ROTUNDA 2015 Australasian Tour

Air Force Museum, Wigram, Christchurch

27/03/2015 - 27/03/2015

Te Papa: Soundings, Wellington

19/03/2015 - 24/03/2015

ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

23/04/2015 - 25/04/2015

Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin

01/04/2015 - 01/04/2015

Production Details

Tickets are on sale to The New Zealand Dance Company’s Australasian tour of Rotunda – a tribute to the Centenary of the WW1 ANZAC landing at Gallipoli.

A unique production that received standing ovations at every performance last year at the Holland Dance Festival, Rotunda features the beautiful collision of a live brass band with the raw power of contemporary dance. The tour, featuring the New Zealand Army Band will begin in Tauranga on March 13 and include performances in Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, before concluding its Auckland season on Anzac Day at the Aotea Centre with North Shore Brass.

The tour will then continue across the Tasman throughout May, with performances in Adelaide, Melbourne, Parramatta and Geelong.

Created by the company’s Artistic Director and Arts Laureate Shona McCullagh in collaboration with NZDC dancers and celebrated singer, songwriter and composer Don McGlashan as Musical Director, Rotunda brings to life the world of the band rotunda as an iconic symbol of New Zealand community.

“Rotunda is a living memorial that celebrates the ANZAC spirit and the themes of courage, community and loss, and ultimately, a desire for peace,” says Ms McCullagh – last year’s winner of the Arts Category at the Westpac and Fairfax Women of Influence Awards.

“The performers’ journeys go to the heart of change and crisis, where compassion and kinship are illuminated by a haunting, humourous and deeply felt score.”

“We are thrilled to be touring with the New Zealand Army Band and also reuniting with North Shore Brass for our final performances in Auckland,” says McCullagh.

The bands bring to life the rich vein of contemporary brass music from New Zealand composers Gareth Farr, John Ritchie, John Psathas and Don McGlashan, woven together with traditional hymns to conjure the emotional landscape of a seminal time in our nation’s history.

“It is an honour to be able to connect this poignant time in our history to a wide range of New Zealanders and Australians through this work,” says McCullagh.

The Rotunda production includes a transformative set by Joe Bleakley and striking costuming by Jane Holland, resonating with contemporary culture where conflict, both political and personal, continue to challenge us. Renowned for its earthiness, physicality, rhythm and expression this unmistakably New Zealand choreography integrates shadow play, mace twirling, a 24 piece marching band, and a fusion of waiata with dynamic contemporary dance theatre. 

The music is performed by The NZ Army Band in Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Dunedin, and North Shore Brass in Auckland. The score consists of contemporary brass music from New Zealand composers Gareth Farr, John Ritchie and Don McGlashan. Traditional hymns are woven into this stunning score to conjure the emotional landscape of a seminal time in our nation’s history. The following musical works are performed during Rotunda.

  • Flourish For An Occasion by John Ritchie
  • Invercargill by Alex Lithgow
  • Invercargill Deconstructed by Alex Lithgow, arr. Don McGlashan
  • Tawhirimatea* by Gareth Farr (recorded by the National Youth Band of New Zealand, conducted by Nigel Weeks)
  • Coventry Carol by Trad, arr. Don McGlashan
  • E Pari Ra (sung) by Paraire Tomoana, arr. Don McGlashan
  • Jerusalem by William Blake/Hubert Parry, arr. Don McGlashan
  • Threnody by John Ritchie
  • Flourish Homecoming by John Ritchie, arr. Don McGlashan
  • Colne by Thomas Rive
  • Nimrod, from Enigma Variations by Edward Elgar, arr. Denis Wright
  • Chorale Prelude #1 by Johannes Brahms

All other incidental music by Don McGlashan. *    Sound Recording: Brass Aotearoa: National Youth Brass Band of New Zealand (MMT2049) © & 2003 HRL Morrison Music Trust. Work: Tawhirimatea (2002) by Gareth Farr © 2002 Promethean Editions Limited. The music of Gareth Farr is published exclusively by Promethean Editions Ltd.



CONCESSION Seniors 65+, Community & Industry cardholders, Unwaged, Children under 14yrs.




CONCESSION Seniors 65+, Community & Industry cardholders, Unwaged, Children under 14yrs.




