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

18/11/2015 - 28/11/2015

Production Details

Several firsts for New Zealand School of Dance GRADUATION SEASON 2015

A highlight of the New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) calendar, the School’s anticipated Graduation Season 18-28 November 2015 is set once again to hit the stage. A long held tradition that marks the year end; these performances offer an intoxicating mix of classical ballet and contemporary choreography.

This season’s performances open with the Grand Pas from the 19th century ballet Paquita. The full length ballet is rarely performed now but the Grand Pas which literally means ‘big step’, is a later addition by Marius Petipa. One of the most well known ballets, it was first performed in St Petersburg, Russia in 1846. NZSD has been fortunate to have Anna-Marie Holmes, artistic director, master teacher and celebrated ballerina staging this work with the students. The costumes have been hand made especially for the dancers by costumier Donna Jefferis assisted by the students of the Diploma of Costume Construction at Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School.

Thomas Bradley, NZSD graduate, has created a new work cnoditions of entry. Thomas challenged the students to invest in a new dance vocabulary, pushing both students and the audience to take part in his intellectual choreography.  The new work is also accompanied by music created by Thomas. Another graduate Sarah Foster-Sproull has returned to the school on her fourth commission working collaboratively with the students to create her work. Forgotten Things, performed by 24 dancers, explores the process of metamorphosis. Sarah explains “itembodies the performers as one cell with many identities”.

Among other highlights of this thrilling season will be George Balanchine’s Tarantella, a “gut-busting” interpretation of a Neopolitan folk dance. Diana White travelled from New York to work alongside tutor Qi Huan and NZSD students to bring alive this youthful and amusing ballet danced by two classical students. “With their impeccable training, enthusiasm, and work ethic, the students of NZSD have always been a pleasure to work with. Sharing the wonders and challenges of Balanchine’s choreography with these young dancers is a mutually rewarding experience” said Diana.

Audiences will also be treated to excerpts from “As It Fades” by renowned Singaporean choreographer and director of T.H.E Dance Company, Kuik Swee Boon.  This will be the first time that one of his works will be presented in NZ.  This homage to Asian traditions and their fading presence in modern life is an emotionally charged work. NZSD continues to grow strong links with Singapore with two students travelling in November to perform in the M1 Contact contemporary dance festival, and one of this year’s graduates securing a place with Singapore Dance Theatre.

Concluding this eclectic programme is Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s youthful and energetic ballet Concerto. Staged by Lynn Wallis and coached by Stephen Beagley with its cast of 18 women and 11 men, Concerto is the largest work ever presented by the School.  Dmitri Shostakovich’s music for this work will be performed by two live pianists on stage.

Graduation Season is an opportunity to witness the high calibre of students at NZSD and the results of working with inspirational tutors from both NZ and internationally. These exhilarating performances are an insight into the next generation of professional dancers.

New Zealand School of Dance Graduation Season 2015
18-28 November at New Zealand School of Dance, Wellington


Third Year
Laura Beanland-Stephens, Jadyn Burt, Tyler Carney, Jacob Edmonds, Sophie Gargan, Charlotte Gleeson, Billy Keohavong,
Law Lok Huen, Katie Lin-Musson, Demi-Jo Manalo, Yayoi Matches, Amelia McCarthy, Georgia Rudd, Felix Sampson, Kelsey Sparks, Latisha Sparks, Megan Wright, Yeo Chan Yee

Second Year
Sophie Arbuckle, Alice Beedie, Tristan Carter, Luke Cooper, Ben Crossley-Pritchard, Isaac Di Natale, Isabel Estrella,
Fan Hao Ching, Jeremie Wen-Jian Gan, Samuel Hall, Aimee Hodgkinson, Lola Howard, Olivia Johnstone, Maxine Lawlor,
George Liang Chih Chieh, Tiana Lung, Sophia Maher, Meg Mead, Hamish McIntosh, Christopher Mills, Jessica Newman,
Holly Newsome, Jag Popham, Georgia Powley, Rowan Rossi, Imogen Tapara, Breanna Timms, Madeline Tratt, Wan Jiajing

