Allegro – RNZB 2014

August 21, 2014 at 8:00 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I was not going to see the Royal New Zealand Ballets’ latest production – Allegro – but I found myself buying tickets when events conspired. There were five works:

  • Allegro Brillante – by George Balanchine;
  • Les Lutins – by Johan Kobborg;
  • Satellites – by Daniel Brown;
  • Mattress Suite – by Larry Keigwin;
  • Megalopolis – by Larry Keigwin.

Allegro Brillante, as it was probably danced in 1956, seems a bit predictable in a geometric kind of way. It provided a nice historical beginning to the production.

Les Lutins, was my favourite. The dancing was sincere and there was real between the dancers, the violinist (Benjamin Baker), and the pianist (Michael Pansters). Rory Fairweather-Neylan got to show both his skills, and also a bit of his cheerful self. Yang Liu was flighty and flirty. Arata Miyagawa rounded off the affection-triangle. It was good to see Rory Fairweather-Neylan and Arata Miyagawa throwing down!

Mattress Suite made me think a bit – and it was a bit sad. There is a queen sized (at least) mattress and it does move around.

Megalopolis was just full of dance forms, and had lots of energy to it.

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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.

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.

Peter Pan

November 2, 2009 at 2:57 am | Posted in Ballet Review | Leave a comment
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I went to a performance of Peter Pan put on by the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Warning: plot revealed.

October 31, 2009 by Show_Hanger

I went to see the the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2009 production of Peter Pan, at the St James, in Wellington; they have made some changes since I last saw it in 2004.

There were lots of children in the audience, and one little girl even gave a big cheer part way through! There were even boys in the audience.

Alessia Lugoboni, was wonderful in the part of Wendy; she was by turns a light little girl; and a girl on the verge of womanhood (she mothers the Lost Boys and unknowlingly gets into a three way tustle for Peter’s affection).

Sir Jon Trimmer seems to have found a fifth or sixth wind; his portrayl of Captain Hook was brilliant – better than when he last danced it. He even did a little Michael Flattery sequence when he thinks he has won – poisoned Peter, and about to make the Lost Boys, Wendy and her Brothers, walk the plank

Rory Fairweather-Neylan danced Peter, bringing energy and boyish charm to the part.

The fly-out-the-window sequences have rally come along since 2004; it really does seem like they are flyiong out the window and climbling up towards the “Star on the right.” In terms of flying, the additional use of projection really gives a sense of flying to and from Neverland.
But, the Company should ditch the dummies on poles. This is the 21st century, and they should either be bold enough and put in aerial dance trained dancers; or just let the dancers dance – afterall Swan Lake is able to carry off the swans swimming on a lake without recourse to painted decoy ducks pulled by ropes.

I really liked the end of the Second Act, when Peter and Tinkerbell danced together. It wasn’t quite a pas de deux, but the nature of their relationship is explored and exposed.

Catherine Eddy took on the challenging role of Tinkerbell; Tink, must be light (she is a fairy after all), fun loving (that is why she is jealous of Wendy – because she sees that Peter will ave fun with the latter rather than with her), impulsive (short the girl-monster boys!), and given to displays of emotion (fist pummeling empty air and the odd swipe at the Lost Boys and Peter). The displays of anger and frustration seemed out of place in a fairy; aren’t they
suppose to be happy creatures – isn’t that why clapping revives them? Hopefully the choreograper gives Tink some other motif next time.

Lucy Balfour made the most of her Tiger Lily role.

Abigail Boyle gave a delightful protrayal of the Neverbird, who rescues Peter from the rock; her wonderful costume was very eye catching.

The costumes were great. The pirates have been spruced down, and now look like the crew from “Pirates of the Caribean” – I swear that there is a Johnny Depp look-a-like! The Lost Boys look like playful squirrils – lots of rolling around on the ground in their furry costumes!!

Paul Matthews makes the most of sequences as Mr Darling: with some funny ‘do as I say, and not what do as I do’ parenting at the beginning of Act I.

All-in-all quite enjoyable.

The music was clever; each group got a separate tune; the Darlings/Family got the best – it sounded like a variation of the Kermit-the-frog’s dream song.

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Roll on 2010 and Carmen!

La Sylphide: revenge of the witch

August 4, 2009 at 1:09 am | Posted in Ballet Review | Leave a comment
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I went to a performance of La Sylphide put on by the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Warning: plot revealed.

August 1, 2009 by Show_Hanger

Having read about the Danish style of ballet, I looked forward to seeing a quitissential Danish ballet work. (Actually, the Royal New Zealand Ballet was founded by a proponent of the Danish style, so I should have noticed the jumps and active male partnering long before this!)

The programme:

  • Dances from Napoli
    • Pas de Six
    • Flower Festival
    • Tarantella
  • La Sylphide

– originally choreographed by August Bournonville.

I was struck by Flower Festival – Michael Braun brought lift and a sense of (his) enjoyment.

Then it was onto the main fare: a man – James – about to get married falls in love with a Sylph (a spirit). Who said the Scots were a dour lot! So off he goes – following his heart – leaving his own wedding celebration. It all ends badly: not the least because he humiliates the village hag (‘Madge’ – played by Sir Jon Trimmer, with a real feeling for the part). Michael Braun is James, and the Sylph is danced by Antonia Hewitt. Braun is powerful and controlled, and yet able to project the emotions going through the James character.

