NZSD Performance Season 2022
16/11/2022 - 26/11/2022
Loughlan Prior, Craig Bary, Holly Newsome, Tyler Carney-Faleatua, Sarah Foster-Sproull, Christina Chan and Aymeric Bichon
New Zealand School of Dance
In a time when the world is slowly regaining its strength, a celebration comes quite rightly.
We are proud to be able to present to you our end-of-year Performance Season – one of the highlights of a vibrant arts calendar.
This year’s Performance Season is an opportunity to witness the high calibre of students and the results of working with inspirational world class tutors. All of the works you will see today have been choreographed by NZSD alumni and teachers. In this run of 10 performances, NZSD presents two distinct programmes.
The five works in the ballet programme are all choreographed by NZSD Distinguished Graduate and highly sought-after dance maker, Loughlan Prior (Choreographer-inResidence to the Royal New Zealand Ballet). Highlighted within the programme are two world premieres – Coloratura and Storm Surge.
Our contemporary dance programme features innovative works by NZSD Distinguished Graduates, Craig Bary and Sarah Foster-Sproull, as well as alumni and current teachers, Christina Chan, Holly Newsome and Tyler Carney-Faleatua. While enjoying the performance, give a quiet thanks to the NZSD staff and visiting tutors who have turned ‘raw talent’ into the skilled young performers before you. I extend my congratulations to the graduating students and wish them well in their professional careers.
Chair, New Zealand School of Dance Board of Trustees
graduates and students of the New Zealand School of Dance
Production Manager: Wendy Clease Lighting Designer & Operator: Wendy Clease Stage Manager: Vicki Cooksley Costume Support: Anne de Geus and Elishia Ward Costume Construction: Kaarin Slevin and Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School costume construction students Photography: Stephen A’Court Videography: Jeremy Brick
CURIOUS ALCHEMY Music: Ludwig Van Beethoven, String Quartet No.13 in B Flat Major, Op. 130 Camille Saint-Saëns, String Quartet No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 112 Choreography: Loughlan Prior Costume Design: Donna Jefferis
VERSE Music: Antonio Martin Y Coll, Diferencias sobre las Folias Choreography: Loughlan Prior World premiere: 21 November 2012, Te Whaea Theatre, Wellington Physical Calligraphy. A script embodied in flesh. Loughlan Prior wishes to dedicate this work to long-time patron of the arts, David Carson-Parker (1932 – 2012)
STORM SURGE Music: Matteo Sommacal, The Forgotten Strains (For Piano and String Quartet); Exile Upon Earth: 3. Pensive; Follow It Blindly (For Piano and Cello); The Sign of Gathering (For Piano and String Quartet) Choreography: Loughlan Prior Costume Design: Max de Roy
TIME WEAVER Music: Philip Glass, Metamorphosis: Metamorphosis Two, Flowing Choreography: Loughlan Prior
COLORATURA Music: Nicola Porpora, Siface: Come Nave in mezzo all’onde; Oliver Davis, Flight, Concerto for Violin & Strings: III; Nicola Porpora, Semiramide: in braccio a mille furie; Geminiano Giacomelli, Merope: Sposa, non mi conosci; Oliver Davis, Airborne Dances: IV; Riccardo Broschi, Artaserse: Son qual nave Choreography: Loughlan Prior Costume Design: Max de Roy
STATE OF PERPETUATION Music: Dead People, Faces in the Ice; Flume, Sirens (featuring Caroline Polachek); Andy Stott, Versi; Tzusing, Esther Choreography: Craig Bary
MIDLIGHT Music: Lévon Minassian, Der Vorghormia Choreography: Christina Chan and Aymeric Bichon
RUBBLE Music: The Ultimate Motivational Clip; Andy Stott, Versi; Tzusing, Esther Choreography: Holly Newsome
A KIND TONE Music: Akira Rabelais, 1483 Caxton Golden Leg. 208 B/2 He Put Not Away the Wodenes of His Flesh; James Holden, A Circle Inside A Circle Inside Choreography: Tyler Carney-Faleatua
