From Here to There

Civic Theatre, 88 Tay Street, Invercargill, Invercargill

28/02/2010 - 28/02/2010

Hawkes Bay Opera House, Hastings

09/03/2010 - 10/03/2010

Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin

25/02/2010 - 25/02/2010

St James Theatre 2, Wellington

24/03/2010 - 27/03/2010

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

04/03/2010 - 06/02/2010

Aotea Centre at THE EDGE®, Auckland

17/03/2010 - 20/03/2010

Production Details

Elegant and thought-provoking, the TOWER Season of From Here to There, provides a trio of works from New Zealand and overseas.

A Song In The Dark, is the much-anticipated new work by one of New Zealand’s emerging choreographic talents, Andrew Simmons. Set to music by Philip Glass and embracing themes of missed opportunities, love and beauty in the ordinary; Simmons injects a new sense of style and energy to classical ballet.

Acclaimed UK-based choreographer Christopher Hampson – creator of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Cinderella and Romeo & Juliet – returns down under to deck dancers out in black tutus for the premiere of his work Poulenc Variations. Inspired by Poulenc’s Concert Champêtre, this dynamic new commission featuring the full company is guaranteed to dazzle.

David Dawson’s sublime A Million Kisses to My Skin was first performed by the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2005. Capturing the tempo of Bach’s Concerto No 1, this fluid and visually stunning work has been described as a “bravura vocabulary of movement that swoops, dips and swirls and is passed on from dancer to dancer as though they are sharing the sheer joy of movement”.

25 February
Regent Theatre 

28 February
Civic Theatre

4 – 6 March
Isaac Theatre Royal 

9 & 10 March
Hawke’s Bay Opera House

13 & 14 March
Founders Theatre

17 – 20 March
Aotea Centre at THE EDGE®

24 – 27 March
St James Theatre 

A Song in the Dark
Choreographer: Andrew Simmons
Music: Philip Glass – Tirol Concerto for Piano & Orchestra; Tissue No.1 for Cello, Piano & Percussion; The Poet Acts
Lighting: Jordan Tuinman
Poulenc Variations
Christopher Hampson
Music: Concert Champêtre by Francis Poulenc
Design: Gary Harris
Lighting: Jordan Tuinman

A Million Kisses to My Skin

Choreographer & set design: David Dawson
Music: Piano Concerto No. 1 by JS Bach
Costume design: Yumiko Takeshima
Lighting: Bert Dalhuysen, recreated by Jordan Tuinman

Passions, allusions and challenging complexity

Review by Jenny Stevenson 25th Mar 2010

2010 will be a year of change for the Royal New Zealand Ballet with the departure at the end of year of Gary Harris who has held tenure as Artistic Director since 2001. From Here to There, the Company’s first season of the year, will be seen by many as a testament to the vision that he has worked to implement during his directorship; the title of the season, perhaps a portent for changes in the future.

Under Harris’ guidance the Company has evolved into a group of very fine dancers and the repertoire has steadily become more Eurocentric in its orientation. The Triple Bill programme represents a perfect example of this direction, with works by two of Europe’s top choreographers – Christopher Hampson and David Dawson – and one New Zealander, Andrew Simmons currently resident in Germany.

It is obvious that the dictates of this repertoire have set the parameters for technical development and the dancers have risen to the challenge. The female dancers of the company, in particular, appear to have blossomed this season, with a noticeable development in eloquent port-de-bras (arm movements) and upper-body suppleness – almost in the Russian style. The men have continued to develop their elevation and have gained a real strength in this area.

The test is Dawson’s knock-out choreography, A Million Kisses to My Skin, first performed by the Company in 2005. In this staging, it is the passion vested in the dancers’ performances, which becomes the most exciting element, with local dancer, Antonia Hewitt, shining in this respect.

A modern-day classic, Kisses is performed against a blank canvas of six panels creating a three-sided box shape, so that the vivid splashes of colour of the dancers’ floating costumes – designed by Yumiko Takeshima, in vermillion red, deep purple and dull gold – create mobile, painterly effects. 

The box set contains the dancers’ energies and deflects them outwards to the audience as they perform a beautiful amalgam of mercurial movements to Bach’s Concerto No 1 in D minor. Dawson’s choreography is sensation-based, as the title suggests, and explores multiple levels – floating to the heights, skimming across the floor and darting unexpectedly, with each dancer an effervescent being of their own creation.

In contrast, Hampson’s Silhouette seems almost allegorical, with allusions to darkness and light in the choreography, the costuming by Harris, and in the stark lighting design by Jordan Tuinman. Hampson uses a moving curtain as a scene-shifter to create the illusion of dancers appearing and disappearing, and creates complex inversions in the ordering of the steps. 

Francis Poulenc’s music, Concert Champetre, was chosen by Hampson for its “dynamic shifts that are just bonkers” and he reflects this humour in the choreography which is both irreverent and witty. The harpsichord is sometimes reflected by movements that are unexpectedly, sweetly seductive.

