New Zealand School of Dance 2021 Graduation Season

Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

19/11/2021 - 27/11/2021

Southwards Theatre, Otaihanga, Paraparaumu

12/11/2021 - 14/11/2021

Production Details

The New Zealand School of Dance Delivers a Thrilling Homemade Programme For Graduation Season 2021

This year’s Graduation Season of the New Zealand School of Dance is a celebration of the talent and creativity that resides in Aotearoa New Zealand. These performances are a dazzling showcase for the exceptional talents of the School’s young dancers.

This year, the School is proud to present seven innovative premieres, by choreographers and creative artists based in New Zealand.  Six of the choreographers are alumni of the School – bringing their own particular journeys full-circle.  The performances promise an eclectic repertoire of exuberant and moving choreography, reflecting the School’s commitment to innovation and excellence. 

Of the three new classical pieces, two are commissioned from highly sought-after choreographers, Loughlan Prior and Shaun James Kelly (both Choreographer-in-Residence with the Royal New Zealand Ballet).   Inspired by her dancers, Tabitha Dombroski’s choreography is a timeless work, danced to the music of Maurice Ravel.  These ballets convey moments of reflection, poignancy and brilliance. 

The four new contemporary works entering the NZSD repertoire have been made by ambitious choreographers, Lucy Marinkovich, Eliza Sanders, Jeremy Beck and Matte Roffe.  Sometimes explosive, sometimes challenging, sometimes emotional, these pieces will ask the audience to look deeper, higher and wider.  

In addition to its traditional end-of-year season at Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre, NZSD is excited to be adding a further venue and four additional performances at Southward Theatre, Paraparaumu.  Audiences no longer need to travel to Wellington to enjoy this popular fixture in the dance calendar.  

Graduation Season 2021 performances at Southward Theatre, Paraparaumu run from 12 – 14 November and at Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre, Wellington  from 19 – 27 November.

 Tickets from $18 – $39 are available at  

 Under Covid Alert Level 2, seating is restricted and safety protocols will be in place.  More information can be found on the School’s website

 We thank the NW Group, Pub Charity Ltd, Peacocke Dance Trust and The Australian High Commission for funding towards this project.


Dance , Contemporary dance , ,

120 Mins

Outstanding testament to resilience.

Review by Jennifer Shennan 26th Nov 2021

The Graduation season of NZSD is always a spirited one and, despite numerous disruptions to the year, this 2021 program of nine short works is an outstanding testament to resilience and determination, qualities that dancers are noted for. Such things can be infectious, all to the good since the world needs more of both. It’s the elevation—the leaping, the jumping, the flying, the jeté, the sauté, the entrechat, the gravity-defying stuff that I’m talking about (—the things dancers in retirement tell you they miss the most. It’s metaphor. Normal humans don’t jump, they just walk and maybe run, as common sense dictates they should, so younger dancers are needed to keep the elevation going. If you agree, read on. If you don’t, I’m not sure I can help].

The opening piece, a perfect curtain-raiser, is the Waltz from Act I of Swan Lake, from Russell Kerr’s renowned production for RNZB some decades back, remembered for the integrity of its staging. Swan Lake is not just about the dancing, it’s a story-ballet about love and loss, and the price to be paid for a mistake. Fundamentally it’s a ballet about grief. Kerr has always known how to fully harness the dramatic power of full-length ballets in the theatre, something many attempt but few achieve. He is the consummate force, call that kaumatua, of ballet in New Zealand, and is only aged 91 so there’s time for us to appreciate him yet. RNZB will next year bring back his production of Swan Lake. I remember the closing cameo of its final scene, the cumulative effect of all four preceding acts, a product of Kerr’s humanity and humility, and I have lived by it ever since. This excerpt was staged by Turid Revfeim, a legendary alumna of NZSD, who brought her typical sensibility and acumen to create the enthusiasm and atmosphere of a 21 year old’s birthday party for us all to share. There’s a lot can go wrong at a 21st birthday of course (and the full-length ballet follows through with that) but here it’s a huge bouquet of fragrant roses as a gift for a birthday celebration. Who’s going to say No Thanks to that on the night? Salute to Tchaikovsky, Russell Kerr and Turid Revfeim, to every dancer, and to everyone in the audience since we’ve all been invited to the party, so to speak.  

Reset Run, by Tabitha Dombrowksi, lists music by Bach, by Kit Reilly, and by Ravel. I am familiar with Dombrowski as a fine and focussed dancer (earlier in the year she was in the cast of Ballet Collective Aotearoa’s memorable season, and also in Loughlan Prior’s stunning Transfigured Night) but I have not hitherto seen her choreography. It proves a revelation. My anticipation is usually on reserve when several musics for a single choreography are involved, since that might mean fragmentation instead of the coherence that a single composition can support. I need not have worried. Lines, patterns, the front view or the back of each dancer, are thoughtfully modulated to balance light and dark. The cast of eight dancers are in black gear, a white stripe down each arm, and a large oval cut out from the back, allowing light from the shadows to shine on skin. The true choreographic strength, maintained throughout, makes each move consequent from the one before it and gives rise to the one that follows. An initial line-up of couples then become a single couple, then become a group. That beautifully built transition transports me back not 24 hours when I’d watched the magnificent and beautiful lunar eclipse in the night sky. No mean feat to evoke that choreography.


