Good Morning, Mr Gershwin

St James Theatre 2, Wellington

17/03/2010 - 21/03/2010

New Zealand International Arts Festival 2010

Production Details

Visionary Dance Choreographers Break New Ground With Gershwin

“In Good Morning, Mr. Gershwin the choreographers pay dazzling homage to the American composer…” Le Figaro, France 

Contemporary dance visionaries José Montalvo and Dominique Hervieu bring their high energy dance fusion from Paris to New Zealand for the very first time, to premiere their electrifying production of Good Morning, Mr. Gershwin at the New Zealand International Arts Festival in 2010.

Montalvo and Hervieu salute the great American composer George Gershwin and his signature American sound, blending cultures and dance genres including hip-hop, ballet, tap and contemporary dance with Gershwin’s signature Broadway musicals, Hollywood movies, jazz standards and excerpts from his opera Porgy and Bess.

“Blending a variety of dance-styles with their trademark use of visual effects, it is not hard to like Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu – it’s entertainment at its best,” says Lissa Twomey, Artistic Director of the New Zealand International Arts Festival.

Good Morning, Mr Gershwin has toured Europe extensively since it premiered, with its cast of 15 dancers, at the Danse de Lyon in France in September 2008, having evolved from a production of Porgy and Bess that Montalvo and Hervieu choreographed with their company for the Opera de Lyon in April 2008.

Good Morning, Mr. Gershwin is in two parts – the first celebrates the jazzy cityscape night life of Gershwin’s glamorized 1920s. The second moves into Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess shifting the narrative to Catfish Row in South Carolina, juxtaposing the African American experience of the 1930s with today’s discrimination in France.

Montalvo’s immense and highly emotive visual images are a provocative backdrop for the entire performance that add context and bring the scenarios and perspectives of Gershwin’s early 20th century experiences into present day.

José Montalvo and Dominique Hervieu have collaborated for almost 30 years; initially Montalvo choreographed short playful works that Hervieu danced. He won a number of international prizes for this choreography and Compagnie Montalvo-Hervieu was formed in 1988.

In 1998 Montalvo and Hervieu were named the directors of the National Centre for Choreography in the north of Paris. Last year they were appointed the directors of the Theatre National du Chaillot in Paris.

Good Morning, Mr Gershwin is sponsored by Sauce with support from Culture France.

WHEN:  17-21 March 2010
17-20 March at 8pm; 21 March at 6pm
WHERE:  St James Theatre 


“…A life-enhancing, high-octane production that barely pauses for breath.” The Independent, UK

They can’t take this away from me

Review by Jennifer Shennan 19th Mar 2010

This is one adorable, bouncy, charged, delightful, elegant performance that puts all the verve and panache of French up-tempo choreography simultaneously onto screen and stage. You expect a suite of clever and sexy dances to recorded Gershwin songs, some solos, some trios, some bright, some blue…which is indeed what you get, plus a thousand times more than that.

The superb evening is a homage to Gershwin without any mawkishness. The music is wonderfully sequenced, all 38 numbers, details credited in the programme as you always want but so rarely get. The show is sassy, funny and very sexy, the nudity could not possibly offend, and no-one on stage is a virgin. Many bodies swimming underwater are shown on huge video screens, as echo rather than mirror to the live dancers on stage below, many of whom also defy gravity as though they too were underwater.

Breathtakingly virtuosic break-dancers evoke the rubber-legged Nicholas Brothers, and in many slinky body moves there are generous quotes to Josephine Baker and the negrophilia that so turned Paris in the 1920s & 30’s. Tap dancing gives a nod to the Irish who took their shoes wherever they migrated, and even Carmen Miranda makes an entrance. Exquisite cameos of baroque dance, Folies d’Espagne, are captured with stunning elegance in filigree silhouette, by a svelte blond dancer who by the end of the evening has become my embraceable you…(and oh lord, how she can sing ) so we’re talking 17th century Versailles now. The choreographers, Dominique Hervieu and Jose Montalvo, have worked with William Christie and les Arts Florissants in France, and it shows. All the music feeds all the dance, and vice versa.

Only the French would know and care about their own dance and theatre history enough to stitch such antique fragments into a thoroughly modern cavalcade that puts French adoration of Gershwin up in lights, giving the American in Paris all he could want. And us too.

