30/08/2019 - 30/08/2019
11/09/2019 - 11/09/2019
16/08/2019 - 18/08/2019
05/09/2019 - 07/09/2019
23/08/2019 - 25/08/2019
13/09/2019 - 14/09/2019
Brave. Bright. Beautiful.
Works by George Balanchine, William Forsythe and Andrea Schermoly.
Definitive danceworks from three different decades, each piece in this magnificent mixed bill offers a rare glimpse into bold and boundary-defying choreographers who captured the zeitgeist through dance.
George Balanchine’s Serenade is one of the few ballets that can truly be held iconic. Conceived in 1934, it is American ballet’s founding document, the foundation on which all later works must stand and against which they will be judged.
26 dancers are transported by Tchaikovsky’s Serenade for Strings, moving through time and space in perfect patterns, architectural yet organic, supremely structured yet somehow free. Serenade has an inner light, a tranquillity and a deeply felt emotion that has spoken to generations of dancers and audiences. More than 40 years after it was first staged by the company, the Royal New Zealand Ballet is privileged to bring Serenade back to our theatres.
Serenade is all moonlight; William Forsythe’s Artifact II is a blast of bold colour.
Created in 1984, the year that Forsythe became Artistic Director of Ballet Frankfurt, the full-length Artifact, of which Artifact II is the second act, was Forsythe announcing himself as a distinctive new voice in ballet. Serenade was Balanchine taking the aura of Russian classicism to his adopted home in the New World: 50 years later, Forsythe blew the cobwebs off European ballet with primary colour, Bach spliced with electronica, and a larger than life American athleticism.
These two iconic works bookend a powerful new commission by Andrea Schermoly, Stand to Reason, first seen in 2018 as part of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Wellington-only Strength & Grace programme, celebrating female suffrage. Stand to Reason is a bold ode to the tenacity and spirited sisterhood of the brave women who won the vote in New Zealand.
Choreographers from three continents, sharing New Zealand stages this winter. You won’t want to miss a step.
Choreography: William Forsythe
Assistant to the choreographer: Thierry Guiderdoni
Music: J S Bach: Chaconne from Partita Nr.2 BWV 1004 in D minor, performed by Nathan Milstein
Stage, light and costume design: William Forsythe
Technical prepartion: Tanja Rühl
Choreography: George Balanchine © The George Balanchine Trust
Repetiteur: Patricia Barker
Music: Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky: Serenade for Strings in C, Op.48
Costume design: Barbara Karinska
Stand to Reason
Choreography: Andrea Schermoly
Music: Johann Paul von Westhoff, Marin Marais, Ludwig van Beethoven
Lighting design: Andrew Lees
Costume design: RNZB Costume Department
Flames of Paris Pas de Deux
Choreography: Vasily Vainonen
Music: Boris Assafieff
Lighting Realisation: Nigel Percy
WELLINGTON, 16 AUGUST – 18 AUGUST
OPERA HOUSE 7.30pm 0n 16 and 17; 1.30pm on 17; 4pm on 18
AUCKLAND, 23 AUGUST – 25 AUGUST
ASB THEATRE, AOTEA CENTRE 7.30pm on 23 and 24; 1.30pm on 24; 4pm on 25
PALMERSTON NORTH, 30 AUGUST
REGENT ON BROADWAY, 7.30pm
CHRISTCHURCH, 05 SEPTEMBER – 07 SEPTEMBER
ISAAC THEATRE ROYAL, 7.30pm
DUNEDIN, 11 SEPTEMBER
Review by Kim Buckley 15th Sep 2019
This dance bill is a Bold Move full of bold moves. I feel so grateful to be a part of the audience tonight. Witnessing George Balanchine’s iconic Serenade for my first time, live. I feel like I am watching history being made on my personal dance journey, right in front of me. And I am in a way, kind of like ‘Back to the Future’ but in reverse. Dance in itself is so malleable and transient because of the humans that dance it in that moment, that if it is not recorded in some way, it will be lost. We are so fortunate that Arts Foundations like The George Balanchine Trust exist, otherwise historic works like this would’ve died with all those that knew the work. The change that Balanchine was beginning to introduce into his work is unfolding before my eyes. The neo classical postmodern ‘plotless ballet’ is here, where the dance element comes first and the emotion and story are left entirely to the audiences’ interpretation. I enjoy discovering the different dancers with different expressions at different moments. The falling dancer, the late dancer, the odd solo, the blind shadow duet, accumulations, shapes, bold profiles, clear lines of the dance bodies, but all still clearly embedded in Balanchine’s classical language with the tableaux, canons, the symmetry of circular weaving. Brilliance.
