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NYC Three Short Ballets from The Big Apple
Choreographers: Larry Keigwin, Benjamin Millepied, and George Balanchine.
Composers: Adam Crystal, Johannes Brahms, George Gershwin
Lighting: Nigel Percy

at Civic Theatre, Auckland
From 29 Feb 2012 to 4 Mar 2012
[2 hrs 15 mins]

Reviewed by Roxanne de Bruyn, 1 Mar 2012

Minutes before the start of the Royal New Zealand Ballet's opening night of NYC, there is a strong sense of anticipation in the theatre. People are interested, with high expectations of the evening, looking forward to seeing what the new artistic director has to offer.

What they get is a fun, quirky programme which is full of energy. There are three short ballets, each technically demanding and well performed by the company. As well as referencing the city, NYC stands for new, young, classic and these themes are reflected in the works.

28 Variations on a theme is an elegant, romantic piece. Soft and pretty, it is as much about the music as the dancing, and the two mirror each other in a lovely way. Couples move together and drift apart in a stark, almost industrial setting with a touch of vintage glamour. Hints of emotions and tensions swirl throughout the dancing, but they are never quite explained or properly addressed, adding to the transient nature of the work.

Final Dress is a stark contrast and definitely the highlight of the night. Showing dancers behind the scenes before the performance, Larry Keigwin has created this piece on the RNZB and this clearly comes across. The personalities of the dancers are reflected in the dancing and they look the most comfortable in this work. The music is intriguing and compelling, the overall effect is immersing and the audience gets lost in it.

Set in a studio, it is strong, sexy and very dramatic, filled with sharp movements and surprising twists. The costumes are modern, and quick changes, dressing and undressing performers, explore the boundaries of studio and stage, private and public and the passage of time. A distinctly contemporary ballet, it adds some depth to the programme with layered themes. Fluid and physically demanding, it creates spatial boundaries as well as emotional ones and is quite voyeuristic, allowing us furtive peeks of private moments. It is dynamic, interesting and intricate and fits the company well. It is also the clear favourite of the audience.

The programme ends with Balanchine's Who Cares? an entertaining and jazzy ballet, which reflects the energy, hype and complexity of New York in almost every gesture. Seemingly effortless, and reminiscent of Gershwin's many Broadway musicals, Who Cares? is technically difficult, which grounds the ballet and keeps it from being superficial.

Gillian Murphy's talent and experience truly comes through in this piece. She is all that's expected; a beautiful dancer who fulfills the choreography and gives meaning to the movement. Lucy Green is the other stand out performer, with obvious potential and both technical ability and personality on stage. She has a wonderful energy which seems to radiate her love of dancing and makes her a joy to watch.

NYC is a fun, energetic programme, enjoyable and well danced. With a bit more depth and a greater emotional connection between the dancers and the choreography it would be exceptional. Overall, it was fresh, interesting and full of contrasts, giving the dancers new challenges which they have met admirably.

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