CONCESSION Seniors 65+, Community & Industry cardholders, Unwaged, Children under 14yrs.




Running Time:90 minutes


Armed Forces discount

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Baycourt Community & Arts Centre Friday 13 March, 7.30pm
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Soundings Theatre, Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
Thursday 19 March, 7.30pm
Friday 20 March, 7.30pm
Saturday 21 March, 7.30pm
Sunday 22 March, 3pm
Tuesday 24 March, 10am
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Airforce Museum of New Zealand
Friday 27 March, 7.30pm
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Regent Theatre
Wednesday 01 April, 7.30pm
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ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre
Thursday 23 April, 7.30pm
Friday 24 April, 7.30pm
Saturday 25 April, 3pm
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Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide Festival Centre
Friday 1 May, 7.30pm
Saturday 2 May, 2pm & 7.30pm
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The Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne
Thursday 7 May, 8pm
Friday 8 May, 8pm
Saturday 9 May, 2pm & 8pm
Tickets on sale soon

Riverside Theatre, Parramatta
Wednesday 13 May, 8pm
Thursday 14 May, 8pm
Friday 15 May, 8pm
Saturday 16 May, 2pm & 8pm
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The Playhouse Theatre, Geelong Performing Arts Centre
Thursday 21 May, 8pm
Friday 22 May, 8pm
Saturday 23 May, 1pm
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Tupua Tigafua
Carl Tolentino
Hannah Tasker-Poland
Lucy Lynch
Gareth Okan
Chrissy Kokiri
Katie Rudd
Chris Ofanoa

SSGT Phillip Johnston
Marc Taddei

NZ Army Band
North Shore Brass

Don McGlashan
John Ritchie
John Psathas
Edward Elgar
Johannes Brahms
Gareth Farr
Alex Lithgow

Set Design
Joe Bleakley

Costume Design
Jane Holland

Lighting Design
Paul O’Brien

Michelanne Forster

Production Manager
Paul O’Brien

Dance-theatre , Dance ,

Striking elements

Review by Georgia Davenport 04th Apr 2015

I don’t think there is anything new I can say about Rotunda that hasn’t already been said in previous reviews. Rotunda makes good use of some striking technical elements, in particular silk hangings which float above the stage to be blown by huge fans as if they are dancing in the wind.  Images are also projected onto them to simulate the war. These bright, fast flashing images serve well to disorientate the audience and represent the horror the soldiers of the First World War must have experienced in the trenches.

The opening vignette is a beautiful and moving piece, with a Soldier chasing after fallen silk, attempting to catch it, but it is always just out of reach. This feels like a metaphor for him trying to reclaim his pre-war life, a struggle many veterans face after experiencing the horrors of war. Many of the vignettes that follow lack the emotional quality of this opening example. The most haunting sequence is the duet between a solider and his fallen comrade, the former, hauling his friend’s body around the stage, struggling to come to terms with his friend’s death: this brings tears to my eyes.

The entrance of the big band is a superb moment. There is always something magical about watching a live brass band, with their instruments shining, marching perfectly in time, their music engulfing all around them. There is, in my opinion, nothing better than live music at a dance show. It brings a new dynamic to the performance, challenging the dancers with the slight changes of every performance. The company members meet this challenge well, working flawlessly with the band.

The only other moment that comes close to the emotional impact of these sections is when the women start their karanga backstage. While a powerful moment, I feel that this would have had a stronger impact  if they had started on stage, or even continued their karanga in the view of the audience, rather than finishing offstage and then entering the stage to dance.

Overall, Rotunda feels like it is trying to achieve too much. Sections of the show feel as if they are trying to achieve a point, one which is never made clear to us in the audience, leaving the over-all show feeling disjointed and unfinished.  


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Very touching

Review by Sheree Bright 29th Mar 2015

Rotunda is a creative collaboration by the NZDC’s Artistic Director and Arts Laureate Shona McCullagh with the accomplished dancers and New Zealand composers Gareth Farr, John Ritchie, John Psathas and Don McGlashan as Musical Director. The world-renown NZ Army Band, a 24 piece marching brass band, perform a soundtrack combining contemporary brass music and soundscore with traditional hymns. This highly entertaining show has seamless transitions through a variety of musical and contemporary dancing styles.

