Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2015

April 6, 2015 at 12:57 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | 2 Comments
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I went to the finals of the Alana Haines Australasian Awards 2015 (AHAAs) last night at the Opera House – Wellington.

The AHAAs is the largest ballet competition in Australasia, and can justly claim to be the premier competition in Australasia – more on this later.

All three levels of the Opera House was packed to witness the 22 finalists, in the three sections, ‘battle it out’ for the top placings. The knowledgeable audience – some of the top ballet teachers in Australasia, and their pupils – witnessed some exciting dancing. There were moments of thunderous applause – particularly for Harrison Lee and Wan Jin Jing. Both gave spectacular performances of Siegfried.

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.

The finalists, and their solos,  were:

  • Juniors (11 – 13):
    • Milei Lee, Peasant Pas
    • Stella Nyers, Peasant Pas
    • Mio Bayly, Kirov Peasant Pas
    • Jadyn Bagayas, Cupid
    • Tynesha Hancock, Flower Festival
    • Monet Galea-Hewitt, Peasant Pas
    • Matthew Maxwell, Flower Festival
    • Sophie Smith, Peasant Pas
    • Kieren Bofinger, Peasant Pas Boys
    • Heidi Freeman, Kirov Peasant Pas
    • Alexandra Walton, Kirov Peasant Pas
  • Seniors, 13 – 15:
    • Madison Ayton, Esmeralda, We (too) shall rest
    • Talia Fidra, Odile, Seta
    • Makensie Henson, Aurora, Here and Now
    • Bianca Scudamore, Lilac Fairy, Dream
    • Emily Bray, Aurora, To warn the world
    • Harrison Lee, Siegfried, Poem of Atoms
  • Senors, 16 – 21:
    • Isabella Howard, Aurora, Broken Dancer
    • Vida Polakov, Giselle, Imagine
    • Felipe Domingos Natel, Siegfried, Sorrow Atoms/em>
    • Wan Jia Jing, Siegfried, I Am What I Am
    • Tirion Law Lok Huen, Giselle, La Neige

A number of finalists have previously entered the AHAAs – for example: Harrison Lee, Bianca Scudamore, and Tirion Law Lok Huem were here in 2013.

The adjudicators were:

  • Lisa Pavane, Director of the Australian Ballet School and former principal with the English National Ballet
  • Richard Bowman, Ballet Master at the Jackie Kennedy Onassis School New York (NY), examiner for the ABT National Training Curriculum NY, and former principal with the Leipzig Ballet
  • Christian Tatchev, Director of training at the Queensland Ballet and former dancer with PACT Ballet Company in South Africa
  • Zenia Tatchevia, Tutor at the Queensland Ballet and former dancer with PACT Ballet Company in South Africa

This year there were over 400 entrants, and the adjudicators must have put in a marathon effort.

Congratulations to the winners:

  • Sophie Smith
  • Harrison Lee
  • Vida Polakov

All of the competitors are to be congratulated for their hard work and willingness to put themselves out there.[Apologies for any transcription errors – results available the at 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. This is the 25 year of the competition and it has become the launching pad for some wonderful talent.

The AHAAs can rightly lay claim to being the premier Australasian ballet competition. Harrison lee who won the Junior section in 2013, was a winner at Prix de Lausanne Switzerland earlier this year. Vida Polakov won a gold meal at last year’s Genne, held in Belgium. Last year, Hannah O’Neill, 1st runner up in 2007, won the Varna International Ballet Competition in Bulgaria – past winners include Mikhail Baryshnikov and Sylvie Guillem.

I enjoyed the evening and for me the highlights were Talia Fidra’s Seta, Harrison Lee’s, Siegfried and Poem of Atoms, Wan Jia Jing’s Siegfried and Tirion Law Lok Huen’s Giselle.

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

World of Wearableart 2013

September 28, 2013 at 3:22 am | Posted in Dance Review, Event Review, Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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Another brilliant show

WOW ! I went to the 2013 World of Wearableart dress rehearsal AND opening night!  Obviously, I think it is great, so get a ticket if you can. I might even try for another session.

Likes: Man Unleashed and Costume & Film

I liked the Man Unleashed section. WOW moved away from the models on revolving stage segments for this section; the audience got a close-up on the garments via a big screen.  The guys danced and hammed-it-up on temporary stages made of white boxes moved by movers dressed in white unitards. The ‘Born to be Wild’ garment nearly bought the house down.

