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.


NZSD: Graduation Season 2015

November 30, 2015 at 8:03 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review, Uncategorized | Leave a comment
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November, and another Graduation Season at the New Zealand School of Dance. These have become very popular, and my session was sold out – as were other. There was a solid feel to the programme: three chunky contemporary pieces and three significant classical pieces.

Three pieces stay in my mind:

  • Paquita Grand Pas
  • Forgotten Things
  • Concerto

The staging of the Grand Pas and Concerto, with  Tarentella in between, provided the audience with three exemplars of classical ballet down through the ages. The Grand Pas from Paquita provided a wonderful showcase for Yeo Chan Yee and Felipe Domingos’ individual (those fouettes! and jumps) and collective talents. Tarentella, by George Balanchine, suggests that Ethan Stiefel may be gone but his influence remains. Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto, was an example of the latter’s abstract ballets – neo-classical in nature, with the dancers in simple yellow, red, and orange, unitards and leotards, with small blocks of dancers moving like guardsmen on parade, while couples danced in the spaces.

The show was the world premiere of Sara Foster-Sproull’s contemporary work: Forgotten Things. This was an innovative work that had dancers dancing in tight groups – clever lighting emphasized bare hands, fists, legs (contrasted against dark 3/4 unitards). This created movements and forms not possible with a single body. The use of single dancers was carefully edited, to create extra focus. At times it looked like there was a long spine, other times very long sinuous legs, and at other times elephant like ears. This work probably got the biggest round of applause for the night.

This was one of the schools more memorable shows.

[Dancers listed in the programme have been tagged to this article.]

NZSD Insight Studo Performances September 2013

September 28, 2013 at 8:25 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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The New Zealand School of Dance has just put on another of its Studio Performances – to give their public a taste of what to expect in their graduation season in November. As usual it was a mixture of classical ballet and contemporary works.

I liked:

  • Waltz of the snowflakes: it reminded me of ballet-school productions.
  • Sorley’s performance of Kitri’s variation from Don Quixote act II.
  • Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Solitaire – girl’s solo danced by Yayoi Matches.
  • Rise – choreographed by former RNZB dancer Jo Funaki.

Technical issues meant that No Lost Islands – choreographed by Michael Parmenter – could not be performed. [I suspect the Apple devices upgraded to iOS7 refused to work withe the School’s non-apple cables.]

Luigi Vescio was able to perform his solo set to Glassworks (music by Phillip Glass), by having the music physically played on the studio’s piano.

All this, and more, for a gold coin donation!

Prince of the Pagodas

August 11, 2008 at 1:42 am | Posted in Ballet Review, DVD Review | Leave a comment
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Over three long nights I watched this DVD of the Royal Ballet’s 1990 production of The Prince of the Pagodas. Warning – contains plot details.

Aug 7, 2008 by Show_Hanger

Prince of the Pagods has a strong story going for it: a contested kingdom; sibling rivalry; competition for a woman’s hand in marriage; fighting for the woman you love’ and more. Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s version features some very good dancers: Darcy Bussell, Jonathan Cope, Simon Rice and Fiona Chadwick. Yet, it did not engage me; I was not held in thrall – certainly not in the way Romeo and Juliet does. I feel that the ballet was let down by the music. The music was generally uninspiring; It just did not enhance and support the emotional elements of the story.

This was the first time that I had seen Dacry Bussell dance. Some years ago I read her biography, and was very pleased to find this DVD at the library. She is a joy to watch; she is svelt, not skinny; she graceful, yet athletic – wonderful jumps; her arabeques are a joy to behold; no wonder she was MacMillan’s muse!

Act I sets the scene. The king divides his kingdom between his daughters – Princess Rose (Bussell) and her half sister Princess Epine (Chadwick). Unfortunately, it is not an equal division; Princess Epine is given a smaller portion, and it is clear that she is not happy. Four foreign kings arrive in search of brides. During the ensuing ‘struting’, Princess Epine ousts her father and takes the crown from him. Princess Epine turns Princess Rose’s fiance – The Prince (Cope) – into a salamander and transports him from the kingdom.

Act II seems to one long dream sequence. Princess Ross, accompanied and assisted by the court fool (Rice), searches for the Prince. She rejects the four kings and her perserverance is rewarded – she finds the prince and her love returns him to human form.

Act III see things set right. Princess Rose and the Prince return to her father’s kingdom – now ruled by Princess Epine. In a series of superbly choreographed gritty fights, the Prince vanquishes the four foreign kings. The king is restored. Princess Epine is banished. Princess Rose and the Prince marry – or at least formally engaged.

This ballet has a unique piece of choreography – a pas de deux with one dancer ! The king of the east dances with himself – constantly looking at himself in a handmirror!

I think the ballet was staged at Covent Garden and filmed by the BBC in 1990.


Aug 7, 2008 by DVD_Hanger

The DVD had two items on it: the Ballet and a documentary –Out of Line – on the life of Sir Kenneth MacMillan.

The DVD helpfully puts a summary at the beginning of each Act.

The documentary was facinating. We see MacMillan as a dancer. We see three of the dancers he has used as instruments to aid his choreography – his muses: Lynn Seymour, Alessandra Ferri and Darcy Bussell. The first two are interveiwed, Seymour extensively; but Bussell not at all for some reason.

The documentary covers much of MacMillan’s career as a choreographer, though how objective it is I don’t know. But it appears to have been pretty controversial. MacMillan seems to have been constantly at odds with the traditionalists and the critics!

The DVD is worth getting out for the documentary alone.


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