First Year
Rachel Andrew, Lana Barone, Emma-Rose Barrowclough, Holly Brogan, Isabella Coluccio, Laura Crawford, Ashley Fooks, Kent Giebel-Date, Isaac Goh,  Jill Goh, Christina Guieb, Mayuri Hashimoto, Nicholas Jachno, Jessica Johns, Olivia Knapton, Sierra Mann, Yuri Marques, Connor Masseurs, Courtney McDonald, Felipe Natel, Toa Paranihi, Rebecca Parker, Kit Reilly, Georgia Sekulla, Tzu-Ting Su, Gus Syben, Lydia Tan, Tamara Taylor, Georgia van Gils, Alex Warren, Jayden White,
Jack Whiter, Ella Williams, Sarah Wilson

Production Manager Jenny Petrovich
Stage Manager Alison Kirkpatrick
Lighting Designer Paul O’Brien
Lighting Operator Wendy Clease
Costume Supervisor Donna Jefferis
Costume Construction Jane Boocock and students of the Diploma in Costume Construction Toi Whakaari
Marketing and Publicity Celia Jenkins and Natasha Giera
Fundraising Elizabeth Isaacs
Box Office Manager Priscilla Gough
Photography Stephen A’Court
Video Jeremy Brick



Music: Ludwig Minkus, with additional music by Riccardo Drigo and Nicolai Tcherepnin
Choreography: Anna-Marie Holmes
after Marius Petipa
Répétiteur: Nadine Tyson
Costume design: Donna Jefferis

Music: Andrew Foster
Oblitus Res
Choreography: Sarah Foster-Sproull
Rehearsed by: Paula Steeds-Huston
Costume: Donna Jefferis

Music: Thomas Bradley
cnoditions of entry
Choreography: Thomas Bradley and dancers
Rehearsed by: Paula Steeds-Huston
Costume design: Thomas Bradley and
Donna Jefferis

Music: Louis Moreau Gottschalk
Grande Tarantelle for Piano and Orchestra, Op.67 (ca 1866). Reconstructed and orchestrated by Hershy Kay
Choreography: George Balanchine
©The George Balanchine Trust
Staged by: Diana White
Répétiteur: Qi Huan

Music: Max Richter
November and Jan’s Notebook
Original music composed and arranged by Bani Haykal
Choreography: Kuik Swee Boon
Restaged and Directed by: Wu Mi
Rehearsed by: Paula Steeds-Huston

Music: Dmitri Shostakovich
Piano Concerto No 2 in F Major, Op 102 (transcribed for two pianos by the composer)
Piano soloist: Ludwig Treviranus
Orchestral part: Phillip O’Malley or
Craig Newsome
Choreography: Sir Kenneth MacMillan
Presented by kind permission of Lady Deborah MacMillan on behalf of The MacMillan Estate
Staged by: Lynn Wallis OBE
Coached by: Stephen Beagley
Répétiteur: Turid Revfeim
Costume Design: Jürgen Rose
Costumes courtesy of The Australian Ballet

Dance , Contemporary dance , ,

2 hours


Review by Chris Jannides 24th Nov 2015

The NZ School of Dance (NZSD) is two schools in one. There is the classical stream and the contemporary one. Both stand out as being very different, naturally, in terms of their respective dance forms, but crucially for me in their approaches to teaching performance.

Technical standards are so high across both branches of the school, yet to my mind, performance conviction and expressive nuance and confidence need to be equally as high. Particularly as this is a pre-professional level of training.

All dancers know that classical and contemporary offer much to each other that is of value to both. Contemporary dancers aspire to the heights of excellence that elite classical dancers embrace so well. Alongside their contemporary training, ballet is a mandatory part of practically any contemporary dance curriculum that’s of any worth.

Perhaps the training of ballet dancers, who can survive so well without needing to put one step into a contemporary dance class, could take a page from the performance skills of their contemporary colleagues. For a classical tutor, I would be thinking about what might be added to ballet students’ training and experience that would significantly and uniformly increase their expressive subtleties and abilities, not simply their technical ones, onstage.

The differences in performance qualities between the two student groups in the NZSD’s Graduation Season are too noticeable to remain unmentioned. The contemporary students are confident, connected and consistent. The ballet students, surprisingly, are not.


The programme consists of six items whose three classical and three contemporary works alternate. The classical contributions comprise two group works – Paquita (1847), adapted by Anna-Marie Holmes after Marius Petipa, and Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Concerto (1996), re-staged on the students by Lynn Wallis. The third classical piece is a George Balanchine duet, Tarantella (1964), taught by Diana White.