TO THE FOREST, TO THE ISLAND Music: Eden Mulholland, (Ng ti Uepohatu) Choreography: Sarah Foster-Sproull Costume Design: Anne De Geus
Contemporary Dance Programme Exhilarates
Review by Mona Williams 20th Nov 2022
Opening the programme with the World Premier of State of Perpetuationthe graduates immediately stamp the work with their confident energy, buoyant esprit de corps and intelligent, disciplined attention to detail. The soaring voice of a soprano signaling dancers onto the darkened stage, is augmented by the contrasting sound of the regular thudding of a pseudo-heartbeat. Fifteen dancers in fresh top-and-pant couture move with expansive freedom; merging floor rolls, tumbles, turns, jumps, alterations of the spatial arrangements, slow motion, stylized arms, static moments and sometimes a brief ritualized pose. There are shifting moods of harmony, of light-hearted pleasure, of youthful noisy delight but then of something approaching anguish. Like Life itself, Craig Bary’s choreography balances burdening darkness against the exuberance of light; even from a single spotlight. The dancers’ sustained intensity throughout this work is much admired.
The second work Midlight went straight to my heart (bypassing my head) from the opening notes of its haunting Middle Eastern music. The French-Armenian composer, Minassian, on his flute-like Doudouk, with drum accompaniment, played the Der Vorghormia which is an Armenian Apostolic Church Hymn, Lord Have Mercy. This hymn is sometimessung in extreme situations, like when facing imminent annihilation. With Middle Eastern music as part of my DNA I was overly eager to see the graduates’ pas de deux, choreographed by Chan and Bichon to this melody.
Displaying sensitivity, responsiveness, the focus on one another, and smoothly flowing entwinement followed by relaxed togetherness, Persia Thor-Poet and partner Seth Ward captured the essence of this joyful pas-de-deux. Suffused with subdued contentment, the couple trusted each other so completely that they incorporated a canoeing motif; with her sitting on his shoulder and the paddling that gave a forward propulsion resulted from their synchronized action. Wrapped up in each other’s best interests, smoothly traversing the stage without missing a beat, ‘the twain were indeed one’.
Rubble,Holly Newsome’s work, called for the whole-hearted, spirited exuberance of the youthful corps of twelve dancers, dressed in corporate style suits, to succumb to beguiling corporate-speak and motivational clichés. The end proves a delusional roadmap in their journey towards Life’s Truth. Listening at the beginning to the authoritative, honeyed voice of a rousing motivational speaker, who could resist his rapid-fire exhortations to “Rise and Shine, Destiny waits for no man, Welcome to the Square, It’s the devil in the detail?” No pausing by naïve youth to question, no solitude to examine his emotive language poured in rapid-fire sequence into their brain, no dissenting voice of protest, no ‘merry fool’ to see things differently. Gradually, those persuaded are divested of their corporate suits, yet dance brilliantly in black pants and sleeveless black tops, in a repetitive and increasingly joyless, mechanized, frenzied, absurd world. There is pathos in the final shuffling on knees or bottoms, head trapped within the business world’s box or in ornate, sterile, ‘spired’ architecture. All participants contribute a piece to that vainglorious, inauthentic monument that has killed their soaring spirits. Full marks to the dancers whose mahi and unstinting technique contributed to the creation of this insightful work. On a psychological level, I surmise that there will probably be decades of experience before these youth can fully gauge the profundity of this dance which they have presented.
A Kind Tone is choreographed by Tyler Carney-Faleatua.This world premier work demands an ability and knowledge that go beyond the cultural awareness I possess, so I grow by asking questions. The stage is set with soft lighting and soft tones of pink satin generously draped over five objects. Are they people, or are they highly treasured objects, or both, shrouded from view? One draped ‘object’ reveals herself to be an exquisitely dressed, seated wahine who with precise movements removes her unwanted gloves, discards her obscuring pink shroud, rises triumphantly unencumbered and moves majestically to free others from constricting fabric encirclements, no matter how seemingly gentle these shrouds appear to be. Is this a mere awakening of the women or, accompanied by the sounds of cracking eggshells, Pasifika drumming and flute flurries, is this more of a resurrection?
Presented with slow exits, measured entrances to swell the corps to eleven dances; I view women whirling towards others, wahine embracing to reciprocate affirmation and consolation. I internalized static interludes, with tentative satisfaction. I then admire the merging of like-minded pursuers of individual freedom; they gravitate towards something ancestral when they move with rather than against the percussive phrasing of the Pasifika drumming. Impressed by fluid floor work and attractive stage arrangements, I am never the less perplexed, finding the moods difficult to decipher. Was this pain? Was this apprehension? Was this satisfaction or insecurity? Is anyone ever truly free? How can one best defy the constraints of their Pasifika culture? What is relinquished and what is gained in the quest for freedom? Does that ghostly figure symbolically crossing the landscape at the end, signal the ebbing of spirituality that arises from diluting one’s ‘community’ culture with ideas of ‘individual’ freedom? I welcome more programme notes to assist my appreciation of this cultural evolution. A bouquet to Tyler for prompting unsettling questions.
To the Forest, to the Island is choreographed by Sarah Foster-Sproull. Eight graduates, in a rousing finale, transport the audience into their world of fearless ensemble performance. Colourfully attired in bright hues, executing multi layered patterns; their high spirited, youthful, carefree technical excellence gushes out. The dance exceeds the sum of its parts. Accorded the status of non-human characters, seven light columns are arranged and re-arranged many times, inventively dividing and dictating the performance spaces. Those light columns emit varying festive colours at every repositioning, thus indicating the mood to follow. Graduates dance, faithful to the beat and within the jazz rhythms and phrases playing on a mellow bass; or in contrasting counter-rhythms, they display vivacious circling, turning, unrestrained leaping, speeding, running. Downstage, the graduates interact face-to-face with the audience, or from the side entrances generate up-tempo floor work to conclude what seems like rollicking, joyful folk dancing. With a deft touch they end the dance and the evening’s programme with a nerve-soothing tableau.
The New Zealand School of Dance has, over two evenings, demonstrated the depth, breadth and enormous wealth of its programme. The School is to be congratulated on the high achievement of its graduates. Te Whaea’s accomplishments merit even higher praise, given the limitations and dislocations imposed by Covid over the previous years. Bravo! “Go up and on. Our souls and eyes shall follow thy continuous rise!”
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Review by Mona Williams 19th Nov 2022
The World Premier of Loughlan Prior’s masterpiece Storm Surge was the perfect opening of the evening’s performance. It show-cased the aesthetic and technical attainment of the ballet graduates. Staged against a stark black backdrop, with black side curtains and dim lighting, the dark vision continued with some dancers costumed in black hair-toppings, black facemasks, black skirts and black tops, which left revealed long elegant white arms. The male costume of short skirts over long pants worked particularly well. The dancers had no colourful props or accents nor needed anything to enchant the audience, but the power and technical excellence of their refined interpretation.
Prior’s inspired scores ranged across sound effects of fierce gales, the gentle patter of rain, surging strings of a quartet accompanying the insistent tempo of a piano, a haunting cello, absolute silence, thunder and the short unexpected lyrical interlude of a weaving wind-song. Offered such a wealth of moods, movements and environments to interpret, the dancers’ opening ‘still-life’ captured white arms extended high, undulating in sinuous unity. Simultaneously that grouping portrayed Wellington’s trees in a storm-buffeted landscape; arching, leaning, protruding, resisting, bending, swaying in the storm; but also captured in my mind’s eye, the undulating movement of bull kelp in New Zealand’s marine world, alive to wind-power driving the waves.
