NZSD 50th Anniversary Graduation Season

November 26, 2017 at 3:07 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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Last night I went to The New Zealand School of Dance 50th Anniversary Graduation Season at the St James Theatre.  The School decided to mark its 50th year with a special graduation season – held at the St James rather than its more modest little theatre.

The Programme began with the [Junior] Scholars doing a simple piece choreographed by Sue Nicholls (alumni); Beginners, Please  had four Scholars and two full-time students dancing a very static short piece at the barre. The Programme finished with a piece by the Royal New Zealand Ballet – In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated. The ‘normal’ graduation programme was thus bookend-ed by the students of tomorrow and the students of the past.

My high lights:

  • Tempo di Valse: this was a symphonic piece choreographed to Tchaikovsky‘s Nutcracker, Op.71. by Nadine Tyson (alumni). The 19 dancers were a mixture of second and third year dancers. It was classical and very seasonal.
  • Wedding Pas de Deux from Don Quixote: this was dance by Mayu Tanigaito and Joseph Skelton from the RNZB and staged by Patricia Barker (RNZB Artistic Director). Ms Tangigato’s  kitri was checky and playful; and her technique excellent – her 30 something fouttes got a massive round of applause, and her stability off-and-on pointe was rock solid. Joseph Skelton’s amplitude, endurance, strength, and technique also earned him some well deserved applause. I have never before seen a one handed lift – he pulled out two!! The two dancers also had some chemistry – a good thing for their wedding dance.

Works I found interesting;

  • Forgotten Things: This contemporary piece, choreographed in 2015 by Sarah Foster-Sproull (alumni), at times used the 23 dancers, dressed in black, in close packed formations, using their exposed hands and lower legs, to create animistic shapes and extensions to some of the soloists. It strikes me that the use of multiple dancers to create ‘creatures’ may be a direction worth exploring.
  • S.U.B. (Salubrious Unified Brotherhood): danced by 3rd year students Connor Masseurs and Toa Paranihi. This was choreographed by Victoria Colombus (alumni), and explored what is dance – there were times when both men just stood still, and moved individual muscle groups.
  • The Bach: choreographed by Michael Parmeter (alumni), originally in 2002, to capture and express the emotions felt after 3 years of dance study. 16 2nd and 3rd year students did a contemporary take on JS Bach’s Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen.

Works of renown:

  • Concerto Pas de Deux: a Sir Kenneth MacMillan piece.
  • Allegro Brillante: a Balanchine piece debuting in New Zealand for the first time at the Graduation Season.
  • In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated: a piece originally commissioned by Rudolf Nureyev for the young dancers at the Paris Opera Ballet, and choreographed by William Forsythe, in 1987. This piece was staged by Thierry Guiderdoni and dance by nine members of the RNZB. as it said in the Programme, it is as modern today, as when it first premiered.

So something for everyone who was fortunate to get a ticket to one of the three shows – unlike the regular 2 week graduation season.

The School had arranged a weekend of celebratory activities, and a number of alumni and RNZB alumni  were in evidence at the Saturday night show.

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Steel Ballerina

September 19, 2009 at 11:29 pm | Posted in Play Review | Leave a comment
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September 16, 2009 by Show_Hanger

I went to the opening night of Jacqueline Coats’ one act play, Steel Ballarina, the other night, at BATS Theatre. This performance played to a full house.

This play is inspired by the latter half of Dame Margot Fonteyn’s life. At the age of 42, on the verge of retirement, she establishes a dance partnership with Rudolf Nureyev – recently defected from Russia. Thus probably the dancer of his generation and the dancer of a prevous generation unite to form one of the most well known partnerships in ballet; thereby cementing Nureyev’s place in history and placing Dame Margot at the fore of another generation.

The play explores Dame Margot’s motivation for dancing another 20 years past the time when most other ballerinas normally retire. The play exposes both Fonteyn’s and Nureyev’s need to dance, and the support they gave each other as time finally caught up with Fonteyn (both with her and her husband Tito) and as AIDS caught up with Nureyev.

The play has two actors: Mel Dodge and Pagan Dorgan. One plays Fonteyn’s fictional companion and caregiver – Ana; the other plays Fonteyn the dancer. The programme does not say who is which so I will refer to them as ‘Ana’ and as ‘The Dancer’. The play is a little complicated as Ana is sometimes Fonteyn addressing the audience, and sometimes herself. Ana has most of the dialogue; sometimes conversing with apparent recordings of Nureyev. The Dancer dances – to classical or other music – whenever the playwright wishes to reinforce the mood of Fonteyn dancing.

The play begins with a rather confusing sequence which appears to be the two characters being driven to the hospital, when Fonteyn is very ill. The majority of the play is one long flashback picking up the highlights of Fonteyn’s life from the time just before she partners with Nureyev to her retirement. The play ends with Fonteyn’s death. The death scene consists of The Dancer doing a variation of the Dying Swan, complete with a shower of feathers.

I went away a little disappointed that there was not more dancing, what there was was technically adequate, but not light or soft as Dame Margot would have done it. But after consideration, I decided that it is a play, and not a dance; so what dancing there was, was adequate and sufficient to create the right mood. And besides there is only one Dame Margot, what accomplished ballet dancer would want to hold herself up for direct comparison?

All-in-all worth going to: strong story and innovative direction.

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