ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

25/04/2009 - 26/04/2009

St James Theatre 2, Wellington

21/04/2009 - 22/04/2009

Production Details

Push – Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant
"When Geniuses collide sparks fly…" DAILY TELEGRAPH, UK  

Having performed to wide acclaim in over 24 cities around the world, including London, Paris, Venice, Madrid and New York, and garnered a string of five-star reviews, PUSH comes to the Aotea Centre, THE EDGE® Auckland and the  St James Theatre, Wellington.

In PUSH, the legendary French dancer Sylvie Guillem, widely regarded as the most "brilliant ballerina of her generation" (The Guardian), is joined on stage by one of the UK’s most acclaimed dance artists, Russell Maliphant. "A choreographer of persistent accomplishment and a performer of enduring fascination … mesmerising." (The Times)
PUSH combines the abilities of this extraordinary partnership and together they create a performance that can only be described as riveting. "It’s a pairing made in Heaven." *****The Times

This enthralling programme features the following four works:
PUSH – This glamorous duet caused a sensation when it premiered at Sadler’s Wells in London. PUSH brings into play all the qualities Maliphant’s work is famous for – its hypnotic beauty, its serene strength – while Guillem gives one of the most extraordinary performances of her career.
Solo is performed to the Spanish guitar music of Carlos Montoya; Guillem winds herself around the language, brimming with undulating arms, beautiful barefoot ballet feet and a breathtaking sense of line.
The evening is completed by Shift, Maliphant’s signature solo, a virtual duet between Russell Maliphant the dancer and the ingenious lighting of Michael Hulls, and the powerful driving solo, Two, performed by Guillem, and one of Maliphant’s most dazzling and original creations.
The four pieces are complemented by lighting designed by Maliphant’s long-time collaborator Michael Hulls, reflecting the flow and energy between movement and light.
"…comes as close to perfection as dance can. …it lingers in the mind long after the curtain has fallen. …dance you want to watch forever." The Telegraph
Since its debut in 2005, PUSH has received four major awards: an Olivier Award, a Time Out Award, Best Choreography (Modern) at the National Dance Awards and the South Bank Show Dance Award.
PUSH is produced by Sadler’s Wells in collaboration with Russell Maliphant and Sylvie Guillem and was commissioned by Sadler’s Wells Theatre, London. World Premiere: Friday 30 September 2005 at Sadler’s Wells.

PUSH plays in Wellington:
St James Theatre
Tuesday 21 April
Wednesday 22 April

Doors open: 7.30pm Show Starts: 8pm
Premium  $96.50
A Reserve  $86.50
B Reserve  $76.50
C Reserve  $51.50
Group prices apply to groups of 8 or more
*Ticketek Service Fees Apply
Tickets available through TIcketek

PUSH plays in Auckland:
ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre THE EDGE®
Saturday 25 April 7.30pm
Sunday 26 April 7.30pm
Premium Elite $125 Opening Night Only  SOLD OUT 
Premium  $99.00*
A Reserve  $89.00*
B Reserve  $69.00*
C Reserve  $55.00*

*Service Fees will apply
*Telephone Bookings
09 357 3355 or 0800 BUY TICKETS  
(0800 289842)   

Repertoire Credits


Choreography:  Russell Maliphant
Lighting Design:  Michael Hulls
Music:  Carlos Montoya
Sound Designer:  Andy Cowton
Costume Realisation:  Ha Van-Volika

Performed by:  Sylvie Guillem

Running Time: 8 minutes

Solo was commissioned by Sadler's Wells Theatre, London
World Premiere: Friday 30 September 2005 at Sadler's Wells
Music used by kind permission of the Carlos Montoya Trust


Choreography:  Russell Maliphant

Lighting Design:  Michael Hulls

Music:  Shirley Thompson

Performed by:  Russell Maliphant

Running Time: 12 minutes

Shift was originally commissioned by Dance 4, Nottingham and DanceXchange, Birmingham


Choreography:  Russell Maliphant
Lighting Design:  Michael Hulls
Music:  Andy Cowton

Performed by:  Sylvie Guillem

Running Time: 10 minutes

Two was originally commissioned by the Dance Umbrella Festival, London


Choreography:  Russell Maliphant
Lighting Design:  Michael Hulls
Music:  Andy Cowton
Vocals:  Barbara Gellhorn
Costume Realisation:  Sasha Keir

Performed by:  Sylvie Guillem and Russell Maliphant

Running Time: 32 minutes

Push was commissioned by Sadler's Wells Theatre, London
World Premiere: Friday 30 September 2005 at Sadler's Wells

1hr 30 mins, incl interval

Hypnotic, beautiful performance transforms stage

Review by Bernadette Rae 27th Apr 2009

That Sylvie Guillem inhabits the perfect body for dance is a given. She is slender, so that her exposed back is a contour map of exquisite musculature, but never gaunt. She is strong, so she leaps light as a gazelle, time and again, man-high, settling on her partner’s shoulders effortlessly with only the help of his one outstretched hand. She is freakishly but wondrously, meltingly mobile.

