Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna, Auckland

23/07/2021 - 24/07/2021

Production Details

BALLET NOIR, what becomes of the broken-hearted 

In the exhilarating whirl of Auckland eclectia and creativity that is the city’s upcoming Elemental Festival, one stand-out is Mary-Jane O’Reilly’s uber elegant uber dark Ballet Noir, tag lined ‘what becomes of the broken-hearted’. 

Based on a very warmly received preview performance in Auckland Art Gallery’s North Atrium in 2019 the work caught the eye of the Festival team when offered it as a full work by O’Reilly and co-creative Phil O’Reilly. 

Fluidly straddling the worlds of classical ballet, contemporary dance and more recently in her hit Edinburgh Fringe Festival neo burlesque work In Flagrante, Mary-Jane is a shape-shifter in the language and story of dance in New Zealand. Where her only rule is it must exhilarate. 

Drawing on her gift for sizzle and polish 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 1940s ‘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 male rivals who’ll go head to head with dance as their weapon.

Featuring twelve of Auckland’s finest dancers, Ballet Noir is an exquisite blend of dance, music, filmic imagery and fantasy.

Clad in 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.

Strictly limited to three performances only.

Friday July 23rd 8pm, Saturday 24th July matinee 2pm, and evening 8pm.

Mary-Jane O’Reilly and Phil O’Reilly
and featuring twelve of Auckland’s finest dancers.

Digital presentation , Dance-theatre , Dance , Contemporary dance , ,

60 mins

Archival and experimental style.

Review by 24th Jul 2021

Oddly enough, the opening song for the evening’s adaptation of Giselle, Ballet Noir tightly choreographed by doyenne Mary-Jane O’Reilly is not the song I had in mind after the opening scene. Instead of the signature tune for the subtitle of the work, ‘What Becomes of the Broken Hearted’ crooned by Jimmy Ruffin is replaced, and the Bee Gees just as gentle tune shifts into my imagination. ‘I can think of younger days when living for my life…’, becomes a choreographic riddle to be solved in the cryptic elegance of this brief ballet. This is a third iteration of a work first developed in 1996 by Mary-Jane with a different set of dancers. Caught in an unhurried mix of classical moves and contemporary gesture, the dancers beautifully ponder the vocabularies of an older age. 

In collaboration with O’Reilly, Peter Salmon designs the music as a combination of the second act of Adolphe Adam’s original score with heartbeats, weather and bird sounds. Ballet Noir is presented across its aesthetic spectrum in eclectic form.

Costumes designed by Phil O’Reilly and Mary-Jane O’Reilly with costumier Elizabeth Whiting, range between 1940’s office women and tulle, which the dancers use in multiple ways – as cloaks, as wings, as weapons.

A backdrop of tattoos, old film imagery and water in all elemental variations, by the filmic co-creatives, Mary-Jane O’Reilly, Phil O’Reilly and Matt Gillanders are premeditated. A particularly beautiful photo of a woman’s mouth on the backdrop, reminded me of the silencing of women, a brief foray into the choreographer’s feminist re-imagining. The males of the show are curiously absent in the first act.

And, how do you mend a broken heart? In each of the scenes, the dancing edges closer to the central purpose of the Giselle story. Giselle is played by Amy Moxham. She maintains a pretty caution for passion, or loves’ contraction. As was rendered by Carlotta Grisi in 1841 for the original Giselle, Amy’s delicacy is flawless. Shona Wilson, as the grand dame of the story is magnificent in her maturity and her lines and her leg extensions. The other female dancers are just as adept in the infatuates of the dramaturgy. Hosanna Ball, Katrina Bastion, Emma Clavis, Amber Liberte, Ariana Hond, Lucy Lynch, Phoebe Owen and Kim Tasker mull familiar sequences of bodies in hopping arabesques and languorous arms. Together they chance singular movement, well-timed duets, trios and group work. Albrecht played by Kit Reilly and Hilarion played by Abraxas Sebastian Trujillo enter into the second act, both dynamic and virile. Their dramatic presence lifts the sombre sensibility of this elegant work – a characteristic of the archival and experimental style of this much-respected choreographer and her collaborators.


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