Stravinsky Selection - Royal NZ Ballet

Civic Theatre, 88 Tay Street, Invercargill, Invercargill

08/06/2011 - 09/06/2011

Aotea Centre at THE EDGE®, Auckland

25/05/2011 - 28/05/2011

St James Theatre 2, Wellington

20/05/2011 - 22/05/2011

Production Details

Striking a balance between dance tradition and modern innovation, the set list shows the company’s versatility and inspiring energy.

Petrouchka: A lavish and lively restaging of the 1911 masterpiece Petrouchka takes pride of place in the programme. Set in the colourful world of a Russian fairground, the much-loved ballet follows a doomed love triangle between puppets: the tragic clown Petrouchka, the witless ballerina doll he loves, and the alpha male Moor. Sir Jon Trimmer appears as the puppet master – but the real person pulling the strings behind the scenes is the legendary choreographer Russell Kerr, who ensures this centenary production stays true to its grand heritage.

Satisfied with Great Success: Radiating mystery and beauty, Satisfied with Great Success gives modern immediacy to classical ballet. Making its debut this season, the work is choreographed by one of the most exciting new talents in international dance, expat Kiwi Cameron McMillan, and features costumes by renowned designer Karen Walker. Taking his cue from the ravishing score, McMillan’s ballet unfolds in a series of electrically-charged scenes played out before 50-year-old film footage of Stravinsky in New Zealand.

Milagros: With an air of dangerous intent, Javier De Frutos’ Milagros puts a match to the composer’s most incendiary ballet score, The Rite of Spring. Created for the Royal New Zealand Ballet in 2003, the work’s ferocious imagination and mesmerising drama earned it major international awards attention. Sacrifice everything to see this landmark ballet.

Petrouchka: Music Igor Stravinsky, Petrouchka | Design Raymond Boyce after Alexandre Benois | Lighting Nigel Percy.
Lead dancers:  Qi Huan (The Moor), Tonia Looker (The Ballerina Doll), Medhi Angot (Petrouchka)

Satisfied with Great Success:   Music Igor Stravinsky, Scènes de Ballet | Design Karen Walker | Lighting Nigel Percy
Lead dancers: Lucy Green and Medhi Angot

Milagros: Music Igor Stravinsky, The Rite of Spring | Design Javier de Frutos | Lighting Nigel Percy

2hr 25min (with 2 intermissions)

Two tough acts for poor Petrouchka to follow

Review by Bernadette Rae 27th May 2011


Read the full review:

Triple bills are the best – and another innovation of choreographer Diaghilev and composer Stravinsky, in the Ballet Russes. The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s celebration of Stravinsky’s music, including Diaghilev’s short ballet Petrouchka, again celebrates the form in an intense and explorative programme.

First up is the primal and confronting Milagros, by Javier De Frutos, in the company’s repertoire for eight years and still as riveting a Rite of Spring as ever. Pagan Russia is suggested in riffs of Cossack-style moves, but the costumes are unisex swirlings of white, the dancers curiously labelled by number patches on their backs.



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Satisfied with Great Success is the delight in this Triple Bill

Review by Raewyn Whyte 26th May 2011

The very stylish, brand new Cameron McMillan dance work,Satisfied with Great Success, is the delight in the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Stravinsky Selection, set between the whirling white skirts of the award-winning Milagros (2004), and the lavish colours of the now 100 year old Petrouchka story ballet from the Diaghilev era.  
McMillan’s Satisfied with Great Success  is his third commissioned work for the Company. Just 20 minutes long, it is nevertheless packed with technical and expressive risks. There’s an array of extraordinary moves and demanding partnering sequences, which all 12 dancers perform  with verve and precision, bringing the occasional frisson of excitement. There’s a spectacular section danced by six men, marked by a flying, circling, turn-inside-out-and-click-your-heels-before-landing-on-his-chest/flank/hip leap which all have cleanly mastered. And there’s an array of subtle interactions and mood switches which echo the astonishing range of variations within the score played beautifully by the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra. The score delights in breezy, optimistic mixes of strings and brass, some charming melodies, a long sequence with gentle intertwinings of strings and flute (originally intended for soloist and corps de ballet), leading  to a beautiful combo of trumpet and solo strings, then martial drums which promise discord followed by strident blasts of sound.  With sections ranging from 30 seconds to almost 5 minutes in length, it’s no wonder this is a dance full of surprises.  
Stunning lighting by Nigel Percy picks up on the high fashion theme signalled by Karen Walker’s designs — part Fashion Week, part studio photo shoot, part trendy stage lighting with just a hint of haze — it’s a delicious combination of intense side lighting, subtle back lighting and a bit of topdown glare which utterly reveals the dancers, drawing attention to the way muscles move to achieve the fine articulation demanded. The lighting too brings into focus their extremely fashionable, though at time very distracting, clothing. Walker’s basics are plain navy blue t- shirts and polo shirts for the men,  with walk shorts in navy blue or gold or taupe; and variations on navy leotards for women, with contrasting accents – a belt, a collar, a flirty tiered skirt, peepshow knickers, a waist frill – in taupe, white, a patterned dark grey, deep gold, and sharp neon-lime. The men look like athletes, swimmers, rugby players, the women reminiscent of waitresses or flirty flaunty clubbers: quite contrary to what is conjured by the interplay of dance and music.
The world conjured in Milagros is built equally by movement, design, and music, by the play of light on moving bodies as they endlessly circle their dance floor, or prowl the invisible perimeters of their territory, awaiting the outcome determined by the patterns of fate. It is not a pleasant world they inhabit, and by turn they may be harshly handled, or provided with pleasure, subjected to torture and pain, or transcend all else in moments of ecstacy. The dancers are obviously attuned to that place, and their focus never wavers, and though the impact is never electrifying, it still carries a chill. The poignancy of the lambent piano roll version of the music to which we are treated seems entirely appropriate here.
Stravinsky’s music for Petrouchka provides the narrative throughline for action over four scenes, two in a crowded fairground replete with gypsies, an acrobat, a performing bear, Cossacks, policemen, and lots of onlookers, and two in the puppets’ private rooms.  Three puppets – the tragic clown Petrouchka (Christopher Hinton-Lewis), the Ballerina (Adriana Harper) and The Moor (Paul Matthews) – are manipulated by their puppet-master, The Charlatan (Sir Jon Trimmer) into a doomed love triangle which inflects their fairground performances.  It’s a monstrous tale, of course, and has been interpreted as a criticism of the profit motive which The Charlatan obeys — he tortures his puppets to intensify their performance, and thus to earn himself  a greater box office take.
Though the story is clearly conveyed, and the dancng competent, this presentation lacks the verve of the contemporary works. This is the third time Russell Kerr has reconstructed Petrouchka for the Company, and perhaps the final time. Kerr danced it in London in the early 1950s, and has modelled his choreography after  the Michel Fokine original. Design of sets and costumes by Raymond Boyce are also after the Alexander Benois originals – though the costumes for The Puppet and the Moor have significant differences from the original designs.  I wonder what Benois would have thought  about this particular version of the Moor’s pants, made from the gleaming  liquid gold synthetic fabric much loved by belly dancers? ).