Flames of Paris pas de deux is immediately grabbing because the choreography boldly shouts “LOOK AT ME”. This is not my natural ‘go-to’ when watching dance and I feel uncomfortable until I change my state of mind. Normally, I am more of a voyeur; I don’t want to clap when you want me to, I want to congratulate the dancers on my own terms. This is a work that enables the dancers to showcase themselves. Kate Kadow and Kihiro Kusukami are magnificent in doing so. Vasily Vainonen made this work in a time when the freedom to be bold was new for the working class and this pas de deux is intended to be imbued with the celebration of such. There was obviously something to be said about being the first couple to be wed after the French revolution.
Andrea Schermoly’s Stand to Reason sits in this programme because its very nature is Bold. The choreography is vulnerable and strong. The eight women who perform this work manoeuvre with grace and unity, as the work spotlights women’s achievements through tenacity, and standing alone, durability to bring balance, stability and fortitude to lift and support each other. The struggle is real. It was then. And it is now. Still.
I have two dance heroes. One of them is William Forsythe. I feel hungry to devour any work this artist makes. So Artifact ll for me is extremely exciting. I am enthralled from start to finish as the spellbinding ugliness creates beautiful and organised chaos. I get the feeling of an old-fashioned switchboard with all its plugs connected to the incorrect jacks but somehow still able to communicate. In the context of a bygone era, Forsythe’s work references Balanchine befittingly. The company are perfect in their focus for shape making, creating the required tension in the negative spaces around the two duets performed by Mayu Tanigaito with Massimo Margaria and Nadia Yanowsky with Paul Mathews. Delicious choreography creating virtuosos with the human body, the duets are the through line that holds the work together. The boldness in this work comes from the direction of the work being stamped with four curtain drops like exclamation marks throughout its entirety. I’m glad I’m ready for it. I can only imagine what the audience thought and felt on this work’s original performance. As it is, there are a few gasps around me and I smile to myself and giggle a little. The dropped curtain creates tension from our ‘unfinished’ watch – our vision is cut off. But I love the fresh start when the curtain rises, it feels very satisfying. I could watch this piece again and again and again. Everywhere, there is something new.
Thank you RNZB. You’ve done it again. Delish-ishly.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Review by Hannah Molloy 12th Sep 2019
Well, that was pretty great…
The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Bold Moves, start to finish, was stunning, invigorating and aspirational. The thread of feminine strength and energy was exciting, and the subtle political subtexts something I haven’t seen from the RNZB before.
The simple colour palettes of each piece allowed the performances and choreography to hold centre stage while emphasising those underlying messages. Gentle blues, harsh black, crisp white, and earthy yellow, each added a dimension to the dancers without distracting from the really quite remarkable dancing. The costumes left little of their physiques to the imagination, allowing the audience to be mesmerised by the movement of breath through the body and muscle structures, to feel sympathy for the pooling of sweat, and fascination at the play of muscle under skin.
Highlight moments were many but of particular note, Mayu Tanigaito’s triumphant exit held aloft at the end of Serenade – as she folded, I actually gasped, with the blurred thought, “My god she’s just so incredible”; the crisp timing of Stand to Reason – sometimes a company’s timing is so good it’s like a visual glitch, like your eyes are tricking you; Artifact II created such a sense of anxiety and jangle, the company held in robotic precision, an abstract geometry, around the edges of the cavernous, stripped back stage, left no room for breath or comfort, just watching with heightened tension and awareness.
