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”.

Mama Mia! (Wellington 2014)

December 6, 2014 at 10:56 pm | Posted in Concert Review, Dance Review, Event Review, Show Review | 1 Comment
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After I saw the Mama Mia movie in 2008, I resolved to see the stage show. Well last night, I finally made it: Wellington Musical Theatre put on a production.

I won’t go into the story of Mama Mia – because some much is available on the web about it.

It was fun; it was fantastic; much more satisfying that the movie (which was pretty entertaining). The movie had great locations and a cinematic sharpness; but, the stage show (any stage show) has actual presence – the performers are there with you and when they do a great job you get carried away in a way that is different to a movie.

So, instead of

  • Amanda SiegFried, we had Ellie-Jane Neal;
  • Meryl Streep: Julie O’Brien;
  • Julie Walters: Jody McCartney;
  • Christine Baranski: Frances Leota;
  • Pierce Brosnan: Russell Dixon
  • Stellan Skarsgård: Mark Shepherd; and
  • Colin Firth: David Cox.

There was a nice juxtaposition of Sophie and her three two friends (Ali – Brogan Wilkinson, Lisa – Flora Lloyd) and beside Donna, Rosie, and Tanya. Jody McCartney absolutely nailed the “Take a Chance on Me” number.

The Scripted encore – with Donna, Rosie, and Tanya in 80’s lycria was fantastic: like being at a mini ABBA concert. The cast had most of the audience at the St James Theatre on their feet and dancing.

The on-stage and off-stage cast members (who are too numerous to list here) did a fantastic job.The dancing was technically good and very enthusiastic (Whitireia Performance Centre and New Zealand School of Dance are turning out great dancers); the singing was wonderful; and the invisible band did a great job.

I would tell you to go ad see this production, but I went to closing night – full marks to the cast for delivering right to the end.

Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2013

April 1, 2013 at 7:08 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review, Sporting Event | 6 Comments
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Having gone to the final of the Genee 2012 late last year, I had to go to the Alana Haines Australasian Awards (AHAAs); so I attended the final night at the St. James in Wellington, New Zealand.

The AHAAs is probably the premier Australasian ballet competition – held every two years in memory of 11 year old Alana Haines, a promising young dancer who died in a car accident on Christmas Eve in 1989.

The format of the final was that the seniors would dance a piece chosen from a short list of classical works, then the juniors would do the same, then the seniors would do a piece of their own choice.

The knowledgeable audience gave full vent to its appreciation of some fine dancing.

The finalists were:

  • Juniors, 11 – 13 years:
    • Larissa Kiyotto-Ward
    • Sophie Smith, Queensland
    • Madison Ayton, Queensland
    • Lily Maskery
    • Talia Fidra, Queensland
    • Nae Kojima, Queensland
    • Damen Axtens
    • Bianca Scudamore, Queensland
    • Madeleine Skippen, Queensland
    • Harrison Lee
    • Narvin Turnball, Queensland
  • Seniors, 13 – 15 years:
    • Chloe Michelle Hollow, Queensland
    • Kayla-Maree Tarantolo, New South Wales
    • Bethany Cockburn, Queensland
    • Madison Whiteley, Brisbane
    • Alysha Martignago, Queensland
    • Shene Lazarus, Brisbane
  • Seniors, 16 – 21 years:
    • Emily Seymour, Sydney
    • Anyah Siddall, Sydney
    • Tirion Law Lok Huen
    • William Fitzgerald
    • Tynan Wood

The judges were:

  • Sarah Eliot-Cohen: Head of Development, Royal Ballet School (London)
  • Simon Dow: Senior Tutor, Australian Ballet School
  • Martin James: International Guest Tutor

NB: Ms Eliot-Cohen stepped in at the last moment when Gailene Stock-Norman (Director, Royal Ballet School) suffered a concussion and was ruled medically unable to fly. [Apologies if I have Sarah’s details incorrect – there being no errata to the programme.]

There was a very strong Australian contingent – 15 of the final 22 were not based in New Zealand.

Congratulations to the three winners:

  • Harrison Lee
  • Bethany Cockburn
  • Tynan Wood

I had seen Tynan Wood (and William Fitzgerald) dance before at the New Zealand School of Dance. Tynan was a worthy winner: his Siegfried – with its huge jumps and fine technical control – had the audience in raptures; and his Speaking in Tongues made the biggest connection with the audience. It should be noted that two of the top three places in the 16 – 21 year group went to New Zealand School of Dance students: Tynan, and William Fitzgeral. Anyah Siddal, who was the first runner-up is from Tanya Pearson Classical Coaching, NSW, Australia. [Full results at AHAAs]

The ‘boys’ did very well: Damen Axtens and William Fitzgerald came second in their respective sections.

Sir John Trimmer, was the host for the evening, and created a supportive and appreciative atmosphere to a tense few hours. He worked the audience like a music hall master of old.

