NZ School of Dance 2019 Graduation Season

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

20/11/2019 - 30/11/2019

Production Details

New Zealand School of Dance Delivers a Thrilling Dance Programme for their 2019 Graduation Season 

The New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) 2019 Graduation Season promises outstanding performances of both classical and contemporary dance. Expect a showcase of powerful, timeless classics and striking new works from NZSD, 20-30 November at Te Whaea: National Dance & Drama Centre.

The programme combines the efforts of an array of influential guests with the hard work of students and tutors from the School. Attendees will enjoy exhilarating performances featuring a number of premieres and dance works by acclaimed choreographers from New Zealand and abroad.

This year’s performances have been curated to showcase an eclectic repertoire of classical ballet and contemporary choreography.  Featured works include George Balanchine’s ‘Concerto Barocco’ expressing “the syncopation and rhythmic vitality of Johann Sebastian Bach’s music” alongside Ross McCormack’s original new work ‘Re:Structure’.

To be presented for the first time in New Zealand is the moving classical work ‘Round of Angels’ by Gerald Arpino and the expressive contemporary piece ‘Carnivale.4’ by NZSD graduate Raewyn Hill.

Choreographer David Fernandez recently visited the School to tutor two male classical ballet students for a solo piece Five Variations on a Theme.  He was joined by fellow American Betsy Erickson, Ballet Master at San Francisco Ballet, who tutored classical students for Helgi Tomasson’s Handel – A Celebration

Fernandez created Five Variations on a Theme for New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Joaquin De Luz. The NZSD is the first school to stage this choreographically complex work.  It originally premiered as part of the celebrated Kings of the Dance world tour and was performed to acclaim in New York City, Los Angeles, London, Paris, Rome, Qatar, Moscow, Kiev, and Odessa. 

An excerpt from award-winning London-based performer and choreographer, Sam Coren’s ‘Not Odd Human’ will be part of the graduation programme, recently created for Tempo Dance Festival in Auckland. The piece was a collaborative project alongside graduating contemporary dance students. “…the 3rd year contemporary students of the New Zealand School of Dance, perform with grace, comedic attention, intelligence and aplomb.” Felicty Molloy from Theatreview.

Expect a wide range of thrilling and uplifting pieces from the New Zealand School of Dance.

Graduation Season at Te Whaea: National Dance & Drama Centre – 20-30 November 2019.  Tickets from $18 – $35 are available at

NZSD thanks the Embassy of the United States of America, The Lion Foundation, The Australian High Commission and Four Winds Foundation for funding towards this project.



Corps de Ballet:

Victoria Adams, Tania Angelina, Kate Cockerton-Holmes  

Tayla-Rose Frisby, Chloe Jackson, Emma-Kate Mortimer, Yayoi Sasaki, Tsuyumi Wilson-Travis



Stephanie Halyburton, Courtney Lim, Tessa Redman, Annabel Webster

Cade Hansen, Eden Kew, Otto Kosok, Amit Noy, Levi Siaosi



Nadiyah Akbar, Alessia Augello, Vourneen Canning, Olivia Castagna, Chase Clegg-Robinson,

Neve Pierce, Jasmine Susic, Cheyanne Teka, Rachel Trent, Arohanui Watene

Bjorn Aslund, Franky Drousioti, Alec Katsourakis






Nadiyah Akbar, Deu Brink, Olivia Castagna, Haruka Chan, Courtney Lim, Rachel Trent

Franky Drousioti




Corps de Ballet

Dominic Burrows, Zachary Healy, Elijah Holmes, Hue Pritchard, Oskar Temel






Corps de Ballet :

Victoria Adams, Tania Angelina, Caitlin Halmarick, Kate Cockerton-Holmes, Chloe Jackson, Eloise Moore, Emma-Kate Mortimer , Yayoi Sasaki, Tsuyumi Wilson-Travis

Louis Ahlers, Dominic Burrows, Jacob Gisby, Zachary Healy, Elijah Holmes, Minjae Kwon, Hue Pritchard,  Oskar Temel , Bo Hao Zhan



Nadiyah Akbar, Alessia Augello, Deu Brink, Vourneen Canning, Olivia Castanga, Chase Clegg-Robinson, Haruka Chan, Ella Driene, Stephanie Halyburton, Holly Hepburn, Neve Pierce, Tessa Redman, Jasmine Susic, Rachel Trent, Annabel Webster


Bjorn Aslund, Franky Drousioti, Cade Hansen, Alec Katsourakis, Eden Kew, Otto Kosok, Ruairi McEntyre



Dance , Contemporary dance , ,

2 hours

Aspiring to sprezzatura

Review by Jennifer Shennan 27th Nov 2019

NZSD’s Graduation season always displays the talent and enthusiasm of graduating dancers who, after three years’ training, are poised to venture forth and seek ways to make a professional career. Commitment and courage are needed in equal measure. Selected first and second year students are included in the casting, which is credit to them and their tutors since no dancer is less than fully prepared and present.

