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.

 

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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.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream (RNZB, 2015)

September 5, 2015 at 12:45 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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I saw Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of this the other night at the Aotea Centre – ASB Theatre in Auckland.

This was a brand new production for the Company – choreographed by Liam Scarlett, stage design by Tracy Grant Lord, lighting by Kendall Smith, and music by Nigel Gaynor (after Mendelssohn).

Titania was danced by Lucy Green; Oberon by Shane Urton; Puck by Shaun James Kelly; Botton by Paul Matthews. Green and Urton were nicely paired, and their final pas de deux, when they are reconciled, very touching, very lyrical, with some innovative lifts. Matthews was comical; and played the part to perfection. In some ways, Matthews and Kelly had the more difficult roles, demanding more acting than in most other ballets. Matthews was assisted by a donkey head. Kelly was by parts athletic and mischievous.

I much preferred Act II over the first Act. I found Act I a bit slow, this was understandable, given that it had to set up quite a complex set of mis-understandings and mis-pairings.Puck tries hard, but it is hard to get good help! I would have like to see more of the fairies. Partly because their customs were so good; and mainly because Titania-and-Oberon are Queen-and-King of the fairies, so we should see more of the fairies.

The venue itself was a grand example of a modern theatre – the minimalist lines of wooden interior is very grand.

Assemblé: The Royal New Zealand Ballet at Sixty

February 8, 2014 at 10:13 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Exhibition Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the Turnbull Gallery in the National Library to see the Assemblé exhibition.

Last year was the Company’s 60th ‘Birthday’, and the exhibition focused on the creators of the ballets – the choreographers, the designers, and the lyricists. There was a very nicely framed colour wheel of all the materials used for the costumes for Romeo and Juliet.

The exhibition is crafted around the ballets of significance to the Company, like: Romeo and Juliet, and Swan Lake. There are posters, photos, notes, and excerpts of music from the ballets.

I found the benesh notation and choreographers notes interesting. Though, it would be nice if they had a plain-english translation to go with them.

The Exhibition finishes on Saturday 15 February, fans of the Royal New Zealand Ballet should go see and hear the items in the exhibition.

Tutus on Tour (2013)

October 26, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the Friday performance of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2013 season of Tutus on Tour at the St James Theatre (in Wellington).

The show opened with Flower Festival at Genzano – ably danced by Lucy Green and Jacob Chown. The choreography by August Bournoville exhibits the classic footwork and fast leg movements of the Danish school. Opening with this piece is an excellent way for the company to re-introduce itself to an audience it might only perform for every 2-4 years.

Through to you, choreographed by Andrew Simmons, danced by Antonia Hewitt and Qi Huan, also caught my attention. There seemed to be a nice connection between Hewitt and Huan – with Huan showing a lyrical side of himself.

The First Act finished with a pas de deux from Don Quiote danced by Clytie Campbell and Brendan Bradshaw. This showcased some trademark Marius Petipa choreography: I’m afraid I succumbed and tried to counted the number of fouettes – 16 (?).

The Second Act was a wonderful adaptation of Peter and the Wolf. Persona dramaticus:

  • Peter – Rory-Fairweather-Neylan
  • Sister/Bird – Tonia Looker
  • Father/wolf – Qi Huan
  • Duck – Yang Liu
  • Cat – Clytie Campbell
  • Grandmother – Alayna Ng

The action all takes place in Peter’s bedroom. Tania Looker is fantastic bird; Clytie Campbell is a cat through-and-through; Yang Liu is was a great  duck – I thought her bill would have been better placed on her forehead, rather than her nose :-). All three looked wonderful en pointe. Being in Wellington, the Wellington Orchestra provided an excellent live music element.

The narration was done by Te Radar; I wonder who narrates for the other half of the company?

The 2013 season of Tutus on Tour has something for everyone, and Act II is for the child in everyone.

Tutus on Tour 2011

March 6, 2011 at 8:21 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the last Wellington performance of this last week, at the Opera House. I was seated up in the ‘Gods’. The view was quite good; though, you did loose a little perspective on the jumps and leaps.

This year’s Tutus on Tour performance consisted of two pieces: Verdi Variations and Pinochio. The former sparkling white tutus – for the Ballerinas – and sparkling white jackets – for the male dancers. Pinochio was a character morality piece aimed at the young at heart.

