Leaps and Sounds

Michael Fowler Centre, Wellington

16/06/2012 - 16/06/2012

Production Details

Wellingtonians will be treated to two special free events on Saturday 16 June when the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) and the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) will perform together for the first time in 12 years.

Leaps & Sounds will showcase nine world premieres of short works choreographed by RNZB dancers to music by composers, all under the age of 25, from the NZSO’s Young Originals Todd Corporation Young Composers Award.

“The collaboration, between two of our national performing arts companies, aims to nurture young talent and provide audiences with free access to these works performed, by the country’s leading musicians and dancers,” says Christopher Blake, NZSO Chief Executive.

Each choreographer selected music from the NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composers Award recordings archive. They had a minimum of 40 hours to create their dance work and were also responsible for casting fellow RNZB dancers and designing costumes for their piece.

“Our dancers are enjoying the opportunity to choreograph their own work on their colleagues.  Furthermore, the collaboration with the NZSO means that they are able to work with original New Zealand music and have their creation performed to live symphonic music. We are delighted that this event has come to fruition,” says Ethan Stiefel, RNZB Artistic Director.

Several of the selected compositions were created when the composers were only 15 years old and, although recorded by the NZSO, have never before been performed live for an audience.  Hamish McKeich will conduct the NZSO in the two performances of one hour each.


Choreographed by Paul Mathews to Music: Alone in the Night composed by Matthew Childs in 2009

 Choreographed by Sam Shapiro Music: Dreams of Power composed byUmar Zakaria in 2008

 Choreographed by Adriana Harper Music: Evocation from the Seas composed by Max Wilkinson in 2011

 Choreographed by Qi Huan Music: Tales of Greece Suite III Mighty Odysseus composed by Christina Reid in 2007

 Choreographed by Dimitri Kleioris Music: Caught in the Headlights composed by Corwin Newall in 2007

 Choreographed by Loughlan Prior Music: Tiszavirag composed by Tabea Squire in 2007

 Choreographed by Kohei Iwamoto Music: The Persistence of our Youth composed by Umar Zakaria in 2010

 Choreographed by Brendan Bradshaw Music: [Inner] composed by Alex Taylor in 2011

 Choreographed by Jaered Glavin Music: Feral composed by Robbie Ellis in 2009

 New Zealand Symphony Orchestra (NZSO) 

The New Zealand Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1946, is the country’s leading professional orchestra.  As part of its Young Originals artist development programme, the orchestra runs the NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composers Award.  Now in its seventh year, the awards are an exciting opportunity for young New Zealand composers to have their work assessed by a panel of industry professionals and those selected are then recorded by the NZSO over a three-day residency.


Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB)

The Royal New Zealand Ballet, founded in 1953, is the country’s national ballet company with 34 dynamic dancers.  The company performs an eclectic repertoire of outstanding dance, for national and international audiences.  Globally acclaimed, the RNZB takes pride in providing audiences with exceptional experiences, and increasing accessibility and enjoyment of dance through our education and community programme Dance Explorer.



Performers at sparkling best in twin treat

Review by Jennifer Shennan 18th Jun 2012

A brainwave to match Young Originals ( from the Todd Corporation project whose award-winning compositions, previously recorded by NZSO, were here played live) with dancers from RNZB, turning from performance to choreography, many of them for the first time. Delighted Wellingtonians wasted no time in snapping up all the free tickets for  both performances. This refreshing endeavour, a visual and aural treat, is a winner from every angle, and choreography and composition are mutually illuminating in every case. Performers in both ballet company and orchestra, conducted by Hamish McKeich, were at their sparkling best.


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Delivering under pressure

Review by Lyne Pringle 18th Jun 2012

Talk about pressure; 9 emerging choreographers (some first timers); 8 emerging composers all under 25; the symphony orchestra playing live in two sell out shows at the Michael Fowler Centre.*

Do they deliver? Yes!

This is a rather genius idea, bravo to the instigators.  The event is free and therefore accessible to a wide range of people: just the tonic in these unsettled times.  Only 5 months in the planning it is exciting to think that two large arts institutions can be nimble enough for this kind of almost spontaneous collaboration. These factors result in a very special concert.

