next time.

Lucy Balfour made the most of her Tiger Lily role.

Abigail Boyle gave a delightful protrayal of the Neverbird, who rescues Peter from the rock; her wonderful costume was very eye catching.

The costumes were great. The pirates have been spruced down, and now look like the crew from “Pirates of the Caribean” – I swear that there is a Johnny Depp look-a-like! The Lost Boys look like playful squirrils – lots of rolling around on the ground in their furry costumes!!

Paul Matthews makes the most of sequences as Mr Darling: with some funny ‘do as I say, and not what do as I do’ parenting at the beginning of Act I.

All-in-all quite enjoyable.

The music was clever; each group got a separate tune; the Darlings/Family got the best – it sounded like a variation of the Kermit-the-frog’s dream song.

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Roll on 2010 and Carmen!

Don Quixote

November 6, 2008 at 8:41 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the opening night of Royal New Zealand Ballet’s new production of Don Quixote at the St. James, in Wellington. Warning: plot revealed.

Oct 31, 2008 by Show_Hanger

This re-working of the Don Quixote story is as much about creating a new perspective on a traditional story as celebrating a Sir Jon Trimmer’s 50th year with the Royal New Zealand Ballet. At 69, Sir Jon no longer dances the vigourous roles he took on earlier in his career, instead he has matured into a fine stage actor. So the role of the aging, and sometimes confused, Don is a perfect vehicle for his talents. Gary Harris has, I am told, for I have not seen the classic Russian version, utilised the original Petipa choreography in a new light, that makes the Don less of a 2-dimensional character. Adrian Burnett was the choreographer for this production.

Act I opens with the Don in bed surrounded by his books and visited by his nephew – Sancho, danced by Matthew Braun. The Don decides that he will have one last adventure and takes one of his journals with him to guide them on their journey, and takes a hefty bag of money to pay the way. The Don and Sancho have an english air to them – the Don is World War II British pilot’s leather flying helmut and sheep skin jacket, Sancho in a set of tweeds. The two of them end-up in a mediterranean village where we are introduced to the other main characters: Gamache and Mercedes; Basilio and Kitri.

The set for the village is wonderful, with a major surprise for me: the floor was a creamy colour – rather than the usual black. It made the set very bright and enhanced the mediterranean feel.

Kitri is ably danced by Yu Takayama: her grand jetes and sissones were superb. Basilio – Kitri’s future husband – is danced by Marc Cassidy. The villian – Gamache – is able danced by Paul Mathews. His principle moll – Mercedes – is danced by Abigail Boyle.

Act II sees: Kitri and Basilio run off into the woods, and encounter some gypsies; the Don and Sancha have a violent encounter with the same gypsies in the same woods – resulting in the Don having a dream sequence; Gamache successfulled steals the Don’s money.

The gypsy dance sequences shows – for me – how far the Company has come in the 6 years that I have been attending their performances. The dancing is energetic and passionate – without loosing musicality or technique. The number of male dancers has increased, so that of the large number of gypsies, half were male – rather than a token sprinkling.

The dream sequence showed all the hallmarks of a Petipa piece – ballerinas: in white tutus, in small groups and long diagonal lines, in formations blocking a man’s path. And was executed superbly. Meddhi Angot as Cubid was wonderful – powerful jumps and leaps: best russian (scissor leap) I have ever seen!

In Act III, the Don and Sancha catch up with Gamache and recover the money and through an act of great generosity Basilio and Kitri are married. The drunken Gamache – trying to drink his way through the Don’s money – sequnce could double as a homage to John Cleese. Basilio and Kitri’s pas de deux was well executed with some chemistry. Another obvious Petipa touch was Kitri’s fouettes of joy – I counted 31!

There were some first night nerves, the most memerable was Kitri dropping her fan just before commensing her fan dance at the wedding! the most unsettling was the slightly late start.

There are some hummerous moments and some very busy moments. Gamache is introduced walking his little dog – a Weta Workshops creation. It was a real hit with the audience and hopefuully will get roles in the Company’s future productions – like The Wedding. Many of the village sequences were very ‘busy’ – in some way they were more like movie sequences – and at times distracted from the dancing.