The dancers are often placed in the ‘ouvert’ or ‘open’ position to the audience, and even occasionally with their backs turned, as they strike poses reminiscent of Degas’ Young Dancer of Fourteen. There are also elements of jazz dance that subvert the otherwise strictly classical structure. Clytie Campbell and Tonia Looker perform with real presence, one an inversion of the other: Campbell regal and strong; Looker, soft and pliant.

Although it was clearly a winner audience-wise, I found Simmons’ work A Song in the Dark to be less developed choreographically. The movement appears to be designed to create a continuum, with one step flowing into the next, which it certainly achieves. But the canon effect used to create this design sometimes becomes too complex, with too many dancers diverting attention away from the flow and disrupting the momentum.

The dancers clearly relish the technical challenges inherent in Simmons’s choreography, however, and Philip Glass’s Tirol Concerto for Piano and Orchestra provides a pleasing texture. Former RNZB dancer Kate Venables’ costumes in forest green and black show the beautiful lines of the dancers’ bodies to great effect.

Much to reflect on in a programme that showcases this group of highly charged dancers in such a pleasing light.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Exuberant dance would have graced the festival

Review by Jennifer Shennan 25th Mar 2010

This season marks the end of a national tour of the ‘triple bill’ season by our national ballet company. It’s an exuberant evening of beautiful dancing by a troupe that could hold its own on any international stage (and sometimes does), so its absence from the International Festival of the Arts here in its home town is puzzling to say the least.

Each work opens with a silhouetted solo dancer gesturing the kinesphere of space around the body, then finding the trace movements within the torso where these originate. It works as a declaration of commitment to the classical dance vocabulary, and yet there are asymmetric hips thrusts and torso ripples throughout the evening that wink at us from across history and assure us that the dancing really is “from there to here.”  

As duo, trio, lines, then full groupings, these very fine dancers spin an enchanted evening’s performance. Feminine and masculine styles are clearly etched, yet every dancer has exciting freedom to realise a personal style. Breathtakingly beautiful lighting, by Jordan Tuinman, gifts an extra dimension to each of the works.

Christopher Hampson, in Silhouette, uses Poulenc’s Concert Champetre to delicious effect and the vintage sound of the harpsichord makes perfect foil to the classical lines of the dance, yet contemporary percussion is equally well carried. Gary Harris has designed elegant tutus of white, silver and black that realise all the exquisite patterns in the choreography. It is my favourite piece.

A Song in the Dark, by emerging choreographer Andrew Simmons, shows his genuine talent for dance-making. The wonderfully graduated tones of the females’ costumes, designed by Kate Venables, echo an earthiness of the lovingly grounded movement that then lifts with a delightful aerial quality as the fold and flow of the dance builds to its beautiful climax. Composition for piano and orchestra is by Philip Glass. It is my favourite piece.

A Million Kisses to My Skin, choreographed by David Dawson, takes us to a celestial place, to marvel at the glory of these bodies so beautifully trained, so swiftly ricocheting through the air (ballet masters Greg Horsman and Turid Revfeim, take a bow). The speed of their flight and the thrilling whirl of their cascading costumes make J.S. Bach seem like a contemporary composer, which of course he is. It is my favourite piece.  
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.    


Make a comment

visually dense in its abstraction and constantly moving patterns

Review by Jack Gray 19th Mar 2010

White tutu, baroque-style music and moody darkness pierced by shards of white light (like being in an old Cathedral,) are first impressions in the newly commissioned Silhouette by Christopher Hampson set to ‘Concert Champetre’ by Francis Poulenc. 

The piece opens with a solo by Clytie Campbell combining fluid hands with exact clean lines. Two black curtain panels then shift across the middle of the stage to reveal a diagonal row of men wearing Star Trek-ish jumpsuits in mesh grey-blue and black tights. Campbell glides down the line of men working with each in a series of held embraces and typical classical ballet poses.

Her playful, coquettish movements prevail as racing flutes are matched by dainty leaps. The men respond with little pelvic ripples and mirrored port de bras that have a moment of interest as she darts between them like water through a fishes gills.

The sliding curtain device is again used; this time revealing a male dancer and a dark line of women in black and white diagonally slashed bodices with black satin gloves. The women move off his lead, all fast legs and tricks, following the musical trail of flutes to create another diagonal in space.

At this moment I scribble a note that says: “perfection doesn’t show honesty but in a way it is beyond it”. I let this become a floating thought throughout the rest of the show. 

Changing tack on how I am viewing the dance, I try to imagine what the dancers might be thinking. Watching Tania Looker’s expression, I see a little bird float past.

The sliding curtain continues to bring different numbers of women onstage, facing the back, arm tucked behind. Twirling girls en pointe are pretty and I’m sure the little girl next to me dreams to be one. Beyond that princess fantasy though, I notice the dancers backs are very wiry and their expressions range from blank to concern to smiles.

The last section has more spinning, turning. I imagine a bluebird flying. Multiple turns. Light. Little funny runs, marvellous jumps.

It is a small relief to glimpse the dancer when they stop being (fantastically) superhuman and I see a person (Paul Russell) standing there with a sweaty chest and breathing hard. A fleeting moment of an unintended silhouette of the person beneath, before it too is gone again in a flurry of movement. 