Verdi Variations was classical ballet – the ballerinas were en pointe and the men leapt and turned. Lucy Green tossed in some fouettes (including a double); Yang Liu was graceful – she would later dance the part of the Blue Fairy in Pinochio; and Maree White impressed me with turns that I had never seen before – they looked like a fouette, but with very little whip of the non-supporting leg. There was a lovely short segment in which the five couples demonstrated a classic danish style of partner dancing – fast, the couple almost at the run, with the women executing split leaps in rapid succession, with their arms in the air, while the man supporting/holding his partner when they were at the apex of their leap.

Verdi Variations was not too serious – there was a frosty pas de trois where each ballerina competed for the limelight, and dancers male and female sought time on stage by themselves. As the name suggests this piece is set to music by Verdi.

Pinochio is of course about the boy made from wood. It has lots of moral messages: work hard; study hard; money doesn’t grow on trees; beware of strangers who promise great returns on investment. Yang Liu as the Blue Fairy and Lucy Green as the Cat both stood out.

Cinderella – RNZB September 2007

August 31, 2007 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Ballet Review | Leave a comment
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Aug 31, 2007 by Show_Hanger

I went to the opening night, Friday the 31 of August, of the Royal New Zealand Ballet‘s new production of Cinderella. This is a new work from choreographer Christopher Hampson.

The ballet is in 3 Acts, and opens with a funeral. Actually, the funeral takes place before the beginning of Act I – like the opening scenes in a modern movie, where there is an attention grabbing sequence before the opening credits. The funeral sets the scene and mood for Act I, and takes place behind a black muslin curtain. Anyone who is not familiar with the Cinderella story is left in no doubt that she is an orphan, about to be cast into an uncertain future. Act I is dark and the step-mother and step-sisters cruel and nasty to Cinderella.

Act II takes place at the ball, and here we see the Prince in search of a soul mate. Even at the ball, surrounded by beautiful women – many invited there to meet him – he seems alone. Just when you think the ball is over and the ballet is going to take an unexpected direction, Cinderella appears. the prince comes to life and the rest is history.

Act III is also introduced by a tableau – this time by the corp of Royal shoemakers trying to duplicate the slipper left behind by Cinderella – taking place infront of the curtain. They fail and the Prince has to use the real one on his search for the women who will fit the shoe. The curtain rises and the Prince and his companions search for the Prince. Of course, the Prince finds Cinderella and all is well. One of the step-sisters even ends up with one of the Prince’s companions!

I have never been to a pantomime, but having seen the step-sisters, I have some feel for what a pantomime might be like. I am not saying that the ballet went too far, though some may say it did. For me, the portrayal was just right, it introduced a lighter note to some very dark material. In fact the dancing and acting of Alessia Lugoboni threatened to steal the show – her portrayal of the chirpy airhead step-sister gained this character the sympathy of the audience.

For me the choice of Yu Takayama, Qi Huan and Vivencio Samblaceno as Cinderella, the Prince and the Father, had what must have been an unexpected result. The dark elements were all danced by European looking dancers and the ‘good’ elements of the ballet were played by Asian looking dancers. This provided a visual contrast. There was another more subtle contrast: the Prince and Cinderella danced traditional ballet steps; whereas the step-sisters danced a very character steps. The result was to emphasis the gulf between the dark and the light elements at work. At times it was almost as if there were two ballets going on at once – the new characterisation around the step-sisters and the ball, interleaved with the very traditional stylized Prince and Cinderella. I would really like to see this production on another night with different dancers in the roles of the Prince and Cinderella – to see and experience what it would be like.

I really enjoyed this production: the re-worked story offered those who were familiar with the basic story-line something to hang out for; the costumes, sets and lighting very nice and the dancing was great. The step-sisters were larger than life and you could sense the love-hate relationship building up with the audience. The Prince and Cinderella were picture perfect – to my man-in-the-street-eye they exhibited strong tradition technique: Yu Takayama was light and her split-leaps were effortless and level while, Qi Huan’s fouettes pinpoint.

Some other impressions: guys with wings and a roses sub-theme. Three of the characters who supplied Cinderella with the where withall to get to the ball are insects with wings ! I have not seen men in parts with wings – this is generally reserved for female dancers. The recurring use of the rose motif was also very clever: Cinderella plants a rose on her mother’s grave – which turns into a giant rose bush; under which she is given her ball gown; of a red rose motif as the full moon 3 days after a partial eclipse that produced a ‘blood moon’; and the vital silver rose.

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