Allegro – RNZB 2014

August 21, 2014 at 8:00 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I was not going to see the Royal New Zealand Ballets’ latest production – Allegro – but I found myself buying tickets when events conspired. There were five works:

  • Allegro Brillante – by George Balanchine;
  • Les Lutins – by Johan Kobborg;
  • Satellites – by Daniel Brown;
  • Mattress Suite – by Larry Keigwin;
  • Megalopolis – by Larry Keigwin.

Allegro Brillante, as it was probably danced in 1956, seems a bit predictable in a geometric kind of way. It provided a nice historical beginning to the production.

Les Lutins, was my favourite. The dancing was sincere and there was real between the dancers, the violinist (Benjamin Baker), and the pianist (Michael Pansters). Rory Fairweather-Neylan got to show both his skills, and also a bit of his cheerful self. Yang Liu was flighty and flirty. Arata Miyagawa rounded off the affection-triangle. It was good to see Rory Fairweather-Neylan and Arata Miyagawa throwing down!

Mattress Suite made me think a bit – and it was a bit sad. There is a queen sized (at least) mattress and it does move around.

Megalopolis was just full of dance forms, and had lots of energy to it.

Tutus on Tour (2013)

October 26, 2013 at 9:25 pm | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to the Friday performance of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2013 season of Tutus on Tour at the St James Theatre (in Wellington).

The show opened with Flower Festival at Genzano – ably danced by Lucy Green and Jacob Chown. The choreography by August Bournoville exhibits the classic footwork and fast leg movements of the Danish school. Opening with this piece is an excellent way for the company to re-introduce itself to an audience it might only perform for every 2-4 years.

Through to you, choreographed by Andrew Simmons, danced by Antonia Hewitt and Qi Huan, also caught my attention. There seemed to be a nice connection between Hewitt and Huan – with Huan showing a lyrical side of himself.

The First Act finished with a pas de deux from Don Quiote danced by Clytie Campbell and Brendan Bradshaw. This showcased some trademark Marius Petipa choreography: I’m afraid I succumbed and tried to counted the number of fouettes – 16 (?).

The Second Act was a wonderful adaptation of Peter and the Wolf. Persona dramaticus:

  • Peter – Rory-Fairweather-Neylan
  • Sister/Bird – Tonia Looker
  • Father/wolf – Qi Huan
  • Duck – Yang Liu
  • Cat – Clytie Campbell
  • Grandmother – Alayna Ng

The action all takes place in Peter’s bedroom. Tania Looker is fantastic bird; Clytie Campbell is a cat through-and-through; Yang Liu is was a great  duck – I thought her bill would have been better placed on her forehead, rather than her nose :-). All three looked wonderful en pointe. Being in Wellington, the Wellington Orchestra provided an excellent live music element.

The narration was done by Te Radar; I wonder who narrates for the other half of the company?

The 2013 season of Tutus on Tour has something for everyone, and Act II is for the child in everyone.

Leaps & Sounds

June 20, 2012 at 9:26 am | Posted in Ballet Review, Dance Review, Show Review | Leave a comment
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I went to see the first collaboration between the Royal new Zealand Ballet and the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra for six years, the other night at the Sir Michael Fowler Centre. It was fabulous. I am so glad I went: it was so good; and, it was free!

This was a unique collaboration; the music was from past winners of the Todd Corporation Young Composers Awards; the dances were choreographed and danced by members of the Company – accompanied by the Orchestra.

The programme was:

  • musicboxgirls, choreographed by Paul Matthews; music: Alone in the Night, composed by Matthew Childs
  • Evocation, Choreographed by Adriana Harper; Music: Evocation from the Seas, composed by Max Wilkinson
  • No Limits, choreographed by Qi Huan; Music: Tales of Greece suite III, composed by Christina Reid
  • 4 + 1, choreographed by Dimitri Kleioris; music: Caught in the Headlights, composed by Corwin Newall
  • Dreams of Power, choreographed by Sam Shapiro; music:Dreams of Power, composed b y Umar Zakaria
  • Feral, choreographed by Jaered Glavin; music: Feral, composed by Robbie Ellis
  • [Inner], choreographed by Brendan Bradshaw; music: [Inner], composed by Alex Taylor
  • wind from us, choreographed by Kohei Iwamoto; music: The Persistence of our Youth, composed by Umar Zakaria

A number of items stood out. In Evocation, a pas de trois, choreographer Adriana Harper ably used  ballet’s powerful lyrical palette to deliver an – err – evocative dance. In No Limits, Qi Huan, showed a masculine touch, using strong lines and powerful lifts ably executed by Jacob Chown, Helio Lima, and Paul Matthews.

