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!

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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!

Don Quixote

November 6, 2008 at 8:41 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the opening night of Royal New Zealand Ballet’s new production of Don Quixote at the St. James, in Wellington. Warning: plot revealed.

Oct 31, 2008 by Show_Hanger

This re-working of the Don Quixote story is as much about creating a new perspective on a traditional story as celebrating a Sir Jon Trimmer’s 50th year with the Royal New Zealand Ballet. At 69, Sir Jon no longer dances the vigourous roles he took on earlier in his career, instead he has matured into a fine stage actor. So the role of the aging, and sometimes confused, Don is a perfect vehicle for his talents. Gary Harris has, I am told, for I have not seen the classic Russian version, utilised the original Petipa choreography in a new light, that makes the Don less of a 2-dimensional character. Adrian Burnett was the choreographer for this production.

Act I opens with the Don in bed surrounded by his books and visited by his nephew – Sancho, danced by Matthew Braun. The Don decides that he will have one last adventure and takes one of his journals with him to guide them on their journey, and takes a hefty bag of money to pay the way. The Don and Sancho have an english air to them – the Don is World War II British pilot’s leather flying helmut and sheep skin jacket, Sancho in a set of tweeds. The two of them end-up in a mediterranean village where we are introduced to the other main characters: Gamache and Mercedes; Basilio and Kitri.

The set for the village is wonderful, with a major surprise for me: the floor was a creamy colour – rather than the usual black. It made the set very bright and enhanced the mediterranean feel.

Kitri is ably danced by Yu Takayama: her grand jetes and sissones were superb. Basilio – Kitri’s future husband – is danced by Marc Cassidy. The villian – Gamache – is able danced by Paul Mathews. His principle moll – Mercedes – is danced by Abigail Boyle.

Act II sees: Kitri and Basilio run off into the woods, and encounter some gypsies; the Don and Sancha have a violent encounter with the same gypsies in the same woods – resulting in the Don having a dream sequence; Gamache successfulled steals the Don’s money.

The gypsy dance sequences shows – for me – how far the Company has come in the 6 years that I have been attending their performances. The dancing is energetic and passionate – without loosing musicality or technique. The number of male dancers has increased, so that of the large number of gypsies, half were male – rather than a token sprinkling.

The dream sequence showed all the hallmarks of a Petipa piece – ballerinas: in white tutus, in small groups and long diagonal lines, in formations blocking a man’s path. And was executed superbly. Meddhi Angot as Cubid was wonderful – powerful jumps and leaps: best russian (scissor leap) I have ever seen!

In Act III, the Don and Sancha catch up with Gamache and recover the money and through an act of great generosity Basilio and Kitri are married. The drunken Gamache – trying to drink his way through the Don’s money – sequnce could double as a homage to John Cleese. Basilio and Kitri’s pas de deux was well executed with some chemistry. Another obvious Petipa touch was Kitri’s fouettes of joy – I counted 31!

There were some first night nerves, the most memerable was Kitri dropping her fan just before commensing her fan dance at the wedding! the most unsettling was the slightly late start.

There are some hummerous moments and some very busy moments. Gamache is introduced walking his little dog – a Weta Workshops creation. It was a real hit with the audience and hopefuully will get roles in the Company’s future productions – like The Wedding. Many of the village sequences were very ‘busy’ – in some way they were more like movie sequences – and at times distracted from the dancing.

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Romeo and Juliet – 2008

August 27, 2008 at 7:18 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I was originally not going to see this ballet, a trial viewing of a DVD recording of a more classic version, resulted in a decision not to go. But I at the end of the show I was glad I went.

Aug 24, 2008 by Show_Hanger

This ballet was originally choreographed by Christopher Hampson in 2003 for the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 50th Anniversary. The setting and costumes are not the classic 17th century setting; instead the setting is more contemporary – post 19th century. Hampson has recast the story somewhat and given it some deeper nuances. The work is one that one might have expected from Matthew Bourne – with the greatest repect to both choreographers; it is a throroughly modern ballet.

The Capulets and Montagues have been cast onto two sides of a class divide. The Capulets are shown in wealthy circumstances – all be it with some serious street muscle on-call. The Montagues are hardly shown at all; they may have money, but Romeo (Qi Huan) seems to have the run of the streets – maybe he just feels more comfortable away from the more confining surrounds of his unseen family. The clash between the Caplulets and the Montagues is subtly subverted into a clash between the free spirits of the streets and the constricted family setting of honour and duty.

Tybalt is portrayed brilliantly, by Paul Mathews, as an angry young man consumed by the need to protect his family honor. As such he is very much the force driving the conflict, and is the catalyst of much of the violence. He was the one who supplied the forboding menace on the streets and at the Capulet family ball. So it comes a bit of a surprise to see him killed by Romeo.

Romeo and his two companions (Mercutio and Benvolio) come across as a set of self absorbed young men looking for diversion and some fun mischief – fairly harmless and annoying. Baiting Tybalt and his street heavies; siding with the people who can’t really stand up to them, seems like a bit of heroic fun, that eventually leads to Mercutio’s accidental slaying.

Romeo is not really interested in revenge, but Tybalt drives him into a frenzy and he is killed.

Juliet (Katie Hurst-Saxon) has the hardest role: she is still young, but expected to take on some of the duties of an adult – her family expect her to marry Paris, perhaps to cement a wider family alliance; she is loyal to her family; she marries against her family’s wishes – in secret; Romeo kills Tybalt – her older cousin, and a favourite; she loves Romeo, on and on and on. Juliet and her two friends are the innocents in this story. They have a nurse (Turid Revfeim) who’s job is to look after and protect them. Nurse is probably the one human figure in the household. Juliet’s parents seem to be duty bound figures.

Juliet is ultimately torn by duty and love, and seeks a third way out – she will fake her suicide. And so the young lovers kill themselves due to that fateful mis-delivered message. (Surely, a phone company or courir company will us this as the basis for an advertisement – ‘use X when that message has to get there on time’!)

Hampson injects a new sub-plot: Lady Capulet and Tybalt are secretly lovers! Here we see a facet of the adult world that Juliet tragically never discovers. Juliet’s own mother shows that duty can be worn like a suit of clothes – put on in public and taken off in private. Juliet should have married Paris and met very discretely with Romeo!

Hampson cleverly puts Juliet and her friends on point, and no one else, to emphasize their innocent nature.

Sir Jon Trimmer (Friar Lawrence) and Turid Revfeim turn in wonderful performances to give their characters some depth. Gary Harris and Greg Horsman even put charming cameo roles – as monks. Jo Funaki got the biggest round of applause – for his portrayal of the mischevious Mercutio – during the curtain call.

Tracy Grant Lord’s set was clever and created the right atmosphere – well up to meeting the challenge of creating: street scenes, a grand ball, Juliet’s bedroom, a church, and a tomb. A stair case does wonderful quadruple duty. Verona must be truly a magical place because it was just massive.

Christopher Hampson’s Romeo and Juliet is accessible, without being shallow.

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My only disappointment was that I did not get to see Amy Hollingsworth and Cameron McMillan dance in the lead roles. So much of the production publicity had been crafted around them. Given my DVD fueled misgivings of Romeo and Juliet, I went because I wanted to see them dance.

I went on the last night of the season, so if you missed it, catch it in 3-4 years when it comes around again.

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