Giselle (RNZB 2016)

August 15, 2016 at 8:25 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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The Royal New Zealand Ballet has re-staged it’s Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel choreographed 2012 production of Giselle.

There have been some tweaks – there is now a clever front projection to create the extensive roots of a tree that appear to move.

Lucy Green dances the part of Giselle. Her solo during the wedding was technically strong – all the pointe work was precise and steady; yet she conveyed the image of a young girl in love. She continued this mix of technique and artistry in the second Act – to save an unworthy Albrecht. 

Qi Huan, as Albrecht, reprising his role from 2012. Once again his leaps and jumps were breath taking high; his turns fast and precise. The struggle to dance all night was well conveyed. He got a well deserved big round of applause after an astonishing number of back to back entrechats.

Clytie Campbell was as Myrtha – the Queen of the Willis.

Ben Chown gave a good characterisation of the gamekeeper; he was the ‘country’ to the Prince’s polished. This was to foreshadow the final outcome when they were caught out in the woods after dark in the second Act.

A must see.

 

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.

Graceful Girls

December 31, 2015 at 10:01 pm | Posted in Dance Review, Film Review | Leave a comment
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Having upgraded my O/S and iTunes, I am exploring the films available on the iTunes store. The other day I found, and watched, Graceful Girls. This is a film about an Australian dance discipline of ‘Calisthenics’ – though in Olivia Peniston-Bird’s feature length documentary, it is referred to by one-and-all as a ‘sport’. I see it as a dance discipline because the vast majority of the competitions are based around dance – an endearing mixture of ballet, rhythmic gymnastics (without the ball and skipping rope), and commercial dance.

What I found attractive about calisthenics, was that the senior practitioners had normal bodies – trim and toned, as opposed to hyper thin. The dancers are able to execute all of the classical ballet repertoire – technically and gracefully. There is no pointe work, so more dancers can stay in the sport. Unlike ballet which creates a natural ‘gate’ with its near total emphasis on pointe work.

The film follows the lives of some of the dancers and their mothers though a competition year. It is centred around the Regent Calisthenics calisthenics school – a school run by successive generations of the Synnott family. The school was founded by Enid, then run by her daughter Diane, and currently her daughter Brooke. This school has dominated, and influenced the direction of, the sport.

Calisthenics has a much greater emphasis on teams – to win the division, a team must dance/execute eight different routines. Calisthenics is strongest in the State of Victoria; and each year the ‘nationals’ are held in the Ballarat Theatre.

The film also follows the fortunes of Brianna Lee – who is a three time runner-up to the only solo event, known informally as ‘Most Graceful Girl’. Brianna is a sunny primary school teacher who has done calisthenics (and ballet) from a young age, and she really wants the title. Incidentally, both Diane and Brooke have won the title. Brianna’s routines are a picture of beauty and strength – effortless grande jetes (off a one-step take-off), splits (both vertical and horizontal), and wonderful stability (or should one say poise).

Worth ago.

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.]

NZSD: Insight Studio Performances – 25 September 2015

September 25, 2015 at 9:33 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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I went to this last night, and as always something for everyone; and though not as well attended as other studio performances I have been to. Which is disappointing, as it is another of Wellington’s hidden dance gems.

As usual, there was a mix of classical and contemporary works. Most were pre-release glimpses into what will be danced at the Graduation Season in November. Some students also got to trial their piece for an up coming competition they are going to in Auckland.

The performance kicked off with the dancers in the Scholars Programme (a preparatory programme for dancers who wish to get into dance schools after secondary school).

Then it was:

  • As it Fades (excerpts) – contemporary
  • Paquita (excerpts) – classical
  • Conditions of Entry (excerpts) – contemporary
  • Agon (excerpts) – classical
  • Solos: Yuri Marques da Silva; Billy Keohavong; Emma-Rose Barrowclough; Jeremie Wen-Jian Gan; and Laura Crawford
  • Without Regard – contemporary
  • Concerto 1st (excerpts) – classical

I liked Paquita and Billy Keohavong’s contemporary solo.

Paquito was very tidy and Felipe Domingos Natel’s lifts were strong, controlled, and very impressive.

Billy Keohavong’s solo, Bait, danced to Tick of the Clock by Chromatics,  got a great round of applause. Unlike some contemporary work which I find very physical (to the point of being percussive),  Bait was by parts lyrical, loose, techno (good synergy with the music), and menacing.  The latter came across through with some martial arts undertones – kept well in check to avoid a  kataWhat is also very promising is that it was Billy’s own choreography.

I also recognised Felipe Domingos Natel, Yuri Marques da Silva and Jeremie Wen-Jian Gan from the Alana Haines’ earlier this year.

NZSD: INSIGHT Studio Performance (September 2014)

September 30, 2014 at 6:51 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | 1 Comment
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I went to the second of two studio performances, held by the New Zealand School of Dance, the other night, and was really glad.

The one hour, gold coin donation, performance started with the NZSD Scholars (who are 14 or younger) dancing to ballet Etudes. Which set the scene for Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco a little later. The programme was predominately a classical one, with excepts from Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, La Fill Mal Gardee,and Nutcracker.

I was most impressed by Wan Jia Jing dancing the Siegfried’s Variation from Act III of Swan Lake. He was powerful, controlled, precise, and looked princely.

Everyone was impressed by Tirion Law dancing the role of Princess Aurora in the Rose Adage from Act I of Sleeping Beauty. She handled Pablo Aharonian’s difficult staging with aplomb: Tirion did eight, rather than the usual four, arabesques on pointe, in two passages of four – one with each suitor. She was rock solid – most impressive. The audience was fortunate to see such a staging and such a dancer – because this is one piece that will not be in the end of year production. Hopefully, it was all captured by the camcorder, and Ms Law can use it for applications.

