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 Рdanced by Joseph Skelton. Paul Mathews, as the Toreador, has the difficult task of dancing a parody of Don Jose identifying moves Рwhich 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.

NZSD Graduation Season 2010: KYLIAN

November 25, 2010 at 11:10 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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Last night, I went to the New Zealand School of Dance Graduation Season 2010: Kylian Programme. I had gone to see the Kiwi Programme last week and was really looking forward to an evening showcasing the School’s ballet students. I was also looking to see the choreography of the much heralded Jiri Kylian.

There were four pieces: Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen (Songs of a Wayfarer), Evening Songs, Un Ballo, and Stoolgame.

The production standards are very high; probably as high as a professional company. I wonder what the NZ Ballet would make of it – I would really like to see them do some of these pieces. My thought when watching Un Ballo, was: “Why not take this on tour?” Then I answered myself with: “Because the students leave in a few weeks?”

The dancers and repetiteurs (Arlette van Boven and Ken Ossala) are to be congratulated for doing a fantasic job.

I found the use of the classical vocabulary in new ways both facinating yet reassuring – particularly with the first three pieces. The first three pieces were quite fluid and the music lovely. There was sufficient balletic structure that I did not feel uncomfortable (or lost!), yet sufficent modern and neo and abstract that I was challenged.

The lack of music in Stoolgame must have made it very challenging for the seven dancers who would have had to maintain a group rhythm without an external source. Still, their execution was excellent. The lack of music also made it a challenge for me; I did not realise how much I relied on the music to engage with a dance.

Not your traditional tutus, pointe shoes, and grande jetes evening; but worth a look if you want something different – the work that went into this and the sharpness of execution should be rewarded by having an audience watch it.

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