The next new work A Song in the Dark is made by ex-RNZB dancer and emerging choreographic talent Andrew Simmons (from Christchurch now Germany based).

Casting silhouettes seems to be the theme of the evening, as a turquoise leotard wearing body (Cat Eddy) is lit in profile against a white screen. Two men dancing in unison, both wearing green draped tops, join her. She is expertly held and swung as she extends her legs in all manner of angles.

The music by Phillip Glass starts to build as the phrases progress. Eddy is exquisite to watch and with her vibrant red hair colour and pale skin looks like a blood teardrop. I settle into the sense of drama and emotion more present in this work.

The pas de deux partnering (Michael Braun with Eddy) is divine, with multiple spins and rotations like ice-skating spirals. Another beautiful moment happens when the dancers come out to the rush of a piano. Exploring the space, they flirt with the interplay of light on the walls creating nice yet brief effects.

The piece really starts to find itself near the end, as the formality begins to break up and the dancers come into their own sense of musicality and physicality. Antonia Hewitt is a clear standout. 

We are left to ponder the nature of these relationships being explored onstage. At what cost do their embraces emerge or dissipate so easily? Where do they go afterwards to sing a song in the dark?

The final part of the triple bill is A Million Kisses to my Skin by David Dawson, previously performed by the company 5 years ago.

Red fiery dress, swoops, forwards and back to J S Bach’s ‘Concerto No.1 in D Minor’. A purple girl comes flying in on the second phrase. It is a quick start. This is a piece that exults in speed and quick footwork. Nice dancing by the men in yellow mustard skirt/pants. A lovely solo by Braun is masculine yet fluid and lyrical. 

During the moments of overlapping shapes between the pairs of dancers, I notice the sweaty men leaving wet patches on the women’s leotards during the partnering (Wet kisses to the skin?).

I think about the dancers in the studio, getting to know each other’s bodies intimately during the many untold hours of practice. It makes me warm to their efforts to create this effortlessness. 

As a whole evening, From Here to There becomes a blur of movement, visually dense in its abstraction and constantly moving patterns.  Like a painting, to see the overall image gives you an overview of sight, sound and traces of colour. To look closer at the detail brings unexpected textures and curious discoveries.


Make a comment

Dancers’ full potential brought to the fore

Review by Alexandra Kolb 01st Mar 2010

Mixed bills are always good for surprises. In the last few years, the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s bills were of respectable quality but rarely quite reached the zenith of their excellent full-length Sylphide and Peter Pan. Dunedin was the testing ground of the new programme From Here to There and the starting point of the company’s tour to the other centres on the South and North Islands. It wasn’t quite clear to me precisely what ‘journey’ the title of the triple bill alluded to, but I can assert that the pieces were fine, in one, and brilliant, in the other two cases.

The English-based Christopher Hampson’s Silhouette, set to music by Francis Poulenc, opened the evening. Black, white and grey costumes created strong constrasting images in accordance with the theme. The classical tutus set the tone for the piece which had a neo-classical feel spiced up with some contemporary elements and the occasional glimpse of popular dance. A hip swing recurred as a mini-leitmotif, reminiscent of the famous rumba step in Jerome Robbins’ Fancy Free – although it seemed a little déplacé without the latter’s sailors and erotic subtext.

The choreography was pleasant but overall fairly conventional, and the piece didn’t quite manage to gel into a coherent whole. It never shook off a certain air of ‘constructedness’, and the bravura solos towards the end seemed too much ends-in-themselves. However, some nice partner and group work partially compensated for the weaker moments.

The other two pieces sustained tension extremely well and perfectly showcased the RNZB dancers’ technical and expressive skills.

To striking music by Philip Glass, A Song in the Darkwas subtle, of strongly lyrical and yet energetic quality. Christchurch-born choreographer Andrew Simmons presented a hauntingly beautiful, often intense work characterised by constant motion and fluid movements, climaxing in a notable finish and lots of applause from the audience.

The ensemble captured the flow of the work most adeptly, and particular credit must be given to Katie Hurst-Saxton and Michael Braun, and Antonia Hewitt and Brendan Bradshaw who displayed superior artistic ability in the solo/duet parts. It will be intriguing to see what the talented young Simmons, who is currently resident in Germany, still has in store for New Zealand and international audiences.

The last piece by David Dawson, who is London-born but like Simmons working in Germany, was an encore performance. The title of the piece – A Million Kisses to my Skin – might evoke associations of a sensual kind, but far from it. Composition, set and music all have formal, abstract qualities which superbly complement each other to meld into a unified whole, leaving strong and lasting impressions.

This was a piece of modern art, perhaps a Mondrian painting considering the colour scheme of the flowing costumes and the geometrical patterns which dominated the set, translated into dance. The music by Bach added to the work’s somewhat intellectual yet highly forceful and vibrant flair. Undoubtedly a very mature piece, this is full of technical demands and distinguished by its excellent compositional qualities.

On a mild note of criticism, the ten-dollar programmes could have been improved by offering more historical or other background notes on the pieces or the company, alongside the array of adverts. But overall, this performance evening can be recommended almost unreservedly, as bringing the RNZB dancers’ full potential to the fore.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council