Regent On Broadway, Palmerston North

23/06/2018 - 23/06/2018

Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin

16/06/2018 - 16/06/2018

Opera House, Wellington

31/05/2018 - 02/06/2018

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

06/07/2018 - 08/07/2018

Municipal Theatre, Napier

30/06/2018 - 30/06/2018

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

08/06/2018 - 09/06/2018

Production Details

International choreographic masters and ground breaking New Zealand dance.  

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Dancing with Mozart season begins at the end of May. It features works by choreographic titans of the 20th and 21st centuries set to the music of one of history’s best loved composers, as well as the world premiere of the first ballet created in Antarctica.

The programme speaks volumes for the international reputation of New Zealand’s national ballet company, with only very few companies worldwide being granted permission to stage George Balanchine’s Divertimento 15, along with Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort and Sechs Tänze, which will be seen for the first time in New Zealand.

RNZB Artistic Director Patricia Barker says: “Dancing with Mozart displays the depth of talent in the Royal New Zealand Ballet with an array of virtuosic roles to showcase the dancers. Divertimento 15 and Petite Mort are performed only by world-renowned companies and we are joining an elite group in staging them.”

George Balanchine (1904-1983) founded New York City Ballet in 1948 and considered Mozart’s Divertimento No. 15 in B flat, to be the finest divertimento ever written. We are delighted to welcome celebrated Balanchine repetiteur Francia Russell to New Zealand for the first time to stage this work, and to benefit from her vast knowledge of the repertoire after more than 60 years performing and staging Balanchine works.

Legendary Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián cites Balanchine as one of his greatest influences. His choreographic works are sought after and treasured by dance companies the world over. Following acclaimed performances of his Soldier’s Massin 1998 and 2015, the RNZB is honoured to stage the New Zealand premieres of Petite Mort, commissioned by the Salzburg Festival to mark the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death, and the light-hearted Sechs Tänze.

New Zealand born choreographer Corey Baker was inspired by Jiří Kylián more than any other artist and performed Petite Mort while dancing in Europe. Baker harnessed all of his entrepreneurial and adventurous spirit to travel to Antarctica with RNZB dancer Madeleine Graham in February. Together they created a dance film to highlight climate change, commissioned by UK television network Channel 4 and digital development organisation The Space supported by the BBC and Arts Council, England. It acts as the basis for The Last Dance which sees its world premiere in Dancing with Mozart and features Mozart’s unfinished Requiem.

Dancing with Mozart premieres in Wellington on May 31 and tours to Christchurch, Invercargill, Dunedin, Blenheim, Palmerston North, Napier and Auckland until July 8. 

WELLINGTON, 31 May – 02 June 2018
The Opera House – with live orchestra
Thursday 31st May – Saturday 2nd June, 7:30pm
Saturday 2nd June, 1:30pm

CHRISTCHURCH, 08 June – 09 June 2018
Isaac Theatre Royal – with live orchestra
Friday 8th June & Saturday 9 June, 7:30pm
Saturday 9th June, 1:30pm

Regent Theatre
Saturday 16th June, 7:30pm

Regent On Broadway
Saturday 23rd June, 7:30pm

AUCKLAND, 06 JULY – 08 JULY 2018
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre – with live orchestra
Friday 6th July & Saturday 7th July, 7:30pm
Saturday 7th July, 1:30pm
Sunday 8th July, 4:00pm

Dance , ,

2 hours

Fine fettle to the fore

Review by Jenny Stevenson 07th Jul 2018

At the conclusion of a nationwide tour Dancing with Mozart, the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company is in fine fettle performing a vigorous if slightly off-kilter programme of four ballets with the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as the common denominator.  Featuring the “American Classicism” of Russian/American master choreographer George Balanchine and the exuberant neo-classicism of Czechoslovakian Jiří Kylián (formerly Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer of the Nederlands Dans Theater) the programme is supplemented by a contemporary work created by New Zealander Corey Baker.

Balanchine’s Divertimento No.15 (first performed in 1956) is the only ballet on the programme performed to live music and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Hamish McKeich gives an inspiring rendition of Mozart’s Divertimento No 15 in B flat major, K287.  Staged for the Company by American repetiteur Francia Russell, the work is a revelation – in fact, a master-class in dance-making. 

Five female and three male soloists perform the exceptionally difficult, fast-paced choreography with a lightness of being and buoyancy that can only be achieved through the application of rock-solid technique and careful placing through all the multiple directional shifts.  The most beautiful solos are performed by the women, seemingly reflecting every note of the score in the language of movement while pushing the dancers to the very limit of their abilities – and they appeared to revel in it.  Guest artists Veronika Part and Nadia Yanowsky, although different in their stylistic interpretations, were a joy to watch, as were the effervescent Mayu Tanigaito, along with Kate Kadow and Sara Garbowski.  The three males led by Alexandre Ferreira and the sparkling corps also delivered strong performances throughout.

