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.]

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NZSD: Graduation Season 2014

November 23, 2014 at 9:21 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | 1 Comment
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I went to the New Zealand School of Dance‘s 2014 Graduation Season last night.

The programme was dominated by contemporary and neo-classical pieces. The third (mini-) Act was one long neo-classic series of pieces labelled: Purcell Pieces.

The first mini-Act consisted of George Balanchine’s Concerto Barocco – all very tidy and precise, with some clever choreography to move dancers around each other; and The Speech (by Charlie Chaplin). The latter seemed more polished than when I saw it at – well done Jeremy Beck.

Another piece to catch my eye, was Val Caniparoli’s Double Stop – Samantha Vottari and Tynan Wood did a very good job.

Finally, exercpts from Douglas Wright’s Rapt was performed. This piece is – according to the programme, loosely base on the Lord’s Prayer in sign language. It begs the question: if it is not alright for dancers to speak or sing, why should they sign? Or, maybe this mix of dance and signing, will open up a new form of dance expression.

This year’s graduates look good.

Allegro – RNZB 2014

August 21, 2014 at 8:00 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I was not going to see the Royal New Zealand Ballets’ latest production – Allegro – but I found myself buying tickets when events conspired. There were five works:

  • Allegro Brillante – by George Balanchine;
  • Les Lutins – by Johan Kobborg;
  • Satellites – by Daniel Brown;
  • Mattress Suite – by Larry Keigwin;
  • Megalopolis – by Larry Keigwin.

Allegro Brillante, as it was probably danced in 1956, seems a bit predictable in a geometric kind of way. It provided a nice historical beginning to the production.

Les Lutins, was my favourite. The dancing was sincere and there was real between the dancers, the violinist (Benjamin Baker), and the pianist (Michael Pansters). Rory Fairweather-Neylan got to show both his skills, and also a bit of his cheerful self. Yang Liu was flighty and flirty. Arata Miyagawa rounded off the affection-triangle. It was good to see Rory Fairweather-Neylan and Arata Miyagawa throwing down!

Mattress Suite made me think a bit – and it was a bit sad. There is a queen sized (at least) mattress and it does move around.

Megalopolis was just full of dance forms, and had lots of energy to it.

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.

Nutcracker Nation

July 9, 2009 at 1:23 am | Posted in Book Review | Leave a comment
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Nutcracker Nation by

Jennifer Fisher
Yale University Press,
New Haven and London

2003
ISBN 0-300-09746-8

Finally, a book review … !

June 30, 2009 by


Paper Hanger

Paper Hanger Blog
Wellington
New Zealand

Nutcracker Nation – by Jennifer Fisher

This book examines how The Nutcracker came from its native Russia and took root in America. It treats the ballet as an immigrant and examines how being in america has changed it; and like many immigrants, how it changed its adopted country. It is more a work of socialogy, rather than of dance.

The book takes from the Ballet’s inception in 1892, at the Maryinski Theater, St Petersburg, under the choreography of Lev Ivanov (who stepped in for Marius Petipa). Through to George Balanchine’s productions for television, danced by the New York City Ballet, broadcast by CBS in 1957 & 1958. Through to Viji Prakesh’s bharata natyam Nutcracker and Donald Byrd’s Harlem Nutcracker.

Nation’s premise is that the Ballet has elements that easily allow an entire community involvement to become involved: there are roles for children and adults, of varying dance training, plus backstage and front-office roles. Apparently, in many towns and city the Christmas/Holiday season is ushered in by the local ballet(s) putting on their variation of The Nutcracker. And what variations there are; generally, Clara, the Mouse King, the Nutcracker/Prince, the Sugar Plum Fairy, and (uncle) Drosselmeier – or some suitable substitute – appear. The author, herself, danced as a snowflake in Fernaud Nault’ Nutcracker in Louvisille Ballet in 1963.

Clearly, the author has done a large amount of research, including following two ballet companies: Loudoun Ballet – Leesburg, Virgina, USA – and the National Ballet of Canada – Toronto. Fisher, uses the amateur and professional companies to illustrate contrasts and similarities.

It gets a little cerebral at times, but Nutcracker Nation needs to be treated as a serious book about socialogical aspect of American life, rather than a book about a ballet or how amateur and professional ballet companies operate. I found it a little dry, and would have liked to see more of the human side of the Loudoun Ballet and the National Ballet of Canada. Having said that, Fisher does give a very good summary of the evolution of The Nutcracker from its Russian origins to its current status as an America ‘citizen’, and of those who had a hand in the change. George Balanchine, a Russian emigre himself, through his willingness to stage the Ballet, and arranging it for TV, seems to have played a major role.

The book is probably a must for those with a deep interest in ballet or for whom The Nutcracker is a favourite ballet – as it goes in to the motivations behind the characters and what the characters have come to represent in America.

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