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ITíS MAD, ITíS CRAZY!

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

at Founders Theatre, Hamilton
29 Nov 2013
[91 mins]

Reviewed by Debbie Bright, 26 Oct 2013


Congratulations RNZB on your 60th anniversary this year!

This performance is the Hamilton stopover of a tour covering 47 venues, from Kaitaia to Stewart Island, and running from 23 October to 4 December. For this biennial tour, the company divides into two mini companies - with two sets of costumes, props, scenery and transport - that travel and perform, so that all centres can be covered in the time frame. The repertoire chosen generally consists of a number of short dance works that demonstrate a wide range of styles and genres, ranging from classic divertissements to local emerging talent, chosen to appeal to both experienced and inexperienced audience members, and to be performed on small regional stages. 

The first half of this programme, reflecting the Tutus on Tour ethos, consists of five diverse pas de deux. For the second half of this 60th anniversary tour, the company offers a newly developed version of Peter and the Wolf . The two distinct halves of the programme provide a very satisfying and entertaining banquet. The adaptability and practicality of the production's stage setting is indicated to the arriving audience by means of the open stage (no Act Drop) and a single visible spotlight which sheds a pool of yellow light on the stage floor. Yet, the easy mobility of the set should not fool the viewer into supposing that they will not see the professionalism, skill and virtuosity for which the RNZB is known both nationally and internationally. 

THE FIRST HALF

Flower Festival at Genzano - Choreographer: August Bournonville (1805-79)
Music: Edvard Helsted and Holger Simon Paulli  Costumes: Gary Harris  
Dancers: Katherine Grange, Kohei Iwamoto

This pas de deux is a short but satisfying taster of Bournonville's work. According to the programme, this particular piece is offered as a tribute to the company's Danish founder, Poul Gnatt, and also to the numerous times that the RNZB has presented Bournonville's work over the company's life time. In spite of the simplicity of stage set, I am drawn into the work and reminded of Danish and other European Classical Ballet traditions. I see Bournonville's very rapid precise footwork and his (unusual for his time) insistence that both men and women have important roles in his works. Grange performs with skill and finesse the detailed footwork and quicksilver leaps demanded by the choreography, while portraying the shy demur young woman being wooed by her suitor. Iwamoto presents a strong masterful suitor who protects and guides his chosen, while performing with stunning accuracy his fast tight footwork and precise and (to use a cliché) gravity-defying leaps. 

‘Charlie' From FrENzy - Choreography: Mark Baldwin
Music: Split Enz   Costumes: Tracy Grant Lord
Dancers: Abigail Boyle, Dimitri Kleioris

In startling contrast to the first pas de deux, Baldwin, in this 2001 work, brings together apparently disparate elements of highly skilled and articulate classical dance and the music of Split Enz. The result is that Baldwin creates a work that is demanding for performers and audience (not unlike the stage acts of Split Enz). According to the programme, the costuming was inspired by the highly distinctive visual style of Split Enz; here the contrasts and contradictions are also evident. The highly skilled, long-limbed, articulate dance offerings of both Boyle and Kleioris provide, in full, the dynamics, contrast and drama of the work. I am left with impressions of intertwining and interweaving of sinewy bodies, conflict, attraction and challenging juxtapositions. This is a case of Split Enz meets classical ballet with unexpected non-classical ballet moments. Well done, Boyle and Kleioris! 

Little Improvisations   - Choreography: Antony Tudor (1908-87)  
Music: Robert Schumann, Kinderscenen, Opus 15  Costumes:  RNZB wardrobe department. Dancewear by PW Dance & Sportswear
Dancers: Bronte Kelly, Helio Lima

This (1953) work is presented by arrangement with the Ballet Notation Bureau and the Antony Tudor Ballet Trust, and is staged and coached by Amanda McKerrow and John Gardner. In this work, I see a young man and woman, who embody the playful, quirky, sulking, affectionate and mischievous interactions reminiscent of children, adolescents and lovers. They can turn any object, even a tablecloth, into a plaything, or a symbol of something more serious. The children and adolescents are clearly being monitored by an unseen adult presence; the lovers have the last word. I gain all of these impressions from the dancing and acting skills of Kelly and Lima. These two dancers blend unerringly the demanding and witty elegance of Tudor's movements with the rapport and relationship demanded by the roles. 