I also like the Costume & Film section, which was based on a 1900’s circus theme. The circus acts was so good that they stole the show 🙂

Observations: a Lighter Shade of Pale

WOW was very ‘white’ this year: many of the garments were white, cream, or dominated by light colours. The make-up, lighting, and ‘props’ tended to create a pale aesthetic. This was very noticeable in the South Pacific section. In other sections, things verged on a WOW re-interpretation of a Victoria Secrets show.

Between the Dress Rehearsal and Opening Night, WOW swapped the order of the Costumes & Film section and  the Avant Garde section. The Dress Rehearsal closed with the Avant Garde section leaving everyone feeling a little flat.  Opening Night used the Avant Garde section to create a serene calm before a torrent of circus fun closed the show. I thought the change was a good move – the little wave from the final circus act aptly closed the show.

Disappointments: No Air Guitar and Clutter

The Man Unleashed section had a very short  air guitar sequence that did not give it the time to develop the energy that it deserved.

At times individual sequences seem disconnected, as many sections had large opaque artifacts – albeit very artistic ones – in the middle of the stage that blocked out a complete view of the stage.

Bryn Terfel – A Gala Evening

May 4, 2013 at 8:34 am | Posted in Concert Review, Recital Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the concert last night: Bryn Terfel with the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra at the Michael Fowler Centre. I wasn’t sure what I would get, but I got a world renowned bass-baritone and a brilliant orchestra – conducted by Tecwyn Evans.

Bryn Terfel is bass-baratone sang a collection of Wagner, Boito, Weill, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe, and some ‘folk songs’. In between, the Orchestra played some Wagner, Boito, and Lilburn.

Evans is a comparatively animated conductor and really seemed to bring the parts of the Orchestra into a greater whole.

Terfel has a magnificent operatically trained voice. His voice easily filled the Michael Fowler Centre. He held his own against the combined orchestra – both in volume, and retaining his clarity.

I liked the Orchestra’s rendition of The Ride of the Valkyries. I was transported away with images of Huey helicopters attacking a surfing village in Vietnam; then I imagined chapter one of Starship Troopers the way it should have been filmed (or is it the way i would have done it?).

I also liked: Oh What a Beautiful Morning and Fiddler on the Roof; as I associate them with warm childhood memories.

I found the german/operatic/orchestral arrangement of The Ballad of Mack the KnifeDie Moritat von Mackie Messer – far too clinical.

I found the two encores hopelessly contrived. Terfel sang three songs that the orchestra just happened to know how to play. Maybe the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra could be expected to be able to play Pokarekari Ana, and be able to adjust for bass-baretone’s range, but for the other two songs the Orchestra just happened to have the sheet music (I could see the cello-ists turning and arranging sheet music).

The near-standing ovation at the end seemed much more genuine.

However, I did feel slightly out of place: the average age of the audience must have been close to 70; a sprinkling of Welsh flags were unfurled throughout the night; and I don’t speak German.

Ella & Will

February 17, 2013 at 9:12 am | Posted in Dance Review, Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to Anita Hutchins’ Ella & Will Friday night – part of The Wellington Fringe Festival.

Billed as a dance-theatre work, I was looking forward to a dramatic work that featured dance but in a different way to say a ballet.

At it’s heart Ella & Will is a love story: Ella is torn between will and the man in her dreams!

The continuous 2-hour long work features dance and video projection, as well as dialogue. It also featured life music – composed by double bass player Mostyn Cole.

I liked the clever movement of an assortment of boxes to create mode, create a sense of motion, and to create an amazing range of landscapes.

I also liked the pas de deux between Ella and Will – where they dance inside her skirt.

Cast (and dancers): Will Barling (Will), Anna Flaherty (Ella), Tanemahuta Gray (the man in Ella’s dreams), Sandra Normal Shaw, Aleasha Seaward, Jillian Davey, Andrew Miller, Lara Strong, and Anita Hutchins.

Script: Donna Banicevich Gera.

World of Wearableart 2012

September 26, 2012 at 7:18 pm | Posted in Dance Review, Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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WOW ! went to the 2012 World of Wearableart dress rehearsal last night – great, get a ticket if you can.

A mixture of surreal and fun would be how I would try to sum up this year’s show.

The Children’s Section has a little girl falling into her toy box at bed time and entering a dream world – there is even a rabbit in a car!

