Ballet Noir

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

27/10/2023 - 29/10/2023

Production Details

Mary-Jane O'Reilly - Choreographer, Co-Producer
Phil O'Reilly - Co-Creative
Craig Dustin - Lighting

O'Reilly Productions

A re-imagining of Giselle Act II, Ballet Noir is a fiendishly clever contemporary ballet work that channels the tragi-romantic narrative of the great ballets through the cryptic and edgy lens of 1940/50’s Film-Noir, with all its greyscale tension and stylish vainglory.

A meditation on the mysterious forces of darkness, characters include jaded femmes fatales, a young innocent abroad and two friends out for a night on the town, who, by chance, get trapped in the Ice Queen and her Cynic’s night of vengeance.

Featuring fifteen of Auckland’s finest dancers, the performance is an exquisite blend of dance, music, filmic imagery and the sensation of smell, with featured perfumes adding a unique experiential layer to the performance. Wearing sharply tailored authentic vintage jackets, skirts and hats, the dancers inhabit a world of secret rituals, rivalries and power struggles, where salvation only comes with a broken heart.

8.00pm Friday, October 27
2:00 pm Saturday, October 28
8:00 pm Saturday, October 28
2:00 pm Sunday, October 29

Kit Reilly, Amy Moxham, Jacob Reynolds, Lucy Lynch, Shona Wilson, Liz Harvey, Oli Matheisen, Thomas Harris,
Ariana Hond, Emma Clavis, Phebe Murison, Hosanna Ball, Amelia Chandulal-mackay, Zoe White, Madison Fotti-Knowles

Craig Dustin - Lighting

Dance ,

80 minutes including a 20 minute interval

Dramatic modern love story within sharp stylized choreography

Review by Teianna Chenkovich 30th Oct 2023

Ballet Noir is a contemporary adaptation of Giselle’s Act II that draws sensuous imagery from film noir, and is bolstered by scent, film projection, and evocative costumes. The audience is brought into the magic with two scented cards to accompany specific gestures by the performers. A film projection begins, depicting a melancholy rain that sets the scene for the thoughtful characterizations that ensue. 

The ethereal fantastical enchantment of Giselle is laid aside (along with their pointe shoes for better or worse) in favor of a more grounded take. Did the exclusion of pointe shoes and the wonder they inspire contribute much to the contemporizing of the movement and story?

In this world, the ghostly Wilis of the classical ballet are transcribed as the quite real Cynics. In the Cynics I see the many jaded, tiered, and frustrated women playing out the social dramas accompanying romantic attachments. My own contemptuous relationship with men is reflected at me, and with a stark realization I am acutely aware of my jealousy towards the buoyant and beautiful Giselle as she drifts across the stage. 

Opposite of the spritely Giselle is the formidable Ice Queen portrayed by Shona Wilson. As a mature dancer, she brings a strength and gravitas to the role that commands attention. She and the Cynics occupy the space with bold & intimidating adagio as the film projection of rain solidifies to ice. Water is a thematic symbol keying us into the internal worlds of the performers, it melts, solidifies, and drips at key transitions. 

Co-creatives Mary Jane & Phil O’Reilly’s sharp eye for symbolism and historicity is clear. I was personally taken with the delicate references to classical Giselle that in no-way overpowers modern narratives. The striking and haunting noir costumes cleverly transmute themselves; tuille skirts become intimidating capes, which in turn are brandished as weapons. Kudos to costumer Liz Whiting (alongside the O’Reilly’s) for the stylish and functional choices that took on a full life of their own. 

The indistinguishable figures of a traditional corps de ballet sit in stark contrast to the vibrant Cynics, unyielding Ice Queen, earnest Giselle, and playful Albrecht & Hilarion. Choreographer Mary Jane O’Reilly has so beautifully shaped relatable characters with complexity and substance. They play out a dramatic modern love story within sharp stylized choreography that looks jolly good fun to perform.  


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