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Romeo and Juliet – 2008

August 27, 2008 at 7:18 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I was originally not going to see this ballet, a trial viewing of a DVD recording of a more classic version, resulted in a decision not to go. But I at the end of the show I was glad I went.

Aug 24, 2008 by Show_Hanger

This ballet was originally choreographed by Christopher Hampson in 2003 for the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 50th Anniversary. The setting and costumes are not the classic 17th century setting; instead the setting is more contemporary – post 19th century. Hampson has recast the story somewhat and given it some deeper nuances. The work is one that one might have expected from Matthew Bourne – with the greatest repect to both choreographers; it is a throroughly modern ballet.

The Capulets and Montagues have been cast onto two sides of a class divide. The Capulets are shown in wealthy circumstances – all be it with some serious street muscle on-call. The Montagues are hardly shown at all; they may have money, but Romeo (Qi Huan) seems to have the run of the streets – maybe he just feels more comfortable away from the more confining surrounds of his unseen family. The clash between the Caplulets and the Montagues is subtly subverted into a clash between the free spirits of the streets and the constricted family setting of honour and duty.

Tybalt is portrayed brilliantly, by Paul Mathews, as an angry young man consumed by the need to protect his family honor. As such he is very much the force driving the conflict, and is the catalyst of much of the violence. He was the one who supplied the forboding menace on the streets and at the Capulet family ball. So it comes a bit of a surprise to see him killed by Romeo.

Romeo and his two companions (Mercutio and Benvolio) come across as a set of self absorbed young men looking for diversion and some fun mischief – fairly harmless and annoying. Baiting Tybalt and his street heavies; siding with the people who can’t really stand up to them, seems like a bit of heroic fun, that eventually leads to Mercutio’s accidental slaying.

Romeo is not really interested in revenge, but Tybalt drives him into a frenzy and he is killed.

Juliet (Katie Hurst-Saxon) has the hardest role: she is still young, but expected to take on some of the duties of an adult – her family expect her to marry Paris, perhaps to cement a wider family alliance; she is loyal to her family; she marries against her family’s wishes – in secret; Romeo kills Tybalt – her older cousin, and a favourite; she loves Romeo, on and on and on. Juliet and her two friends are the innocents in this story. They have a nurse (Turid Revfeim) who’s job is to look after and protect them. Nurse is probably the one human figure in the household. Juliet’s parents seem to be duty bound figures.

Juliet is ultimately torn by duty and love, and seeks a third way out – she will fake her suicide. And so the young lovers kill themselves due to that fateful mis-delivered message. (Surely, a phone company or courir company will us this as the basis for an advertisement – ‘use X when that message has to get there on time’!)

Hampson injects a new sub-plot: Lady Capulet and Tybalt are secretly lovers! Here we see a facet of the adult world that Juliet tragically never discovers. Juliet’s own mother shows that duty can be worn like a suit of clothes – put on in public and taken off in private. Juliet should have married Paris and met very discretely with Romeo!

Hampson cleverly puts Juliet and her friends on point, and no one else, to emphasize their innocent nature.

Sir Jon Trimmer (Friar Lawrence) and Turid Revfeim turn in wonderful performances to give their characters some depth. Gary Harris and Greg Horsman even put charming cameo roles – as monks. Jo Funaki got the biggest round of applause – for his portrayal of the mischevious Mercutio – during the curtain call.

Tracy Grant Lord’s set was clever and created the right atmosphere – well up to meeting the challenge of creating: street scenes, a grand ball, Juliet’s bedroom, a church, and a tomb. A stair case does wonderful quadruple duty. Verona must be truly a magical place because it was just massive.

Christopher Hampson’s Romeo and Juliet is accessible, without being shallow.

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My only disappointment was that I did not get to see Amy Hollingsworth and Cameron McMillan dance in the lead roles. So much of the production publicity had been crafted around them. Given my DVD fueled misgivings of Romeo and Juliet, I went because I wanted to see them dance.

I went on the last night of the season, so if you missed it, catch it in 3-4 years when it comes around again.

Prince of the Pagodas

August 11, 2008 at 1:42 am | Posted in Ballet Review, DVD Review | Leave a comment
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Over three long nights I watched this DVD of the Royal Ballet’s 1990 production of The Prince of the Pagodas. Warning – contains plot details.