The Air Force Museum, with its large aircraft installations provides an engaging and interesting venue for Rotunda. Taking a show like this on the road is not easy. The time to set everything up and get the audience into their seats presents a different challenge at each subsequent venue. Visibility for this performance is partially obstructed for most of the audience members, as the seating is all on one level. Many of the excellent contemporary low level movements are missed. I was fortunate to be in the second row, and I review the content of the show from that perspective.

As a dancer enters, his focus is on a long gently waving red banner, which hangs from the ceiling to the floor of the stage. On it are projected the names of the fallen. A circle of fans forms a rotunda-like space. A lone drummer enters as the names on the banner disappear. The banner is now white and drifts towards the floor, but the fans come on and they seem to magically float the banner within the circle in an exquisite spiralling and flowing dance of the material, the ethereal dance of souls. With this mesmerising beginning, we are immersed in the multi-faceted production that is Rotunda.

With a vibrant sound, the Brass Band enters from behind the audience marching down the centre aisle and onto the stage. They perform circular and angular formations with crisp precision demonstrating the skills for which they are internationally renowned. The drum major twirling and tossing the mace (a long and elaborate baton) conveys marching signals for the bands intricate drill maneuvers. They move to their chairs along the back of the stage where there is also a full array of percussion instruments.

There is a dazzling duet with percussionist Cameron Lee and dancer Chris Ofanoa. The crisp strokes and rolls of the drumming techniques are emulated and echoed by the intricate reverberations rolling through the dancer’s body. This section is one of several that brings a light humour to the piece.

Four young male dancers have a play with the possibilities of the mace, tossing it like a game of ‘hot-potato’ or using it like a controlling magic wand. Shooting-games invariably ensue. These are the young men before they go to war, excited or infatuated with the prospect of adventure and the new instruments of war. The scene changes with the haunting sound of breath or wind. The winds of war are stirring.

Female dancers begin a lyrical dance to a brass composition. The pace quickens with all dancers showing their versatility in a variety of leaps and rolls. An ominous change in the music brings lifts and partnering with a more vigorous intensity. Running and jumping with beautiful, spiralling air turns demonstrate the athleticism for which NZ dancers are known.

Dancer Chrissy Kokiri beautifully sings a moving waiata poroporoaki, afarewell to a loved one who has died, composed by Paraire Tomoana in 1918. As she walks downstage, other dancers and musicians gradually join in her song. There are brass instruments positioned upright on the floor, which seem simultaneously to represent the body without breath and the gravestones of the fallen. The vocals turn into cries and wails of the women.

 Several cloth screens lower in various positions. Moving shadowy images of the dancers are alternated with images projected on the screens. The images, flashes of light and the cacophony of sounds, some reverberating in my chest, represent the ferocity, chaos and destruction of war.

The screens drop to the floor and two men are left on stage. One has fallen victim. A creative, superbly executed and deeply moving duet emerges as one soldier, Tipua Tigafua, tries to get his lifeless buddy, Christopher Ofanoa, back to life, struggling with the reality that his pal is gone. (This segment stands as a stunning testament to the creative uses of Michael Parmenter’s Piloting technique). Finally, he realises his efforts can’t bring him back, and he says, broken-hearted, “I’m sorry.” The women wail and perform movements that sensitively depict the gut wrenching experience this has become. My friend sighs and whispers, “Very touching.”

As the mood changes, the brass band plays an old contemplative anthem. Gareth Okan goes upside down in a shoulder stand; it is a backwards and upside down world. He has lost his mind. Hannah Tasker-Poland tries desperately to bring him back to her. Forsythe’s ‘line extrusion’ technique is used here to enhance the depth of meaning. When broken-hearted by the trauma of the loss of her beloved, she slowly, movingly draws out an imaginary line from her heart. Rotunda significantly and beautifully expresses the voices of the women of war, the uncertainty of separation, the unbearable worry, longing, loss and the optimistic determination of recovery.

I ponder how powerful the presence of quality musicians on stage is for the dancers, how it helps to drive the momentum. I’m sure the musicians feel a similar appreciation of the dancers. The brilliance of collaboration is when the combined effort is more than the sum of its parts. Rotunda is brilliant!

