St James Theatre, Courtenay Place, Wellington

13/10/2023 - 13/10/2023

Production Details

Artists of the Royal New Zealand Ballet
Choreographers include Mark Baldwin and choreographer in residence Shaun James Kelly

Royal New Zealand Ballet

To mark our 70th birthday, the Royal New Zealand Ballet is delighted to present Platinum, a celebratory evening of ballet, on Friday 13 October, including excerpts from favourite works spanning 70 years.

For one night only at the St James Theatre, see the full company onstage in highlights from Flower Festival at GenzanoSwan LakeGiselle Act II, The NutcrackerThe Sleeping BeautyRomeo & JulietDon Quixote and La Sylphide, plus RNZB favourites FrENZyStand To Reason and a new work by Choreographer in Residence Shaun James Kelly inspired by Russell Kerr’s landmark ballet, Prismatic Variations.

This is a one-off performance and is not part of the RNZB’s 2023 subscription season, but current supporters, including Friends of the RNZB, and subscribers, are offered priority booking before seats go on general sale via Ticketmaster. Special prices are available for children, seniors and students. We regret that the Friends’ discount is not available for this single show.

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Artists of the Royal New Zealand Ballet
Works include: Swan Lake, Giselle Act II, The Nutcracker, The Sleeping Beauty, Romeo & Juliet, Don Quixote and La Sylphide.
Choreographers include Mark Baldwin and choreographer in residence Shaun James Kelly

Dance ,

120 mins incl intervals

Well-chosen title for this single performance

Review by Jennifer Shennan 16th Oct 2023

Platinum is a dense, malleable, ductile, highly unreactive, precious, silverish-white transition metal. It has remarkable resistance to corrosion, even at high temperatures, and is therefore considered a noble metal. It is the traditional gift used to mark the 70 year anniversary of a relationship.

That makes Platinum a well-chosen title for this single performance in the Company’s home theatre of St. James, Wellington. The 70 year legacy of this intrepid little troupe of dancers reaches back to the legendary Poul Gnatt, and equally heroic Russell Kerr and Jon Trimmer, among many others. That mantle now falls on younger shoulders to maintain the morale, health and welfare of the dancers, as of us all, for the next 70 years.  

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Scintillating, suave, saucy, debonair

Review by Lyne Pringle 16th Oct 2023

Platinum celebrates 70 years of existence for the Royal New Zealand Ballet. This auspicious event is partly a history lesson – with a compelling slide show of posters, images and video, outlining former directors, repertoire and artists – and a glistening gala presenting jewels of the ballet canon alongside distinct, to this company, contemporary repertoire.

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70 years of ballet to the length and breadth of NZ - worth celebrating.

Review by Dr Ian Lochhead 16th Oct 2023

Seventy years of bringing ballet to audiences the length and breadth of New Zealand is certainly an achievement worth celebrating.  The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Platinum programme was designed to do just that with a single gala evening at the recently strengthened and refurbished St James Theatre in Wellington.  Gala programmes can be tricky occasions to get right; it is all too easy to programme a series of bravura pas de deux that create an impression of frothing champagne but in retrospect could have been a celebration of any occasion almost anywhere.  Happily, Platinum avoided that obvious pitfall by connecting each item to an aspect of the company’s history.  

The programme opened with Moss Patterson’s Te Ao Mārama, made for the recent Lightscapes programme.  This was an opportunity for the men of the company to shine and to get the evening off to a rousing start.  It also served as a reminder that New Zealand has a tradition of indigenous dance that existed long before 1840 or, indeed, 1953, when the New Zealand Ballet was founded by that visionary from the far side of the world, Poul Gnatt.  Gnatt’s Danish dance heritage was marked by the Flower Festival in Genzano, pas de deux, choreographed by the founder of the Danish school of ballet, August Bournonville.  This was performed by Catarina Estevez-Collins and Dane Head but the performance lacked the fleetness and effervescent lightness of touch that is an essential characteristic of Bournonville’s distinctive style.  Coaching by someone steeped in the Danish style was clearly missing.

The Act Two pas de deux from The Nutcracker is regulation gala fare and Ana Gallardo Labana and Joshua Guillemont-Rodgerson’s danced it with flair.  The Nutcracker has had numerous RNZB productions over the years and I would have loved to have seen a revival of the dance of the  Mirlitons from Garry Harris’s production, performed by two hospital patients on crutches, one of the funniest dances I know.  Taken out of their normal context grand pas de deux can be difficult to imbue with the magic they possess as the culmination of a sequence of dances or as part of an evolving drama within a complete performance but in the Act Two pas de deux from Giselle that followed Sara Garbowski did just that.  The extract began with the sequence in which the corps de ballet of Willis consign the hapless Hilarion to his death, allowing the women of the company to establish the ballet’s mood and draw us into the drama.  As Giselle, Garbowski captured the essential note of the tragedy as her beautifully controlled adagio unfolded to the sound of Adam’s haunting score. Giselle has been an important ballet for the RNZB over the years, from the time of Russell Kerr’s gala season of 1965, during which the great Svetlana Beriosova danced the title role, down to the current production by Johan Kobborg and Ethan Stiefel in 2012, so it was appropriate to be reminded of this heritage with such a compelling performance.

The mood quickly became more upbeat with an extract from Mark Baldwin’s FrENZy, given a spirited rendition by Shaun James Kelly.  The first half of the programme closed in similar style with the wedding pas de deux from Don Quixote, another gala standard.  With Mayu Tanigaito as Kitri we were reminded of performances full of crackling Spanish fire in Adrian Burnett and Gary Harris’s full-length production from 2008.

Another company production, La Sylphide, was evoked by the opening number of the second half, the Act Two pas de deux for James and the elusive sylph.  The besotted James was stylishly performed by Laurynas Véjalis while Kirby Selchow was a very human and seductive sylph.  The wedding pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty provided an opportunity for Kate Kadow and Branden Reiners to shine before we were projected into the very different world of Andrea Schermoly’s  Stand to Reason, part of the 2018 season marking the 125 anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand.  Like Te Ao Mārama at the start of the evening, Stand to Reason celebrated a distinctive aspect of New Zealand culture and offered eight of the company’s women the chance to pay tribute to the courageous and visionary women who had preceded them.

A final pas de deux, this time from Act Three of Swan Lake, was performed by Mayu Tanigaitu and Laurynas Véjalis, showing off not just their dancing skills but also the sumptuous costumes designed for Russell Kerr’s 1996 production by the celebrated New Zealand designer, Kristian Fredrikson.  

The evening concluded with a true piece d’occasion, Prismatic, choreographed especially for Platinum by Shaun James Kelly.  Drawing inspiration from Poul Gnatt and Russell Kerr’s 1960 Ballet, Prismatic Variations, set to the same music, extracts from Brahms’ Variations on a theme of Haydn, and performed using Raymond Boyce’s original backcloth, this was truly an occasion of the past meeting the present and looking towards the future.  The rhythmic vitality of the score with its bubbling horns and soaring strings established the celebratory mood but anyone expecting a reconstruction of the original work for five couples would have been surprised to find the stage being progressively filled with more and more dancers until the entire company was assembled. This was a fitting climax to a generously filled evening.  On such a night we might have expected speeches from the stage by the chairman of the board or perhaps the acting or incoming artistic director, but in the event it was the dancers’ evening and they clearly enjoyed the occasion as much as the audience did.  Happy 70th birthday RNZB.


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