There was a lot to take in, with just one viewing. I concentrated on the choreography with the music providing multi textured provocations underpinning the movement.  There is much to say about the sonorous scape played magnificently by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Hamish McKeich but I will leave that for a music reviewer. The Fowler Centre is resplendent as usual with the orchestra at floor level and the stage converted to a danceable space. Out of the audience buzz the music and dance arrives.

musicboxgirls choreographed by Paul Matthews to Alone in the night composed by Matthew Childs is performed by 6 women in flouncy skirts with bare tautly muscled legs.  The work marries the music in dynamic and intensity.  A repetitive doll like arm gesture, I suppose included to connect to the title, appears at odds with the strength of the women and the rest of the neo classical choreography.

Evocation choreographed by Adriana Harper to Evocation from the seas composedby Max Wilkinson is one of the most successful pieces of the evening. A trio for two men and one woman, it is danced beautifully by Brendan Bradshaw, Jaered Glavin and Katherine Grange.  With statuesque serenity, beautiful deep blue costumes, clear crafting and partnering reminiscent of Balanchine. The piece begins with the men framing the woman; this then provides the basis for the choreography, exploring the textures of music that has a romantic feel with soft strings and surging tidal sections.

No Limits choreographed by Qi Huan to Tales of Greece Suite III Mighty Odysseus composed by Christine Reid has a slightly jazzy feel, men bare chested in high waisted tights and the women in fishnet body suits. There is intensity in the performances with a determined focus to the audience and many exits and entrances which are a little difficult in this venue.  Virtuosic movement from all the dancers particularly the men drive the piece in a compelling rolling rhythm to a spectacular and satisfying ending.

4+1 choreographed by Dimitri Kleioris to Caught in the Headlights by Corwin Newall brings some of the most inventive choreography of the evening to a score reminiscent of a horror movie.  Again the performers are excellent particularly in sections involving small stamps in counterpoint to the music.

Between Us choreographed by Loughlan Prior to Tiszavirag composed by Tabea Squire is sophisticated in its form and structure. The dancers smoulder in a slow walk sequence before escalating into zig zaggy deconstructed, scissor leg manipulations suggesting multiple power relationships occurring all at once. For once, briefly, two women are partners as are two men. Some of the interactions are very subtle which makes a pleasant change. This work also has a powerful ending.

Dreams of Power choreographed by Sam Shapiro to a piece sharing the same name composed by Umar Zakaria is less abstract in its intentions, using boxing as a vehicle to explore the power dynamics of a relationship. The tension required in the work and demanded by the music would have been served by more direct connection between the dancers in terms of focus and intention.

Feral choreographed by Jaered Glavin to music of the same name composed by Robbie Ellis is a kooky piece with very striking and idiosyncratic costumes. The dancers are generic in faceless unitards except for their brightly coloured ponytails. Not quite feral enough for me but the piece is fun and oddly ritualistic ending surprisingly with a massive scream at the audience.                                                                                                                                                                                           

[Inner] choreographed by Brendan Bradshaw to music of the same name composed by Alex Taylor is is also a strong choreographic work bearing similarities to Between Us including similar costuming with the women in leotards. This gives an oddly ‘retro’ feel to the whole programme but it is great to see such fantastic legs on show. The lighting creates a mysterious quality and there is a satisfying command of the space choreographically. With unusual use of the head, bodily rotations and interesting partnering, this work is the most successful at creating a particular ‘world’; as if the dancers are manifesting thought patterns – wraithlike cyphers. This success is also due to the spacious, pensive music.

Wind from Us choreographed by Kohei Iwamoto to The Persistence of Our Youth composed by  Umar Zakaria completes the programme with a clever funny crowd pleaser that had me chuckling at the antics of a bunch of clowns with strange costumes strutting their stuff to snooty ballerinas who they then man handle around the stage in some spectacular swoopy moves.

The whole orchestra stands on the final chord and we all clap with gusto during the bows.

People were happy afterwards and many people I have spoken to since really enjoyed the performance, taking delight in naming their favourite piece. Do it again NZSO and RNZB! 

 I salute the brave choreographers for taking up the challenge but request that more female choreographers and composers are encouraged         .

Perhaps this model could also incorporate some of our fine NZ choreographers?           


* Each choreographer selected music from the NZSO Todd Corporation Young Composers Award recordings archive. They had approximately 40 hours to create their dance work and were also responsible for casting fellow RNZB dancers and designing costumes for their piece.


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