Helen Wenley May 28th, 2011

 I watched this production last night.  I am not a ballet fan.  However I was blown away by the fluidness and precision of all the dancers.  It is a spectacular and enjoyable production.

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Stravinsky commands the evening

Review by Greer Robertson 21st May 2011

What magnificent music! What a great backbone for visual symphony! Every passionate note emphasised, every delicious discordant emotion puncturing the air with great velocity.
Omnipresent Stravinsky, named by Time Magazine as one of the most influential people of the 20th Century, was born in Russia in 1882. Understandably so, this master of the musical revolution forever lives on.  Under the meticulous baton of conductor Marc Taddei, he and the Vector Wellington Orchestra command the evening, taking no prisoners.
The season opens with the visually powerful award winning Milagros, with choreography and design by Javier De Frutos.  Set to Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring, the rhythmic energy and emotional rage becomes the churning power of De Frutos’ presentation. Strong use of shapes and ever changing patterns commands the stage. Superb lighting by Australian based lighting designer John Rayment gives it an international feel, allowing the dancers’ stark white voluminous garments to become a highlight. These costumes are cleverly used in such a way as to additionally heighten an emotion of desire, disgust or disdain as part of the individual’s interaction within a community in conflict. The never-ending billowing effect of these garments becomes entrancingly hypnotic.
Making its debut, the second ballet in this triple bill line-up is Satisfied with Success, a 20 minute piece choreographed by Cameron McMillan. Originally from New Plymouth but now based in London, McMillan was formerly a leading soloist with the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
In his classically informed contemporary work, McMillan aims to draw on the collaborative spirit of Serge Diaghilev whose avant-garde ballets brought together choreographers, musicians, artists and designers. He has chosen as his designer, New Zealand fashion brand icon Karen Walker, however the awkwardly worn walk shorts do not gel with pointe shoes and "total theatre" is not achieved.
The ballet opens with 50 year old archival film footage of Stravinsky conducting in New Zealand, and McMillan has borrowed the title for his ballet from a famous exchange of dialogue between Stravinsky and Broadway impresario Billy Rose as they discuss the score.  It is difficult to see why the video has been included. I also wonder, where was the fabulous bright yellow floaty Karen Walker creation in the actual ballet? That refreshingly startling dress, dominantly present in eye catching publicity photographs, only appeared after the work has ended worn by a congratulatory bouquet presenter.  
But the dancers perform the repetitious choreography with precision, and lead soloist Abigail Boyle’s lithesome limbs display liquid control with her balletic extensions to be admired.
And, onto the third offering. The evening draws to a close with a ballet as close to the original as possible, Petrouchka.
Produced by New Zealand’s doyen of dance, Russell Kerr, this ballet adds a blaze of colour and tradition to the evening. The stage comes alive with energy by way of brightly coloured backdrops, bearded Cossack dancers, gypsies, street performers and peasants as they sway and swirl in a vibrant market place. Medhi Angot as Petrouchka, Ballerina Tonia Looker and Qi Huan as The Moor explode to the fore with their effective delivery. Almost like a finale, numerous curtain calls ensued. Later, as Kerr appeared for his bow, the thunderous foot applause from the audience stood testimony of their unrestrained appreciation for the work of this living legend.
And the evening drew to a close.


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