I liked the tiaha wielding warriors in a video game: clever and it must be hard dancing with a projection.

The Open Section used Argentinian tango as the ‘back drop’ – some very nice dancing. This section also introduced a little meme for the show – unaccompanied male dancers. In this section, the ladies danced by themselves and it look more like flamenco, and the men partnered each other. It wasn’t exactly smoldering, but nevertheless had a degree of intensity.

The Visual Symphony Section was innovative and ‘big’ – grunge steam punk. The Gareth Farr composed and directed music partly utilised the garments themselves for musical notes. Some of the garments were very quite and this was dealt with through handheld microphones choreographed into the dancing. I liked the big disk / wobbleboard.

The Avante Garde Section was wonderfully surreal: opera, candles (lots of them), lyrical dancing, and really out-there art-on-a-person garments. I was a bit worried for the dancers and models because of all the naked flames.

The Bizzarre Bra finale was fantastic – literally out of this world. A wonderful mix of B-grade and classic science fiction moments. There were three actual spaceships!!! and a space monster.

Another brilliant show.

Side by Side

August 5, 2012 at 6:22 am | Posted in Documentary Review, Film Review | Leave a comment
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The 41st Wellington Film Festival is on; I went to Side by Side – Chris Kenneally’s documentary film on the on-ging digitisation of ‘film’; narrated by Keanu Reeves.

Keanu Reeves interviews a number of directors and directors of photography to get their views and thoughts of digitisation. There are three camps: silver nitrate film is dead, and digital is the way; digital is still limited, and I will continue to shot films with silver nitrate; and it depends on what I want to do.

The directors include: George Lucas, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, Steven Soderbergh, Martin Charles Scorsese, Lana Wachowski, and Andy Wachowski.

The debate seems to centre around a number of points:

  • Dynamic Range – apparently film is capable of a wider range of light frequency
  • Digital has fewer physical constraints – film canisters are expensive to move around (both shooting and eventual distribution), raw film canisters hold only 10 minutes of shoot time, and a full-length film is many reels
  • Film degrades rapidly the more often you project from it – why spend so much effort, when few audiences will see the film you intend them to see?
  • Digital is immediate – no more waiting for the ‘rushes’ / ‘dailies’
  • Long term archiving – will software still play digital films 30 – 40 – 50 – 60 years from now?
  • All editing and post-production is digital anyway.

The possibility that cinemas might disappear – as people favoured their personal devices or home-theatre systems – was also raised.

There was also a sense of potential loss: if anyone can make movies with their consumer High Definition digital cameras and home editing software, then films will become devalued.

At times the film took on the appearance of commercial for this or than professional digital movie camera.

The film was a tad long – 99 minutes – and might have benefited from some ruthless editing. Nevertheless it was informative and a ‘must see’ for students of film and film history.

Crazy Horse

July 28, 2012 at 9:27 pm | Posted in Dance Review, DVD Review, Film Review, Musical Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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The 41st Wellington Film Festival is on; I went to Federick Wiseman’s Crazy Horse – a film about the Paris nightclub of the same name.

The film is made in the same style as Wiseman’s La danse: fly-on-the-wall over a few days, apparently without much editing.

This particular screening was very fly-on-th-wall: there were no sub-titles! The audience got to experience the French, a tiny bit of Russian (at least one of the dancers is Russian), and a short burst of English, unassisted. The disconnect created by not understanding the dialogue made for a surreal experience; the slow bleed of people leaving the film and the staff announcements about ‘technical difficulties’ added a performance art nuance.

The dancers are technically very proficient – though the sway back, bottom accentuating posture must make their former ballet teachers grind their teeth. And of course the dancers are very good looking. There is lots of nudity; the dancers are clearly comfortable with their bodies and being unclothed, the practical needs of quick costume changes means that they wonder around backstage without much on.

The Crazy Horse nightclub visual esthetic is not at all raunchy – the naked body is so clinically presented and adorned that the naked aspect of the performance is not the focal point. (Or maybe there was so much nudity I became accustomed to it!)

Most of the film is of the dancers on stage or of dancers rehearsing or new sequences being put together – so no aural comprehension is required. There are meetings of the back office staff; by the body language, especially the hand waving its not all plain sailing at the nightclub – we just don’t know what the disturbance are about.

So even without sub-titles it is a good watch. If you are watching in a theatre that serves drinks, order champagne – it will be just like being in Paris at the club!