Concerto stands out over and above Paquita for its far more nuanced and sophisticated choreography, which should be no surprise given the time difference between when they were first created. If Paquita seems restrained and unembellished, Concerto compensates by adding more length of line and finesse. Plus some jazziness in its fun hip-slinking finale.

Tarantella is performed energetically and confidently by Megan Wright and Jeremie Gan. Not only technically demanding, the piece is pacey and requires a hearty, robust delivery. Both dancers rise to the occasion. However, Tarantella is fundamentally a duet. Despite the technical expertise on display, I see no believable connection or empathy between the two dancers.

In my fixation on performance qualities, Jeremie Gan is engaging and consistent in his facial expression and comfort with the audience. In fact, in all the classical works, the men stand out for me as being more secure and relaxed as performers.

Overall, there are numerous moments to appreciate in the classical numbers. Superbly sustained arabesques in the first work. Competent partnering and secure lifts throughout all the pieces. Excellent unison work in the last item, along with razor sharp group patterns. MacMillan’s choreography, in particular, superbly exemplifies the purity  of the classical form with its finely calibrated balance between heightened technical athleticism and tastefully stylish elegance and restraint. All of which the dancers master nicely.

Minor points (and these really are minor) where I might nitpick, include beats where the feet are not joining, occasional turnout issues, particularly in jetés involving the back leg in attitude, and imprecision coming out of multiple pirouettes, tours en l’air and turns generally. Actually, I am left wondering if this is a new trend? Not to spot on final turns, but to simply sail out of them.

I am also concerned to see too much physical concentration in the classical students that is being unsuccessfully masked by painted on grins and smiles. What this produces is a cautionary quality whereby nervousness about technique overrides and inhibits the fluidity and vibrancy of the ‘dancing’. There are only brief moments from one or two individuals, and I’m targeting mostly the women here, where I see attack, artistry and flair. For the rest, I seem to be looking mostly at the overly careful execution of steps. 


When it comes to performance qualities, the contemporary stream is setting the bar at the level we should expect from pre-professional tertiary dance students.

The three contemporary works in the programme – Sarah Foster-Sproull’s Forgotten Things; Cnoditions of Entry, choreographed by Thomas Bradley and the dancers; As It Fades (Excerpts) by Kuik Swee Boon – are incredible. Each piece showcases and challenges the students at a choreographic standard seen in professional companies.

Forgotten Things, premiered here, is to music by Andrew Foster (Sarah’s partner and collaborator). The only homegrown choreographer of the three, Sarah Foster-Sproull shows that she is a major dance-making force in our community. Beyond making well-crafted work, Sarah is establishing her choreographic signature. Powerful, poetic and highly distinctive. She is also a graduate from the NZSD, which must make them proud. Despite reservations I have about the costumes and lighting, this work features an extremely inventive and highly visual use of choreographic motifs involving a chain-like linking together of hands, and in one extraordinary moment, also of legs and feet, to make images that unmistakably recreate the human spine, the wings, feathers and flight motion of birds, an umbilical cord passing through a dancer’s mid-region… The images are sculptural, kinetic and surreal. They etch themselves like branding irons into the brain! It is rare to find such striking clarity in contemporary dance that sticks in memory.

The second contemporary contribution – Cnoditions of Entry,(yes, for some weird reason this is how it is spelt!), is put together by Australian choreographer, Thomas Bradley (he did the music too). Another exquisite piece that is also distinctive in its own way, made more so by the beautifully effective use of Donna Jefferis’ orange-hooded costumes. Electronic dystopian music and aesthetically integrated, carefully designed lighting states blend with the choreography to produce a strangely rich atmosphere peopled by a community of lost individuals moving in hyper-fast or super slow motion. The work and its eerie world allows imaginations to read multiple interpretive layers and meanings into it. Powerfully performed, the crafting and structure of this dance is masterful.

The last of the contemporary items, As It Fades (Excerpts), by the renowned overseas guest choreographer, Kuik Swee Boon, which he originally created in 2011 on his Singaporean dance company, is as impressive as the previous two. Not choreographed on them or with their assistance, as was the case with the other contemporary works, the students perform material previously made on a professional company. Their superb ability to do this is testimony to the skills and industry-ready standards of the NZSD’s contemporary dance graduates.