Fish are jumping, and that’s funny, but a baby is crying, and that’s not funny. Through a profoundly moving and unexpected metamorphosis, the show now turns to witness the pain and hurt of black peoples’ history. Alabama and all the troubles in the south, a body hanging from a tree, howls of sorrow, but hush little baby, don’t you cry… 

From now on the break-dance sequences mean something a great deal more than just clever displays on the pavement. It is a choreographic masterstroke to find such ways to charge meaning into movement. Filmed sequences of a malevolent roaring ocean and howling tornado bring the plight of the poor in New Orleans, Pago Pago and Haiti sharply to mind. It is genius at work to follow all the threads of Gershwin’s musical thought into this work of ‘benevolent intelligence.’ I quote from the programme essay by Vincent Rafis, which is the model every artistic endeavour should aspire to produce about itself.

Wherever you live, take a bus, train, boat or plane, or just hitch a ride, to the theatre for this Festival’s knock-out show. The last song, ‘Finale Ultimo’, by John Mauceri, from Old Africa now, is worth the ticket price alone. The two tracks before that – ‘A Red Headed Woman makes a Choo-choo Jump its Track’, and ‘Oh Lawd, I’m On My Way’ – say it all really. 
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

Exhilarating combination of dance and film electrified by Gershwin

Review by Jenny Stevenson 18th Mar 2010

French Choreographers José Montalvo and Dominique Hervieu do for dance what a good DJ does for music, sampling and mixing from a plethora of dance styles to produce a totally new form. In so doing they reveal many of the subtle nuances in the music of American composer George Gershwin, who is both their inspiration and to whom the work is dedicated.

Eclecticism for the sake of novelty is rarely successful but in this instance it has a beautiful logic. Gershwin working in the jazz idiom with a solid grounding of classicism seems to be the starting point for the Montalvo-Hervieu exposition of his sound. Referencing many of the social dance styles of Gershwin’s era – black bottom, lindy hop and jitterbug as well as tap and jazz theatre dance – the choreographers combine these styles with elements of street dance of today, some of which is itself a throwback to the era of the seventies, when breaking, popping and locking first emerged.

The mix is, however, much enhanced by the dancers’ individual strengths. Many of them appear to have a solid training in classical ballet and contemporary dance which gives their bodies strength, suppleness and a steely control. Their innate ability adds an extra dimension to the loose, seemingly throw-away styles of hip hop dance, moving the body into previously unimagined pathways that break away from the clichés of the forms. The taut choreography allows for no repetitious meanderings that are sometimes a feature of street-style free-form improvisation.

Added to the dance onstage is a whole dimension of film, designed by Montalvo, incorporating the dancers themselves and referencing the Hollywood films of the Gershwin era. The film is projected directly above the dancers and uses trompe l’oeil effects, such as mirrored representations of the dancers performing onstage, to incorporate them into the action. 

Luscious underwater swimming shots of the dancers bring to mind the sumptuous Esther Williams water follies of the era. The shots are themselves choreographed in multiple layers to create an ever-changing panorama and elements of illusion. Viewed as a whole the combination of dance and film is exhilarating but when added to the superb sound of Gershwin himself, it becomes electric.

The first half of the show is unabashed celebratory dance. A mime doing magic tricks with a glowing red ball is suddenly joined by the whole company mirroring his actions. Mermaids and mermen lazily glide through an underwater paradise replete with minaret sandcastles. Tap dance, ballet, jazz, hip-hop and acrobatic break-dance sequences are performed, some at break-neck speed, interspersed with singing and hilarious silent-film enactments.

The second half signals the end of the era while the sandcastles slowly crumble. There is a ferocious storm at sea, skilfully recreated in film and sound, seemingly reflecting the turmoil of racism against African Americans in the States. The film depicts silent beseeching faces in agony, bearing witness to atrocities. There is a resolution of sorts through the healing power of song, with the performers singing and dancing through their grief to gospel and the superb songs of Porgy and Bess.

Good Morning Mr Gershwin is a hugely entertaining show reflecting an innovative choreographic pathway that shrewdly utilises the highly developed skills of the superb performers of this company. There is much to be gained through the melding of dance forms in this manner, utilising the vocabulary of today. 

Gershwin would surely approve.
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. 


Raewyn Whyte March 18th, 2010

Ethel Merman is known for her singing.

I think you may have intended to reference Esther Williams in reference to the Holloywood musicals "water ballet"?

[Of course you are right - now corrected, Thanks Raewyn. -ED]

Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo