NZSD Graduation Season (Tradition) 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

Tradition - life as a dancer

Review by Jennifer Shennan 27th Nov 2018

New Zealand School of Dance is one school with two discrete streams, Classical Ballet and Contemporary Dance. Their Graduation season is always an uplifting affair as the fledgling dancers leave the nest where they have spent the past three years in intensive training. We can guess they’ll each be wishing for just one thing—life as a dancer. I can see no reason why they shouldn’t all get what they wish for, though over time that will, for some of them at least, stretch to include ‘teacher’ and ‘choreographer’ as well.

There are students from New Zealand, including Maori and Pasifika, and several countries beyond, Australia and Asia. The seeds of teacher training included in the curriculum here would help them find work for life back home if not here. We won’t be done with our life on Earth until everyone, in every country, has had a chance to dance, if only as a way to enhance recognition of choreographic masterpieces when they see them. There was such a masterpiece on each of the two programs and I’m shivering to tell you about them, as well as share a few thoughts about possible future directions.

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A varied and entertaining showcase

Review by Brigitte Knight 25th 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 both 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.

August Bournonville’s La Sylphide Pas De Deux and Grand Divertissement, Act II opens the Tradition Programme and is a fine selection to compliment the students’ technical abilities. Jaidyn Cumming in the role of The Sylph delivers a polished and assured performance, with elegant romantic lines and expressive attention to detail. Bo Hao Zhan, dancing James, possesses beautiful facility and strong elevation, however, did not secure the double tours en l’air as hoped on opening night.

George Balanchine’s 1964 choreography Tarantella provides a generous opportunity for the two dancers cast in these sizeable and challenging roles. First year student Rench Soriano, fresh from an impressive win at the Asian Grand Prix 2018 competition, partnered with second year Brittany-Jayde Duwner, are charismatic and effervescent young performers. The choreography is quick and demanding, and at times the dancers needed emphasis closer to the front of the counts and increased strength through their percussion. This grew more secure during the performance, and drew well-deserved recognition from the audience.

Sfumato by Betsy Erickson is a fine example of 1980’s neo-classical exploration, based on classical vocabulary but treated playfully. The choreography is varied, with constantly changing groupings, and the pas de deux choreography provides plenty of challenges for the dancers. Riley-Jane Dickie and Isaak McLean successfully manage these demands, offering a projected expressive quality and emotional interaction that stands out amongst their peers. Humourous moments feel slightly underdeveloped in this work, and the ballet doesn’t have an especially strong point of view – perhaps reflective of its age and the drive to innovate.

After The Rain Pas De Deux by Christopher Wheeldon is an outstanding, show-stealing performance. Premiered in 2005 by New York City Ballet Principals Wendy Whelan and Jock Soto, the ballet was the last work Wheelan choreographed on Soto before his retirement later the same year. Although the final pas de deux is often described as simple, it is exquisitely so; articulate, rich, emotive. An iconic choreography such is this can be a gift for graduating dancers, but only if they rise to the occasion. Brilliantly, Sook Meng Lim and Isaak McLean step into these roles with confidence and finesse; all the more remarkable as both are second year students. Set to Arvo Pärt’s beautiful Spiegel im Spiegel (Mirror in Mirror), the performance is as haunting as it is sophisticated. McLean’s partnering is assured, his hands large and safe, perfectly juxtaposed by Lim’s petite frame, quiet strength and rock-solid extension. After The Rain is a remarkable achievement and secures the duo as dancers to watch in the 2019 Graduation Season and beyond.

The final act of the evening begins with Louise Deleur’s Emerge, the world premiere of the new male solo funded by the Australian High Commission. The work is the most contemporary of the Tradition Programme, exploring expected rather than innovative movement vocabularies. Emerge makes considered use of lighting and music (Overproduction composed by Armand Amar), and is danced with consideration and care by second year student Jordan Lennon.

Finally, the energetic and gutsy Saltarello, choreographed for the Royal New Zealand Ballet by Christopher Hampson, provides an appropriate finale to the programme. The ballet demands significant stamina from the dancers, who are fortunate to have Turid Revfeim’s expertise guiding the staging of this performance. There are plenty of opportunities for the dancers to develop character and connect with the audience in Saltarello, and the audience enjoy the bravado and generally crisp performance of the work.

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 ballet traditions.


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Raewyn Whyte November 25th, 2018

A review of the Innovation season is available HERE

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