Dancing with Mozart

June 3, 2018 at 4:58 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of Dancing with Mozart – 4 contemporary ballets, from 3 choreographers, all to music by Mozart.

The 4 works:

  • George Balanchine: Divertimento No 15 danced to Divertimento No 15 in B flat major K287, is a symphonic ballet!
  • Corey Baker: The Last Dance is danced to Requiem in D minor R626, is inspired by a visit to Antarctica
  • Jiri Kylian: Petite Mort danced to Piano Concerto in A major K488, Adagio, and Piano Concerto in C major K467; and Sechs Tanze danced to Sechs Deutsche Tanze K571.

Alexandre Ferreira stood out in Divertimento No 15.

I really liked the Baker’s The Last Dance; it told a story. The punchy story of global warming left the audience in no doubt of the dangers. The staging was simple, yet powerful. Everything was either black, grey, or white. The opening scene featured the majority of dancers dressed from head to foot in white hooded unitards, on a white floor, and a white background. The lighting was bright, creating the feel of being out in the snow on a sunny day. Off to one side is a transparent cube with a two dancers in dark leotards. By the end of the dance, the cube is full of water, poured their by the dancers – now dressed in head to foot grey; the stage is all black.

Divertimento No 15 was choreographed in 1956. The Last Dance was choreographed this year and premiered in this production. The Kylian pieces were choreographed in 1991 and 1986. I’ve listed the chronology, because, it struck me that the pieces reflected the evolution of contemporary ballet. The production starts with Balanchine’s somewhat abstract work, showing off the classic forms, as a foil to the music. Then there was the most modern work. Baker’s choreography uses classical skills without classical forms. It tells a compelling topical story. Then we go back to Kylian’s two pieces: both use classical ballet training, but the focus is on conveying feelings – both are fun works. Sechs Tanze had the audience laughing out loud.

Definitely worth going to. The Last Dance could become a modern classic – innovative staging, powerful choreography, and a story of our times.

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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.

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.

NZSD Insight Studo Performances September 2013

September 28, 2013 at 8:25 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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The New Zealand School of Dance has just put on another of its Studio Performances – to give their public a taste of what to expect in their graduation season in November. As usual it was a mixture of classical ballet and contemporary works.

I liked:

  • Waltz of the snowflakes: it reminded me of ballet-school productions.
  • Sorley’s performance of Kitri’s variation from Don Quixote act II.
  • Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Solitaire – girl’s solo danced by Yayoi Matches.
  • Rise – choreographed by former RNZB dancer Jo Funaki.

Technical issues meant that No Lost Islands – choreographed by Michael Parmenter – could not be performed. [I suspect the Apple devices upgraded to iOS7 refused to work withe the School’s non-apple cables.]

Luigi Vescio was able to perform his solo set to Glassworks (music by Phillip Glass), by having the music physically played on the studio’s piano.

All this, and more, for a gold coin donation!

Giselle: Mats Ek’s

January 10, 2013 at 9:25 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, DVD Review | 1 Comment
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I watched Mats Ek’s Giselle on DVD the other day, and I was impressed his re-interpretation of the original story.

The peasants are dressed in grey and are much drabber than the tradition cheerful peasants. Giselle – Ana Laguna – is the only one in her community to were colour: she is treated as an eccentric – she is routinely tied up. It is no wonder she eventually ends up at an institution.

Myrth – Lena Wennergren – is recast as the matron at the asylum.

Albrecht – Luc Bouy – the prince turns Giselle’s head and she can no longer fit into the drab routine of village life. Giselle has a mental breakdown and awakens in the asylum. The dance of the wills is transformed into a dance macabre of mad women.

Hilarion – Yvan Auzely – remains on the other side of the love-triangle.

Both Hilarion and Albrecht visit Giselle – but to no avail. Giselle stays in the safety of the asylum – rather than re-enter a world that has no place for her.

Ek has completely reversed this romantic ballet into a much more realistic tragedy.