The graduates’ fluid movements, effortless lifts, swift precise ebbs and flows, darting swings, arms describing flawless arches; the pas de deux, that evolved into a pas de trois, then into a pas de quatre, then into a pas de cinq exuded vibrancy on a rather small stage. One dancer was adroitly tossed into the air; another swiftly descended to the floor, for a fleeting moment and was up again. In contrast, a spent couple lay motionless, held in a circle of pale light in unnerving silence. Visually imprinted was a tall dancer, his fragile frame bending responsively to the might of the storm, as if executing a ‘reverence’; these and very considerate partnering, suffused the ensemble’s performance with immense depth and beauty! Storm Surgestood shoulder to shoulder with anything I have seen in Berlin, Paris, NY, San Francisco, Hamburg or in the lesser known but well attended theatres of St Petersburg. Well done, graduates!
Verse afforded soloist, Joshua Douglas, a precious opportunity to explore the artistic possibilities inherent in possessing his notable flexibility, his breath-catching, unusual isolations, his daring and the long arms with which he is fascinatingly endowed.
Time Weaver was a tour de force; a pas de deux bejeweled with an abundance of lifts at every spatial level, sometimes barely skimming the floor, at other times at shoulder height, waist height, and in one golden moment, the female partner was supported in her upside-down one-arm lift, by her partner lying on his back. For graduates to execute that one arm, upside-down lift reminiscent of the Spartacus pas de deux (albeit while lying) was daring and evidence of their confident strength and quality of training. Their coupling, their continuous intertwining was seemingly instinctive, devoid of fumbling; but graced with lightness, congruence and a primeval symbiosis. Here was a harmony of minds translated into a profound oneness of bodies in a compelling performance by India Shackel and Aiden Tully.
Brimming with biting wit and extravagant tomfoolery were two works. One, Curious Alchemy, presented dancers in 1930’s style active-wear, brim-full of playful, brisk, flirtatious, youthful high-energy, doing ‘stock’ travelling on the spot movements, frenetic exercises overflowing with juvenile joie de vivre. Some stylized robotic angularity elicited chuckles of wry humour. The graduates proved adept at capturing this genre.
Coloratura interwove operatic vocalization, string instrumentation and balletic movements into a comedic amalgam expressed at the top of its giddy artistic register. The elaborate vocal embellishments of the lyric soprano, her ornate figuration, her light, agile runs, trills, wide leaps and virtuoso passages coloured the stage, inviting superb mirroring in the dancers’ expression of Prior’s choreography. The Coloratura, draped in flowing white, her hair coifed high, glided in a manner suggestive of diva-life on cloud 9. She commanded the stage with her imperious force field of vocal energy, visual absurdity and an overwhelming fabulous personality. In contrast, a corps of twenty-plus dancers in red tops, red pants, red tights but no shoes, turned, ran, moved in familiar formations, marched, lay in a semi-circle, responded in cannon-sequence, embraced conformity. Was the corp’s red world a light-hearted send-up of societies that avoid high-octane drama and non-conformity?
I missed only the soaring male leaps that seemed to have been avoided in order to husband the tremendous energy required for their entire programme. I look forward to seeing those jetes in the coming years. All the same, this was a Graduates’ night to remember.
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Strength and Talent Abundant in Performance Season
Review by Deirdre Tarrant 19th Nov 2022
The end of each year is always a highlight for the NZSD as the strength of new talent and the result of their training comes into focus. There is talent aplenty and the strong confident dancers of 2022 own the stage in both classical and contemporary styles.
Seeing these two programmes on consecutive nights is interesting.
The Classical evening showcases only the choreography of Loughlan Prior. The five works show very strong cross referencing in the use of movement vocabulary and steps. Angular gestures, manipulation of limbs, extreme extensions and supported partnering are used and the dancers relish the challenges. These elements also bring the works together. There is a sense of command in all the works and little emotional resonance beyond the execution of challenging and compelling movement. But when there are relationships, they are fun and personal – I enjoyed ‘Curious Alchemy’, a work for two couples. Dancing by Ruby Ryburn, Miguel Herrera, Hannah Thomson and Khaan Scrivens show crisp technique, plenty of exhilaration and eye contact. ‘Coloratura’ is also danced out to the audience with Diva, Rilee Scott, showing grand aplomb – would that the voice was live! The constant rearranging of groupings is a tread of spatial use that runs through the evening and also a ‘running’ motif – with elbows bent and body forward, emerged consistently in the choreography.
The opening work Storm Surge is dark and sombre, as hooded figures amorphously meander in the dim light and then build combinations, adding and subtracting couples, trios and unisons of linear body forms.. Questions about expression rise as I watch this work unfold. The hoods allow me to imagine the people who, once revealed, dispel the mystery.
Time Weaver is a pas de deux that again reinforces the extended lines and aesthetic of classical training and the impossibility of mere mortals to move like this. A stand out effervescence and passion for dancing makes first year student Joshua Douglas notable throughout and his solo Verse is crisp and compelling. He seems very vulnerable and stripped? A rethink on costume maybe? He could be in both programmes! Prior’s choreographic range covers both styles. I personally would have liked more classical vocabulary and more breadth and flow of dance but choosing to showcase a repertoire from one creative force is a unique chance to indulge in his work.
The contemporary programme is a total antithesis. Five works by five different choreographers using a wide vocabulary gives scope for individual responses to shine. Here is a more immediate interaction both between the performers and the audience. We are asked to smile, to writhe a little, to think and to wonder. Again, there are dark images and clearly these creative dance makers are in a challenging an uncomfortable world. The dancers rise to the choreographic challenges and work brilliantly in large groups. My eye is drawn constantly through the space to search for treasures of movement to discover. A compelling image in A Kind Tone (Tyler Carney- Faleatua) of dancers pushing through a crowd of bodies resonates in today’s world. Find a way to break away but come back – or not? This is a work literally shrouded in textures and ripe for discovery. Curiosity and a sense of a Greek chorus making social comment with an almost pagan sensibility, makes this a work that haunts.
The opening work of the evening State of Perpetuation (Craig Bary) takes us to a poignant and dark place where pattern emerges and retreats to a pulse close to a heartbeat. Unsettling times. Midlight (Christina Chan & Aymeric Bichon ) is a powerful and intimate duet danced by Seth Ward and Persia Thor-Poet with seamless and weighted releases and total trusting togetherness.
Holly Newsome’s Rubble is accessible and relates easily to our own realities. Inspired by a motivational clip and driven loudly and relentlessly by the sound score it makes me wonder what experience of this cliched representation these dancers can actually have had? But, the dance cleverly builds and drives them and me to a predictable conclusion. Be warned!
The final work of the two evenings by Sarah Foster-Sproull, has, at last, momentum and a sense of joy and vibrancy, as lighting rods are set and the eight dancers explode into space contained and formed literally by lights. A good idea although it is hard to see and the sense of missing out on a phrase or a magic moment, grows. This is a multi-layered work in which there is much to assimilate. There is a sense that what is happening outside the space, which our eye is directed to, might be really amazing? Or really calm? A feeling of folk dance and what has gone before imbues the rhythms, but the moment we are in is inventive and compulsive for these dancers. I find myself searching for connections between the energies, the colours and the dancers – a satisfying mission, but abandoned as the movement begs simply to be enjoyed. To the Forest,To the Island makes both essential places to be.
Thank you to The New Zealand School of Dance and the teachers and teams who make it happen. Some of these students will graduate this year and their training has been a tumultuous journey. Best wishes as you take your training and camaraderie forward in life. It is tough out there in the arts in a country that seems to have forgotten that culture is the beating heart of a country’s national identity.
Dance on, Kia kaha.
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