Generally, it appears the students have benefited for Qi Huan (formerly a soloist with the Royal New ZealNd Ballet) and Turid Revfiem (former ballet mistress with the Royal New Zealand Ballet) joining the staff at the School of Dance.

Year 1 Showcase

September 14, 2014 at 5:13 am | Posted in Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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Last night, I went to the Whitireia Performance Centre showcase of their Year 1 Commercial Dance students. I always like these comercial dance shows: there is a variety of dance genres, music I recognise, and everyone on stage is generally smiling and having some fun; often, the audience gets involved, and it is a great atmosphere.

There were (I think) 16 students; and they seemed a very talented bunch; including a young man who stood out, not only because he was the only male, but for his strong technique and connection with the audience. Many dancers are clearly classically trained, having come through the ballet school ‘system’ – there were some nice grande jetes, entrechartes, well controlled pirouettes, lifts, and russians. There appears to be a strong group of hip hop dancers, and they produced some interesting work – giving some of the contemporary pieces a hard edged reality (as opposed to the abstraction that so mystifies me). Some of the students can sing and they got to do some cabaret and burlesque items – bravo. Generally, the class was very flexible and showed great extension; and projected their enthusiasm well.

I liked ‘River Deep’, Kitri’s Solo from Don Quixote, which segued nicely into a tongue-in-cheek piece involving a ballet audition. I also liked ‘You’ (and edgy contemporary piece), ‘Mein Herr’ (a burlesque piece), and ‘Happy’ (a comic tap dance number).

‘Happy’ was clever: everyone was dressed in a lime-green version of ‘Wally’ (from the Where’s Wally books), and showcased the dancers’ tap abilities and their miming skills.

I would recommend it, but I went the last show. But I can recommend all of the Whitireia dance shows – for not just their precision, but their energy, and enthusiasm. It is also the only time you get to see anything with a Show Girls flavour.

The Company

January 2, 2014 at 8:00 am | Posted in Ballet Review, DVD Review | Leave a comment
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I watched the DVD of The Company and I enjoyed it.

This Robert Altman film is about a ballet ‘company’, not the CIA.

In the film, Neve Campbell (playing dancer Loretta ‘Ry’ Ryan) joins the Joffrey Ballet (playing itself), and the audience is given a view of a top professional company – at rehearsal, performing, and the lives of the dancers. It is like watching a smoothly scripted version of La Danse.

The dance – classical ballet and neo-classical ballet – sequences are great.

Campbell trained until she was 15 at the National Ballet School of Canada, before switching to acting. She fits into the Company fairly smoothly, and it is through her character that we see the Company at work, and at play. [Apparently she trained for months – daily private lessons and six weeks with the Joffrey Company – to prepare for the role.]

Campbell also co-wrote and produced.

Malcolm McDowell and James Franco – in non-dancing roles – provide support.

A must see for balletomanes.

Mrs Henderson Presents

November 23, 2013 at 1:05 am | Posted in DVD Review, Film Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I watched the DVD of Mrs Henderson Presents the other day and was surprised at how modern things were during the late 30’s.

The story is based on the real Mrs Henderson, who really did buy a un-used theatre and put on nude revues, starting before World War II, going all the way through WWII, and beyond. In the period covered by the film, the girls – ‘all of good character’ – were not allowed to move! still: art; movement: lurid! Oh and Mrs Henderson funded what became the Royal Ballet! as her theatre needed dancers!! (I suspect she saw it and the revue as a way to channel her considerable wealth into a neglected segment of society when money was short and times were hard for women.)

Dame Judy Dench is Mrs Henderson, and Bob Hoskins is Vivian Van Damm – the much put upon theatre manager she hires. Kelly Reilly is Maureen – the first of the girls hired by Vivian. The three have some nice chemistry and the film progresses smoothly from there.

There is quite a bit of nudity: but it is mainly art !

It is a nice period piece that give a reasonably accurate view of life in the 30’s and 40’s. Worth getting the DVD out.

The Turning Point

November 22, 2013 at 11:48 pm | Posted in Dance Review, DVD Review, Film Review | Leave a comment
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I finally got to see this on DVD the other day and was blown away.

The movie has a strong plot and some really good ballet.

Two women meet up again after many years apart when a ballet company comes to town. Both were friends and dancers in the ‘corp’, one went onto become a principal dancer, the other opted to have children and teach in her own ballet school. Now the latter’s daughter is at an age and skill level where she could turn ‘pro’. The company offers her a tryout. The rest of the story is the rough introduction into the life of a professional dancer, and her mother and god-mother working out some of their un-resolved issues.

Interspersed is some great ballet; practically everyone who has a dancing role was a professional dancer. Only the god-mother (and principal dancer) is played by a non-dancer: Anne Bancroft. The mother is played by Shirley McClaine. And the daughter is played by Leslie Browne.The featured dancers are a list of who’s who of North American based dancers; ‘the rest’ (my apologies but that is how they are credited) of the dancers come from the American Ballet Theatre.

The movie, made in 1977, is now a ballet historical artefact. The Madame Danilova character is Alexandra Danilova (Russian Imperial Ballet School & Ballet Russe) – playing herself. There is priceless footage of Mikhail Baryshnikov dancing the solo from Le Cosaire. Other dancers featured: Lucette Aldous (a Kiwi!), Fernando Bujones, Richard Cragun, Suzanne Farrell, Marcia Haydée, Peter Martins, Marianna Tcherkassky, Clark Tippet, and Martine Van Hame.

The film clearly influence the more recent Centre Stage.

A must see if you are interested in ballet and dance.

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