I liked the wedding – people enjoying themselves – with the Sylph fluttering in and out when only James could see her. The Sylph is very much the marriage wrecker – James trys to resist her, but he is just a foolish man. The wedding is made much more 3-dimensional by the prescence Effie’s little sister – danced wonderfully in character by Emma Brown. The Company is precise as ever, but a ‘little’ girl has shorter legs, so must occassionally run to keep up with the dancers in the reel – wonderfull.

Rory Fairweather-Neylan, as Gurn, was at times quite funny: “I saw a fairy – right there!”. In fact there is quite a bit of humour in the ballet; it is a pity that it turns out to be more along the lines of a Greek tragedy.

Antonia Hewitt and the other sylphs are light and ethereal. It cannot be easy dancing the sylphs, as Marie Taglioni was considered by Bournonville as the quitessential sylph, and it cannot be easy living up to such a legendary ideal. Effie the jilted bride is ably danced by Adriana Harper; the plot does not have very much for her to do, which is a pity.

The two sets – castle and woods – were very good.

I found the two intervals – one after Dances from Naploli, and the second between the two acts from La Sylphide – had the effect of making the evening very ‘bitty’. The very traditional choreography also added to the sense that this was a series of dances – unlike ‘newer’ ballets which have smoother transitions between dances. It seemed a little 2-dimensional.

But I did get to see an example of the Danish style. There were a many jumps – particularly by the men – and in the pas de deux‘s the women were unsupported and their male partners had equal time.

Being a softy, I wish James and the sylph had not died. But he was a most ungenerous soul on his wedding day – casting out the village hag into the cold. And he did break his oath, so he certainly got his come uppance.

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I did not like the fact that the cast list is no longer handed out. The cast list from the web site differed from the cast list shown on the monitors in the foyer spaces.

Roll on the Company’s Peter Pan in October!

Tutus on Tour – 2009

March 4, 2009 at 2:14 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | 1 Comment
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I went to the last performance in Wellington of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2009 season of Tutus on Tour at the Opera House. Warning: plot revealed.

February 28, 2009 by Show_Hanger

Every other year, the Company divides itself onto two troupes; each half tours one of the two main islands of New Zealand. Each tutus tour is different – typically a number of short works that will work in some of New Zealand’s smaller theatres. Wellington, as well as being the capital, is at the southern tip of the North Island. So this night was danced by the North Island troupe.

Play bill:

I found Saltarello and Holberg Suite just a bit intellectual; I was unable to engage with the works emotionally. I admired the dancing, but I found my mind wander off to think about the events of my day etc.

At times Saltarello seemed like an exhibition piece to show case the skills of the male dancers – 5 dancers take off at once, complete a turn and land at once, smoothly transitioning into the next sequence. Saltarello featured an unusual move in a pas de deux, where the lady leaps past her partner and grasps his outstretched arm with both her hands and glides along with her toes above the floor, and just before she would kip to avoid touching the floor, with some unseen assistance from her partner, she pikes around her partner’s torso and ends up cradled in his arms, against his chest! They did this several times with effortless ease.

I found the choreography in the Holberg Suite very similar to that in Saltarello and so found my attention wandering. Still well executed and enjoyed by al, at times, vocal audience – members of the South Island Troupe.

In Through to You, I found the pas de duex between Michael Braun and Katie Hurst-Saxton captivating. It was like watching the balcony scene in Romeo and Juliette

I had previously seen Currently Under Investigation a few years ago at the New Zealand School of Dance’s Graduation Season. I preferred the Company’s execution – it seemed slightly more polished and graceful. True this took the hard emotional edge off the work – especially when compared to the Graduation Season (where I think the majority of dancers were contemporary specialist). Another member of my party preferred the edgier graduates version. Still – for me – it partially settles the question around classically trained dancers verses dancers trained with a strong classical base – the classical dancers are ‘smoother’.

Catherine Eddy and Brendan Bradshaw are current members of the Company. Their use of Beatles music, for Koo Koo ka Choo, was inspired, and the audience was taken along for a wonderful journey – made perhaps more enjoyable by the fact that they were at a subconcious level familiar with it – such has the influence of the Beatles on contemporary music. This was a very accessible work – the re-recorded music (so that it could be danced to) retained the original lyrics. Rory Fairweather-Neylan (I think – at times it is hard to identify individual dancers) did a superb job of dancing what was effectively the overture to the work.

A nice innovation was to project short film clips in between some of the pieces. Most of the clips were of the Company and its support crew (without which it would not be possible) giving the audience a glimpse behind the scenes. Then the tilt to Abbey Road – projection of a pedestrian crossing – at the end of Koo Koo Ka Choo was just on the right side of corny. It did set up the march/walk-off by the dancers.

Overall, a well executed production with something for everyone.

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Two annoying points: the sound system – at times it could not cope; and the heat – the Opera House still has not solved the heat build-up issue up in the Gallery (aka ‘The Gods’) that caused people so much discomfort during Tutandot in the mid-90’s.

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