NZSD Graduation Season (Innovation) 2018

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

21/11/2018 - 01/12/2018

Production Details

21 November – 1 December 2018

Ballet. Contemporary dance. 
Two dance programmes, alternating throughout the season.

The New Zealand School of Dance presents remarkable choreography in a Graduation Season marking the 20th anniversary of the School’s Director, Garry Trinder.

Graduation Season brings together the hard work of accomplished students and distinguished tutors in two productions of ballet and contemporary dance, alternating each night throughout the season of 12 performances.

Be in the theatre when the curtain rises on the next generation of dance talent. These exhilarating performances will be a must-see on Wellington’s vibrant arts calendar.


Tradition (Ballet Programme)

7.30pm Wednesday 21 November
7.30pm Friday 23 November
2.00pm Saturday 24 November (matinee)- Featuring special pre-show performance featuring students from Mid-Pacific Institute, Hawaii, 1.30pm
7.30pm Wednesday 28 November
7.30pm Friday 30 November
7.30pm Saturday 1 December

Innovation (Contemporary Dance Programme)

7.30pm Thursday 22 November
7.30pm Saturday 24 November– Featuring special pre-show performance featuring students from Mid-Pacific Institute, Hawaii, 7pm
2.00pm Sunday 25 November (matinee)
7.30pm Tuesday 27 November
7.30pm Thursday 29 November
2.00pm Saturday 1 December (matinee)

Book for one of the programmes or receive a season ticket discount to see both

Tickets – one performance:

$35 Adult
$25 Student / Senior / Group10+
$18 Child under 13

Season Ticket – both programmes:

$66 Adult
$47 Student / Senior / Group10+
$33 Child under 13
Book through the ‘season’ option at the bottom of the booking page

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Dance , Contemporary dance ,

90 mins

Innovation - the passion of commitment

Review by Jennifer Shennan 27th Nov 2018

This Graduation season offers two programs, Tradition (Ballet) and Innovation (Contemporary Dance), on alternate nights. Does this suggest that new choreography is expected only in the latter but not in the former? If anything, the opposite swing of the pendulum is needed, with a balance of heritage and newly minted work, across both streams. Students of ballet should be just as actively encouraged to explore choreography as their ‘siblings’ are, and by the same token, classics of New Zealand contemporary work need to be staged more often. There are plenty of choreographers whose works would be eminently suitable—Douglas Wright, Michael Parmenter, Raewyn Hill, Daniel Belton, Mary-Jane O’Reilly, Taiaroa Royal would be among the first to consider.

It is in fact globally recognised that ballet and contemporary dance today exist in a symbiotic relationship, and that a hard-out ballet class (minus the pointe shoes perhaps) is a daily fix for dancers of all textures. The old binary does not hold, and today’s dancers have to be able to do whatever choreographers ask for. Having said that, the Innovation program showed strong, committed performers willing to share a passion that depends less on physique than personality, more on commitment than technique.

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A pleasingly-broad presentation of contemporary choreographies

Review by Brigitte Knight 26th Nov 2018

The New Zealand School of Dance has divided the Graduation Season performances into alternating programmes; Tradition (classical ballet stream students) and Innovation (contemporary stream students). Performances showcase the graduating third year students, but also include select first and second year dancers. Formatting the Graduation Season in two parts is highly successful, allowing each stream of students sufficient time and variety to display their talents. This is complimented by a rich variety of choreographic offerings within each programme, ensuring the audience are thoroughly entertained during the two performances. Both evenings include six works presented with two intermissions, which allows the audience space to reflect and refer to the programme – a decision I appreciate especially with contemporary works.

Opening the Innovation Programme is E Tolu by Victoria Humphries in collaboration with third year dancers Chris Clegg, Braedyn Humphries and Laifa Ta’ala. The work fuses hiphop and contemporary techniques, predictable in its reliance on isolations contrasted with improvisation-style fluid solos. The simple, sparingly-used unison requires more detail and finesse, and its attempts to break the fourth wall need greater commitment and clarity. E Tolu has some humourous moments, but overall, the performance quality lacks projection and feels inwards-looking. A strong audience favourite, this approach to choreography is becoming conventional in the New Zealand dance scene.

