NZSD 50th Anniversary Graduation Season

November 26, 2017 at 3:07 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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Last night I went to The New Zealand School of Dance 50th Anniversary Graduation Season at the St James Theatre.  The School decided to mark its 50th year with a special graduation season – held at the St James rather than its more modest little theatre.

The Programme began with the [Junior] Scholars doing a simple piece choreographed by Sue Nicholls (alumni); Beginners, Please  had four Scholars and two full-time students dancing a very static short piece at the barre. The Programme finished with a piece by the Royal New Zealand Ballet – In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. The ‘normal’ graduation programme was thus bookend-ed by the students of tomorrow and the students of the past.

My high lights:

  • Tempo di Valse: this was a symphonic piece choreographed to Tchaikovsky‘s Nutcracker, Op.71. by Nadine Tyson (alumni). The 19 dancers were a mixture of second and third year dancers. It was classical and very seasonal.
  • Wedding Pas de Deux from Don Quixote: this was dance by Mayu Tanigaito and Joseph Skelton from the RNZB and staged by Patricia Barker (RNZB Artistic Director). Ms Tangigato’s  kitri was checky and playful; and her technique excellent – her 30 something fouttes got a massive round of applause, and her stability off-and-on pointe was rock solid. Joseph Skelton’s amplitude, endurance, strength, and technique also earned him some well deserved applause. I have never before seen a one handed lift – he pulled out two!! The two dancers also had some chemistry – a good thing for their wedding dance.

Works I found interesting;

  • Forgotten Things: This contemporary piece, choreographed in 2015 by Sarah Foster-Sproull (alumni), at times used the 23 dancers, dressed in black, in close packed formations, using their exposed hands and lower legs, to create animistic shapes and extensions to some of the soloists. It strikes me that the use of multiple dancers to create ‘creatures’ may be a direction worth exploring.
  • S.U.B. (Salubrious Unified Brotherhood): danced by 3rd year students Connor Masseurs and Toa Paranihi. This was choreographed by Victoria Colombus (alumni), and explored what is dance – there were times when both men just stood still, and moved individual muscle groups.
  • The Bach: choreographed by Michael Parmeter (alumni), originally in 2002, to capture and express the emotions felt after 3 years of dance study. 16 2nd and 3rd year students did a contemporary take on JS Bach’s Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen.

Works of renown:

  • Concerto Pas de Deux: a Sir Kenneth MacMillan piece.
  • Allegro Brillante: a Balanchine piece debuting in New Zealand for the first time at the Graduation Season.
  • In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated: a piece originally commissioned by Rudolf Nureyev for the young dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet, and choreographed by William Forsythe, in 1987. This piece was staged by Thierry Guiderdoni and dance by nine members of the RNZB. as it said in the Programme, it is as modern today, as when it first premiered.

So something for everyone who was fortunate to get a ticket to one of the three shows – unlike the regular 2 week graduation season.

The School had arranged a weekend of celebratory activities, and a number of alumni and RNZB alumni  were in evidence at the Saturday night show.

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Romeo & Juliet (RNZB 2017)

August 27, 2017 at 4:26 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Event Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the Royal New Zealand Ballet‘s new production of Romeo and Juliet the other night. Francesco Ventriglia, the outgoing Artistic Director’s version is longer (three Acts) and more theatrical than previous productions by the company. Jon Buswell’s lighting  combined nicely with James Acheson’s innovative sets to create a dark renaissance mood. Boswell’s costumes also provide a magnificent sense of pomp and grandeur for the nobles. This is also a grittier production; this production has a fight coordinator – Carrie Thiel – who gives the fights a sense of realism.

Joseph Skelton and Madeleine Graham are Romeo and Juliet – Skelton and Graham display chemistry during their pas de deux. Their balcony, morning after, and tomb choreography had innovative segments where they don”t dance – they just hold each other and/or step together. It actually reinforces their relationship. Graham genuinely looks like she could be 14 years old! Skelton gives the audience something to cheer for – when the secretly married couple wake up the day after the secret wedding – he is topless.

Paul Mathews’ Tybalt was impactfull; he was by turns: powerful, athletic, moody, angry, and passionate.

Massimo Margaria and Filippo Valmorbida were Mercutio and Benvolio. Margaria is the perfect loyal friend; Valmorbida is the friend who is always fooling around.

Abigail Boyle is the majestic and proud Lady Capulet. Watch out for her black mourning – for Tybalt – outfit as a harbinger of death.

Things I liked:

  • Paul Mathews’ Tybalt; it is good to see him in a challenging role.
  • Some of the fight sequences.
  • The visual symmetry of the Prince’s guard: half the guards held their pikes with their right hands, and the other half held their pikes with their left hands.
  • The noble ladies’ costumes – dripping in pageantry.
  • Graham/Juliet’s pointed toes – when she was asleep, unconscious, and even when dead.

Things I did not like:

  • The excess of divertissements.

 

Carmen (RNZB 2017)

March 27, 2017 at 9:44 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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The other night, I went to see the Royal new Zealand Ballet production of Roland Petit‘s Carmen, preceded by Petit’s L’Arlesienne, at the St James Theatre in Wellington. Petit’s Carmen is recognised as a significant neoclassical ballet. But I found L’Arlesienne a much gentler introduction to neoclassical ballet.

L’Arlesienne tells the story of a young man in a village set to marry a woman, yet obsessed with another, invisible, women. Frederi (danced by Massimo Margaria) clearly does not love Vivette (Katie Hurst-Saxon); who loves him and is confused by his distracted behaviour. Their pas de deuxs are choregraphed to emphasis their lack of connection; Viviette tries and tries, but Frederie is almost always facing away and cold.

The choreography for the rest of the villagers is geometric, yet without the grandeur of a romantic ballet. The villagers are starkly dressed and that is their general lot. Against a simple impressionist rendering of golden fields, the young villagers pair off and go about their lives.

Petit re-purposes the circular path so often used in romantic ballets to show joy, happiness, and love, into some darker, angst, yearning, and despair. The part of Frederi is a taxing role. In the final sequences, he is on stage constantly, working himself into every more frantic circles till he finally does a swan dive out a window – killing himself. Margaria does well, he is able to mute his power to stay within the role. Hurst-Saxon is by turns portrays confounded and confused.

After the interval the Company changed gears and put on Petit’s Carmen. This was nothing like the Company’s previous production of Carmen. Petit’s version  is shorter, condensed, and gritter. Don Jose is no sooner convinced that he is love with Carmen, than he has killed her; the story is pared down to the basics, as is the set.

Natalya Kusch, is a fiery independent  Carmen; her pose and attitude completely enslaves Don Jose – danced by Joseph Skelton. Paul Mathews, as the Toreador, has the difficult task of dancing a parody of Don Jose identifying moves – which he does, assisted by a suit of light that looks more like a clown suit!

The final scene when Don Jose overcome by jealousy stabs and kills Carmen shows the genius of Jean-Michel Desire – the lighting designer. A dimmed stage with minimalist props is used as backdrop for spot lights set at the edge of the stage. As Kusch and Skelton dance their pas de deux of death, their shadows fly around the stage – magnifying the emotions and interplay of the dancers. Carmen is defiant; Don Jose is possessive, frantic, desperate, and ultimately stupid.

Carmen is a disturbing story.

George Bizet’s music used in both pieces – provides the perfect emotional backdrop.

Worth seeing. Especially, since Francesco Ventriglia, the choreographer, danced in productions of Carmen, staged by Petit; and worked as a choreographer with Petit.

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