Dancing with Mozart

June 3, 2018 at 4:58 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production of Dancing with Mozart – 4 contemporary ballets, from 3 choreographers, all to music by Mozart.

The 4 works:

  • George Balanchine: Divertimento No 15 danced to Divertimento No 15 in B flat major K287, is a symphonic ballet!
  • Corey Baker: The Last Dance is danced to Requiem in D minor R626, is inspired by a visit to Antarctica
  • Jiri Kylian: Petite Mort danced to Piano Concerto in A major K488, Adagio, and Piano Concerto in C major K467; and Sechs Tanze danced to Sechs Deutsche Tanze K571.

Alexandre Ferreira stood out in Divertimento No 15.

I really liked the Baker’s The Last Dance; it told a story. The punchy story of global warming left the audience in no doubt of the dangers. The staging was simple, yet powerful. Everything was either black, grey, or white. The opening scene featured the majority of dancers dressed from head to foot in white hooded unitards, on a white floor, and a white background. The lighting was bright, creating the feel of being out in the snow on a sunny day. Off to one side is a transparent cube with a two dancers in dark leotards. By the end of the dance, the cube is full of water, poured their by the dancers – now dressed in head to foot grey; the stage is all black.

Divertimento No 15 was choreographed in 1956. The Last Dance was choreographed this year and premiered in this production. The Kylian pieces were choreographed in 1991 and 1986. I’ve listed the chronology, because, it struck me that the pieces reflected the evolution of contemporary ballet. The production starts with Balanchine’s somewhat abstract work, showing off the classic forms, as a foil to the music. Then there was the most modern work. Baker’s choreography uses classical skills without classical forms. It tells a compelling topical story. Then we go back to Kylian’s two pieces: both use classical ballet training, but the focus is on conveying feelings – both are fun works. Sechs Tanze had the audience laughing out loud.

Definitely worth going to. The Last Dance could become a modern classic – innovative staging, powerful choreography, and a story of our times.

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RNZB: Three by Ekman

June 5, 2017 at 5:08 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | 1 Comment
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I went to the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s latest production- at the Saint James Theatre – of three of Alexander Ekman’s contemporary ballet pieces Tuplet, Episode 31, and Cacti. These are not narrative ballets:there is no story; but the nice thing was that are any given moment one might have been in the middle of a story!

Tuplet began before the official start time – of 7:30pm. When I went to take my seat, there were already two dancers on stage ‘doing there thing’. As more of the audience filed in, more dancers came on, and by the time the house lights came down, the dance was underway.

Episode 31 and Cacti were both introduced by a lengthy video featuring Ekman and the Company. This was a clever way to introduce a narrative into a non-narrative dance. The dance still doesn’t tell a story, but by telling the back story, the audience is much more connected with the dances.

Ekman created structure by having many of his dancers dance only on a square. they danced on their square, moved it around, and hid behind it.  The squares even stacked them up.

Episode 31 was my favourite. It had the most structure: clever use of  wide cream strips broke up the stage into zones that were almost street.

Cacti featured the New Zealand String Quartet on stage – playing and moving around the dancers. In effect, there were two dances – the musicians moving in one choreography (abeit simple) overlaid on top of the complex choregraphy of the dancers. At one time or another all of the dancers have a pot plant in their hands – hence the name. There was a third pattern – made by the various squares and blocks that the dancers danced on and stacked.

Worth going to. Oh, because the show just eased it being, the traditional ‘no photography; no recording’ announcement did not take place – and I saw people around me taking advantage of this 🙂

Giselle (RNZB 2016)

August 15, 2016 at 8:25 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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The Royal New Zealand Ballet has re-staged it’s Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel choreographed 2012 production of Giselle.

There have been some tweaks – there is now a clever front projection to create the extensive roots of a tree that appear to move.

Lucy Green dances the part of Giselle. Her solo during the wedding was technically strong – all the pointe work was precise and steady; yet she conveyed the image of a young girl in love. She continued this mix of technique and artistry in the second Act – to save an unworthy Albrecht. 

Qi Huan, as Albrecht, reprising his role from 2012. Once again his leaps and jumps were breath taking high; his turns fast and precise. The struggle to dance all night was well conveyed. He got a well deserved big round of applause after an astonishing number of back to back entrechats.

Clytie Campbell was as Myrtha – the Queen of the Willis.

Ben Chown gave a good characterisation of the gamekeeper; he was the ‘country’ to the Prince’s polished. This was to foreshadow the final outcome when they were caught out in the woods after dark in the second Act.

A must see.

 

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.

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.

Coppelia (RNZB:2014)

April 25, 2014 at 2:20 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I saw the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2014 production of Coppelia the other night and really enjoyed it.

Martin Vedel has done a fantastic job; the story has been tweaked a little bit here and there, but it is still Coppelia – with the third Act retained. It is very much a ballet in three parts: down to the lighting, music and costumes. The general choreography is more to the Danish style – which given Vedel’s time with the Royal Danish Ballet School and Royal Danish Ballet, and the Company’s origins is perfect.

The first Act is lots of fast precise footwork. The lighting and costumes succeeds in creating a festival atmosphere in a peasant village. It is all fun and frivolity – just what you might expect at a harvest festival in Hungary. Mayu Tanigaito brings a bright mischevious perky touch to the role of Swanhilda. Alayna Ng playing the role of Swanhilda’ mother brings a number of (probably) unintended visual elements – she does look like she could be Ms Mayu’s mother and she looks like she might have stepped out of a Gauguin painting :-)!