There was a 25 minute interval to allow the judges to confer and make a final decision. This dragged out to 40-45 minutes; and this gave rise to some uncalled for rhythmic clapping and stamping at times (by the adults – it should be noted, not the competitors).

Just before the interval – to give the judges even more time and to showcase some young talent – students (Jarrah McArther and Tynan Wood) from the New Zealand School of Dance did a neo-classical pas de deux (Jeffrey Tan’s Facade) and Shayarne Matheson (Winner in 2011) did a neo-classical solo.

A most entertaining and educational night.

[Apologies to the participant for any errors – there being no errata to the programme – I am forced to rely on some notes scribbled in the dark.]

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!

Genee 2012

December 16, 2012 at 3:30 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Event Review, Exhibition Review, Show Review | 2 Comments
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I went to the final night of the Genee International Ballet Competition 2012 last night. It was a very enjoyable night. Some of the best young dancers produced by the Royal Academy of Dance (RAD) syllabus were competing for the top accolades in the RAD world. It was a truly international competition with semi-finalists from Australia, Japan, Indonesia, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain, England, Scotland, South Africa, and of course New Zealand.

The semi-finals (which I did not attend) and the finals were held at the St. James Theatre in Wellington New Zealand. The competition was hosted by the New Zealand of Dance and the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Each competitor – ‘candidate’ – danced: a compulsory piece choreographed especially for the competition; a piece they choreographed; and one chosen by them from a limited selection classical repertoire.

I am told it has become the tradition for the Genee to have new work created for the competition. This year, Adrian Burnett – a Kiwi – choreographed two short dances, for this competition: Exalto (for female candidates) and Homage to Bach (for male candidates). I found these to be intricate / tricky looking pieces: as if designed to offer opportunities to slip-up. The way one would design a golf course or an eventing cross country course. The grand jete, from one step, at the very end of Exalto seemed especially challenging.

The “dancer’s own” works were quite varied, though mainly neo-classical, there were some lyrical classical styled pieces. This was an opportunity for the candidates to express themselves and showcase abilities not required in the other two dances. The two eventual gold medal winners had neo-classical works.

The limited repertoire was another test of the candidates skills and ability.

Throughout, the very knowledgeable audience was wholesome in its support and applause.

Then while the jury conferred, there was a surprise (for me at least) guest performance of excerpts from Swan Lake by Abigail Boyle and Qi Huan from the Royal New Zealand Ballet. The audience was treated to a virtuoso performance. The audience had given some pretty ‘big hands’ for some of the candidates, but surely Qi Huan got an even bigger hand for his Siegfried – amazing amplitude and control; and when Abigail Boyle did all those amazing fouettes – I lost count around 29 – the applause was deafening!

Then it was time for the jury to announce the medals. the jury was headed up by David McAllister, Artistic Director of the Australian Ballet; Christopher Hampson, Artistic Director of the Scottish Ballet; and Li Cunxin, Artistic Director of the Queensland Ballet.

Congratulations to: Gold Medal: Aurelian Child-de-Brocas (male), Montana Rubin (female) Silver Medal: Harry Davis (male), Kaena Ahern (female), Ariana Hond (female). And to the other finalists: Anyah Siddall, Sana Sasaki, Georgina Hills, Olivia James-Baird, Isobelle Dashwood, Emma McBeth, and Kelsey Stokes.

A nice touch was that the semi-finalists were listed in the programme and also took in the medal presentations.

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.

42nd Street (Wellington, 2011)

October 11, 2011 at 9:10 pm | Posted in Dance Review, Musical Review, Show Review | 1 Comment
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I went to the Wellington Musical Theatre production of 42nd Street last night, at the St James theatre.

I got to see/hear some classic Broadway numbers, such as: Lullaby of Broadway and We’re in the Money.

The tap dancing was was impressive. Almost all of the dancing was tap, with a little bit of jazz and ballet thrown in for good measure. I did not think the short en pointe segment added significantly to the evening and would have preferred to see another tap number. There isn’t much tap dancing on show in Wellington, and it was nice to see a stage full of talented tap dancers going for it. Tap can be pretty unforgiving, as any one dancer lagging or leading is very audible; so good on them for getting out there – especially in the numbers where the band did not provide any backing music.

The costumes were very nice – lots of glitter, good fitting (without being confining), and well put made. The props and lighting were very good; the mirror to show the Busby Berkeley dance sequence – dancers in circular patterns ‘swimming’ – was genius.

It was good to have live music – the winds, the brass, some strings and some percussion from the Vector Welling Orchestra provided some great numbers.

The two standout performers on the night, for me, were: Courtney Hale (who as Peggy Sawyer in the space of 36 hours goes from chorus-girl to star) and Kelly Maguren (who is Andy Lee the dance master).

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