Two of the works from Kylian’s suite of six dances known as the “Black and White Ballets” due to their monochromatic design are presented in reverse order of their making.  Petite Mort (1991) is followed by Sechs Tänze (1986).  Staged for the Company by Kylian’s assistant Stefan Zeromski, the two works have been cleverly placed so that the second becomes something of a pastiche of the first.

The achingly beautiful Petite Mort to Mozart’s truncated Piano Concertos K467 & K488, references the sexual act and features six men and women wielding six fencing foils (the males) and six mobile crinoline dresses that appear to have a life of their own.  The manipulation of the foils is very deliberate: at first delicate and then building in intensity until the men disappear into a cloud of billowing black fabric which in a magical moment is drawn aside to reveal the supine women.  Exquisite pas-de-deux follow, with lyrical folding and merging of the dancers’ bodies before concluding with a gradual fade to black.

Sechs Tänze is a joyous romp through Mozart’s Sechs Deutsche Tanze K571 featuring four couples and five mega stars led by an irrepressible Felipe Domingos.  The men dressed in breeches with painted white face and white wigs are equally matched by the fierce dancing of the women in white corsets and skirts – all revelling in the fast-paced sequences of physical buffoonery.

In a different mood, New Zealander Corey Baker has worked with composer Duncan Grimley on Mozart’s unfinished Requiem in D minor K626 to create a score for his work The Last Dance created after his recent visit to Antarctica with RNZB dancer Madeline Graham to make a short dance film.  The deconstruction of Mozart’s music serves as a metaphor for the “horrifying reality” of melting ice that Baker observed while in Antarctica, and he has based the dance on this premise.

Sandwiched as it is between the ballets of two great choreographers, the work suffers in comparison with a slightly gauche didacticism and clumsy staging.  Baker has created some interesting movement vocabulary but it is severely restricted due to a large box-like structure representing the world, which occupies nearly half of the stage.  The dancing of the corps in stark white costumes is effective, however, and Mayu Tanigaito and Joseph Skelton deliver their material with a passion that almost succeeds in escaping the confines of the box in which they perform.

It comes as a great relief that this Dancing With Mozart programme firmly re-establishes the Company as a fully-functioning entity following on from the ruckus created last year through the changes in the Artistic Directorship.  They have emerged from the storm fully refreshed and glowing.


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Mid-winter Mozart treat

Review by Kim Buckley 02nd Jul 2018

Mozart interpreted by three different choreographers in four very different ways. A deliciously mixed programme for a mid-winter treat. Our dancers serve us Balanchine on a silver platter and I believe this is the prettiest classical ballet I have ever seen. Chandeliers and ruchedtop layer tutus, an azure cyclorama and the warm glow of Michael Mazzola’s lighting takes my breath away. Balanchine’s kinesthetic rendering of Mozart’s mathematical genius in Divertimento No. 15 is illustrious indeed.
Corey Baker’s trip to the Antarctic paid dividends for his work The Last Dance. This work delves in to the deeply distressing issue of the alarmingly fast melting ice and the impact this will have on future generations. The work is sculptural, simplistic in a way that is clearly stated, and vulnerable. I have no choice but to feel horrified when the obviousness of the boxed two are infected by watery metaphor. A contemporary gaze into a terrifying reality. Duncan Grimley’s deconstructed Mozart is refreshing and innovative capturing the essence of Baker’s work.
Jiri Kylián’s works – WOW! – is my encapsulated feeling both Petit Mort and Sechs Tanze. Sexy, decadent, whimsical, edgy, comical, delicious, quirky, and is finished far too quickly. I can watch Kylián’s work for hours. His movement speaks to my soul.


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Contrasting eras of ballet

Review by Tania Kopytko 24th Jun 2018

The Royal New Zealand Ballet are on the top of their top form as they confidently and exquisitely dance their way through Balanchine, Kylián and Baker’s very different choreographic interpretations of Mozart. The audience are with the company all the way, applauding the beautiful chandelier decked stage and graceful formation revealed as the curtain rose.

Each of the four works in this programme is quite different and represents different eras of ballet. The first, Divertimento 15, was created by master choreographer George Balanchine in 1956. In this programme it is the more traditional piece, though at this time Balanchine was revolutionising classical ballet. As noted in the programme, UK critic of the time Richard Buckle said, “Balanchine appeared to have worked with Mozart, as with other dead composers, like a twin who could read his brothers thoughts”.  In performance this can only be seen if the dancers are able to perfectly and effortlessly express the music; note by note and phrase by phrase. In this performance, the Royal New Zealand ballet does this to perfection, with perfect timing, phrasing and interpretation, and with an incredible lightness, confidence and sense of joy. While harmony is there in force, each dancer shines through with their own personality and style. It is a joy to see the music literally come alive before our eyes, and for us, the audience, to be able to sense the beautiful score kinaesthetically through the dancers. Bravo!