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Dance graduates step into the future with uplifting programme

Review by Lyne Pringle 22nd Nov 2021

Weathering the vicissitudes of these challenging times, the New Zealand School of Dance presents an evening of uplifting dance. Congratulations are due to the staff and students of the school for their tenacity, as the graduates step over the threshold and into the professional arena. Current restraints have led to the presentation of all New Zealand-based choreographers, including seven newly-commissioned works by graduates of the school. [More


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Talent, energy, commitment and hope

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 21st Nov 2021

Sitting at distance and masked for nearly a three hour show – dancers breathing hard as they remind us how exhilarating dance is – this is an end of year programme with works by alumni and tutors including both classical and contemporary dance in one programme. It is an evening that is physical, comfortable, familiar, challenging, thought provoking, disconcerting, joyous and has more than a bit of that element of the incomprehensible that guarantees wonder. 

Swan Lake Act 1 Waltz is a vivacious traditional, classical opener and Shaun James Kelly’s new classical work, Nexus, closes the evening. It seems we have a new technical element in our classical repertoire – sliding, skimming? Is this due to a slippery floor or a rather frightening element of danger in the developing virtuosity repertoire?  Intricate musicality and innovative choreography is a cornerstone of Shaun James Kelly’s creativity and his work for these young dancers totally delivered including a stand out performance by Danier Laganzo. 
The third classical work was Loughlan Prior’s new pas de deux, Time Weaver. Danced with great assurance by Rosie Owles and Elijah Holmes, strong extended lines and controlled partnering are compellingly woven in time. 

The six contemporary works are an eclectic mix. Michael Parmenter’s The Bach is one of our seminal New Zealand made works and always a joy – here a section only, that is also part of a repertory assessment requirement, is danced. I have very strong memories of this work over the years but tonight I feel it lacks the absolute crispness that the very precise  canon structures need to take me from joy to the remembered exhilaration of the soul that this work can evoke.
Alumni, Lucy Marinkovich(Lost + Found), Jeremy Beck (Somewhat Physical), Eliza Sanders (So You’ll Never Have To Wear a Concrete Dressing Gown) and Tabitha Dombroski (Reset Run) create complex, well structured, compelling and challenging material that speaks of tense times, confusion and compulsion. Their dance relates to the tensions and emotions of now, confirming, rebelling and even juxtaposing identities. It is exciting to see these choreographers developing and leading the artistic identity of Aotearoa.

Dust-Bunny by Matt Roffe is sophisticated, chiselled and controlled with a subversive dark side but providing light relief and a foot tapping moment of fun. 
I had thought numbers at the school were down, but onstage abounded with large groups of dancers showing talent, energy, commitment and hope.  A great testament to the power of the arts in tough times.
Lighting by Wendy Clease was excellent throughout, providing both framing and highlighting for each of the nine works performed. 

Thank you to the New Zealand School of Dance and all who made this showcase possible. 
Thank you to all those who stepped onstage and shared their love with the audience. 
Best wishes to those graduating and dancing out into a very different world of dance. Wherever you go – you are special people. You are young and you will need to live in whatever the world brings. 
Love Dance


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Hypnotic with interwoven bodies and shapes.

Review by Deborah Pope 15th Nov 2021

Southwards Car Museum seems an unusual venue for a matinee performance premiering seven new works from New Zealand choreographers and school alumni. The performance celebrates the graduating talent of the New Zealand School of Dance students.

However Southwards Theatre is a great venue with easy access, good facilities and the juxtaposition of the beautiful cars complemented an interesting and well executed programme of work. It is a sold-out Level 2 performance. The audience includes the young and the masked and socially distanced. Even so it feels like a great joy to be part of an audience at a live event.

The company and the choreographers present a wide range of forms, styles and aesthetics from classical, contemporary and contextual. The programme is  beautiful, surprising, exciting and comedic. There are touches of Hofesh Schecter in the physical and arresting Somewhat Physical by Jeremy Beck and of Pina Bausch in the brilliant Dust Bunny by Matte Roffe. The exquisite neo classical technique and execution in the pas de deux Time Weaver by Loughlan Prior and Nexus by Shaun James Kelly and the ensemble work are memorable. 

The programme complements the range of talents and techniques of the graduates and choreographers and the lighting and music are excellent as are the production values and the experience. 

Reset Run by Tabitha Dombrowski is a stylish, elegant, simply constructed and beautifully lit neo classical piece.

In contrast, Dust Bunny, part of a longer work by Matte Roffe, is comedic, surprising and engaging. The physical energy and commitment of the dancers, two wonderful solos and some strong ensemble work with  dynamic changes in pace and good music choices, make this excerpt, from a longer work,  memorable.

After a short interval, Lost and Found by Lucy Marinkovich begins in silence with four dancers moving backwards and forwards and changing places, lost in a pattern. The music of Jonathan Crayford is excellent in this complex and assured choreography. Time Weaverby Laughlan Prior is a beautiful neo classical duet, hypnotic with interwoven bodies and shapes, executed wonderfully by Rosie Owles and Elijah Holmes.

Another short interval and Somewhat Physical by Jeremy Beck is another highlight, juxtaposing ideas and music in an arresting, physical, contemporary choreography which included two exciting and contrasting female solos. So you’ll never have to wear a concrete dressing gown is an unusual ensemble piece with eighteen dancers. The beginning is dramatic and the choreography reveals individuals within the large group. 

The final piece Nexus by Shaun James Kelly is an intricate neo classical work, highlighting the techniques and skill of the dancers, their musicality and performance. 
It is an excellent finale to a well-constructed programme and to quote an audience member” Well, that was well worth it”, the programme, the performance and the live experience are all worth it. Go see it. 


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