Cloud Gate Dance Theatre’s Huang Li choreographed the remarkable Wicked Fish in 2009, however, it remains mesmerisingly fresh and absolutely current. The sophisticated and intelligent use of lighting is the strongest of the Graduation Season, bisecting space, distorting distance, morphing the ensemble into an amorphous, genderless roving mass. Li’s holistic formations manipulate the audience’s focus skilfully, and the work is perfectly edited; everything necessary, nothing superfluous. Franky Drousioti and Sebastian Geilings provide first-rate partnering in their duo which is flawless and dramatic. The darkly brilliant Wicked Fish is vital, fluid dance, and I could have easily watched it eight more times in a row.

The premiere performance of Huri Koaro (Inside Out) by Gabrielle Thomas is elegant and regal. This fresh, original work captures the form of the Manaia (the seahorse), believed to guard other-worldly realms, powerful creatures with a hand in birth, life and death. A choreography for nine women, Huri Koaro possesses an authoritative command of cultural and contemporary vocabularies structured with thoughtful formations and repetition of motifs. Beautiful, contact-driven partnering and a superb kapa haka section flatter and celebrate the skills of the dancers. Ngaere Jenkins is magnetic throughout the performance, not least in her thoughtful final solo. The connection between moko and costume is innovative, and aside from some minor timing issues with a pas de quatre, Huri Koaro is work with clarity and a strong sense of identity.

It’s Written In The Walls by Adam Barruch is another world premiere, and another example of cultivated, nuanced contemporary choreography. This slightly gothic, macabre, surrealist work uses the dancers to create animated walls, moving as though they are breathing. The work explores the ghosts of memory, dormant yet inescapable, and is perfectly costumed in colour-themed street clothes. It’s Written In The Walls contains excellent formation work and a sophisticated sense of pace and climax. Disappointingly, some of the men are unable to maintain unison, even when they have a sightline to another dancer. This weakness is eclipsed by masterful work by Ngaere Jenkins and Rachel Trent, two dancers to watch in the future.

The final act of the evening begins with Lauren Langlois’ Graham-esque Static, a duo performed by Kia Jewell and Braedyn Humphries. The movement vocabulary has been clearly developed on the dancers, externalising internal states from naturalism to crisp stylisation. Jewell provides beautiful characterisation and attack, and while Humphries is completely present in the space and deeply inside the choreography, he projects nothing out. (Static was not the only example of the tendency for dancers who have come from a hiphop foundation to be round-shouldered and short-necked, not throwing energy beyond the edge of the stage.) Overall it is a well-developed and successfully discomforting work, with the dancers dropping character in perfect unison, and exiting in neutral.

Les Méducés (Volk Version) by Damien Jalet provides an apt finale set to the most memorable score of the programme; the soundtrack is Winter Family and a rhythmic score by Gabriele Miracle. Originally created as a female trio in the Marly Courtyard of the Louvre Museum, Les Méducés has been expanded to twelve dancers working with intricate precision in patterns of pentagons and pentagrams. The sculptural choreography contains subtle motifs danced with beautiful attack, and its dramatic string costumes allow movements to extend beyond the limitations of the dancers’ bodies.

The 2018 Graduation Season marks Director Garry Trinder’s twentieth anniversary with The New Zealand School of Dance, an achievement which serves the consistency of the training and employability of young New Zealand dancers. Some notes on the choreographers and their connection with the School would have been a welcome addition to the programme, especially with the contemporary works. The graduating third year students were not separately recognised onstage as a group, which may have been a missed opportunity to identify and celebrate them. The New Zealand School of Dance’s Graduation Season is a varied and entertaining showcase of its dancers, and provides a pleasingly-broad presentation of contemporary choreographies.


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