The second work, The Last Dance, by young New Zealand choreographer Corey Baker, was created especially for this season.  To a mashed-up version of Mozart’s Requiem in D Minor, it depicts the slow collapse of the Antarctic environment and if left unchecked, a drowned world. Again this year the Royal New Zealand Ballet has chosen New Zealand relevant work, which is to be applauded and encouraged. Corey is a young man worried about his world, giving a narrative which clearly warns us of the consequences of global climate change. This is a message that the Palmerston North audience agrees with and they give strong applause to the work. If the intention is to raise awareness and engage our young people in the dance dialogue, then this piece works. However there are moments when more could have been made with movement and the set. The stripping off of the white dance floor to reveal the black land below could have been more creatively developed as part of the destruction narrative.

The third and fourth works are both by master Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián – a choreographer with an extraordinary imagination and wit. Here Mozart comes alive, not only in the beautiful choreographic interpretation of the music —  the company excels in the required exuberant expression and nuance and I am sure Mozart would have understood and loved them.  Petit Mort choreographed in 1991, and the more restrained of the two, shows the male dancers mastering clever and difficult work with foils and the company performing difficult partnering. This work requires detailed and articulate interpretation, which the company has perfected. The performance is very satisfying.

The second Kylián work, Sechs Tanze, is a clever and joyful romp, again perfectly executed by the company. Craziness prevails with props reinterpreted in new and ever madder ways as vignettes of saucy and competing relationships emerge. By the time the bubbles float down like a stage full of champagne, the company are intoxicated and intoxicating with their dance.

Yes, there are stand out performers in the company across the evening’s performances – but it seems unfair to single them out when the whole company performs so brilliantly as one ensemble. Bravo, bravo to all!

The evening was also special because it began with a pre-performance talk by the Artistic Director Patricia Barker, who not only outlined the significance of the three works, but also conveyed her continual excitement when she sees these works. She confessed to wanting to clap every time the Balanchine set opens – and the eighty people present at the talk took heed of this and joined her in welcoming applause. This was the first ballet pre-performance talk Palmerston North has had for years and I felt it had quite a positive effect on the people relaxing into, and responding to, the evening. Palmerstonians are usually known as ballet traditionalists and more restrained in their response, but not last night. The pre-performance talk was hosted as part of the Regent on Broadway celebrating 20 years since its refurbishment and reopening as the city’s main proscenium arch concert venue. Thank you Royal New Zealand Ballet, we eagerly await your next performance in Palmerston North.


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Personality and joy

Review by Hannah Molloy 17th Jun 2018

Dancing with Mozart is a journey from classical, familiar prettiness to farcical surprise. In four parts, the company has plenty of opportunity to express personality and their joy in their work.

The first, Divertimento No 15 by George Balanchine, is a classical visit into the page of a Georgette Heyer novel, mild and very decorous flirtations over the morning call’s ratafia and macarons. It calls for perfection and delicacy, neither of which I feel were achieved, with the corps’ lines uneven, arms and legs irregularly spaced, and timing off a little. However, I found myself examining the expression of individuality through placement of fingertips, the varying softness and definitiveness describing each dancer’s interpretation of the piece. Ballet is (or has always been) such a demonstration of perfection and adherence to the choreographer’s intention but, perhaps as our society becomes more attuned to the importance of the individual’s freedom of expression, we (the audience) are moving away from this expectation – or perhaps it’s simply that our desire for conformity is no more.  I also pondered the benefits of a live orchestra in muffling the sound of feet landing on stage – Alexandre Ferreira is to be applauded for his lightness and silent feet.

From here, the pleasure and engagement of the audience increases exponentially. The Last Dance, by Corey Baker, subverts Mozart’s Requiem in D minor, and sweeps the audience on a tide of emotion and unwitting destruction. The sharpness of the shades of white, both in costume and lighting, draw a picture of institutional or clinical hygiene. The dancers move with the crispness of robots as they become sentient and learn to understand and crave art and artistic expression. Joseph Skelton and Mayu Tangaito, inside a translucent box, perhaps representing a television, offer a dark reflection of the outside company even as they filter their damage out through the walls. The shadow work is clever and deeply beautiful – it draws a hush and expectancy from the audience, a collective outward breath and sustained applause.