Being seated very near the front of the house is a favourite position for some, but with the Regent’s high stage, I did struggle to see a lot of the footwork – anything below the ankle disappeared from about a third of the way downstage, and the bodies on the floor in Artifact II were only disembodied arms moving through space (still a beautiful visual though). This is in no way a criticism of the performance but I feel a little wistful about the details I may have missed in this outrageously good show.
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Brave. Bright. Beautiful. Bravissima.
Review by Andrew Shepherd 06th Sep 2019
Bold Moves is a celebration and a triumph: of ballet, of women, and of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. The programme delivers on the lofty promises of its promotional material: it is Brave. It is Bright. It is Beautiful. Bravissima.
The strength of the initial image as the curtain rises invites applause, highlighting why Serenade – an iconic work by the great George Balanchine – continues to be warmly received by today’s audiences. The seventeen women own the stage, and continue to captivate throughout, in a ballet first presented in 1934. It is the first American choreography by Balanchine, with references to his Russian classical roots that satisfy an audience looking for a traditional ballet experience. These nods to the traditional contrast with breathtaking displays of strong line and new form that Balanchine would continue to explore throughout his career. Serenade purports to be plotless, presenting the only problem with this for me. How should the dancers emote: is it a joyful expression of movement to a favorite piece of Tchaikovsky music, or a more complex exploration of the dancer, informed by what happened in the studio at the time of its creation? As in life, both responses are offered side by side on stage. Mayu Tanigaito delivers an exuberant joy that contrasts with the struggle expressed by Simone Messmer in a role that at times dips into melodrama, inviting cynicism and questioning meaning. Overall, the work is well rehearsed and beautifully presented to appear effortless. The company hits tight musical cues with precision and aplomb, and contrasts subtle, expressive movements with strong lines and graceful agility. Accompanied by a subtle yet satisfying lighting change, the stunning final lift of Messmer at the end of Serenade is executed with assurance and dignity.
Chronologically, the second piece takes a backwards step with Vasily Vainonen’s Flames of Paris Pas de Deux, first presented in 1932. Choreographed to marry classical forms with revolutionary idealism, the work has an understandably traditional feel that delightfully showcases where Balanchine – and modern ballet – had come from. Mayu Tanigaito and Laurynas Vėjalis relish the opportunity to deliver a master class to any potential competition entrants, adding a very modern youthful exuberance to the delivery of this gala showpiece.
The Royal New Zealand Ballet have a proud tradition of passionately presenting to critical acclaim on a global stage, while bringing the world’s best to local stages. Linked to the previous work with its revolutionary and idealistic themes, Stand To Reason powerfully transports the audience back to this place: Aotearoa New Zealand. Commissioned by Artistic Director Patricia Barker in 2018, acclaimed international choreographer Andrea Schermoly uses the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’s “Ten Reasons Why The Women Of New Zealand Should Vote” as a starting point for a work the celebrates the relentless persistence of women affecting change and simultaneously challenges the society that requires it. The effective costumes can easily be interpreted as an expression of our national obsession with wearing black, the All Blacks uniform, or alternatively a farmers wool singlet and gummies.
I write as a pakeha man, lucky enough to have spent decades enjoying dance. I will not presume to “mansplain” women’s suffrage or anyone’s ongoing battle to enjoy the fundamental human rights I am privileged to hold. However, I would like to acknowledge that male dancers statistically have more opportunities and a fraction of the competition faced by their female counterparts. Every woman on stage – and those behind the scenes, I’m sure – has beaten the odds to achieve her place. For me, Stand To Reason is a joyful celebration of how this has been done. Grounded, committed, strong, beautiful: all words that spring to mind to describe the eight dancers who give the passion and solidarity needed to ignite this work and leave me yearning for a repeat viewing. Finding the typewritten text distracting, for me it is the dancer’s movements that draw attention. There are times they seem impossibly fast, and to extend beyond the physical limits of the body that houses them. Seeing women empower each other as they support and partner other female dancers makes me realise that I don’t always see enough of this in a ballet context, and I am grateful for how invigorating it is to do so here.
