Tower Tutus On Tour 2011

St James Theatre 2, Wellington

24/02/2011 - 27/02/2011

Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland

09/03/2011 - 12/03/2011

Dunedin Town Hall, Dunedin

19/03/2011 - 20/03/2011

Production Details

Dancers hit the road to bring ballet to Kiwi families across NZ

The Royal New Zealand Ballet are packing up their tutus and hitting the road. The biennial TOWER Tutus on Tour is legendary and in 2011 we’ve revamped the format to make it an unmissable event for the whole family. For the first time, we will tour a children’s ballet as part of TOWER Tutus on Tour – which will tour 40 centres around the country between February and April.

A highlight of the tour is Pinocchio, choreographed by former dancer Toby Behan. This whimsical ballet-version of one of the world’s most-loved stories is a new commission and will delight young and old. It is the first time a full-length children’s story ballet has been included in TOWER Tutus on Tour.

“We wanted to do something different for 2011,” explains RNZB General Manager Amanda Skoog. “We’ve always done a series of smaller pieces on this tour but we decided it would be nice to give heartland New Zealand a chance to see what a full show looks like from the sets to costumes and props.”

It is more challenging to tour a larger work to so many venues but audiences will get a better idea of what a full ballet production is like.

“Toby’s fabulous version of Pinocchio will be a real crowd pleaser. It’s a story we all know and the antics of Pinocchio and Geppetto have translated into a wonderful, fun ballet featuring an array of colourful characters.”

However, classical ballet lovers are not forgotten. The tour will also see the premiere of Ballet Master Greg Horsman’s Verdi Variations – a stunning classical showpiece featuring sparkling tutus hand-made by the legendary RNZB wardrobe department.

Set to music by Verdi, it pays homage to Russian ballet and will feature breathtaking solos and stunning duets. It’s a ballet showpiece of pure dance.

Travelling to 40 venues, the TOWER Tutus on Tour is a classic Kiwi road trip. To reach as many New Zealanders as possible, the company is divided in half with one group touring the North Island and the other the South Island. The venues range from small community theatres to town halls and school gymnasiums.

“The logistical challenges are endless,” says Production Manager Andrew Lees. “We literally have to take everything with us – from sewing machines for last minute alterations to flooring for the dancers to perform on. However, the results are always worth it – to be able to bring what we do to people’s doorsteps is a huge honour”


The antics of Pinocchio, Geppetto and friends come to life as the Royal New Zealand Ballet presents a fun, traditional story-ballet for the whole family. Written in 1883, the tale of Pinocchio – a wooden puppet who yearns to be a real boy – continues to be adored by children around the world. As he stumbles his way through life, will he ever be able to realise his dream? Follow Pinocchio on his exciting adventures as he encounters the evil Fox and Cat, Strombolli’s travelling puppet show, the Blue Fairy and a giant whale. It’s a rollicking ride – one that you’ll never forget.
Choreography: Toby Behan
Music: Andre Messager, Les Deux Pigeons
Design: Julian Southgate
Lighting: Nigel Percy


A classical ballet lover’s dream come true, Verdi Variations promises to be a stunningly grand showpiece peppered with dramatic solos and dazzling duets, complete with exquisitely made tutus and tiaras.

With choreography and design by dream team Greg Horsman and Gary Harris, the piece pays homage to classical Russian ballet and its poise and grace. Verdi Variations will be breathtakingly beautiful.

Choreography: Greg Horsman
Music: Giuseppe Verdi, I vespri siciliani (Le quattro stagioni), Jérusalem (I Lombardi).
Design: Gary Harris
Lighting: Nigel Percy



Wellington  / 24, 26 & 27 Feb
Rotorua / 26 February
Taupo / 27 February
Hastings  / 1 March
Greytown / 1 March
Palmerston North  / 2 March
Gisborne / 3 March
Paraparaumu / 3 March
Tauranga / 5 March
Putararu / 6 March
Hamilton / 8 March
Takapuna   / 10-12 March
Kaitaia / 15 March
Kerikeri / 17 March
Whangarei / 18 & 19 March
Warkworth / 20 March
Manukau / 22 March
Papakura / 24 March
Te Kuiti / 25 March
New Plymouth / 26 & 27 March
Hawera / 29 March
Wanganui / 30 March
Taihape / 31 March

Blenheim / 5 & 6 March
Nelson / 8 &9 March
Westport / 11 March
Greymouth / 12 March
Christchurch  / 15 March (cancelled?)
Oamaru / 17 March
Dunedin  / 19 & 20 March
Invercargill   / 23 March
Gore / 24 March
Te Anau / 25 March
Queenstown / 26 March
Wanaka / 27 March
Alexandra / 29 March
Twizel / 30 March
Timaru / 31 March
Ashburton / 1 April
Kaikoura / 3 April
The logistics lowdown
Two groups of 16 dancers – one touring the North Island and the other in the South Island | A five tonne truck, filled with costumes and sets, will clock up 3000kms
40 metres of ballet shoe ribbon | A lighting rig | 280 rolls of PVC tape | Sound system
Sewing machines, a washing machine, tumble dryer | A kettle for making tea