Jiri Kylian’s Petite Mort, described in the programme as “poetic, and strangely significant”, is exactly that. White on black again but infused with a warmth and goldenness reminiscent of the balm of a beach at early dusk. This work is more about angles than classically graceful curves but softens with a billowing waves of fabric drawn over the dancers (this makes me think of a phrase from a first year New Zealand Literature required reading that described orgasm as the feeling of being surrounded by billowing white sheets…). The play of shadows in the valleys and planes of the dancers’ bodies, the implied danger of dancing with and around swords, and the absurdist dresses, draws the audience into a narrative of pleasure and a somehow tactile feast of quirky movement and physicality. 

Sechs Tanze, also Jiri Kylian’s work, on the other hand, is a return to Georgette Heyer’s Regency period, but on bath salts. Zombie piratical Regency bucks flaunting their gender and sexual fluidity across the stage, with saucy wenches alternately responding and rebuffing, the outrageousness of this piece has the audience laughing hilariously. I was compelled by the absolute perfection and strength that the farce disguises – these dancers are spectacular to watch and Sechs Tanze is a marvellous end to a gorgeous progression of dance.

An aside, I note that the decadence of the Regent’s newly installed waterfall curtain and the weight and luxury of the legs – while perhaps not specific to this work – adds to the richness of the evening. 


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An elegant evening of dance

Review by Lyne Pringle 02nd Jun 2018

Three genius choreographers throw out a challenge to the dancers of the Royal New Zealand Ballet – and they rise to meet it with grace, vigour and artistry. This season bodes well as Artistic Director, Patricia Barker, places her curatorial and artistic stamp on the company.

George Balanchine dazzles us with his pyrotechnical demands from the moment the curtain opens. Early on, there are some fiercely difficult sections after which the dancers relax into the bones of the work. Elegant courtiers one moment, darting swallows the next, the music of Mozart and the dance meld into a sumptuous and satisfying feast of theme and variation, canon and counterpoint. [More]


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United by the music of Mozart

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 02nd Jun 2018

4 ballets 3 choreographers 1 composer is the byline that positions this Season and the title tells us that the evening is united by the music of Mozart. This is an interesting starting point and connects four works that would otherwise be unlikely to be seen together.

The opening work, Balanchine’s Divertimento No 15, is quintessential classical ballet. Requiring clarity and self- assured technique it is strongly performed with its many intricacies and technical challenges. An acknowledged Balanchine choreographic masterpiece of precise patterning using  solos, duets and group enchainements, exquisite tutus and elegant whiteness fill the stage and are set against a Balanchine ‘blue’ cyclorama with dazzling chandeliers overhead. The dancers all sparkle too although they have a high tensile nervous energy on opening night that will certainly settle as they tour. The calm composure of Alexander Ferreira and dazzling extensions of Mayu Tanigato are notable.  A piece of ballet heritage we don’t see often and meticulously remounted for the RNZB by Francia Russeli. The Wellington Orchestra conducted by the ebullient Marc Taddei plays very well and their presence is much applauded and appreciated.

The second work is The Last Dance to a remix/ remake of Mozart’s Requiem by Duncan Grimley who comments that he must be the only composer asked to complete the Requiem and not to sound like Mozart!  Choreographed by Corey Baker who originally began his dance career in Christchurch and most recently travelled to Antarctica to make a dance film – Antarctica:The first dance.  This Antarctica theme is again a stated context for Baker’s work on the company, with melting icecaps  and rising water the catalyst. Simplistic, sculptural, disengaged and disembodied white-clad dancers ultimately turn black as crystalline cubes of water are poured into a room representing the world of humanity. The vocabulary is rather static and unimaginative and I do not feel that it develops  the concept effectively. Such  a serious global issue with elaborate staging and design content needs a movement vocabulary to match.                                                                                           

The second half of the programme presents two works by Jiri Kylian. Petite Mort or Little Death is a famous work first danced by Nederland Dans Theater  in Salzburg in 1991 and has been seen worldwide since then. Exhuberance, aggression, symbolism, sexuality, vulnerability, ecstasy  – personal responses inform this very athletic and aesthetic work and the dancers are totally on top of their game. Stunning.

Kylian’s Black and White ballets form a strong body of works that were made for Nederland Dans Theater and Petite Mort was the last in that series. The first of these ballets, Seches Tanze, was made in 1986 and this masquerade of fantasy and madness closes our evening. Humorous, fun, fast, frivolous, baroque and brilliant Seches Tanze brings the night to a hi-octane and literally bubbly end. The dancers revel in their roles and are both engaged and engaging. 

This is the first mixed bill season from new Artistic Director Patricia Barker and the dancers are looking great. Bravo. Lighting is overseen throughout with a real sense of magical staging by Michael Mazzola. Dancing with Mozart travels to Christchurch, Dunedin, Blenheim, Palmerston North, Napier and Auckland . Go see it.


Raewyn Whyte June 8th, 2018

Jennifer Shennan's  review of RNZB Dancing with Mozart (Wellington show) can be found on the website of Michelle Potter on dancing

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