While acknowledging that they are very much of the time, my companion for the evening – a strong and beautiful woman herself – echoes Schermoly’s reaction to the reasons as expressed in the programme:
“They are thought provoking as some of these reasons, albeit forthright, seem horribly archaic and arbitrary. The fact that women should have to draw such stark, written articulations and obvious comparisons of reasonings to convince men of their worth is saddening, actually. Our humanity is just not assumed and that is still an issue today elsewhere”
Artifact II by William Forsythe is an assertive choreography that rounds out the performance in a manner both overwhelmingly satisfying and entirely frustrating. There is a lot going on in a work that is fast-paced and beautifully lit. Forsythe effortlessly layers the composition in such a way that it is impossible to choose what to watch without feeling that you are missing out. You are aware of wanting to watch it again to be able see it all while simultaneously being engaged and intrigued. Why have the wings been exposed? What made the curtain thump down so startlingly? Where have the company disappeared to? Who is the grey figure directing the movements of the corps de ballet? Ultimately all the elements are woven seamlessly in manner that leaves you talking about this dance and hoping to see it again. As a word, artifact brings to mind history for me, yet this piece is so modern, in that it goes too fast, is ephemeral, and incites a longing for more.
In a world of unlimited entertainment choices clamoring for our attention, this programme is a rare thing, living up to its own hype. Brave and inspired programming choices. Bright and confident staging and production. Beautiful dancing. Bold Moves.
Copyright © in the review belongs to the reviewer
Satisfying and beautiful dance
Review by Tania Kopytko 02nd Sep 2019
Bold Moves, the 2019 mixed bill programme from the Royal New Zealand Ballet, is comprised of four quite different works, but each expressing “bold” in a unique way. The programming provides contrasts which cover a wide audience taste. First on the programme is the beautiful Balanchine Serenade. His first ballet work in the USA, it shows the beginnings of the new directions this great choreographer would subsequently take ballet. Abstract, but suggesting ideas and references to earlier ballets such as Swan Lake and Giselle, or whatever the audience might see in the ballet, Serenade is an appropriate opening which gently and beautifully warms us up for the more intense later works.
Timing and spacing are important in Serenade; and after the opening section, the RNZ Ballet brings this work alive, particularly in the waltz section and the beautiful group section very reminiscent of a Russian khorovod (continually evolving traditional linked circle dance). Serenade is visually stunning and the company expresses well the simple clarity and complex phrases in the ballet. Katherine Minor, Katharine Precourt and Loughlan Prior stand out as soloists with style.
The short Flames of Paris pas de deux, the second work, is a 1930s Russian super technical challenge. It requires enormous energy and is full of élan and bravado, with dozens of sparkling pirouettes, tours and leaps required from the male and female soloists. It is performed technically well by Simone Messmer and Allister Madin, which the audience fully acknowledges, but it lacks the full-out bravado this piece demands.
The third and fourth works are the ‘pièce de resistance’ in this programme and firmly show the RNZ Ballet company’s strength in contemporary work. Stand to Reason, choreographed by Andrea Schermoly, supported by a strong artistic team, was first commissioned for the 2018 Strength & Grace suffrage celebration programme. The movement vocabulary is fascinating; as Schermoly herself states: “I’m drawn to awkward, perhaps quirky movement, that strikes an emotional chord and is a deeper portal to internal struggle”. With this vocabulary, Schermoly and the wonderful ensemble of female dancers do indeed create evolving, emotional dance which reaches right out to the audience. The rising ‘frisson’ is palpable and receives a very strong response from the audience at the end of the piece. This is visceral, satisfying choreography and performance. Hearty congratulations to Rhiannon Fairless, Kiara Flavin, Kate Kadow, Minkyung Lee, Kirby Selchow, Teagan Tank, Leonora Voigtlander and Caroline Wiley — all “in the moment” and fabulous.
