WOW 2008

September 25, 2008 at 1:13 am | Posted in Show Review | 2 Comments
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I went to the dress rehearsal of this year’s World Of Wearableart (WOW) Award Show.

This is not a dress pagent; it is not a pure fashion show; and it is not a pure dance show. A better description would be Cirque de Soleil without the high intensity acrobatics.

Sep 24, 2008 by Show_Hanger

A memorable 20th Anniversary show.

The highlights for me were:

  • The South Pacific Section
  • The UV Section
  • The Inspired by Architecture Section

The South Pacific Section was set amongst – what appeared to be – full sized nikau palms! They looked like WOW had transplanted some from the Civic Square. This year there two wahine singing and the section was finished with a memorable dance – where the dancers were dressed and moved as Tuis.

The UV – officially known as the Illuminated – section was spectacular. I hope the garment that had a fat Charlie Chaplin like character teamed with a thin black character against a UV white disc wins.

The Inspired by Architecture Section was very original. Dancers clad in silver unitards came out of the floor, onto a dimly lit stage, carrying handheld spotlights which they used to illuminate the first two or three models. Then as more and more garments came on, a ‘silver person’ built a tower! Then the ‘silver people’ ‘danced’ inside the tower. Brilliant!

I did find the music a little loud – but hopefully they will turn the volume down 5-10 percent for the shows.

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Armslength – a play

January 26, 2008 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Play Review | Leave a comment
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I got the chance and went to Circa Theatre to see a play.

Jan 26, 2008 by


Theatre Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

The play has five characters and three scene settings – actually there are four, but you see three most of the time.

The theatre space has no arch, so the audience is very close to the cast; at the end the audience is co-opted in to be the audience at a gallery openning. The three setting are side-by-side across the stage: a post-graduate office, a student flat, and a lecturer’s office. The characters never actually cross from one directly onto another; clever stage design creates the impression of doors and a series of corridors and roads at the back of the stage.

The cast are:

  • Elsie, played by Kate Prior, is a a photo journalist come home to study photographic art and to patch up things with her younger sister.
  • Ruth, Abby Marment, is Elsie’s estranged sister. She has a Mac-job, having stopped dancing, to support herself and her student boyfriend.
  • Steve, Jamie McCaskill, is the student boyfriend – half way through a two-year photographic art course.
  • Julie, Emma Robinson, is a photographic art lecturer and mildly famous as a photographer.
  • Harry, Eli Kent, is an alcoholic PhD student studying the Earth’s magnetism. a very geeky guy.

With an uneven number of characters and an uneven number of the sexes, the opportunity for pairing, triangles and quadrangles is explointed to the full. You wonder at times: who else has a relationship who, that is about to be disclosed. There is a love quadrangle !

The play is definitely worth the ticket price. The plot is rich – maybe too rich. I hope that the playwright – Branwen Millar – has not used up all of her material. There is even a knock-down fight. Plus the obligatory shock end.

For me, the best character was Harry: a real nerd !

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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.

Turandot

October 16, 2007 at 6:00 pm | Posted in Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to Puccini’s Turandot last night; due to bad planning I ended up in ‘the gods’ – I was pleasantly surprised by how good the view was.

Oct 16, 2007 by Show_Hanger

Christopher Alden’s production was not like the 1994 wellington City Opera production. The latter was costumes in a faux chinese style. A few years ago I watched the DVD of the Zhang Yimou & Zubin Mehta production staged in the Forbidden City. So …

I found the this production’s stark setting a bit of a shock.

I took me more than the first Act to get into it. I guess that this was my own fault for not reacquainting myself with the plot. I found, in the first Act, that the music tended to drown out the singers. Maybe this was because I was up in ‘the gods’ – and so had a better audio pathway to the orchestra pit than to the stage. It took me a while to workout whether to read the sub-titles or not; I ended up reading the sub-titles during the riddles and glancing at them the rest of the time.

Act I introduces Turandot (the ice princess), Calaf (the wondering prince), Liu (the faithful slave girl) who looks after Timur (Calaf father and blind deposed king of the Tartars), and their short reunion, and the ‘competition’. I found the execution scene that cemented the harsh rules of the contest to win Turandot a little too stylised – especially given the stark 30’s communist Russia feel up to that point.

Once Ping, Pang, and Pong had finished their civil servant set-piece at the beginning of Act II, I found myself more on firm ground regarding the story, and was finally engaged. We see Turandot’s determination to be her own woman – a fairly common desire in the 20th and 21st centuries – surely an odd notion in Puccini‘s time. We see Calaf’s irrational need to pocess her and he plunges into the contest despite everyone advising him not to. Calaf answers the three riddles and in an act of ‘if you love someone set them free…’ he offers to free the princess of her obligations if she can answer one riddle in return.

I did not find the setting of the riddle contest believable: why would any empowered emperor allow some blind beggar to wander around his court – while affairs of state were in progress – and finally sit down behind the throne. I am sure there was some symbology going on that missed me. It was all a bit minimal – neither the Emperor nor Turandot had any attendents.

Act III opens with Turandot completely loosing it, and issues orders that everyone will be executed if they don’t find her ‘the name’. Throughout the opera Turandot is painted as an icy unfeeling person who has a bloody solution to any problem. No wonder the Chinese government would not allow this opera to be performed in China; they relented in the mid-90’s. The Liu character – and Maria Costanza Nocentini, the singer – almost steals the show by sacrificing her life, so that the secret love of her life – Calaf – can have the love of his life. Her torture and suicide was too symbolic – and what should have bee great suffering and great sacrifice seemed to just slip by: torture – tick, hidden love – tick, suicide – tick.

Then a simple kiss from Calaf wins over the princess. I can see that women sufferage was not even a twinkle in Puccini‘s eye. The curtain comes down on a variation of Nessun Dorma.

I did not like the 30’s Russia setting – though the overlay of a show trial upon the riddle contest was clever. I also thought the photo-portraits of all of the contestants was a nice touch – it emphasised how many men had died. But the parade of portraits at the end was just way over the top. It detracted from the relationships between Turandot and Calaf, and Calaf and Liu.

The singing in Act II and Act III was good. I am not a opera buff; but I was taken in and it mostly worked. That it was sung in Italian did not detract from my enjoyment. Margaret Medlyn, as Turandot, was strong throughout. Dongwon Shin, as Calaf, grew as the opera went on, and settled down to a strong voice starting with the riddles in the middle of the second Act. I suspect that voice and orchestra volume issues in Act I was due to the singers being a little tentative.

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Since Puccini died before this, his final opera, was finished – around the scene of the Liu committing suicide – I wonder if he intended a slightly different end. One, with another powerful piece of music, rather than a re-work of Nessun Dorma.

WOW 2007

September 19, 2007 at 7:00 pm | Posted in Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the dress rehearsal of this year’s World Of Wearableart (WOW) Award Show.

Sep 19, 2007 by Show_Hanger

It was great! Year after year, WOW manages to surpass itself.

The highlights for me were:

  • The Children’s Section
  • The Guy’s Suite Section
  • The ‘Raining Men’ Section
  • The UV Section

The Children’s Section was based on “Where the Wild Things Are” picture book; with a large cast of monsters and the stuff of children’s nightmares. The children’s energy – WOW use child performers – was very infectious.

There was lots of energy in the ‘Raining Men’ Section: the audience, of mainly young women, gave all of the guys lots of cheers. It got pretty hot – the audience got very excited when the topless guys moved right up to the edge of the stage (stage right).

The UV Section was the best I have seen. Well composed and used all three dimensions – incorporating a static trapeze and other five suspended performers.

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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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