40 venues | Two touring parties of 50 people staying in almost 600 motels

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Impressive performances

Review by Kasey Dewar 20th Mar 2011

I was intrigued to see how the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company would present their “Tutus on Tour” season of Pinocchio and Verdi Variations. I attended the opening night show on the 19th of March at the Town Hall in Dunedin.
I hadn’t seen Pinocchio as a ballet, so I was very interested to see how they would present certain parts of the story, particularly the large whale that swallows Geppetto and Pinocchio. I was also looking forward to some classical ballet for a change with Verdi Variations, a classical ballet piece exploring the rivalry between dancers in a ballet company.
The show opened with Verdi Variations and immediately I was impressed with the delicate choreography by Greg Horsman and beautiful music composed by Giuseppe Verdi. I enjoyed the various duets and solos throughout the piece, with Kohei Lawmoto and Katherine Grange’s solos standing out for me. The story really came through with the dancers pushing each other and trying to outshine one another without taking away from the dancing. The small touches of a dancer starting on the wrong side of the stage and then correcting himself, or Dimitri Kleioris’s dramatic entrance at the wrong time more than once held the audience’s attention. Judging by the large round of applause at the end, the audience was impressed with the dancer’s efforts.
After a short interval Pinocchio, choreographed by Toby Behan began, with Geppetto’s workshop the opening scene. Chris Hinton-Lewis’s Geppetto was convincing as an old man eager for a young companion. Clytie Campbell as the Blue Fairy delicately danced around the workshop before bringing Pinocchio to life much to the delight of Geppetto. I loved Rory Fairweather-Neylan’s portrayal of Pinocchio. He had the stumbling, stiff moves of a puppet down and combined with the gorgeous yellow and red costume designed by Julian Southgate really came across as a little wooden puppet.
The arrival of Stromboli’s travelling show in Florence was not quite as dramatic as I had hoped, but the duet between Arlequino and Columbina, Kohei Iwamoto and Lucy Green respectively, was great to watch. Pinocchio was saved from being kidnapped by Stromboli to join his travelling show by his buddy Lampwick, danced by Dimitri Kleioris, the townspeople and Cat and Fox, played by Lucy Balfour and Brendan Bradshaw. Balfour as Cat cleverly conveyed the feline qualities of a cat through her movements and dancing which definitely caught my eye.
After Pinocchio is deceived by Cat and Fox and loses the money he was supposed to buy books with, he runs off to Toyland with Lampwick and the other Schoolboys. The towering appearance of the Coachman played by Jacob Chown and the gradual change of the Schoolboys as they turn into Donkeys was well conveyed and you can see why Pinocchio ran away from there!
Mine and my companion’s favourite part was the arrival of the whale Monstro. We were interested to see how the meeting of Pinocchio and Geppetto inside the whale would be represented, and we weren’t disappointed. The giant see-though whale was suddenly lit from the inside so the audience could clearly see the reunion of Father and Son, bringing excited gasps from me, my companion and the small children beside us.
Pinocchio’s efforts to be a good son to Geppetto bought the ballet to a close. His discovery of his friend Lampwick as a donkey was a touching moment, along with Pinocchio’s hard work to ensure Geppetto was fed and warm. He was ultimately rewarded by the Blue Fairy by being turned into a real boy, Rory Fairweather-Neylan’s movements and dancing clearly showing the transformation, combined with a slight costume change with softer materials.
The combination of beautiful music composed by Andre Messager, interesting and creative choreography from Tobey Behan and colourful 19th century-inspired costumes from Julian Southgate really helped to transport the audience to Pinocchio’s world. The huge round of applause for Rory Fairweather-Neylan at the end of the performance clearly showed the appreciation of his efforts as Pinocchio.
As a complete show I was impressed with both of the performances danced by the Royal New Zealand Ballet. I thought perhaps Pinocchio would completely outshine Verdi Variations, but I felt while they were quite different to each other they both had pieces that have stood out in my mind, as noted in my review.

For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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A step in the right direction

Review by Rosemary Martin 13th Mar 2011

As a dancer or crew member of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, surviving the biannual Tutus on Tour season, or ‘smalls tour’ as it is affectionately known, is tough. With the company splitting in two, sixteen dancers becoming ‘team North’ and sixteen becoming ‘team South’, and a touring schedule that involves one-night-stands in nearly every town that has a theatre, school hall or community centre (or even sheep shearing shed on occasion), it is demanding both physically and mentally.

In the past, the program schedule has comprised of four or five short works, ranging from the classics through to more experimental works. This time however they have decided to take a slightly different approach, presenting just two works, the first being Verdi Variations, choreographed by company Ballet Master Greg Horsman, and the second  Pinocchio, choreographed by ex-RNZB dancer Toby Behan.