This year’s season combines classical ballet and contemporary dance works, eight in all, on the same program. (Last year’s had alternate nights for classical and contemporary works). Either formula offers the chance for us to consider how the two dance lineages as taught in the School, contrast with, or relate to, each other in the professional dance world—in technique, movement vocabulary, choreographic themes, aesthetic choices, relationship to music. [More


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A great variety of choreographic offerings

Review by Brigitte Knight 22nd Nov 2019

In contrast to 2018, The New Zealand School of Dance has combined the Graduation Season 2019 into a singular mixed programme with eight works, four classical and four contemporary. Performances showcase the graduating third year students, but also include selected first and second year dancers. The Graduation Season is a relatively long show at two-and-a-half hours, but this is offset by a great variety of choreographic offerings, ensuring the audience are thoroughly entertained during the performance. Once again in 2019 some notes on the choreographers and their connection with The New Zealand School of Dance would have been a welcome addition to the programme, especially with the contemporary works.

Opening the programme is George Balanchine’s 1941 Concerto Barocco (baroque concert), choreographed to Johann Sebastian Bach’s Concerto in D minor for Two Violins, BMV 1043. A work for ten women and one man, Concerto Barocco is quintessential Balanchine; technically demanding, lively, syncopated, with minimalist costuming and a focus on the purity of classical line. The spacing and layered formations of Concerto Barocco demands precision and accuracy of staging in any space, and the dancers cope admirably with the limitations of the Te Whaea theatre. Attacked with confidence, the performance of this rich and substantial choreography is well-managed by the ten women, resulting in a flattering performance that emphasises their strengths. Impressively, two First Year students, Chloe Jackson and Tsyumi Wilson-Travis hold their own amongst their more experienced peers. Honor Christian-Slane delivers a spritely and consistent performance, and although Callum Phipps is challenged by the pas de deux choreography, he is clearly a careful partner who will grow with experience. Concerto Barocco, however, belongs to Riley-Jane Dickie. She is a delightful dancer; clean, expressive, consistently energised and generous with her eye-contact. Dickie delivers that gold standard of classical performance that so few students attain – the illusion of perfect grace, and the expression of absolute trust in her pas de deux partner. Dickie’s performance is nothing short of masterful.

Velociraptor by Scott Ewen is the first contemporary work of the night. Set to Crystal, Transitional Ballistics and Son by Kangding Ray, it is a world premiere performance. Ewen’s work is dark and fluid, with magnificent partnering and ensemble formations in a constant state of flux. The students appear strong in this piece, and it is a thoughtful, intelligent work pitched at just the right level. Among Velociraptor’s excellent cast, Eden Kew stands out as the embodiment of Ewen’s choreographic intention.

Not Odd Human (Excerpts) by Sam Coren to Sonata in D minor by Richard Lester, Amarcatu by Os Trabucos, and Bring Me Simple Men by Timber Timbre, was choreographed for the 2019 Tempo Dance Festival in Auckland. This light-hearted work plays with juxtaposition of sound, movement vocabulary, and place/time. A strong vein of humour runs through Not Odd Human, and Nadiyah Akbar rises to the occasion with her outstanding theatrical and dramatic skills and irrepressible stage presence.

After the first interval, Second Year student (and 2018 Asian Grand Prix winner) Rench Soriano performs the virtuosic Five Variations on a Theme, created in 2008 for New York City Ballet Principal Dancer Joaquin De Luz. Choreographed by David Fernandez to Bach’s Presto, Violin Concerto in G minor, BWV1056, the work serves as a celebration of the elevation and style of the male classical dancer. Soriano delivers a confident and controlled performance of Five Variations on a Theme, and he is technically clean and sound. Missing from this performance was the development by Soriano of a deliberate approach to projection and engaging with the audience in order to elevate his artistic sensibilities to match his excellence in physicality.

Ross McCormack’s Re:Structure, set to a score by Jason Wright, is a succinct and self-reliant work that poses, explores and resolves choreographic questions arising from the manipulation of a 5m long rail. McCormack’s choreography, development of movement vocabulary and production technologies are comprehensive and complete. The result is a satisfying and harmonious performance blending risk and control. From another strong cast, Nahiyah Akbar, Olivia Castagna and Courtney Limemerge as perfectly embodying Re:Structure’s choreographic and emotive detail.