We already knew that she was, and at 44 years of age could still be, the star of stars in all the firmaments of classical ballet. We had heard of her firm and feisty defence of her own artistic freedom in both that and the contemporary dance worlds. [More]
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Shared heart, passion, grace, generosity …

Review by Jack Gray 26th Apr 2009

A single low light on a lowered rig encases a statuesque body; an angel in white chiffon. Frenchwoman Sylvie Guillem, the worlds most famous ‘ballerina’ (today) cuts her recognisably distinctive figure with her trademark copper shot hair. It is a much anticipated glimpse of a real life goddess.

SOLO is a 10 minute choreography by Russell Maliphant to music by Carlos Montoya. The dance emerges effortlessly out of her as if she herself is an instrument playing music; fire and shadows, flamenco guitar, impossibly long arms that sweep and rise and float, moments of staccato, soft shoulders, flick and spirals, silk tasselling elbows.

The lighting casts her in a veiled silhouette, her lithe body imprinted beneath her dress. Her movement has the effect of being like burning candle, leaving streaks of white light across the retina. Each nuance, sense and phrase of the music is accented and captured in the grasp of this marvellous artisan. Soft and effortless, her arms move like jellyfish tentacles, in spurts and falls of energy. A whirl of excitement ripples through the audience as she bows and the curtain goes down.

We ready ourselves expectantly for Russell Maliphants entrance in SHIFT, a 12 minute solo. He walks onstage to start in a blue light. A languid cello plays. It is already enough, as we eagerly settle into the work and able hands (body) of a master. Dressed in pure white, Maliphant’s silhouette is cast bigger than himself like a Buddha statue. His dance has a simplicity and assuredness that defines an essence of understated masculinity. Folding, turning and standing, his strong presence imbues and fills the work.

As the work progresses and he shifts across the stage, other ‘silhouettes’ appear and disappear to create trios/quartets of different armed men. Twisting, extending, shoulder, chin initiations, spiral pathways and folds, exemplifies Maliphant’s steady and grounded dance-making perspective.

This solo is a serene surrender to the sweetest strings (music by Shirley Thompson). It casts an impression about the path of people who come and flow into our life. At other times, the work contemplates walking into layers of oneself. The full stop at the end of this poem is Maliphant, alone, in front of a panel as he reaches up into a final (but not finite) closing prayer.

The first half is rounded off by another Guillem solo – also made by Maliphant – entitled TWO (8 minutes). Again, silhouetted in stark light like a vertical blind, we see the top of her red hair, nose and a body dripping in black. The first sound (music by Andy Cowton) is like a sonar, dropping through deep space (or underwater), to which her arms, shoulders and back catches and articulates. It is absolutely mesmerising.

Guillem’s soft joints, float, spar, encapsulate space with martial artist precision. This Shiva-like being releases space, curls her hand, extends from herself in controlled and isolated ways. Bathing in sensuousness, the pace changes with a powerful beat and the build of a pulse. We see a repetition of angles, movements that catch the edges of the light and burn her fingers. Her arms splay like moths, creating optical illusions of circling and spinning in a trance-like state. The end is a flash that she stops and gets caught in – and so do we. A gasp of surprise.  

The second half of the programme is the consummation of these two dance heavyweights. PUSH, the duet (30 minutes) began with the image of Maliphant with Guillem atop his shoulders, walking backwards into a line of white light. Set to the drama of ‘oriental’ sounding vocals (Barbara Gelhorn) and unfurling to an oboe (score by Andy Cowton), the couple set a tone that is ethereal, otherworldly and sacred. The light fades to black over several progressions and re-meetings between the two.

Guillem, leans away on his shoulders, then is cradled. The next phase she is perched precariously like a spindle filament in a mechanism. Another time, she crawls up his body, softens and folds origami like into like a swan then a crane on his back, to the sound of epic strings. Effortlessly controlled partnering throughout, Maliphant flips her into an upside down crucifix worn like a weight on his back. The crosses we bear.

As the work opens up across the stage, their movements show us a connection between a man and a woman at a level boiled down to its purity. Strong yet lyrical, advancing yet retreating, leading yet following, holding yet pushing, the dancers share weight and emotion with their whole bodies.

Danced as if on delicate tenterhooks, the partnering is so slick you barely see it. Seamless transitions that set up into spectacular and acrobatic lifts show their remarkable polish. Their ages, Guillem (44) and Maliphant (47) defy anyone’s physical expectations. While they work within their movement range that is both wide and virtuoso (yet comfortable for them) their maturity can be seen in how they take their time to luxuriate in it’s suspension. This duet explores the undercurrents of tension between two, mediating on the push and pull of life and love.