Aug 7, 2008 by Show_Hanger

Prince of the Pagods has a strong story going for it: a contested kingdom; sibling rivalry; competition for a woman’s hand in marriage; fighting for the woman you love’ and more. Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s version features some very good dancers: Darcy Bussell, Jonathan Cope, Simon Rice and Fiona Chadwick. Yet, it did not engage me; I was not held in thrall – certainly not in the way Romeo and Juliet does. I feel that the ballet was let down by the music. The music was generally uninspiring; It just did not enhance and support the emotional elements of the story.

This was the first time that I had seen Dacry Bussell dance. Some years ago I read her biography, and was very pleased to find this DVD at the library. She is a joy to watch; she is svelt, not skinny; she graceful, yet athletic – wonderful jumps; her arabeques are a joy to behold; no wonder she was MacMillan’s muse!

Act I sets the scene. The king divides his kingdom between his daughters – Princess Rose (Bussell) and her half sister Princess Epine (Chadwick). Unfortunately, it is not an equal division; Princess Epine is given a smaller portion, and it is clear that she is not happy. Four foreign kings arrive in search of brides. During the ensuing ‘struting’, Princess Epine ousts her father and takes the crown from him. Princess Epine turns Princess Rose’s fiance – The Prince (Cope) – into a salamander and transports him from the kingdom.

Act II seems to one long dream sequence. Princess Ross, accompanied and assisted by the court fool (Rice), searches for the Prince. She rejects the four kings and her perserverance is rewarded – she finds the prince and her love returns him to human form.

Act III see things set right. Princess Rose and the Prince return to her father’s kingdom – now ruled by Princess Epine. In a series of superbly choreographed gritty fights, the Prince vanquishes the four foreign kings. The king is restored. Princess Epine is banished. Princess Rose and the Prince marry – or at least formally engaged.

This ballet has a unique piece of choreography – a pas de deux with one dancer ! The king of the east dances with himself – constantly looking at himself in a handmirror!

I think the ballet was staged at Covent Garden and filmed by the BBC in 1990.

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Aug 7, 2008 by DVD_Hanger

The DVD had two items on it: the Ballet and a documentary –Out of Line – on the life of Sir Kenneth MacMillan.

The DVD helpfully puts a summary at the beginning of each Act.

The documentary was facinating. We see MacMillan as a dancer. We see three of the dancers he has used as instruments to aid his choreography – his muses: Lynn Seymour, Alessandra Ferri and Darcy Bussell. The first two are interveiwed, Seymour extensively; but Bussell not at all for some reason.

The documentary covers much of MacMillan’s career as a choreographer, though how objective it is I don’t know. But it appears to have been pretty controversial. MacMillan seems to have been constantly at odds with the traditionalists and the critics!

The DVD is worth getting out for the documentary alone.

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New Zealand School of Dance: 40th Anniversary

November 9, 2007 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Ballet Review | 1 Comment
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I went to the graduation performance of the New Zealand School of Dance; the School puts on a production at the end of each year to showcase its graduating students and senior students. This being the School’s 40th year in existance, they made it into something bigger.

The programme was:

  • A Birthday Offering Prelude
  • Theme & Variations (Final Movement)
  • Broken by Design (Excerpt)
  • Le Corsaire (Ali’s Variation)
  • La Sylphide
  • Human Language
  • Paquita (4th Variation)
  • Agon
  • Currently Under Investigation
  • Evening Songs
  • One Trick Pony
  • Romeo and Juliet (Balcony Pas de Duex, Act I)
  • The Bach
Nov 9, 2007 by Show_Hanger

I went to the opening night, Friday the 9th of November, of the New Zealand School of Dance‘s 40th Anniversary Graduation Season 2007. As it was such a special occassion, the School invited graduates to take part – Footnote, Black Grace, Craig Davidson, and Jane Casson. Instead of holding the performance at the School, it was held at the Opera House: having a proscenium arch and ‘stately’ decor certainly added to the ocassion.

The first dance was performed by regional associates – children selected for their potential, who receive tuition to maximise such. For me, they set the tone of the whole evening – well put together and well executed.

Le Corsaire, Craig Davidson was great – I was most impressed by his jumps, turns, line, and control.

