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.

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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.

Mama Mia! (Wellington 2014)

December 6, 2014 at 10:56 pm | Posted in Concert Review, Dance Review, Event Review, Show Review | 1 Comment
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After I saw the Mama Mia movie in 2008, I resolved to see the stage show. Well last night, I finally made it: Wellington Musical Theatre put on a production.

I won’t go into the story of Mama Mia – because some much is available on the web about it.

It was fun; it was fantastic; much more satisfying that the movie (which was pretty entertaining). The movie had great locations and a cinematic sharpness; but, the stage show (any stage show) has actual presence – the performers are there with you and when they do a great job you get carried away in a way that is different to a movie.

So, instead of

  • Amanda SiegFried, we had Ellie-Jane Neal;
  • Meryl Streep: Julie O’Brien;
  • Julie Walters: Jody McCartney;
  • Christine Baranski: Frances Leota;
  • Pierce Brosnan: Russell Dixon
  • Stellan Skarsgård: Mark Shepherd; and
  • Colin Firth: David Cox.

There was a nice juxtaposition of Sophie and her three two friends (Ali – Brogan Wilkinson, Lisa – Flora Lloyd) and beside Donna, Rosie, and Tanya. Jody McCartney absolutely nailed the “Take a Chance on Me” number.

The Scripted encore – with Donna, Rosie, and Tanya in 80’s lycria was fantastic: like being at a mini ABBA concert. The cast had most of the audience at the St James Theatre on their feet and dancing.

The on-stage and off-stage cast members (who are too numerous to list here) did a fantastic job.The dancing was technically good and very enthusiastic (Whitireia Performance Centre and New Zealand School of Dance are turning out great dancers); the singing was wonderful; and the invisible band did a great job.

I would tell you to go ad see this production, but I went to closing night – full marks to the cast for delivering right to the end.

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.

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.

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!

Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2013

April 1, 2013 at 7:08 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review, Sporting Event | 6 Comments
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Having gone to the final of the Genee 2012 late last year, I had to go to the Alana Haines Australasian Awards (AHAAs); so I attended the final night at the St. James in Wellington, New Zealand.

The AHAAs is probably the premier Australasian ballet competition – held every two years in memory of 11 year old Alana Haines, a promising young dancer who died in a car accident on Christmas Eve in 1989.

The format of the final was that the seniors would dance a piece chosen from a short list of classical works, then the juniors would do the same, then the seniors would do a piece of their own choice.

The knowledgeable audience gave full vent to its appreciation of some fine dancing.

The finalists were:

  • Juniors, 11 – 13 years:
    • Larissa Kiyotto-Ward
    • Sophie Smith, Queensland
    • Madison Ayton, Queensland
    • Lily Maskery
    • Talia Fidra, Queensland
    • Nae Kojima, Queensland
    • Damen Axtens
    • Bianca Scudamore, Queensland
    • Madeleine Skippen, Queensland
    • Harrison Lee
    • Narvin Turnball, Queensland
  • Seniors, 13 – 15 years:
    • Chloe Michelle Hollow, Queensland
    • Kayla-Maree Tarantolo, New South Wales
    • Bethany Cockburn, Queensland
    • Madison Whiteley, Brisbane
    • Alysha Martignago, Queensland
    • Shene Lazarus, Brisbane
  • Seniors, 16 – 21 years:
    • Emily Seymour, Sydney
    • Anyah Siddall, Sydney
    • Tirion Law Lok Huen
    • William Fitzgerald
    • Tynan Wood

The judges were:

  • Sarah Eliot-Cohen: Head of Development, Royal Ballet School (London)
  • Simon Dow: Senior Tutor, Australian Ballet School
  • Martin James: International Guest Tutor

NB: Ms Eliot-Cohen stepped in at the last moment when Gailene Stock-Norman (Director, Royal Ballet School) suffered a concussion and was ruled medically unable to fly. [Apologies if I have Sarah’s details incorrect – there being no errata to the programme.]

There was a very strong Australian contingent – 15 of the final 22 were not based in New Zealand.

Congratulations to the three winners:

  • Harrison Lee
  • Bethany Cockburn
  • Tynan Wood

I had seen Tynan Wood (and William Fitzgerald) dance before at the New Zealand School of Dance. Tynan was a worthy winner: his Siegfried – with its huge jumps and fine technical control – had the audience in raptures; and his Speaking in Tongues made the biggest connection with the audience. It should be noted that two of the top three places in the 16 – 21 year group went to New Zealand School of Dance students: Tynan, and William Fitzgeral. Anyah Siddal, who was the first runner-up is from Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching, NSW, Australia. [Full results at AHAAs]

The ‘boys’ did very well: Damen Axtens and William Fitzgerald came second in their respective sections.

Sir John Trimmer, was the host for the evening, and created a supportive and appreciative atmosphere to a tense few hours. He worked the audience like a music hall master of old.

There was a 25 minute interval to allow the judges to confer and make a final decision. This dragged out to 40-45 minutes; and this gave rise to some uncalled for rhythmic clapping and stamping at times (by the adults – it should be noted, not the competitors).

Just before the interval – to give the judges even more time and to showcase some young talent – students (Jarrah McArther and Tynan Wood) from the New Zealand School of Dance did a neo-classical pas de deux (Jeffrey Tan’s Facade) and Shayarne Matheson (Winner in 2011) did a neo-classical solo.

A most entertaining and educational night.

[Apologies to the participant for any errors – there being no errata to the programme – I am forced to rely on some notes scribbled in the dark.]

NZSD: 45th Graduation Season

November 29, 2012 at 8:53 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the New Zealand School of Dance’s 45th Anniversary Graduation Season last night. The programme was well put together and printed on high quality glossy paper. The production contained a mixture of ballet, contemporary and neo-classic ballet.

I particularly enjoyed the neo-classic work entitled: Fractals. The lighting, the body hugging leotards and black tights worn by the ladies, and simple black vest and shorts worn by the men, gave all the dancers a tall androgynous look. The choreography contained many deliberately repetitions of the same elements to give the dance a fractal nature; the choreography required the dancers to be strong and flexible with a slightly mechanical air – they (Chloe Eincke and William Fitzgerald, with Hannah Askew, Olivia Berrell, Tiffinay Pellow, Mitchell Powell, Tynan Wood, and Benjamin Obst) were brilliant.

I also liked Verse and Faun.

Verse was choreographed, and costume design was also, by Loughlan Prior, specifically for this production in memory of David Carson-Parker – a long time patron of the Graduation Season. It was danced very ably by Luis Piva Junior.

Faun was danced by Gareth Okan – who successfully gave the work a strong animalistic feel. I did wonder what this work would look like if it was danced by a women.

Another excellent production.

NZSD: Insight (Studio Performance)

September 28, 2012 at 7:22 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the New Zealand school of Dance’s latest studio performance – Insight – last night.

The dancers were 1st, 2nd, and 3rd year dance students; the dances were put on in the main studio.

Two ballet pieces stay in my mind: Fractals and Facade.

Fractals is a neo-classic ballet piece choreographed by Parrish Maynard to music by Kenneth Kirschner. The 3rd year dancers executed this exciting piece really well – strong, good lines, and a controlled passion.

Facade is another neo-classical ballet piece: choreographed by Jeffrey Tan to music by Samuel Barber. Elisabeth Zorino and William Fitzgerald had a lovely connection and really did justice to this lyrical pas de deux.

Luis Piva Jnr danced James’ solo from La Sylphide Act I: strong, powerful and nice lines.

These NZSD studio performances are a real bargain: excellent dancing at gold-coin donation prices.

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