Opening with Verdi Variations is a brave move. The dancers are exposed in both the design of the piece and through Horsman’s unnecessarily arduous choreography. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good tour en l’air or pirouette à la seconde as much as the next person, though in this case it was a constant barrage of awkward virtuosic combinations that left little room for error. Nevertheless the dancers coped extremely well, with leads Abigail Boyle and Qi Huan delivering calm and graceful performances, and Adriana Harper standing out from the group with polished technique and a sense of maturity to her work.

Pinocchio, Toby Behan’s first full length work for the company, is an endearing and fun filled creation set to André Messager’s Les Deux Pigeons. The title role of Pinocchio was danced with commitment and sincerity by Pierre Doncq, while Abigail Boyle, cool and collected as the Blue Fairy, led us through the magical adventures. The highlights of this charming work would have to be Qi Huan’s warm and honest portrayal of Geppetto, and the immensely amusing characterizations from both Paul Mathews as the Fox and Adriana Harper as the Cat. At times I wondered how the production might work in the smaller venues, as I can imagine manoeuvring some of the props in a small space could be interesting. I was also curious as to how it may potentially look with a fuller set and cast of dancers.

With the new programming, the company may be taking a step in the right direction, and with a ‘tutu’ ballet and a narrative ballet in the same program it is bound to win over audiences. However, by offering two very conventional works in the same program, it seems they may be playing it safe. This is no surprise given the current economic climate and the need to appeal to a reliable audience. However, it may be of importance within future Tutus on Tour seasons to include a more contemporary work, possibly alongside a classical narrative piece. The inclusion of something more current within our cultural context could go some way in continuing to artistically challenge and entertain a variety of audiences from all corners of New Zealand.
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Entrancing the heartland

Review by Jenny Stevenson 25th Feb 2011

Toby Behan, a former dancer with the Company, has clearly earned his choreographic stripes in his first-ever full-length ballet Pinocchio, created for the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Tutus on Tour series. Breaking with the tradition of presenting several short works, the Company has opted instead for a solid programme of two ballets: the story-book ballet, accompanied by a more traditional classical ballet – Greg Horsman’s Verdi Variations.

The season opens with the Northern Company’s performance of the programme, with the Southern Company opening in Blenheim on 5 March. Between them the two groups will perform in 40 centres throughout New Zealand over the next month, although they will not be able to fulfil their engagement in Christchurch. 

Behan’s penchant for the quirky is given full rein in Pinocchio: a parable of human kindness triumphing over man’s baser instincts. The adventures of the life-sized marionette, are enacted in a fantasy world as seen through the eyes of a child, with a luminous blue fairy, giant puppets, dancing animals and the sheer wonder of old-school theatrical effects.

Set to a recording of André Messager’s Les Deux Pigeons, Behan sketches the characters through signature movement styles which define their intent and whether they are on the side of good or evil. Julian Southgate’s design is a rag-tag riot of colourful costumes and beautifully crafted props and puppets, which are lit with sensitivity by Nigel Percy.

Pierre Doncq as Pinocchio proves to be a master of body rigidity in the first half of the work, with only his mobile face mirroring his emotion: initially devoid of conscience, as Pinocchio is willingly led through all manner of mischief by the irascible Lampwick, danced by Medhi Angot and then sorrowful and determined, as he seeks to make amends for his mistakes. 

In contrast the wily Fox danced by Paul Mathews and the Cat danced by Adriana Harper, create their cunning personae through movement alone – ingratiating themselves with curving, sinuous, bodies that are never still. Geppetto is beautifully realised by Qi Huan and Jaered Galvin clearly relishes the role of the flamboyant Stromboli with his Machiavellian tendencies. 

Behan is creative in his ensemble work with only a few sections needing tightening and simplifying. Various characters including the Blue Fairy – danced with tenderness and delicacy by Antonia Hewitt – appear and disappear as though in a dream, throughout the work. This mechanism serves to create the narrative of a magical world where logic flies in the face of a host of non-sequitur events.

Verdi Variations created for the Company by Ballet Master, Greg Horsman, is however, the polar opposite in terms of construction: a model of classical balance and control. Led by a radiant Abigail Boyle and Qi Huan, the company dancers show off their strength and their crisp, concise execution of the steps while maintaining their poise and balance. Horsman has some fun with the perennial gag of dancers seeking the spotlight and milking the applause but in between these shenanigans the dancers perform some demanding variations with strong commitment to the classical ethos as celebrated in the Russian ballet tradition. 

Keeping the Italian theme intact in the music, the work is created to Guiseppe Verdi’s I vespri siciliani and Jérusalem. The dancers’ lovely white tutus are designed by Tutu-Meister, Gary Harris with a flattering figure-hugging style, which looks as though the dancers have been poured into them. 

Lead soloist, Abigail Boyle is in top form, having reached a stage in her career where her steely strength matches her exquisite grace and line. Similarly, Qi Huan is given the opportunity to display his abilities, tossing off the difficult variations with ease. Musically the demands were tough, but most of the ensemble coped well with the fast footwork and turns. 

This is a programme to entrance the young ballet-lover and the young-at-heart. The Royal New Zealand Ballet clearly knows its audience as it journeys into the heartland of New Zealand.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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