Over and above their ability to switch easily from virtuosic solo or partnering modes to being able to hold collective power as an ensemble, what impressed me in Kuik Swee Boon’s work was the focus that all the dancers were required to sustain on a fixed point in space slightly over the heads of the audience. Sometimes individually, and in the end as a whole group, this allowed us to closely scan and notice how, in each and every face without exception, there was depth of presence. It is a privilege to see work of this calibre, and to experience a dance-maker who choreographs the eyes of the audience as clearly and delicately as he does the dancers. Bravo!


I could not expect to see more from both groups of students when it comes to appraising and appreciating their technical skills. They are clearly at the top of their game on both sides of the classical/contemporary divide. I just wish they were on more of an equal footing when it comes to performance maturity and skill.



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A real graduation gala

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 20th Nov 2015

The annual year end for each group of graduating students at the New Zealand School of Dance is always a wonderful chance to glimpse the future as we see these dancers in a chosen showcase. The programme contains both classical and contemporary works and this year the programming of casts and contrasts is evenly matched and varied.

Opening in stunning red and black tutus, traditional variations from Paquita acknowledge the student’s study of variations from traditional ballet repertoire. The first performances of Paquita were in 1897 and the music of Minkus is still powerful and very well known. Yahoi Matches and Yuri Marques are strong and assured in their partnering, secure ensemble work by the corps de ballet and four variations ably danced by Megan Wright, Lola Howard, Georgia Powley and Mayuri Hashimoto are elegantly staged. First night nerves need to settle and let a more musical sense of this work come through, but Lola Howard has the requisite ease and flow and really stands out in her solo.

The standout work of the night is Sarah Foster-Sproull’s Forgotten Things. Grotesquely beautiful and compelling images unnerve and mesmerise as this extraordinary choreography to equally extraordinary music by Andrew Foster manipulates both physical and mental senses. The futility of much of the experience of humanity comes to mind in a plethora of haunting images formed by flesh and bones as core figures are pulled from the group and returned .Referencing all those things in life that spit us out and suck us in, the movement is invigorating, inventive and bordering on the surreal. A compelling work that totally enthralls at the same time as it sets challenges on the dark side in the back of our minds.

The contemporary students throughout the evening are immersed and utterly committed to their dancing. They are a force to be reckoned with and it will be exciting to watch them as they move out into the industry.

Cnoditions of Entry, choreographed by Thomas Bradley, opens the next section. Images of restraint, contortion, fragmentation, covered faces and costumes that have strong connotations of middle eastern cultures make this indulgent, uncomfortable and unresolved. Speaking to the time we are living in, but in no way providing any sense of resolution, there is too much anguish and anger and I am still searching to work out why?

The third contemporary work on the programme suffers from the same problem, but in a more light hearted way. In As It Fades, choreography by Kuik Swee Boon, has the dancers refreshingly themselves, real people we can relate to,  and there is an element of charm in their youth and the changing balances of relationships, but again there seems to be more movement content than contextual substance. Excellent and committed dancers give their all but I am not convinced that they understand the context for their movement and I get lost watching…possibly because the power of Forgotten Things could not be forgotten. 

Back to the Classical offerings, and Tarantella by Balanchine is one of those touchstone duets that is always a joy and brings a smile to our faces. Megan Wright and Jeremie Gan give a spirited rendition to the wonderful music by Gottschalk but it is the absolute cheekiness and crisp technical virtuosity of Gan that really shines. This is a duet designed for virtuosity and Gan has it in spades.

Closing the show is Shostokovich’s Concerto Another touchstone work and a great opportunity for these young dancers to test their mettle. It is lovely to see two ballet works, Paquita and Concerto, with real challenges for a large graduating cast. The dancers acquit themselves well with the intricacies and dynamics needed. Wonderful to have live music with two pianos played by Philip O’Malley and Craig Newsome. Here the Second Movement pas de deux sees outstanding performances by Lola Howard and Jerry Wan. These two young dancers have that technical surety and effortless magic and musicality that transports us from our mundane realities to an aesthetic and impossible world.

Strong production values are there all the way in lighting and costuming.

Congratulations to the staff, teachers and rehearsal directors on a real graduation gala  – strong students, and their passion and committment really shows. Best wishes to you all as you step out now into the very challenging world of a profession that is unique, hard and very special – hold onto that passion. Dance well.


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