Sacre: The Auckland Dance Project

Aotea Centre at THE EDGE®, Auckland

14/10/2011 - 14/10/2011

The Real New Zealand Festival

Production Details

Riot of Spring 

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra presents a monumental new contemporary dance performance of Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring.

Directed by award-winning English choreographer and Artistic DirectorRoyston Maldoom, and conducted by APO Music Director Eckehard Stier, Sacre celebrates youth and showcases the diversity of cultures in Auckland.  

A gala event of the REAL New Zealand Festival, and a first for New Zealand, the project involves more than 160 young Aucklanders working with choreographer and artistic director Royston Maldoom, sought after for his large-scale works with young people around the world.

This stunning performance will have all the excitement of the original performances of Stravinsky’s sensational ballet but a uniquely South Pacific flavour, with artistic support from leading New Zealand choreographers, Ann Dewey (Spinning Sun), Moss Patterson (Atamira Dance Company), and Taiaroa Royal (Okareka Dance Company).


Pupils from Kristin School, Mt Albert Grammar School, Tangaroa College, Hay Park Primary School, New Lynn Primary School, Pakuranga Intermediate School, plus first year dance students from Auckland University will be taking part.

Vanda Karolczak will handle the impressive lighting design, and costumes designed by Marama Lloydd, the co-owner of MOA, will give the performance a uniquely New Zealand flavour.


Plus kapa haka performances and Part 1 of Gareth Farr’s From the Depths Sound the Great Sea Gongs

 180 students from Hay Park and New Lynn Primary Schools, Pakuranga Intermediate, Mt Albert Grammar, Tangaroa College, Kristin School and the University of Auckland

1 hour 20 mins

A rich experience all round

Review by Raewyn Whyte 15th Oct 2011

Accompanied by the Introduction section of Stravinsky’s famous Le Sacre du Printemps, played by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra under conductor Eckehard Stier, the opening section of the once-only presentation of Sacre: The Auckland Dance Project is utterly riveting, showing the first sighting of the land of Aotearoa from the helm of a far voyaging waka carried steadily on the crests of ocean waves through a dark but calm night. The stage has a dusting of haze and very low lighting, and the first impression is that we are looking at a huge painting, with an ocean of glowing jewel tones – gorgeous, inky blues and blacks, glowing teal greens, splashes of scarlet and brown and aqua.

As the movement begins, it quickly becomes apparent that everything we see is built from bodies which cover every bit of the stage, wearing t-shirts and ¾ length pants in the colours which mark their age groups. The dancers raise their forearms just enough to catch the light, becoming the spume on the crest of every wave. They slowly hump then drop their bottoms and raise their shoulders as they move slowly forward with the waka, or roll restlessly from side to side as the ocean ripples in the wind.

By the end of the music, 25 minutes later, the dancers have evoked various elements of a distinctly Pacific  themed society – arriving from afar by sea, tribally-based with hunting and gathering for sustenance,  honouring their ancestors,  plagued by traditional enemies, and very much affected by weather. This is a strong contrast to the society which Stravinsky’s music evoked, that of ancient Russian peasant society and their sacrifice of the Spring maiden to ensure future crops, but it is within the spirit of Maldoom’s original version of this project produced in Berlin in 2003 with school children and the Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle.

The 180 dancers, aged from seven to 20-something, are drawn from schools throughout Auckland (Hay Park and New Lynn Primary Schools, Pakuranga Intermediate, Mt Albert Grammar, Tangaroa College, Kristin School and the University of Auckland). Their inexperience is more than made up for through two months of rehearsal with local choreographers Ann Dewey, Taiaroa Royal and Moss Paterson, and then for  two weeks under the watchful eye of Berlin-based artistic director Royston Maldoom.

Their performance is confident, moving across the floor on their stomachs as the ocen waves, crossing the stage or forming massed groups, processing in serpentine lines, whirling circles and diagonal dashes. Their attention to musical cues is always right on the beat.  

Much of the time there are large numbers of dancers on stage – perhaps too many too often, but that is inevitable with such a cast. Contrasts are offered by very occasional solo moments, some brief duet sections for John Vahaakolo (Sky Father) and Sophie Harvey (Earth Mother), and some scene-stealing cameos for the very youngest members of the cast as capering animals.   

The APO, augmented by 25 guest musicians, plays impeccably throughout, seated right in front of the stage in their serried ranks of strings and bass and timpani, forcing you to choose who to watch — the musicians’ exciting interactions, or those of the dancers. The costumes (Marama Lloydd) and lighting (Vanda Karolczak) work brilliantly together in design terms to provide an impression of every kind of landscape just through light and shade and blocks of colour. A huge blue drop cloth (Vicki Slow) with markings projected onto it is also used at the climactic moment to refer to the sacrifice of the children.

All credit to the APO for undertaking this project in partnership with producer Sally Markham, and with the  funders – the Lottery Grants Board, British Council, ASB Communty Trust, and the REAL New Zealand Festival

The  programme’s first half opened with a bracket of kapa haka from Ngati Whatua O Orakei’s Te Pou Whakairo performance group, followed by a somehow unsatisfying Section 1 only of Gareth Farr’s From the Depths Sound the Great Sea Gongs.



Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council