Swan Lake

January 10, 2017 at 2:52 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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I went to see the St Petersburg Ballet Theatre’s touring production of Swan Lake, at the St James Theatre, in Wellington, last night. I took the opportunity to watch a traditional Russian staging of this iconic ballet.

The performance suffered a little bit from two things: no orchestra; and a small stage. Being a touring company, the St Peterburg Ballet tend to perform to recorded music – as was the case last night. By international standards, the St James has a small stage. While the Company must be very use to adjusting its choreography for a variety of stages, the smaller stage meant that some of the choreography looked a bit cramped; some of the larger swan formations were slightly compromised.

The lack of an orchestra meant that the ballet proceeded at a set rate. The was no conductor to adjust the pace to fit in with the audience’s clapping or the dancers’s energy.

The undoubted star of the show is Irina Kolesnikova; she is lyrical as Odette and fierce as Odile. The ballet comes to life in Act III, when she dances Odile – Rothbart’s daughter – at the ball. Dimitri Akulmin is Siegfried – the feckless prince. Akulmin’ Siefried is an adequate foil for Odile and suitor for Odette. But the duo only connected in the scene when Kolesinkova does her amazing 30+ fouettes.

Generally, the production was tidy, if a little clinical. The swan formations were most impressive: large, precise, and unified (in time and moving as one). The dance of the signets was the most staccato that I have ever seen – somehow each step was separate from the next – yet faster than I have seen before too; of course, the four dancers (Valeriya Andropova, Arisa Hashimoto, Olga Naumova, Anastasia Chaya) were wonderfully synchronised.

Two other dancers stood out: Seiyu Ogasawara and Saadi Imankulov; Ogasawara as the Jester, was an energetic, with all sorts of leaps and bounds; and Imankulov as the male member of the pas de trois in Act I, had height in his jumps, and control in his vertical 720s.

Being the Russian version, not only is there a jester – who replaces the Siegfried’s companion in western versions – but there is a happy ending! How happy? go see the ballet.

 

 

 

 

 

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Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2015

April 6, 2015 at 12:57 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | 2 Comments
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I went to the finals of the Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2015 (AHAAs) last night at the Opera House – Wellington.

The AHAAs is the largest ballet competition in Australasia, and can justly claim to be the premier competition in Australasia – more on this later.

All three levels of the Opera House was packed to witness the 22 finalists, in the three sections, ‘battle it out’ for the top placings. The knowledgeable audience – some of the top ballet teachers in Australasia, and their pupils – witnessed some exciting dancing. There were moments of thunderous applause – particularly for Harrison Lee and Wan Jin Jing. Both gave spectacular performances of Siegfried.

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.

The finalists, and their solos,  were:

  • Juniors (11 – 13):
    • Milei Lee, Peasant Pas
    • Stella Nyers, Peasant Pas
    • Mio Bayly, Kirov Peasant Pas
    • Jadyn Bagayas, Cupid
    • Tynesha Hancock, Flower Festival
    • Monet Galea-Hewitt, Peasant Pas
    • Matthew Maxwell, Flower Festival
    • Sophie Smith, Peasant Pas
    • Kieren Bofinger, Peasant Pas Boys
    • Heidi Freeman, Kirov Peasant Pas
    • Alexandra Walton, Kirov Peasant Pas
  • Seniors, 13 – 15:
    • Madison Ayton, Esmeralda, We (too) shall rest
    • Talia Fidra, Odile, Seta
    • Makensie Henson, Aurora, Here and Now
    • Bianca Scudamore, Lilac Fairy, Dream
    • Emily Bray, Aurora, To warn the world
    • Harrison Lee, Siegfried, Poem of Atoms
  • Senors, 16 – 21:
    • Isabella Howard, Aurora, Broken Dancer
    • Vida Polakov, Giselle, Imagine
    • Felipe Domingos Natel, Siegfried, Sorrow Atoms/em>
    • Wan Jia Jing, Siegfried, I Am What I Am
    • Tirion Law Lok Huen, Giselle, La Neige

A number of finalists have previously entered the AHAAs – for example: Harrison Lee, Bianca Scudamore, and Tirion Law Lok Huem were here in 2013.

The adjudicators were:

  • Lisa Pavane, Director of the Australian Ballet School and former principal with the English National Ballet
  • Richard Bowman, Ballet Master at the Jackie Kennedy Onassis School New York (NY), examiner for the ABT National Training Curriculum NY, and former principal with the Leipzig Ballet
  • Christian Tatchev, Director of training at the Queensland Ballet and former dancer with PACT Ballet Company in South Africa
  • Zenia Tatchevia, Tutor at the Queensland Ballet and former dancer with PACT Ballet Company in South Africa

This year there were over 400 entrants, and the adjudicators must have put in a marathon effort.

Congratulations to the winners:

  • Sophie Smith
  • Harrison Lee
  • Vida Polakov

All of the competitors are to be congratulated for their hard work and willingness to put themselves out there.[Apologies for any transcription errors – results available the at 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. This is the 25 year of the competition and it has become the launching pad for some wonderful talent.

