Opera House, Wellington

17/08/2018 - 18/08/2018

Production Details

The Royal NZ Ballet is proud to present a stunning perspective into the world of internationally acclaimed women dance makers in honour of the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand and our own 65th birthday.  This evening of dance, inspired by significant anniversaries, will inspire memorable new works by celebrated contemporary choreographers from around the world. 

Dance can tell stories that transcend language. As the national ballet company for a young country, the Royal New Zealand Ballet has from its earliest days created and commissioned works which resonate with audiences from our homeland, telling our own stories as well as those from abroad.

In recognition of this significant year in our company’s and our country’s histories, we are inspired by both our past, the great women who have contributed to our nation’s story, and by the many possibilities of dance making in the 21st century.

Join us for a programme of specially commissioned works from some of the world’s most exciting choreographers:

Sarah Foster-Sproull (New Zealand), is creating a work for the first time on the RNZB. She has extensive popularity in the NZ dance community and her work has been performed at festivals both locally and internationally. Sarah’s work for this programme is inspired by female strength. The work explores strength in numbers, endurance, and woman as a deified figure, with a striking new sound score by Eden Mulholland, commissioned specially for this work.

Danielle Rowe (Australia) is the Associate Artistic Director of SF Dance Works in San Francisco. Her piece will be both a tribute and celebration of the strength, sacrifice and beauty of motherhood. Catch a glimpse into the world of one mother and her son and the ebbs and flows of their relationship over time.

Penny Saunders (USA) is Choreographer in Residence at Grand Rapids Ballet. She was the recipient of the New York City Ballet Choreographic Commissions Initiative and Princess Grace Choreographic Fellowship. Penny’s work will focus on the private struggles that were fought within the home, celebrating the conversations wives and daughters dared to have behind the scenes of the public suffrage campaigns.

Andrea Schermoly (South Africa) has danced with Boston Ballet and Nederlands Dans Theater, and won the Outstanding Choreographer award twice at Youth America Grand Prix. Her work is based on the pamphlet “Ten Reasons Why A Woman Should Vote” published in 1888 in which women had to clearly convince, explain and justify their right to political participation. Andrea’s work honours these brave women and their thoughts.

Two performances at the Opera House, Wellington, starting at 7.30pm will be complemented by talks and workshops, to inspire artists and audiences alike.


Dancers of the Royal New Zealand Ballet

Dance , Contemporary dance , ,

Suffrage Embodied

Review by Brigitte Knight 21st Aug 2018

Royal New Zealand Ballet Artistic Director Patricia Barker commissioned four new ballets in recognition of the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, coinciding with the company’s 65th year. Strength & Grace brings together one local and three international choreographers, comprising a balance of contemporary and classical vocabularies who view the season’s provocation through different lenses. Unusually, each work is preceded with a short video of the choreographer introducing herself, and describing her approach and choreographic intentions. It is an endearing and successful segue, allowing glimpses of the works in rehearsal.

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RNZB impresses with Strength & Grace

Review by Ann Hunt 20th Aug 2018

E.M.Forster once wrote “only connect,” and this is something all four works in Strength & Grace do supremely well. They connect us to the strength and power of women, especially when they are united by a collective cause.

These four world premieres by women choreographers, are inspired by the 125 th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand and the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s (RNZB) own 65th birthday.

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Strength and grace celebrate women and suffrage

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 18th Aug 2018

What a week in Wellington! Audiences are buzzing with Footnote New Zealand Dance Company’s Balancing Point also on at the same time as this special programme for Suffrage 125 Years by the RNZB. Two national companies and exciting new works. A veritable feast. The dancers in both companies are looking fabulous and feisty.

Strength & Grace celebrates four women choreographers from four different backgrounds and countries.

The opening work, So To Speak by Penny Saunders (USA,) with a mix of music by four composers, takes an at-home family relationship and their communication as its inspiration. The echo of the three protagonists, Father (Loughlan Prior), Mother (Kirby Selchow) and Daughter (Caroline Wiley), gives us some lovely ensemble work by 12 other dancers. I liked this idea of reverberation but it was perhaps a bit overdone and distracted from the development of the core relationships?

New Zealander Sarah Foster-Sproull’s Despite the Loss of Small Detail had immediate impact. Feisty, fun-fur jackets (now a must have fashion item !) and hi-octane show-stopping energy with movement that slashes the space and sizzles over the footlights give this work strength in every way. Commissioned music by Eden Mulholland and a great use of lighting by Andrew Lees added big space and big statement values to the intricate and pulsing choreography. Foster-Sproull’s signature choreographic use of detailed gesture and snapshot visual images were glimpsed as the eight dancers were meshed together and blasted apart. Abigail Boyle totally danced the dance and her solo and final ‘women have the world on their shoulders and are totally up for leading’ image is still fixed in my mind.

The third work, Remember Mama by Australian Danielle Rowe, uses a universal and charming idea. There is a chronological narrative with a strong anchor performance by Nadia Yanowsky as the Mother and effective duets between her and her sons (Infant – Shaun James Kelly, Teenager – Fabio Lo Giudice, and Adult – Paul Mathews). Again there is use of unison ensemble work for multiple Sons and Mothers. I felt that the poignancy of the theme got rather lost in the frenetic ensemble finale.

The fourth work, Stand to Reason by South African (now living in USA) Andrea Scherrholy, was based on a pamphlet by Kate Sheppard stating ten reasons for women to get the vote. These were typed on screen and totally contextualised the cast of eight women and their choreographic statements. Women as protagonists with much to say and a movement vocabulary that was rich, innovative and very much of today. A stand out solo by Kirby Selchow brought applause mid ballet and the strength and grace of all of the dancers is brilliant.                                              

Well after the curtain’s final fall, there were words that stayed in my mind – persuasive, resilient, survival, persistent, committed, determined, inexhaustible – stunning. The dancers were pushed and some seemed to never leave the stage all night. The programme was varied. For me Stand to Reason was the literal statement and Despite the Loss of Small Detail the abstracted essence of what Strength & Grace set out to celebrate. The four works all have superb staging, production values, and lighting  – although rather clunky continuity. The videos by Jeremy Brick are well done and interesting but I feel that they would be better suited to publicity/website use or as foyer entertainment.

A huge undertaking for only two performances. A great Suffrage Celebration . 


Raewyn Whyte August 22nd, 2018

A review of this programme by Jennifer Shennan can be read on the blog On dancing

John Smythe August 18th, 2018

"...only two performances"?? Can it be true - all that astonishing talent and great expense for only two performances?  Why is it not playing elsewhere? Who is answerable for this profligacy and/or squandering, depending on which way you look at it? 

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