Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2017

April 22, 2017 at 1:48 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review | Leave a comment
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Just as in 2013 and 2015, I went to the finals of the 2017 Alana Haines Australasian Awards (AHAAs) the other night at the St James Theatre – Wellington.

The AHAAs is the largest ballet competition in Australasia, and can justly claim to be the premier competition in Australasia – this year the finalists get preferential entry into the 2018 Youth America Grand Prix, in recognition that the two competitions clashed.

This year’s competition was bigger than before: there were more than 550 entrants; the competition started one day earlier than before too.

The Theatre was packed to witness the finalists (22) put themselves out there one last time. There were moments of thunderous applause – particularly for Nae Kojima and Cameron Holmes.

The night started with ‘set’ solos: Seniors followed by Juniors with their ‘set’ solos. Then the Seniors came back on with their ‘own choice’ contrasting solos. Then their there were performances by past winners – an audience favourite was Harrison Lee.

The finalists, and their solos, were:

  • Juniors (11 – 13):
    • Sonia Woods, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Jasmine Healey, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Brooke Wong, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Jenna Civin, CupidDon Quixote;
    • Macy Trethewey, CupidDon Quixote;
    • Rylie Wilkinson, Kirov Peasant Pas – Giselle;
    • Sotique Macuga, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Alfie Shacklock, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Madeleine Glassey, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle;
    • Juliette Gray, Flower Festival; and
    • Honey Black, Peasant Pas 2nd Solo – Giselle.
  • Seniors, 13 – 15:
    • Meg Newton, Odalisque 2nd Solo – Le Corsaire;
    • Stella Byers, Lilac Fairy – Sleeping Beauty;
    • Macy Cook, Kitri’s Wedding – Don Quixote;
    • Hyo Shimizu, Basil – Don Quixote;
    • Noah Benzie-Drayton, James Act 1 – La Sylphides;
    • Monet Galea-Hewitt, Giselle; and
    • Kayla van den Bogert, Odile – Swan Lake.
  • Senors, 16 – 21:
    • Abbey Lavery, Lilac Fairy – Sleeping Beauty;
    • Nae Kojima, Gamzatti – La Bayadere;
    • Saul Newport, Siegfried – Swan Lake; and
    • Cameron Holmes, Corsaire Variation 2 – La Corsaire.

It was nice to see Monet Galea-Hewitt back from 2015.

This year’s adjudicators were:

  • Lisa Pavane, Director of the Australian Ballet School, former Principal Ballerina of the English National Ballet;
  • Stephane Leonard, Director Aspirant Program of the Royal Winnipeg Ballet School, former Soloist Royal Winnipeg Ballet;
  • Leslie Hughes, Tutor at the Hamburg Ballet School, former soloist Hamburg Ballet Germany; and
  • Terence Etheridge, Choreographer Duchy Ballet Cornwall UK, former artistic Director Hong Kong Ballet, former soloist Festival Ballet (English National Ballet).

With 550 entrants, the panel must have put in a heroic effort. They were still on their feet and handing out scholarships and awards on the final night. Lisa Pavane, the head of panel, gave a wonderfully appropriate address to the contestants and audience: she praised all of the contestants for their hard work and dedication; emphasised the need for good technique (in the upper back and head); called for a round of applause for the parents; and thanked Katie Haines and the volunteers. She was also open about ballet not being for everyone – as its technical demands and work load were more suited to those born with the necessary per-requistes.

Congratulations to the winners:

  • Alfie Shacklock
  • Macy Cook
  • Nae Kojima

Nae Kojima received a huge round of applause for her Gamzatti solo; her technique and elevation were breathtaking. Cameron Holmes, the runner up to Kojima, received two huge rounds of applause for his Corsiare solo and his contrasting solo; he was strong and athletic, yet technically well controlled.

Macy Cook’s first place was well received; she is the first Wellington based winner in the competition’s 29 year history.

All of the competitors are to be congratulated for their hard work and willingness to put themselves out there. [Apologies for any transcription errors – Junior and Senior results are available the at the AHAA website]

This biannual competition is held in memory of Alana Haines – a promising young dancer who died in a car accident on Christmas Eve in 1989. The competition has become the launching pad for some wonderful talent.

I enjoyed the evening and for me the highlight was seeing Cameron Holmes do a jump 360 about an axis that was set at 45 degrees; and a series of 720’s where the last 45 degrees slowed was slower than the first 690 – giving an impression of great control.

As always, I hope fortune will favour all the contestants in the years to come, and I will be able to say “I saw them at the AHAAs”.

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Sleeping Beauty (RNZB 2011)

October 30, 2011 at 7:58 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the second night of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s new production of Sleeping Beauty.

This is a new production, and in his first full-length choreographic work, Craig Horsman has tweaked and shortened the Russian version a little bit. The traditional second and thirds Acts have been combined into one. It becomes clear why the Black Fairy – Carabosse – was not invited: the Chancellor – Catalabutte – deliberately ripped up the invitation. Another innovation was the use of a shadow show to portray the birth of Princess Aurora. And for good measure the Chancellor is a cat ! – as his love interest; this cleverly elevates the Puss in Boots and White Cat characters from the original Ivan Vsevolozhsky story.

The feline antics of Catalabutte (danced by Shannon Dawson) and Lady Florine (danced by Lucy Balfour) added some lighter touches to what is otherwise a courtly ballet.

Being a new production the costumes and set were wonderfully detailed. The mortals got richly detailed customs and the fairies light etherial outfits.

The ‘good’ fairies are pretty much as you would expect to find them: simple chiffon tutus in light colours. Even the Lilac Fairy has a simple arrangement. I thought that she should have counterpointed the Black Fairy in a more visual way.

I think the best costume and character was the Black Fairy – Carabosse – danced by Maree White. She did a fantastic job; the choreography, personalisation, and costume seem to borrow heavily from von Rothbart in Swan Lake. The Black Fairy is dressed in black, looking a little bit like Charlize Theron in Aeon Flux with a massive black cape; she is the only fairy to have a head piece, but no wings. She has her own retinue of hench-goblins to boot. She even turns into a dragon – curtesy of Weta Workshop – when she fights Prince Desire.

I wish the fight between the Prince and Carabosse was a bit longer, so that the drama and tension cab build. But it was a nice deviation from the standard ‘cutting through the vines’ when it came time for the Prince to ‘rescue’ the Princess.

I was also wish that the four princes, from whom Aurora was originally to select a husband, had solos of their own.

I was disappointed that the Stella Abrera and Sergio Torrado were not in the principal roles. Instead, the cast was ably lead by Abigail Boyle and Qi Huan. Qi Huan is most princely – with well controlled jumps, leaps and turns. Abigail Boyle handles her technically demanding role well. The evergreen Sir John Trimmer plays the King. The dancing of Adriana Harper and Medhi Angot as the Bluebirds was wonderful.

While the story is relatively simple, I found the beautiful produced programme very useful for filling in some of the ‘gaps’. I though the wedding could have more visual ‘handrails’. [It certainly pays to read up on the story.]

The cast got a resounding ovation at the final curtain.

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