Finally the work winds its way to a repetition of images, this time their movement menagerie of togetherness expressed slower and more fulfilled. The last picture was Guillem atop like an angel again, as Maliphant sways and falters under the weight of their united cosmos.

Aside from the two incredible dancers, special mention must also be made to the huge and equally important contribution made to show by longtime Maliphant collaborator and lighting designer Michael Hulls.

I have never ever seen a New Zealand audience give the kind of standing ovation and triple curtain call these two living legends received. It was joyous, triumphant and exorcising on so many levels.

The power of dance to draw people in, hold them there to uplift and inspire them has an indefinable quality, which easily sorts the best from the rest. Many great past and present New Zealand dance practitioners were in the audience and had an unmasked glee and visceral recognition that was simply a pleasure to observe.

The context of this work as a European dance theatre performance translated effectively here on a universal level, beyond culture, stereotypes and identity and bound us all through shared commonalities of heart, passion, grace, generosity and full expression of one’s art. 
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Celine Sumic April 27th, 2009

PUSH.. a strange duet, that gives a man leave to think -
Begun fittingly, much as a conservatively classical work might well end (with woman raised on man's shoulder in heroic, mythopoetic pose) - but where is she to go from such a height, I wonder in the opening moments, but down? This point reiterated in time lapse-like repeats, Guillem's (meta)physical descent from her balletic climes opens, opens, opens - and reopens - this ethereally detached work. 
Falling into present time, Maliphant appears to me a quiet man; a choreographer of men - so what is he doing now, with Guillem - and she in turn, with him? 
It seems odd, reading other various interpretations of this dance as a work of sensual intimacy, as in my experience, intimacy and warmth are notably absent in this cool and gracefully articulate play on relational form.  Rather, PUSH appears to me an unfolding of mathematical nuance - a garden of questions, falling from an eternally deferring tree.  
What dream is here but the collapse of the figurative patriarchal scaffold, under yet returning efforts to mutually regain a well trodden but ultimately crumbling ground?  A dance of myopic, meditative circularity, I found PUSH a powerfully quiet work of (masculine) resistance.  As if to say; so we are falling, inevitably, this paradigm is over; but how many ways to put ourselves together apart?  How many ways to start?

Michele ACourt April 26th, 2009

What a beautiful review. How wonderful to read a piece that is as lyrical and satisfying as the dance itself,  a review that illuminated and added to the joy of being at the theatre. My daughter and I have just come home from the Sunday night show in Auckland and we're still discussing it, re-telling our favourite bits, explaining to the people who didn't see it why it was so special and so moving. Your review has filled in our inarticulate gaps. A review, at its very best,  is written with the same skill, passion and understanding as the thing it describes. This did it.

Juliet Shelley April 26th, 2009

Thank you Jack for this wonderful review. Reading it brought back the precious memories of watching PUSH in Wellington on Wednesday April 22nd. I found it really hard to leave the theatre afterwards.
Watching these two artists perform their work, especially in their duet, was the most sublime experience of my life as an audience member. Your words have reminded and rebodied me of that experience and for that I am very grateful.  Aucklanders you are so lucky to have the opportunity to see these artists perform again tonight. Please do not miss them.

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Mesmerising dance a lighting delight

Review by Jennifer Shennan 22nd Apr 2009

Infinity lies in both directions. Russell Maliphant’s centripetal, earthed choreography and Sylvie Guillem’s centrifugal airlifted dancing made a sublime performance of great grace and apparent ease that a spellbound audience will not easily forget. Michael Hull’s remarkable lighting is a part of the equation.

All the phenomenal technique involved in such sophisticated dancing is masked, denied even, in a calm, thoughtful, breathing, balanced way of moving. It resembles tai chi, yet evokes a soaring gannet, the pause of a stalking tiger, but beware the flash of a striking paw. The total security in which these two artists know each other’s moves gives a sense of naturalness belying the intense concentration required.

In the opening Solo, Sylvie Guillem in a silk pyjama that softened the incisiveness of her movement, danced to Carlos Montoya’s guitar, a farucca, inwardly focused, then a seguidillas of knee spin spirals. The flamenco rhythms proved all the subtitles we needed.

Shift was an inspired solo, to cello, in which Maliphant moved calmly from one sculptural position to another. Every frame was caught by Hull’s lighting that gave shadows on the back wall as heroic companions, both mirror and window, to this man’s intriguing choreographic imagination.

In another solo, Two, Guillem danced a powerful percussive journey into a dramatic unknown place. Her angled tilted body, windmill of leg rounds, length of arm line, cut back into angles at the elbow, and striking black backstrapped costume were mesmerizing. The lighting gave a watery blur to the occasional flashes of whirring limbs. A filter of tears perhaps.

