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Tutus on Tour (2013)
Bournonville, Tudor, Baldwin, Simmons, Eddy & Bradshaw

at St James Theatre, Wellington
From 23 Oct 2013 to 26 Oct 2013
[91 mins]

Reviewed by Deirdre Tarrant, 25 Oct 2013

The Royal New Zealand Ballet's Tutus on Tour splits the company to tour smaller towns and venues throughout the country. It's a tradition. This year will see  them in 47 towns from Kaitaia to Stewart Island in the next six weeks.

Tutus on Tour ends a very successful year celebrating the 60th birthday of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Presenting something old and something new, something borrowed and something blue, the company shares roles in a smorgasbord of works.

It is lovely to see the classical touchstone pieces Flower Festival at Genzano and the Don Quixote Wedding pas de Deux as the bookends for a series of divertissements. Mayu Tanigaito and Kohei Iwamoto deliver the Bournonville ballon, precision and charm in the first, and this is a fitting acknowledgement of Poul Gnatt, founder of the company that has become our national ballet and his lasting Danish heritage. Bronte Kelly and Helio Lima are competent  in the demanding Don Quixote but still need to find the bravadura, style and scintillating technical mastery that brings audiences to their feet and is so integral to this most famous of duets.

Between these two classical showpieces are three duets from eras that span the time line of 60 years. Anthony Tudor is not a choreographer we have seen much repertoire from in New Zealand (I think Lilac Garden was staged some years ago?)but Katherine Grange and Kohei Iwamoto make Tudor's Little Improvisations (1953) look effortless, and these vignettes bring a quiet smile as a range of uses for a swathe of blue material are invented and the intricacies of love and nostalgia are expressed.

The music of Split Enz and their heartland New Zealand song 'Charlie' sets the scene for a duet from  FrENzy (2001). Unexpected angles and rhythms, and broken lines tilted at in a contemporary style feature in this work by Mark Baldwin. Lifted out of the original work, this excerpt struggles to find a strong voice, although Maree White and Loughlin Prior bring a sense of playfulness that speaks of a transitory relationship they both are enjoying 'for the moment'. 

Andrew Simmons' Through to you is the most recently made work (2009) and is strongly danced with line and control by Abigail Boyle and Paul Mathews. Again, lifting this from the full work does not work for me and the lighting seems somehow not as effective as I recall the original being. Figures fade in and out of our consciousness and are often in shadow as they join and part. Perhaps this dissatisfaction and elusiveness are part of the intention, but here there is also a sustained quality and aesthetic beauty that and out.

Prokoviev's music for Peter and the Wolf sees Orchestra Wellington take the musical reins in a new concept and choreography by Catherine Eddy and Brendan Bradshaw. Design by Robin Rawstorne sets us in a children's bedroom where Peter - beautifully danced by Kohei Iwamoto - takes us on his fantasy journey to catch the wolf. Fun touches are the toy soldiers of Peter's game reappearing as the Hunters in delightful canon and military movements, and a very energetic duck (Bronte Kelly) ruffling its feathers from the safety of the pond. Te Radar relishes narrating with some appropriate new zild-isms added in, and has a very effective onstage presence as he tells the story. Accessible and a little predictable this is never the less an entertaining and quirky rendition of a perennial favourite.

The evening, dance wise, belongs to Kohei Iwamoto who dances in three of the six works and constantly draws the eye for his command, interpretation and clarity. 

Three casts share the roles for this programme and audiences throughout the country will welcome their visit to realise and continue the tradition of the Royal New Zealand Ballet company to " truly belong to everyone" Travel safe.

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