WOW 2011

August 24, 2011 at 7:30 pm | Posted in Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the 2011 Bancroft Estate World of Wearableart Awards Show (‘WOW’) last night.

Fantastic ! Worth trying to get some of the remaining tickets.

Warning: spoilers !

In a two hour dance and wow spectacular there were many highlights, but one of them was the Royal New Zealand Ballet dancing (classical) while partnered with life opera (Aivale Cole and Ben Makisi). Another was staging a dancing on a wall. There were four dance companies involve in this year’s production: the Royal New Zealand Ballet; New Zealand School of Dance; Footnote Dance; and the WOW Dance Troupe! Needless to say there was lots of movement – the models can all dance too !

The Children’s section was its usual youthful bright energetic display.

The UV section left me with a sense of Dance Macabre: dis-embodied legs, skeletons, and eyes.

The Microscope section cleverly created a microscopic world with chains of helium balloons – form a mass of cell like air mass. There were lots of wacky looking microscopic life form inspired garments.

The section changes was very cleverly done. The audience’s attention was dramatically shifted by lighting and staging a little segue piece at the ‘back’ of the auditorium – while on stage, in the dark, stage crew made the necessary changes.

The Open section was chock full of interesting and spectacular; all while dancers stood statute-like on stacked up chairs discarding what seemed like an endless supply of wraps from their bodies!

The Man Unleashed section opened with a large group brides and Billy Idol’s White Wedding! I think this section struck a cord with the ladies in the audience!

The Avante Garde section was just great. I feared that I was in danger of watching too much of the dancing (ballet with live opera), but WOW and anticipated this problem, and had cleverly set the choreography to not clash with the garments.

The ‘Kiwi Icon’ section hit the spot: with the surprise appearance of an iconic comedienne (Ginette McDonald), iconic New Zealander, and an iconic kiwi singer (John Rowles); all to kiwi music. Apparently the iconic New Zealander will change every night; on this night it was Tim Shadbolt.

Well worth the ticket price.

Tutus on Tour 2011

March 6, 2011 at 8:21 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the last Wellington performance of this last week, at the Opera House. I was seated up in the ‘Gods’. The view was quite good; though, you did loose a little perspective on the jumps and leaps.

This year’s Tutus on Tour performance consisted of two pieces: Verdi Variations and Pinochio. The former sparkling white tutus – for the Ballerinas – and sparkling white jackets – for the male dancers. Pinochio was a character morality piece aimed at the young at heart.

Verdi Variations was classical ballet – the ballerinas were en pointe and the men leapt and turned. Lucy Green tossed in some fouettes (including a double); Yang Liu was graceful – she would later dance the part of the Blue Fairy in Pinochio; and Maree White impressed me with turns that I had never seen before – they looked like a fouette, but with very little whip of the non-supporting leg. There was a lovely short segment in which the five couples demonstrated a classic danish style of partner dancing – fast, the couple almost at the run, with the women executing split leaps in rapid succession, with their arms in the air, while the man supporting/holding his partner when they were at the apex of their leap.

Verdi Variations was not too serious – there was a frosty pas de trois where each ballerina competed for the limelight, and dancers male and female sought time on stage by themselves. As the name suggests this piece is set to music by Verdi.

Pinochio is of course about the boy made from wood. It has lots of moral messages: work hard; study hard; money doesn’t grow on trees; beware of strangers who promise great returns on investment. Yang Liu as the Blue Fairy and Lucy Green as the Cat both stood out.

WOW 2010

September 26, 2010 at 11:43 pm | Posted in Show Review | 1 Comment
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I went to the dress rehearsal of this year’s World Of Wearableart (WOW) Award Show, the other night and was blown away.

One long word sums up the show – ‘fantastic’; ‘wow’ is already used. Great music and dancing, and great pieces of wearable art.

This year the show was open by Te Radar; he warmed up the audience.

This year children’s section was very well integrated – good fit between the garments and its theme of books. A big fold out castle, inside a book, descends from the ceiling. There is a fun little dance by paper cut-out dolls at the end. A past winner – a pile of books – provided some continuity.

The UV – officially known as the Illuminated – section really carried me away. This year there were a number of colourful yet sublte garments – flock of leaves and kites.

The circus segment worked really well. There are miniature elephants – who do tricks!

Loved the ‘tron’ light suits.

Bizzare Bra worked really well with the tropical/Latin theme.

If you can get a ticket go to this.

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