The extended duo, Push, is the work Guillem invited Maliphant to make for her , so he made it for them both – lyric poetry, epic strength, choreographed architecture by turns. The recurring motif of locked arms, allowing each a backward lean outside gravity’s realm, became metaphor of a remarkable relationship. He carried, she climbed, they danced. Not as voyeurs, we saw candlelit lovemaking, reminiscent of the beautiful labyrinth that human sexuality promises.

Nobody coughed, nobody sneezed, nobody breathed, everybody was there.
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Fortuitous symbiosis generates a quiet revolution

Review by Lyne Pringle 22nd Apr 2009

In a sped up world this evening of dance offers us a vital reminder of the gentle but purposeful passing of time; a meditation of and on the body – elegant, controlled, beautiful. Everyone needs to see it!

There are many partnerships at play: between dancers, choreography and capability; dancers and light; dancers and music; dancers and space; and all of these elements and the audience – us.

Russell Maliphant and Sylvie Guillem have found each other at this point in time. The meeting of their considerable talents means there is an artistic vehicle that allows them to meet us in the St James Theatre, Wellington. Without Maliphant’s choreography would Guillem’s contemporary dance career have taken flight? Without Guillem’s star status spotlight would we be seeing Maliphant’s choreography? This is fortuitous symbiosis.

Fresh from a season of Eongatta (a collaboration with Robert Le Page) at the Sadlers Wells the corporeal affinity between them is palpable.

It easy to get blinded by Guillem’s stunning facility and aura – I am an unabashed fascinated fan and it blows me away to sit just a few metres away from this goddess of the sublime watching her dance – but the quiet and generous spirit of Maliphant’s choreography and performance that underpins everything we experience is a new revelation.

In the chapel of movement that the theatre becomes, lighting designer Michael Hulls, long time Maliphant collaborator, is the high priest of illumination.

From the beginning when Guillem’s exquisite silhouette shimmers in a see through costume with lights boldly hanging close to her head, the visual landscape is masterfully shaped by his genius.

In Solo Guillem twists and writhes to flamenco music by Carlos Montoya as we are introduced to the Maliphant milieu of sensuous torso movement, startling leg flicks and spiralling knee drops – a combination of classical movements peppered with capoeira, tai chi, release technique and yogic stillness – segues between phrases are a simple walk to upstage centre which cleanses the visual pallet before the next flurry of gorgeousness.

Shift, a solo by Maliphant, follows and the pensive pace of the evening is deepened.

This is not flashy movement this is contained weighty, real explorations of flow energy and light with elegiac music by Shirley Thompson.  Front floor lights create shadows on the cyclorama as Maliphant moves slowly and with deliberate intent as if reflecting on multiple representations of self. Although beautiful I found myself drifting out of this work towards the end.

Guillem’s upper torso features in Two, the lights find her close to the front of the stage in praying mantis contortions that build into a frenzy of blurred and whipping arms as she remains caught in a tight pool of light that accentuates the tone of her back and arms. Again we drink at the divine fountain of her body. This work is less satisfying choreographically and driven too much by Andy Cowton’s music but nevertheless engaging.

Finally these two consummate artists inhabit the stage together in Push – an extended 32 minute duet. Throughout the eye is drawn to Guillem but again the partnering skills of Maliphant are absolutely at the heart of this focussed, refined and deeply satisfying dance. Perched on top of Maliphant’s shoulders bathed in golden light Guillem softly descends like a snowflake – this motif is repeated several times with satisfying variations.

Music by Andy Cowton enhances the sense of suspension and expectation.

Earthbound they dance, two figures in movement prayer in a hushed space. Down cast eyes in a quiet contemplative minuet of the soul that manifests the intricacies of intimacy between male and female. There is balance and counterbalance as they push each other through repeating patterns, wringing out the juice in complex phrases and replaying them at different angles for us to see more deeply into the choreographic structures. Some startling leaps from Guillem onto Maliphant’s shoulders add the spice of danger to this relationship.

Yes Guillem is lifted over and over again – displayed as an object of supreme beauty but the nuances in the choreography and the moments of her supporting Maliphant take us beyond the conventional and overused male female duet form. We can drink in her strength too- at one point she supports Maliphant’s full weight on her shoulders – as well as his vulnerability.

The hug they give each other in the curtain call says it all.

The fact that this kind of dance is reaching new large audiences is a quiet revolution.

I am left feeling incredibly grateful for the generosity of the artists in this project – particularly Sylvie Guillem who continues to challenge herself and the conventions of her dance realm. It is a great privilege to experience this incredible artist on a New Zealand stage once again.

I leave satiated.
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