The Cullberg Ballet did a marvelous job of the blend of neo-classic and contemporary ballet choreography – there is no pointe work (as it presumably go counter to the anti-romantic paradigm). Lena Wennergren, Luc Bout, and Yvan Auzely do a fantastic job of their characterisations and dancing. Ms Wennegren has a particularly grueling role – mimw and challenging choreography.

What really surprised me was that this was a 1987 recording – originally for TV.

Try This

June 27, 2012 at 7:14 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I wasn’t sure what to expect when I went to see Try This at Bats the other night.

What I got was four dancers and a series of connected pieces based on the senses.

Fleur Cameron has created an series of short pieces that play with and try to show the five senses as movement.

Everyone in the audience got given an apple and could have munched it when the dancers – Fleur Cameron, Isabelle Nelson, Felicity Hamill, and Frankie Sampson – took it in turn to (try to) eat an apple. Nice tilt to the old adage – you can’t tell a book by its cover.

I was quite struck by the smell and touch pieces too.

Bats made for an nice intimate venue to debut this contemporary dance work.

NZSD Graduation Season 2011

November 18, 2011 at 8:46 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Recital Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the second night of the New Zealand School of Dance’s 2011 Graduation Season.

The programme was varied and rich; two classical ballet pieces, from choreographers who have a big influence of the Royal New Zealand Ballet; and some cutting edge contemporary dance pieces.

There were two classical pieces: Napoli Divertissements and Emeralds. The former was choreographed by August Bournonville, the latter by George Balanchine; a rare opportunity to see exemplars of two differing classical styles – fast foot movements and a quick tempo versus something lyrical.

The third ballet piece was Company B a contemporary ballet by Paul Taylor. That used classical technique to provide an alternative perspective of the times that spawned the music of the Andrews Sisters. The dead bodies and solemn marching in the background really drove home that young men were dying behind the facade of cheer and longing. Jesse Scales and Jason Carter did a delightful pas de deux to Pennsylvania Polka. Rebekha Duncan danced a memorable saucy solo to Rum and Cola.

The three contemporary dance pieces – Whispers from Pandora’ Box, Recent Bedroom, and Sum – really pushed the boundaries: what is dance ? how much communication is possible in the performance alone (without the context of a title and commentary) ? All of the dancers put their bodies into their performance. In the last two pieces, Gareth Okan really stood out.

The programme alternated the ballet with the contemporary; starting with Bournonville and finishing with Taylor. I found it mentally and emotionally exhausting.

Another well produced production with high technical standards.

Insight

October 8, 2011 at 9:06 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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I went to a studio performance at the New Zealand School of Dance. This is really a chance for the School to promote its end of year performance and give the show’s participants a rehearsal opportunity with a bit more bite.

There were 16 pieces shown: a mixture of classical ballet, ‘modern’ ballet, and contemporary dance. Four pieces stayed in my mind:

  • La Bayadere Act 2
  • Spring and Fall
  • Prince’s solo from The Nutcracker Act II
  • Excerpts from Company B

Lee Jia Xi, in the La Bayadere excerpt, impressed me with her leaps and jumps that at times terminated with an arabesque.

Spring and Fall, was an interesting piece – being a lyrical solo for a male dancer. Caue Frias’ long limbs fitted well with the choreography.

The prince’s solo was a wonderful show piece for Christopher Gerty’s talents – in a minute and a half or so, there were powerful jumps and well controlled pirouettes. It started with a slight slip, but Gerty retained his composure and delivered a fine performance; so I was surprised when he felt the need to repeated the whole piece.

The music of the Andrews Sisters is always appealing with its cheer and warm voices, so Company B was very attractive. I was particularly interested to see that it was classical ballet vocabulary used in new ways.

The end of year performance looks well worth going to.

Sketch: NZ School of dance Choreographic Season 2011

May 19, 2011 at 11:23 am | Posted in Dance Review | Leave a comment
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Just got back from the Reviewer’s Evening of Sketch – the New Zealand School of Dance‘s 2011Choreographic Season – showcasing the choreographic of their senior contemporary dance students. I found it very entertaining; clearly everyone had put in lots of hard work; and good on the choreographers for putting their work on display.