I recently caught a poem written by a soldier on the program Foyles War which poignantly describes some of the feelings Rotunda expresses. “They’ve sounded the last ‘All Clear’ and told us, those of us who made it here, that very soon we’ll hold once more those things that we held dear. Yet nothing’s clear to me. I gaze from darkness to a summer haze and, though they part, the clouds of war lead only to uncertain days.”

After war, men and women had to find the courage to put the pieces of their life together, to rebuild and to move forward. Sadly, for many, the compassion of others needed to provide fertile ground for this healing was either not available, or not enough as the wounds went far too deep. For others, the courage needed to rebuild their lives made them stronger and wiser.

Rotunda highlights how the enormity of war has a profound effect on the people of its time and on future generations. We all live with the ripples of war. I admire Rotunda’s talented creators and excellent performers who chose to honour this worthy project. The powerful and engaging performance ends with a standing ovation. The theme of courage will always be relevant.  


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Metaphoric frame

Review by Dr Ian Lochhead 29th Mar 2015

Band rotundas are a feature of many of our cities and small towns, ghostly shrines to lost music that hangs in the air.  They provide the metaphoric frame for Shona McCullagh’s work, an improbable and unprecedented collaboration between the New Zealand Dance Company and New Zealand Army Band.  The band’s military precision and musicianship finds a perfect foil in the dancers’ passionate physicality and immaculate technique.  The production opens as a lone dancer enters the darkened stage and a banner, inscribed with the names of the fallen, dissolves into a wraith of fabric that dances in the air with a life of its own, the fragility of memory, the evanescence of life, and an expiring breath captured in a moment of magic.  The band marches into the auditorium and we thrill to the sight and sound, understanding in a moment why young men are drawn to war.  Four male dancers appropriate the drum major’s mace and it becomes the spear, sword, rifle and taiaha of boyhood games, passed from hand to hand, spinning through the air in a heart-stopping, high-risk display.  Preening and competitive; war as an extension of play.

The mood darkens as real conflict looms; the women of the company are mothers, wives, sweethearts, left behind.  Wearing simple red dresses with broad black belts, they become grief stricken mourners but also poppies in the battlefield, waving in the wind.  The horror of battle is conveyed with visceral intensity through projected images and tortured, silhouetted bodies, set against a soundscape of deafening intensity.  A moving duo between a living and a dead soldier follows this mayhem, the peace and serenity of the victim contrasting with the anguish and guilt of the survivor.

The final tableau, danced to Elgar’s ‘Nimrod’ variation, is of almost unbearable poignancy, but as the dancers take their bows the band strikes up jazzy ‘twenties rhythms, relieving the tension but also reminding us that the lessons of war are soon forgotten. 

Rotunda is a remarkable feat of artistic collaboration to which the music of John Ritchie, Gareth Farr, and Don McGlashan adds depth and resonance.  In this Gallipoli centennial year we are unlikely to experience a more profound or deeply moving meditation on the capacity of war to shape and shatter lives across generations.  Friday night’s enthusiastic audience were privileged to share in a defining moment in the history of New Zealand dance.


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Rotunda: Superb salute to courageous Anzacs

Review by Ann Hunt 23rd Mar 2015

In World War I, 18,166 New Zealanders died. Rotunda is a most powerful and moving evocation of the loss of life and devastation caused by this war.

It is the first full-length work for the New Zealand Dance Company by director Shona McCullagh and is choreographed by her, the company dancers and Staff Sergeant Tristan Mitchell for the New Zealand Army Band.

Integral to the work’s success and emotional resonance is the music played live by this band, conducted with great vigour by Staff Sergeant Phillip Johnston. The arrival of the band marching down the theatre aisles to the stage was very affecting, evoking so many departures and arrivals.

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Searching for an identity

Review by Lyne Pringle 20th Mar 2015

Rotunda is a work searching for an identity, and this makes us feel uneasy. At first there is a sense that is is something new, when sinuous fabric dances magically in the air and the names of those who fell in WWI float into the ether while the ghost of a soldier lost lays his troubles to rest. We are invigorated by the awesome power of the New Zealand Army Band parading onto the stage, instruments blasting, to deliver some fine choreography, the light bouncing off their shiny shoes whilst they keep playing. There is fun to be had and tricky moves to be made with the Drum Major’s mace. Four boys/men play at war with childish gags and guns made from fingers before the theatrical gravitas arrives and the verisimilitude of war is play acted. Elegant women, all dressed exactly the same in poppy dresses, cavort with the soldier boys, and it seems as If we are watching a village enact a ritual of the loss of innocence.