The transition from Re:Structure to Round of Angels is somewhat challenging, as the latter premiered in New Yok City in 1983 and is firmly rooted it its era in terms of costuming and movement vocabulary. Choreographed to Gustav Mahler’s emotive Adagietto, Symphony No. 5 in C-sharp minor, Op.47, the ballet is dedicated to the memory of James R. Howell (The Joffrey Ballet company member and life-long friend to choreographer Gerald Arpino). A couple, destined to part, are surrounded by five broken-winged male angels. Artistically the content is challenging for the young ensemble members, although the original choreographic intention is successfully maintained and communicated with the audience. Pas de deux work between Brittany-Jade Duwner and Jordan Lennon is sophisticated and sensitive, and Duwner proves herself to be a sublime adagio dancer with delightful control, extension, technique, and a nuanced artistic delivery.

Following the second interval are two longer works, one classical and one contemporary. Handel – A Celebration (Excerpts) was choreographed by Helgi Tomasson to a selection of George Frederic Handel’s compositions and premiered in 1989. This lengthy collection of excerpts features a large cast of twenty-six dancers, including six soloist and two principal roles. Unfortunately, on opening night a number of dancers struggled with balance, control and formation alignment. Coupled with costumes that were somewhat unflattering for the women, these challenges meant that the performance was weaker than the rest of the evening’s programme. Handel – A Celebration will require more stamina and precision to ensure it is the celebration of the classical stream students that it is intended to be.

Carnivale.4 by Raewyn Hill is the final work of the evening, and perfectly programmed. With a score by Eden Mulholland (after Maurice Ravel), this magnificent choreography masters pace, momentum and ascending tension in a rare and precious way. Hill schools us on canon, on unison, on the exploration and development of breath and voice. An intelligent choice of costume style and colour enhances the movement vocabulary, and strengthens the sense of ritual and rite essential to the piece. The extraordinary length and required stamina of the work are part of what makes Carnivale.4 so wonderful, and it is the dancers who throw caution to the wind when they’re utterly exhausted that are most successful. A number of the dancers manage this commitment to the work, especially Alec Katsourakiswho is raw and courageous. Hill’s Carnivale.4 is a taonga of contemporary choreography, and the dancers are privileged to benefit from its many offerings.


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Graduation 2019 does not disappoint

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 22nd Nov 2019

This yearly offering from our national training school is always a highlight in the dance year and 2019 does not disappoint. Both classical and contemporary works are programmed with both a chronological and stylistic range that makes for a varied evening. The students dance strongly throughout and pour their hearts into being onstage. At the end of months spent ‘getting it right’ for tutors, choreographers and coaches, it is the ability to actually dance and to project and connect that defines an artist. There were dancers who really shone, both with excellent technical control and in their ability to communicate.  Riley-Jane Dickie, Brittany-Jayde Duwner, Jordan Lennon, Sumika Ikemoto, Timothy Ching, Nadiyah Akbar, Amit Noy, Stephanie Halyburton, Frankie Drousiotti, Olivia Castagna…are names I could work out,and there were others working in the ensemble sections that caught the eye.  Great students!                                   

Dancers professionally today need the skills to integrate a range of techniques and stagecraft – this programme clearly separated the ballet and contemporary works and students and the classical vocabulary of aesthetic, line, turn out and virtuosity contrasted sharply with the energies, momentum, urgency and relevance of the contemporary works. It was a long programme with eight choreographies. The classical works were Concerto Barocco (chor. George Balanchine); Five Variations on a Theme (chor. David Fernandez)- a male solo competently danced by Rench Soriano; Round of Angels (chor. Gerald Arpino) with soaring lifts and partnering, and Handel – A Celebration ( excerpts chor. Helgi Tomasson). All four are works from the past -1941, 2008, 1983 and 1989 and with undoubted historical importance. Good to study and provide wonderful challenges in the steps, floor patterns and lines, but outdated now. If we want classical ballet to intrigue and entrance, it needs to be enlivened!

The four contemporary works all made their mark and the dancers clearly relished their part in the choreography. Velociraptor (chor. Scott Ewen) had a clarity of intention and was powerful and intense; in Not Odd Human (chor. Sam Coren), ‘Jeff’ engaged us in a medieval world view dissertation that was both frivolous and thought provoking. Ross McCormack’s Re:Structure was sculptural, strong, inventive, mesmerising and spoke firmly to us in Aotearoa. The final work was Raewyn Hill’s Carnivale 4 and emerged from a street of shadows as an ensemble of emotional desperation.  Intricate rhythms and elevated energies were used in an ultimately futile struggle… to be free? To rejoice? To speak? but to return to the status quo.                      

This was an evening that inspired, frustrated, exhausted – I  left the theatre in admiration of and exhilarated by the talent from all concerned and pondering on where these amazing young people will go? A real dilemma as there is simply not a burgeoning industry nor even one that really searches to responsibly sustain and develop artists – and yet ultimately the arts of a country define us.  Artists, thankfully, continue to create and to care. Best wishes to all those graduating from this great New Zealand institution- the world needs you but you need to connect to the world. It will be tough- Kia kaha


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