It is difficult to follow such a strong work, but Artifact II, a classic piece of choreography by William Forsythe, allows the strength of the company, and also the theatre, to come to the fore. The large Regent Theatre stage looks fabulous pared back to its old brick walls. It gives ample and dramatic space to the twenty-nine dancers in this work. In Bold Moves, Artistic Director Patricia Barker wishes to show the “depth and reach of the dancers’ talents… (so that) their versatility and dynamic range are stretched and their athleticism shines.” Like Stand to Reason, this work certainly does. Forsythe’s partner work is notoriously difficult – requiring perfect symmetry, and pushing angles and extensions for the female to extremes. These artists match the challenge. The work is magnificently performed and the audience strongly acknowledges this in their applause and response. Congratulations to Katharine Precourt, Loughlan Prior, Simone Messmer and Laurynas Vejalis for wonderful performances.
Bold Moves provides what this mixed bill intends– to enable the company’s strengths to shine. It shines in their contemporary work, which in turn allows the diversity of the dancers to show – short and tall, muscular and athletic. Bold Moves is satisfying and beautiful dance. It is excellent also to have a well-prepared, entertaining and targeted pre-performance talk for the Palmerston North audience, which serves to prepare those less confident in contemporary dance or dance history. Good luck with the rest of your New Zealand tour and we look forward to your next performance in Palmerston North.
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Contemplating the nature of ballet at this moment
It is interesting watching the Royal New Zealand Ballet stamp their current signature on the country’s physical landscape. The title of the company, notwithstanding the effect that has on those of us engaged in cultural space-making, reeks of self-contemplation. Yet, here we are in the throes of dance as globalisation, meditating on the international nature of ballet. This latest mix, not immediately visible as ‘bold’ but at the very least, intelligent, underscores the emergence of confidence. Confidence in the art of dancing.
For contemporary mixes in dance presentation, decisions about programming require the artistic director, for RNZB it is Patricia Barker (US), to engage with what the audience might connect to through the entire programme, and to honour the integrity of each choreographer’s contemplation. This remarkable evening does justice to both elements.
Serenade by George Balanchine (1934) is an historical work on the cusp of contemporisation, stripping the ornamental from the balletic and courageously demonstrating the fundamentals technique at work. The feminine dancers afford the embodied musicality of the intricate score, Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48 by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. Their expressivity shows a superb control over a range of subtle interpretations. A quirky positing of the occasional darkly costumed danseur is designed to reposition our gaze from womanly brilliance. A gendered exchange links well to the third item on the programme.
The second work on the programme, Flames of Paris Pas de Deux by Russian Vasily Vainonen (1932) is a divertissement from a ballet about the French revolution, and brings our focus to the calculation of female and male roles in ballet practice. Oddly situated in a programme of deft and aware artistic consideration, I do get the interruption. The two dancers, Mayu Tanigaito (Japan/NZ) and Laurynas Vejalis (Lithuania/Canada) transport us through near perfect attention to each other, and in their solos to the enduring demands of balletic virtuosity in the hyperbolic midst of a changing world.
It is not the glorious adornment of stage and costume that make the programme successful – lighting provides the staging and costumes seem thriftily appropriate. It is the lavish technique of near flawless timing, grace, collaboration in spacing, and dancer commitment. I watch the art of ballet unfolding as an exceptional method of mindful human movement. Each dancer moves in intricate harmony with dance persuasion, human detail and spatial construction. The whole evening speaks from the heart of the artist as human: ballet as art in embodied meaning.