Once again the School managed to surprise me with the way they transformed the foyer. Tonight they had a cellist playing in the Plaza, and visual artwork: a very short silent dance film entitled Aura projected on four large white panels. The film by Emma Cullinan and Holly Macpherson.

The works were:

  • Ignite by Alice Macann
  • Yin for Yang by Kimiora Grey
  • Duck Duck Goose by Fleur Cameron
  • Newton’s Cradle of Flesh by Yan Hao Du and Levi Cameron
  • Fifteen Minutes Left by Carl Tolentino
  • Anoesis by Isabelle Nelson
  • Left Unsaid by Rebecca Bassett-Graham
  • Variations on a Team by Zoe Dunwoodie
  • Shredded Strands by Jonathan Selvadurai
  • Shepherd by Thomas Bradley

Lighting was very effectively used to create mood and support all of the dances.

I found the pas de deux by Katie Baring-Gould and Jonathan Selvadurai in Kimiora Grey’s Yin and Yang quite original and touching. It looks like Grey set out to have the dancers dance while lying down. It was lyrical and touching – not only were the dancers lying down as they flowed over and past each other, but they were seldom out of physical contact with each other.

Fifteen Minutes Left, like a number of works during the evening, required the dancers to do some acting. It was fun and funny. Once again lighting was cleverly used – at times the dancers were contained by rectangles of light projected onto the floor. Most of the time they were constrained by very small T-shirts!

Left Unsaid started a bit slowly, but my hat goes off to Samantha Hines for putting so much of herself emotionally into her performance.

Part way through Variations on a Team, I though “this must have been choreographed by a woman;” and afterwards I found it listed against Zoe Dunwoodie in the programme. This work uses only male dancers who ‘strutted around’ in a number of very stereotypical male ways. It certainly struck a cord with the female members of the audience.

The dancers had superb physiques – perhaps a sign of the hard work they have put in during the course of their training.

If you can get tickets go – at $20 for an adult, it is tremendous value – 10 well danced original works. (and I am not just saying that … see below)

Declaration: I did say “Reviewer’s Evening” at the beginning of this post; the School gave me complementary tickets – it made my week when they offered them to me.

NZSD Graduation 2010: Kiwi Programme

November 19, 2010 at 12:18 am | Posted in Dance Review, Show Review | 2 Comments
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Last night, I went to the opening night for the New Zealand School of Dance 2010 Graduation Season’s Kiwi Programme. For the first time the School is splitting the ballet away from the contemporary dance, spreading the complete programme over two nights.

The Kiwi Programme is the contemporary dance segment, with all of the works choreographed by New Zealand choreographers – Craig Bary, Sarah Foster, Raewyn Hill, Malia Johnston and Michael Parmenter.

It was great.

I particularly enjoyed the Malia Johnston piece (atoms & Eve) and the Raewyn Hill piece (Dance for Sixteen).

In atoms & Eve, Johnston develops the concepts she played with in WOW 2010 and produces a very logically structured and watchable work. The dancers start off ‘naked’ (in flesh coloured bras and boy-legs) and progressively put on more clothes (with more colour) as they go off and back onto the stage. Their single group dance composed of simple moves packed together, switches to more complex moves in ever increasing groups of ever deminishing size. Then it all goes backwards: they loose their clothes and their colour and eventually return to being a single group. The dancers were asked to be bold and athletic – I particularly liked the clever continuous forward-walkovers.

Dance for Sixteen came across to me as angels (16 of them) dancing for joy in the fields of God. The dancers’ sheer joy and enthusiasm was infectious, and the simple white flowing gown complemented the choreography. The music was very nice too. The dance was lyrical – relatively slow and gracefull – borrowing as much from classical ballet as contemporary dance. A fine piece to end the evening on.

Go if you can get tickets.

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