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STRAVINSKY COMMANDS THE EVENING

Print Version
Photo: Evan Li
Photo: Evan Li
Stravinsky Selection - Royal NZ Ballet
Petrouchka - Choreography Michel Fokine | Producer Russell Kerr.
Satisfied with Great Success - Choreography Cameron McMillan
Milagros - Choreography Javier de Frutos

at St James Theatre, Wellington
From 8 Jun 2011 to 9 Jun 2011
[2hr 25min (with 2 intermissions)]

Reviewed by Greer Robertson, 21 May 2011


What magnificent music! What a great backbone for visual symphony! Every passionate note emphasised, every delicious discordant emotion puncturing the air with great velocity.
Omnipresent Stravinsky, named by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people of the 20th Century, was born in Russia in 1882. Understandably so, this master of the musical revolution forever lives on.  Under the meticulous baton of conductor Marc Taddei, he and the Vector Wellington Orchestra command the evening, taking no prisoners.
The season opens with the visually powerful award winning Milagros, with choreography and design by Javier De Frutos.  Set to Stravinsky's Rite of Spring, the rhythmic energy and emotional rage becomes the churning power of De Frutos' presentation. Strong use of shapes and ever changing patterns commands the stage. Superb lighting by Australian based lighting designer John Rayment gives it an international feel, allowing the dancers' stark white voluminous garments to become a highlight. These costumes are cleverly used in such a way as to additionally heighten an emotion of desire, disgust or disdain as part of the individual's interaction within a community in conflict. The never-ending billowing effect of these garments becomes entrancingly hypnotic.
Making its debut, the second ballet in this triple bill line-up is Satisfied with Success, a 20 minute piece choreographed by Cameron McMillan. Originally from New Plymouth but now based in London, McMillan was formerly a leading soloist with the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
In his classically informed contemporary work, McMillan aims to draw on the collaborative spirit of Serge Diaghilev whose avant-garde ballets brought together choreographers, musicians, artists and designers. He has chosen as his designer, New Zealand fashion brand icon Karen Walker, however the awkwardly worn walk shorts do not gel with pointe shoes and "total theatre" is not achieved.
The ballet opens with 50 year old archival film footage of Stravinsky conducting in New Zealand, and McMillan has borrowed the title for his ballet from a famous exchange of dialogue between Stravinsky and Broadway impresario Billy Rose as they discuss the score.  It is difficult to see why the video has been included. I also wonder, where was the fabulous bright yellow floaty Karen Walker creation in the actual ballet? That refreshingly startling dress, dominantly present in eye catching publicity photographs, only appeared after the work has ended worn by a congratulatory bouquet presenter.  
But the dancers perform the repetitious choreography with precision, and lead soloist Abigail Boyle's lithesome limbs display liquid control with her balletic extensions to be admired.
And, onto the third offering. The evening draws to a close with a ballet as close to the original as possible, Petrouchka.
Produced by New Zealand's doyen of dance, Russell Kerr, this ballet adds a blaze of colour and tradition to the evening. The stage comes alive with energy by way of brightly coloured backdrops, bearded Cossack dancers, gypsies, street performers and peasants as they sway and swirl in a vibrant market place. Medhi Angot as Petrouchka, Ballerina Tonia Looker and Qi Huan as The Moor explode to the fore with their effective delivery. Almost like a finale, numerous curtain calls ensued. Later, as Kerr appeared for his bow, the thunderous foot applause from the audience stood testimony of their unrestrained appreciation for the work of this living legend.
And the evening drew to a close.


 Raewyn Whyte
 Bernadette Rae (NZ Herald);