Dreams of Power brings boxing to dance. This too was a very masculine work – showing the warm-up and a short impactful fight. It was stylised yet very real.  The programme had this as a fight/dance between a man and a woman dancer, but in the evening session, the two parts were danced by men. I imagine it would have been even more powerful had it been danced by a man and a women – though potentially unsuitable for a general audience with children.

Feral was an abstract zany piece that explored the androgynous potential of dance. The dancers wore flesh coloured unitards that covered their faces and head, and confused the audience with ridiculous pony tails. At times I found myself laughing for no apparent reason!

wind from us, was witty and funny. Four men courted the favours of a lady, while occasionally breaking wind! Yang Liu, the object of their attentions, was, at times, treated as a human ribbon! The costumes were also very clever – two colours, one across the colour wheel from the other.

The SIr Michael Fowler centre turned out to be a good venue; the Orchestra conducted by Pieter Inkinen filled the auditorium with a full yet soft quality of music.

I would have gladly paid the normal triple-bill ticket price. Maybe some of the pieces could be included in future triple-bill tours. I think the Company and the Orchestra sold itself short by not charging – there wasn’t even a koha kete.

This wonderful fusion of choreography and music was what I was expecting when I went to see Rock the Ballet.

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.

The Secret Lives of Dancers #5

October 31, 2010 at 11:57 pm | Posted in TV Review | Leave a comment
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The Company complete their Triple Bill tour.

As usual it was mainly a human interest story – who is broken up with whom, and how are the dancers coping with injuries – continuing on from episode 4. Oh there was some rugby.

While the Company was in Christchurch, they did a promo for their sponsor – who also sponsor the Canterbury Provincial Rugby Team. So, a very exited Lucy Balfour got to spend time with Dan Carter; and Brad Thorne got to use a ballerina for weight training.

We also find out that Lucy Green and Yang Liu were give full contracts for the year. This is great news, especially, when the documentary producers tried to generate some suspense by showing her being told-off for being out of time with the music.

I discovered that there is an equivalent programme on the Australian Ballet; I wonder if it will show here, and what mix of dance and gossip it will have.

PS: Ethan Stiefel has been appointed as the new artistic directory for the Company!

The Secret Lives of Dancers #1 & #2

September 10, 2010 at 1:49 am | Posted in TV Review | 1 Comment
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Having watched episode one of this last week, I managed to catch episode two this week. The half-hour-long episodes take you for behind the scenes look at the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

Episode one was centred on the annual open auditions, and Gary Harris -the Artistic Director, who has the final say on who is in, and who is out. There are the usual interviews with the candidates before and after the day-long audition. The format is pretty standard for a behind the scene look at any enterprise that holds selections for a limited number of places – the candidates could have been models or circus artists or rugby players.

What I really wanted to know was how the candidates heard about the audition.

It is a bit brutal; as they say: Many are called, but few a chosen. Gary is quite blunt with his on air assessments of dancers – I hope the candidates signed waivers! This year ‘The Company’ accepts two: Lucy Green and Yang Liu. Lucy is from Australia and Yang is from China. It is pretty obvious that these two will be selected: Lucy is shown doing some killer fouetttes and Yang is shown doing some lovely leaps, while Gary can be heard say “what lovely lines”. Also, we are told that, Yang was hand picked by the chinese ballet system at an early age, trained at the Beijing ballet, and danced is a member of the National Ballet of China. I also could not resist looking up the company in the Carmen programme on my shelf!

Episode two is centred on the first day back from holidays – established Company members return and the new members turn up with some trepidation.

Greg Horsman, the ballet master, takes class and, he claims, works them real hard. Which I found a concern, if it was true. He and company management expect the dancers to be ready to work; yet they know that the members of the company have been resting and that the only way to be ready to train at the level he claims to be putting them through is if they did not have a rest (for their bodies to recover from last year), but found somewhere to train (hard) in the off-season! Professional sports teams would not do this – maybe professional sportman are harder to come by than professional ballet dancers!

Then it was some interviews with members of the company – Abigail Boyle and Lucy Balfour seem to get the most air time. There is some nice gossip.

We also reconnect with Lucy Green and Yang Liu; both of whom have relocated to Wellington. For Lucy it is her first time away from home (Melbourne). Yang, has come accompanied by her fiance – good man!

There is lots of human interest – direct interviews, gossip and filming of people walking around.

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