Mayu’s dancing and acting are great; she is technically very proficient, and injects personality and character into her role. She is a perfect choice for the role.

The czardas – danced by Madison Geoghegan, Lori Gilchrist, Laura Jones and Kirby Selchow – are bright and a little saucy. Their red costumes, with match red-and-gold head bands, and red boots, looked like of what you might get if you dressed the Veela (from Harry Potter) in Wonder Woman outfits.

The friends – danced by Clytie Campbell, Abigail Boyle, Bronte Kelly, and Maree White – are by turns lead, cajoled, and flattered into all sort of mischief by Swanhilda. The dancing and acting of this group in interacting with Swanhilda sets the tone for the ballet. Act I ends with Swanhilda and her friends sneaking into the house of Dr Coppelia – to introduce themselves to the ‘new girl in town’; and her on-again-off-again fiance Franz (Alexander Idazak), using a ladder to climb up to the Dr Coppelia’s balcony – to checkout the ‘new girl in town’.

The second Act is darker and takes place entirely in Dr Coppelia’s workshop. Swanhilda and her friends discover that the ‘new girl’, who is always reading studiously in the window, is in fact a giant doll. In fact the whole workshop is full of dolls. Dr Coppelia comes in and ejects the friends; Swanhilda for some reason hides and stays behind. So she is on hand to save Franz from having his life-force drained from him and placed in a doll. Swanhilda manages to drag a semi-concious Franz out of the workshop, in the process she breaks the doll.

The beginning of the second Act contained one of the best use of contemporary dance I have seen. Maclean Hooper dances as a undressed androgynous doll – named aptly “Limbless”. It is both comic and slightly sinister.

The third Act picks up where the first Act left off: the festival draws to a close with various couples getting married. Swanhilda and her friends all get married. It is an opportunity to dress in white, for pas de deux‘s, for set pieces, and for solo’s. Ima and Zoltan (Clytie Campbell and Joseph Skelton) get solos – Skelton gets some amazing elevation. Some of Petipa’s characteristic choreography peaks through. There is a sequence where Swanhild and Franz, to show their joy and love for each other, do a series of pirouettes and jump turns. Vedel has a playful sequence which has Swanhida literal jumping into Franz’s arms – she lands in his arms in a horizontal position, chest out towards the audience.

Skelton and Idazack have excellent elevation in their jumps and great control in their turns.

Mayu is light and precise: her fouettes and arabesques are rock solid, and her sissonnes seem effortless.

Go if you can get tickets.

PS: The doll’s balcony is ‘stage left’.

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.

Made to Move

February 28, 2013 at 9:03 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the opening night of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Made to Move, last night at the St James.

Made to Move premiered three works commissioned by the Company:

  • The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud – by Javier de Fruitos
  • Of Days – by Andrew Simmons
  • Bier Halle – by Ethan Stiefel

I was struck by Of Days: lyrical choreography, sparse lighting,(leaving much of the stage in a warm darkness), switches of lighting and drops (changing the viewers’ gross perspective, highlighting some dancers, and removing other dancers), combined with phrases and words projected onto the background. The orchestral music was light and complemented the dancers on the stage.

Abigail Boyle, with her dancing and presence, stood out in both The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud and Of Days. Medhi Angot, also stood out in both works.

Bier Halle was a fun piece that show cased the dancers. Gillian Murphy was amazing: she made everything look effortless and light; she went from motion to stillness (en pointe)) with no discernible transition; her dancing was technically precise; she casually threw in lots of fouettes! Qi Huan reached new heights: entrechats from second position; and did a series of ‘russians’ to complete a circle!! Paul Matthews and Kohei Iwamoto got to do a comic turn. Jacob Chown and Dimitri Kleioris were the ‘young males’ turned by the flirting Antonia Hewitt and Clytie Campbell – nice forward rolls. Jacob and Dimitri also got to skull two pints (each) on stage!

Giselle (RNZB, 2012)

November 8, 2012 at 9:21 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s new production of Giselle. Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel have done an excellent job of the choreography.

It was great – well worth a look: the principals were great, the choreography had innovation, the standard of dancing very high, and sets and lighting well suited to the story.

Gillian Murphy was a sublime Giselle. She, Murphy, was technically flawless – subtle, light, flexible, yet strong and fast when necessary. Her solo during the wedding was astonishing – drawing gasps of admiration from the audience. Her dancing as a Wili – floating about – was just so.

Qi Huan, as Albrecht, was a revelation. His leaps and jumps were breath taking high. His strength and stamina was there for all to see as Albrent danced and danced all night – making it to the dawn, and life, as the Wilis retired. He got some very big rounds of applause.

Abigail Boyle aloof and imperious as Myrtha – the Queen of the Wilis. She produced strong spirt that floated about the forest.

Lucy Green and Medhi Angot were well paired as the wedding couple.

I liked that every peasant lifted his partner so that they could catch the bride’s flowers. It was nice Kiwi touch – like rugby locks being lifted in the lineout, or a goal keep being lift by the goal defence to block a shot in netball.

The second act was my favourite – with all the action and drama concentrated on the main protagonists and the supernatural action in the forest.

The Company seems to have upped its game all across the board – well done.

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