Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2017

April 22, 2017 at 1:48 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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Just as in 2013 and 2015, I went to the finals of the 2017 Alana Haines Australasian Awards (AHAAs) the other night at the St James Theatre – Wellington.

The AHAAs is the largest ballet competition in Australasia, and can justly claim to be the premier competition in Australasia – this year the finalists get preferential entry into the 2018 Youth America Grand Prix, in recognition that the two competitions clashed.

This year’s competition was bigger than before: there were more than 550 entrants; the competition started one day earlier than before too.

The Theatre was packed to witness the finalists (22) put themselves out there one last time. There were moments of thunderous applause – particularly for Nae Kojima and Cameron Holmes.

The night started with ‘set’ solos: Seniors followed by Juniors with their ‘set’ solos. Then the Seniors came back on with their ‘own choice’ contrasting solos. Then their there were performances by past winners – an audience favourite was Harrison Lee.

The finalists, and their solos, were:

  • Juniors (11 – 13):
    • Sonia Woods, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Jasmine Healey, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Brooke Wong, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Jenna Civin, CupidDon Quixote;
    • Macy Trethewey, CupidDon Quixote;
    • Rylie Wilkinson, Kirov Peasant Pas – Giselle;
    • Sotique Macuga, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Alfie Shacklock, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Madeleine Glassey, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Juliette Gray, Flower Festival; and
    • Honey Black, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle.
  • Seniors, 13 – 15:
    • Meg Newton, Odalisque 2nd Solo – Le Corsaire;
    • Stella Byers, Lilac Fairy – Sleeping Beauty;
    • Macy Cook, Kitri’s Wedding – Don Quixote;
    • Hyo Shimizu, Basil – Don Quixote;
    • Noah Benzie-Drayton, James Act 1 – La Sylphides;
    • Monet Galea-Hewitt, Giselle; and
    • Kayla van den Bogert, Odile – Swan Lake.
  • Senors, 16 – 21:
    • Abbey Lavery, Lilac Fairy – Sleeping Beauty;
    • Nae Kojima, Gamzatti – La Bayadere;
    • Saul Newport, Siegfried – Swan Lake; and
    • Cameron Holmes, Corsaire Variation 2 – La Corsaire.

It was nice to see Monet Galea-Hewitt back from 2015.

This year’s adjudicators were:

  • Lisa Pavane, Director of the Australian Ballet School, former Principal Ballerina of the English National Ballet;
  • Stephane Leonard, Director Aspirant Program of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, former Soloist Royal Winnipeg Ballet;
  • Leslie Hughes, Tutor at the Hamburg Ballet School, former soloist Hamburg Ballet Germany; and
  • Terence Etheridge, Choreographer Duchy Ballet Cornwall UK, former artistic Director Hong Kong Ballet, former soloist Festival Ballet (English National Ballet).

With 550 entrants, the panel must have put in a heroic effort. They were still on their feet and handing out scholarships and awards on the final night. Lisa Pavane, the head of panel, gave a wonderfully appropriate address to the contestants and audience: she praised all of the contestants for their hard work and dedication; emphasised the need for good technique (in the upper back and head); called for a round of applause for the parents; and thanked Katie Haines and the volunteers. She was also open about ballet not being for everyone – as its technical demands and work load were more suited to those born with the necessary per-requistes.

Congratulations to the winners:

  • Alfie Shacklock
  • Macy Cook
  • Nae Kojima

Nae Kojima received a huge round of applause for her Gamzatti solo; her technique and elevation were breathtaking. Cameron Holmes, the runner up to Kojima, received two huge rounds of applause for his Corsiare solo and his contrasting solo; he was strong and athletic, yet technically well controlled.

Macy Cook’s first place was well received; she is the first Wellington based winner in the competition’s 29 year history.

All of the competitors are to be congratulated for their hard work and willingness to put themselves out there. [Apologies for any transcription errors – Junior and Senior results are available the at the AHAA website]

This biannual competition is held in memory of Alana Haines – a promising young dancer who died in a car accident on Christmas Eve in 1989. The competition has become the launching pad for some wonderful talent.

I enjoyed the evening and for me the highlight was seeing Cameron Holmes do a jump 360 about an axis that was set at 45 degrees; and a series of 720’s where the last 45 degrees slowed was slower than the first 690 – giving an impression of great control.

As always, I hope fortune will favour all the contestants in the years to come, and I will be able to say “I saw them at the AHAAs”.

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Tutus on Tour (2013)

October 26, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the Friday performance of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2013 season of Tutus on Tour at the St James Theatre (in Wellington).

The show opened with Flower Festival at Genzano – ably danced by Lucy Green and Jacob Chown. The choreography by August Bournoville exhibits the classic footwork and fast leg movements of the Danish school. Opening with this piece is an excellent way for the company to re-introduce itself to an audience it might only perform for every 2-4 years.

Through to you, choreographed by Andrew Simmons, danced by Antonia Hewitt and Qi Huan, also caught my attention. There seemed to be a nice connection between Hewitt and Huan – with Huan showing a lyrical side of himself.

The First Act finished with a pas de deux from Don Quiote danced by Clytie Campbell and Brendan Bradshaw. This showcased some trademark Marius Petipa choreography: I’m afraid I succumbed and tried to counted the number of fouettes – 16 (?).

The Second Act was a wonderful adaptation of Peter and the Wolf. Persona dramaticus:

  • Peter – Rory-Fairweather-Neylan
  • Sister/Bird – Tonia Looker
  • Father/wolf – Qi Huan
  • Duck – Yang Liu
  • Cat – Clytie Campbell
  • Grandmother – Alayna Ng

The action all takes place in Peter’s bedroom. Tania Looker is fantastic bird; Clytie Campbell is a cat through-and-through; Yang Liu is was a great  duck – I thought her bill would have been better placed on her forehead, rather than her nose :-). All three looked wonderful en pointe. Being in Wellington, the Wellington Orchestra provided an excellent live music element.

The narration was done by Te Radar; I wonder who narrates for the other half of the company?

The 2013 season of Tutus on Tour has something for everyone, and Act II is for the child in everyone.

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!

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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