 Through to You  - Choreography: Andrew Simmons  
Music: Arvo Pärt, Spiegel im Spiegel  Costumes: Tracy Grant Lord  
Dancers: Maree White, Loughlan Prior

This 2009 dance duet is the work of an (at that time) emerging choreographer born in New Zealand but with a successful national and international career. The skillful lighting design allows the dancers to appear and disappear, to interact and to dance alone. I am left with images of long limbs intertwined and reaching, of lyricism, and a blending of sound, somberness, mystery, warmth and attraction, simple costumes, yellow lighting in shifting strips, satisfying choreography, and strong, well trained and beautiful dancing bodies. Thank you Simmons, White, Prior, Percy and others.

Wedding Pas de Deux from Don Quixote  - Choreography: After Marius Petipa
Music:  Ludwig Minkus Costumes: Original designs by Gary Harris 
Dancers: Kitri/Basilio: Mayu Tanigaito, Paul Mathews

This work blends the classicism of the original Russian take on a Spanish story with elements of modern choreography and design; nevertheless, this work retains its flavour of being among the classic divertissements offered by classical ballet companies worldwide: slow controlled and elegant pas de deux, solos and grands pas de deux that include the expected moments of virtuosity in leaps, turns, fouettés, high extensions and balances. Tanigaito and Mathews dance their hearts out and I am left with impressions of youth and experience, tentativeness and confidence, strength and vulnerability. 

SECOND HALF

Peter and the Wolf - Choreography: Catherine Eddy & Brendan Bradshaw  
Music: Sergei Prokofiev  Design: Robin Rawstorne  Orchestra: Orchestra Wellington  Narrator: Te Radar

Dancers:  Peter: Kohei Iwamoto; Sister/ Bird: Adriana Harper; Father/ Wolf: Paul Mathews; Duck: Bronte Kelly;
Cat: Katherine Grange; Grandmother: Maree White; Soldiers/ Hunters: Joseph Skelton, Helio Lima, Abigail Boyle, Arata Miyagawa; Shadow Boys: Dimitri Kleioris, Loughlan Prior

Woah, this is truly a show-stopper! As the programme states: “This is an eccentric and adventurous story that will appeal to children of all ages.” I agree!

Peter and the Wolf is an incredibly refreshing and very funny treatment of a classic children's story of music and narration that was designed to teach children some of the key instruments in an orchestra while communicating a cautionary tale. The only element of this particular production that remains relatively unchanged is Prokofiev's composition. The first setting of Rawstorne's brilliant design is revealed towards the end of the interval, indicating immediately a treatment of the story outside of the usual. This set continues to intrigue and amuse as the dancers manipulate elements in unexpected ways and for unexpected uses. Te Radar's narration is, predictably, Te Radar and New Zealand in tone; we hear of how the grandmother is “miffed”, and “nek minnit”, as tragedy strikes. Very clever and witty costuming, use of props, choreographic choices, and exaggeration in almost every aspect complete a danced story that is hilarious.  Having said that, I am not fooled into imagining that the physical danced elements are easy; they are not. Skill and control can often become more important when humour is portrayed. The virtuosity of the performers is not lost. Each of the characters appears well-cast, carrying his or her role with flair, skill and acting ability, and with a strong sense of the ridiculous. The audience is quickly loosened into giggling and freely laughing.  The shadow boys and soldier/ hunters are applauded as loudly as the key characters at the conclusion. It's mad, it's  crazy, I love it! 



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