The AHAAs can rightly lay claim to being the premier Australasian ballet competition. Harrison lee who won the Junior section in 2013, was a winner at Prix de Lausanne Switzerland earlier this year. Vida Polakov won a gold meal at last year’s Genne, held in Belgium. Last year, Hannah O’Neill, 1st runner up in 2007, won the Varna International Ballet Competition in Bulgaria – past winners include Mikhail Baryshnikov and Sylvie Guillem.

I enjoyed the evening and for me the highlights were Talia Fidra’s Seta, Harrison Lee’s, Siegfried and Poem of Atoms, Wan Jia Jing’s Siegfried and Tirion Law Lok Huen’s Giselle.

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

Swan Lake (RNZB: 2013)

July 27, 2013 at 7:23 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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Last weekend I went to see the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2013 production of Swan Lake. Warning: plot revealed.

Main cast:

  • Odette/Odile: Gillian Murphy
  • Siefried: Karel Cruz
  • Jester: Rory Fairweather-Neylan
  • Rothbart: Paul Mathews

Rory Fairweather-Neylan almost steals the show. I have always liked version(s) that include the Jester. The role is technically demanding and artistically demanding – he does well. The <Jester’s choreography acts as an overture for Siefried’s choreography.

Karel Cruz is very eye catching – he must be one of the tallest ‘leading men’ in the ballet world. His superb technique and height give him considerable stage presence; at times, the St James stage seems too small. The elevation he achieves with his jumps; the control in his pirouettes; and the strength in his lifts are just amazing.

Ms Murphy is wonderful. Her fouettes like the rest of her technical repertoire were complete. I made a conscious effort not to count them in Act III, choosing instead to focus on the wonderful artistry and mime.

Siefried and Odette (Cruz and Murphy) achieve a lyrical romantic partnering in Act II. The lyrical pas de deux creates such a sense that they are destined to be together, that the relatively energetic dance of the cygnets (ably dance by Katherine Grange, Adrianna Harper, Bronte Kelly, and Tonia Looker) seems a little out of place.

This version gave Rothbart a much expanded role, compared to other versions. Rothbart does much more than merely produce Odile (disguised as Odette) at the ball. Paul Mathews must manipulate the swans – particularly Odette through his black magic; and has a major showdown with Siefried in Act IV.

I like the happy ending: the lovers don’t die – they are together ! There is also a very touching moment when the swans are freed from their enthrallment.

The structure of the ballet is very clever, and one piece of choreography leads to the next. One example of this is the use of the Jester to provide an introduction to Siefried’s choreography – the Jester’s choreography is a comic version of the latter. Another example, is the use of big swans to bridge the visual gap between the cygnets and the traditionally small swans at the front of the bevy, and the larger and grander Odette, who is effectively their queen. Abigail Boyle and Antonia Hewitt nicely portray two ‘senior’ swans.

Sir Jon Trimmer, once again played the part of WolfGang the Prince’s tutor. He danced this role 17 years ago.

The music is provided by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. The costumes were bright, intricate and detailed; very fitting a production that marks the Company’s 60th Anniversary. There appeared to be many past members in the audience that night.

A must see.

Black Swan

February 24, 2011 at 4:53 am | Posted in Film Review | 1 Comment
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I went to see Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan the other week and found it intense.

This is not a ballet movie. It starts out like most ballet movie, with some very nice dancing and the obligatory pointe shoe scene. But, the movie is about one woman’s descent into madness. Had I know this before hand I think I would not have gone – I prefer less depressing and shocking subjects and story lines. The film and Natalie Portman do an excellent job of portraying a ballerina’s mental breakdown during a production of Swan Lake. Ballet and the Swan Lake story merely provide the backdrop.

Natalie Portman reportly spent six months preparing for the role by taking daily ballet lessons. She appears to have done much of her own dance work, and most certainly helped her fit into the part of Nina Sayers – a dancer chosen to play the parts of Odette/Odile in her company’s new production of Swan Lake.

The Film turns the focus of Swan Lake on its head, usually Swan Lake is decribed in terms of the Prince. Instead, the story revolves around the Odette/Odile – white/black swan – perspective. In the film, the artistic director is confident that Nina can portray the Odette, but is not sure that she can portray the darker Odile.

It is the artistic director pushing Nina to access something within herself that is outside her normal controlled emotions that drives Nina slowly mad.

The Film is so well done, that in the last third, I was not sure what was real and was was Nina’s projected self-delusions. The audience not so much sees Nina’s descent into madness, but accompanies her. It got a bit much for me at times.

If you like intense pyschological films this is for you.

The film is an R16, and there are some graphic scenes between Nina and another ballerina. I wondered and still wonder if they were strictly necessary. It is certainly not a film youtake enthusiastic 10 year old ballet pupils to. Nina is shown throwing up, starving herself, and enduring the kind of workplace bullying from the artistic director (dramatically played by Vincent Cassel ) that in any other workplace would lead to court action.

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