For me One Trick Pony was the pick of the contempory pieces. I like an accessible story. The dancers conveyed the storyline well. Also, this was a dance where the dancers did not use their feet: it was all done with their upper bodies, necks and faces!

Of the classical pieces, I liked La Sylphide I finally ‘got’ the interplay between The Sylphide and James. I found Romeo and Juliet intense and smoldering; though, I though the lighting levels was a little low.

A very enjoyable night; with most of the Wellington (and perhaps the New Zealand) dance community, many graduates and supporters present.

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The Anniversary Programme itself was a beautiful item – the equal, of a Royal New Zealand programme.

Cinderella – RNZB September 2007

August 31, 2007 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Ballet Review | Leave a comment
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Aug 31, 2007 by Show_Hanger

I went to the opening night, Friday the 31 of August, of the Royal New Zealand Ballet‘s new production of Cinderella. This is a new work from choreographer Christopher Hampson.

The ballet is in 3 Acts, and opens with a funeral. Actually, the funeral takes place before the beginning of Act I – like the opening scenes in a modern movie, where there is an attention grabbing sequence before the opening credits. The funeral sets the scene and mood for Act I, and takes place behind a black muslin curtain. Anyone who is not familiar with the Cinderella story is left in no doubt that she is an orphan, about to be cast into an uncertain future. Act I is dark and the step-mother and step-sisters cruel and nasty to Cinderella.

Act II takes place at the ball, and here we see the Prince in search of a soul mate. Even at the ball, surrounded by beautiful women – many invited there to meet him – he seems alone. Just when you think the ball is over and the ballet is going to take an unexpected direction, Cinderella appears. the prince comes to life and the rest is history.

Act III is also introduced by a tableau – this time by the corp of Royal shoemakers trying to duplicate the slipper left behind by Cinderella – taking place infront of the curtain. They fail and the Prince has to use the real one on his search for the women who will fit the shoe. The curtain rises and the Prince and his companions search for the Prince. Of course, the Prince finds Cinderella and all is well. One of the step-sisters even ends up with one of the Prince’s companions!

I have never been to a pantomime, but having seen the step-sisters, I have some feel for what a pantomime might be like. I am not saying that the ballet went too far, though some may say it did. For me, the portrayal was just right, it introduced a lighter note to some very dark material. In fact the dancing and acting of Alessia Lugoboni threatened to steal the show – her portrayal of the chirpy airhead step-sister gained this character the sympathy of the audience.

For me the choice of Yu Takayama, Qi Huan and Vivencio Samblaceno as Cinderella, the Prince and the Father, had what must have been an unexpected result. The dark elements were all danced by European looking dancers and the ‘good’ elements of the ballet were played by Asian looking dancers. This provided a visual contrast. There was another more subtle contrast: the Prince and Cinderella danced traditional ballet steps; whereas the step-sisters danced a very character steps. The result was to emphasis the gulf between the dark and the light elements at work. At times it was almost as if there were two ballets going on at once – the new characterisation around the step-sisters and the ball, interleaved with the very traditional stylized Prince and Cinderella. I would really like to see this production on another night with different dancers in the roles of the Prince and Cinderella – to see and experience what it would be like.

I really enjoyed this production: the re-worked story offered those who were familiar with the basic story-line something to hang out for; the costumes, sets and lighting very nice and the dancing was great. The step-sisters were larger than life and you could sense the love-hate relationship building up with the audience. The Prince and Cinderella were picture perfect – to my man-in-the-street-eye they exhibited strong tradition technique: Yu Takayama was light and her split-leaps were effortless and level while, Qi Huan’s fouettes pinpoint.

Some other impressions: guys with wings and a roses sub-theme. Three of the characters who supplied Cinderella with the where withall to get to the ball are insects with wings ! I have not seen men in parts with wings – this is generally reserved for female dancers. The recurring use of the rose motif was also very clever: Cinderella plants a rose on her mother’s grave – which turns into a giant rose bush; under which she is given her ball gown; of a red rose motif as the full moon 3 days after a partial eclipse that produced a ‘blood moon’; and the vital silver rose.

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This performance inspired me to start this blog, and write about art and culture (and maybe other things).

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