Stand to Reason, by Andrea Schermoly (South Africa) was commissioned as a work in the RNZB’s 2018 Suffrage programme. The conglomerate score is sensitively selected to embrace the raw brilliance of females in movement. The vision of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union’ 10 reasons why women should get the vote that was published in 1893 is typed on the stage’s black backdrop as punctuation to each short section. The eight women dance powerfully in feminist unison, with a passionate standout solo by Kirby Selchow. All elements give depth to the work’s communication. This work is bold, reminding us not only of the lack of suffrage and human rights for many women in today’s world, but also of the need to engage more with the female voice in ballet production.
The final piece of this memorable evening brings themes of aesthetic stripping, heightened self-awareness and shifting feminism. Artifact Act II by William Forsythe, staged for the RNZB by Thierry Guiderdoni (France). The costumes are almost bumble bee in nature, ochre yellow body suits forall plus overlying black tights on two incredibly assured female dancers. The duets are danced by Mayu Tanigaito, Simone Messmer (US), Massimo Margaria (Italy), and Laurynas Vejalis. These duets comprise extended moments of exquisite confidence in the athleticism of ballet movement and the artform itself as as risk-taking and adventurous, defining the word ‘bold’.
I write in unison with another reviewer, Deirdre Tarrant (New Zealand) in giving ‘”full credit to all”(18 August 2019, Theatreview). This programme deserves as much support and visibility as our other young and mature mobile-movement travellers, the All Blacks. Come on New Zealand, keep up with realistic funding and support the wisdom of human movement development situated in dance as art.
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A thoroughly satisfying night at the ballet
Review by Deirdre Tarrant 18th Aug 2019
A thoroughly satisfying night at the ballet – although how four reworks make Bold Moves is a bit of a mystery to me. Notwithstanding, Serenade – staged for the RNZB by Director Patricia Barker, is a touchstone work that was made 85 years ago by George Balanchine for the students of the then new School of American Ballet. Beautiful dancing provides the classical beauty that a night at the ballet demands. Performed regularly still as a student piece, Serenade is a meticulously crafted work that relates music, space and line with a haunting and memorable aesthetic. A live orchestra is sorely missed but the wonderful Serenade for Strings in C by Tchaikovsky is as integral to the performance as originally intended, and the ‘pictures‘ created by the dance are beautifully controlled.
The Flames of Paris Pas de Deux is a showpiece on many Gala programmes and requires scintillating technical control and brilliance. Mayu Tanigaito and Laurynas Vejalis do not disappoint and deliver a stunning partnership. Tanigaito has an exquisite line, precision and sparkle in both her execution and presentation. Vejalis has the aplomb and spectacular elevation that brings applause as each virtuoso moment surpasses the last.
Stand to Reason, choreographed by South African Andrea Schermoly as part of the company’s 2018 Suffrage programme, stands strong again. Typed text taken from a pamphlet circulated in 1893 by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union gives 10 Reasons why women should get the vote, from a literary background. Eight women work as a strong collective and both voice and dance individual choreographic statements really resonate. A solo originally made on and danced by Kirby Selchow is emotive and haunting. Stand to Reason has a contemporary style and also strongly references classical lines and limbs.
This work is well worth seeing again and raises issues to think about that still are not fully resolved for the world, 125 years on.
William Forsythe’a Artifact is another historically significant work and Act II is staged for RNZB by Thierry Guiderdoni. Verging on the grotesque, this is the perfect antithesis to the classical prettiness that opens the programme in Serenade. Athletic partnering, razor-sharp leg lines, rows of dancers following and being followed, leading and being led, a curtain that apparently randomly crashes to the stage, hand gestures and body positioning that fragment the space and disturb our lines of observation, stillness contrasting with extreme energy and always an element of manipulation….. Two couples, one leader and a large cast of yellow unitarded, fabulous bodies to music by JS Bach (again would that the violins were live!) bring an excellent night to a close.
I am converted – in their day Balanchine and Forsythe were controversial and their works are still exciting – Bold Moves and boldly danced. Full credit to all and as this programme sets out on tour – mark your diaries and go to see it. A special and rare chance to see works that are of huge significance in dance history, right here, right now.
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