But the problem is, nothing feels real, and as the work progresses we are asked to wade through clichés. It pushes and it pushes, it never settles into itself. Design elements come thick and fast, objects are manipulated, new idea, new idea, this style of movement then that style of movement. Drummer on, drummer off. Guys on stage dead one moment alive the next.  In amongst all this, where is a new perspective on an utterly senseless war?

There are many conscious access points to the material, and around me the audience chuckles and weeps. All the right buttons are pressed, but to what end?

Whilst we can respect the admirable intentions of Rotunda – to honour the dead, to not forget, to uphold the ANZAC promise to be a recognised force in the world from here on inat the creative heart of the work is a big empty space – despite smoke and mirrors and chiffon and brass instruments and a good deal of sweat on the part of the dancers.

Should it settle on being an abstract choreographic investigation of some damn fine brass music, or is it a narrative? or is it a series of vignettes and images?

Shona McCullagh has a sophisticated and at times highly satisfying musicality, and there are many moments where the aural and the visual form a very fine synergy. A developed sense of choreographic craft is at play in the way the dancers are moved in the space, but the vocabulary is multifarious.  There is no central somatic logic – it is a grab bag of influences. Consequently, the dancers ultimately seem ill at ease and striving outside of themselves to fulfil the material. Even though they give us their hearts and work and work we are not really allowed into their individuality and their real passions.

The days are long gone for generic dancers doing modernist movement that is simply about stylish pictures in space. Where is the opportunity for real authorship in the work for these fine performers and dancers? That said there are memorable moments such as the skill in the mace scene from the men, the waiata sung with incredible breath control by Chrissy Kokiri, the strength in the scene where Tupua Tigafua moves a lifeless Christopher Ofanoa, the tenderness and choreographic invention in the returning-home duet between Hannah Tasker-Poland and Gareth Okan, and the women’s quartet to Elgar which leads to the entire company moving with liquid grace.

At one point a curdling karanga comes from the women in the wings. It emanates from their guts – then they come out on stage immediately after and dance self-contained beautiful movements. I wanted to see them onstage making these sounds then see how this affects their bodies and let the movement come from there. Perhaps then we would seethe bones of the work, the blood and guts of the choreography.

The New Zealand Dance Company glides, jumps, torques and twists their way through a highly demanding 70 minutes with a focus and commitment that cannot be faulted. Whether the lack of settling into the work comes from, what I imagine to be, a very intense pack-in,  or whether it is because the dancers need to constantly monitor where they are in the marathon of the performance, is unclear. Possibly this will settle on the second or third night performing in this venue. Possibly it will continue to shake down as the tour progresses. Possibly they just need permission to relax into being themselves.

The dancers end up serving the weight of expectations from the concept, funders, design elements and musical power, rather than these elements both on and off stage supporting them in their communication with the audience.  

It would have been interesting to see this work in its original setting in the round, and with the band more integrated into the onstage action.

Much of the music, drawn from splendid New Zealand composers, has nothing to do with war, but they are exceptional pieces in themselves. At times I wanted less emphatic activity on the stage so that I could absorb this aspect more fully.  It is a great pleasure to be immersed in the world of brass music, and the New Zealand Army Band is a fine group of musicians – it really is a fertile and wonderful collaboration. Gareth Farr’s Tawhirimatea is an emphatic whirl of energy, and John Ritchie’s Threnody is achingly beautiful.

Paying homage to an historic and catastrophic event, Rotunda is a behemoth that groans under the weight of its own ambitions, and an epic work to tour, with complex production logistics that do not give an adequate pay-off for the set-up involved.

For all the hype, for all the branding, for all that has been invested in this company, for all the talent on show, despite the very best efforts and artistry of the musicians and the dancers, and the creative team, this is a frustrating evening.

The work needs to calm itself, stop trying to BE this ‘amazing thing’ and find its still, meaningful centre.


Jo Hilder March 24th, 2015

hear, hear, Lyne.  Couldn't put my finger on it but agree that there was something lacking in this show which was fine in so many ways and had many very good parts to it.

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