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A STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION

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Tower Tutus On Tour 2011
Tower Tutus On Tour 2011
Pinocchio
Choreography: Toby Behan
Music: Andre Messager, Les Deux Pigeons
Verdi Variations
Choreography: Greg Horsman
Music: Giuseppe Verdi

at Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland
From 9 Mar 2011 to 12 Mar 2011

Reviewed by Rosemary Martin, 13 Mar 2011


As a dancer or crew member of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, surviving the biannual Tutus on Tour season, or ‘smalls tour' as it is affectionately known, is tough. With the company splitting in two, sixteen dancers becoming ‘team North' and sixteen becoming ‘team South', and a touring schedule that involves one-night-stands in nearly every town that has a theatre, school hall or community centre (or even sheep shearing shed on occasion), it is demanding both physically and mentally.

In the past, the program schedule has comprised of four or five short works, ranging from the classics through to more experimental works. This time however they have decided to take a slightly different approach, presenting just two works, the first being Verdi Variations, choreographed by company Ballet Master Greg Horsman, and the second  Pinocchio, choreographed by ex-RNZB dancer Toby Behan.

Opening with Verdi Variations is a brave move. The dancers are exposed in both the design of the piece and through Horsman's unnecessarily arduous choreography. Don't get me wrong; I love a good tour en l'air or pirouette à la seconde as much as the next person, though in this case it was a constant barrage of awkward virtuosic combinations that left little room for error. Nevertheless the dancers coped extremely well, with leads Abigail Boyle and Qi Huan delivering calm and graceful performances, and Adriana Harper standing out from the group with polished technique and a sense of maturity to her work.

Pinocchio, Toby Behan's first full length work for the company, is an endearing and fun filled creation set to André Messager's Les Deux Pigeons. The title role of Pinocchio was danced with commitment and sincerity by Pierre Doncq, while Abigail Boyle, cool and collected as the Blue Fairy, led us through the magical adventures. The highlights of this charming work would have to be Qi Huan's warm and honest portrayal of Geppetto, and the immensely amusing characterizations from both Paul Mathews as the Fox and Adriana Harper as the Cat. At times I wondered how the production might work in the smaller venues, as I can imagine manoeuvring some of the props in a small space could be interesting. I was also curious as to how it may potentially look with a fuller set and cast of dancers.

With the new programming, the company may be taking a step in the right direction, and with a ‘tutu' ballet and a narrative ballet in the same program it is bound to win over audiences. However, by offering two very conventional works in the same program, it seems they may be playing it safe. This is no surprise given the current economic climate and the need to appeal to a reliable audience. However, it may be of importance within future Tutus on Tour seasons to include a more contemporary work, possibly alongside a classical narrative piece. The inclusion of something more current within our cultural context could go some way in continuing to artistically challenge and entertain a variety of audiences from all corners of New Zealand.
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 Jenny Stevenson
 Kasey Dewar