Tutus on Tour 2024

Te Raukura ki Kāpiti Theatre, Coastlands, 32 Raumati Rd, Raumati

23/02/2024 - 24/02/2024

Toitoi - Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre 101 Hastings Street South, Hastings

25/02/2024 - 25/02/2024

Ashburton Trust Events Centre, Christchurch

27/02/2024 - 27/02/2024

Clarence Street Theatre, Hamilton

14/03/2024 - 16/02/2024

Production Details

Russell Kerr
Shaun James Kelly
Alice Topp

Royal New Zealand Ballet

The ever-popular Tutus on Tour returns to regional theatres throughout Aotearoa to mark the end of summer and the start of a brand new year of ballet-going.

Dance lovers of all ages can look forward to a programme which celebrates classical favourites and virtuoso ballet technique as well as offering a timely tribute to one of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s founding fathers. As a prelude to 2024’s major revival, Tutus on Tour will feature excerpts from Russell Kerr’s beautiful production of Swan Lake, in the dazzling designs created by Kristian Fredrikson in 1996. Performances will include the ‘Black Swan’ pas de deux, the famous ‘Cygnets’ quartet, the graceful Pas de Trois from Act I and the grand Hungarian and Neopolitan dances, always a highlight of Act III.

Complementing the classical splendour of Swan Lake is Choreographer in Residence Shaun James Kelly’s Prismatic, inspired by Russell Kerr’s landmark Prismatic Variations, set to the music of Johannes Brahms. Commissioned to mark the RNZB’s 70th birthday in 2023, Prismatic will include all the hallmarks of Kelly’s confident choreographic style, grounded in traditional ballet technique and inspired by the rhythmic and melodics arc of the soaring score. Devilishly quick changes of direction, explosive leaps and intricate partnering will make this new piece a breathless delight.

Rounding out the programme is Clay by Alice Topp, the mesmerising, emotionally charged pas de deux which opens her acclaimed Logos,first seen in Aotearoa in 2023.

This performance is approximately 90 minutes long, including one interval.

More information and bookings here

Artists of the Royal NZ Ballet

Dance , Contemporary Ballet , Ballet ,

90 mins

A joyful celebration

Review by Dr Debbie Bright 16th Mar 2024

Tutus on Tour is an important part of the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s stated aim of making ballet accessible “to as many New Zealanders as possible” (programme notes). By bringing shorter works requiring fewer dancers and adaptations to smaller stages, RNZB is able to bring ballet to smaller centres with smaller theatres. Although Hamilton is not a smaller centre per se, its current theatre availability certainly fits the ‘smaller theatre’ brief. I see Tutus on Touras a win-win, since not only is the ballet made more accessible to those in smaller towns, but it also provides an opportunity for younger, less experienced dancers to take on roles that they might not normally be offered in full ballet productions. 

Swan Lake Excerpts.

This ballet is full of memories for me. I am reminded that I have loved this music since I was a young child, when I would ‘dance’ and immerse myself in its beauty, as recorded on LP. Watching the excerpts now, I also have remembered glimpses of the ballet’s origins in Russia, through certain movements, costume elements and, of course, the music. The opening excerpt is a picture of beauty in the precision and unity of the four Cygnets. From my own experience, I know this quartet is deceptively simple, yet extremely demanding to perform well – they perform it well. In the ‘White Swan’ Pas de Deux, I sense Branden Reiner’s Siegfreid’s longing to enter and experience the ephemeral world of the magical swans, and the beauty, fragility and tentative approaches and engagement of Kate Kadow’s Odette. Slow, smooth, controlled interactions, and occasional moments that require great trust as Odette falls, is caught, and is lifted. One of the quintessential moments of Swan Lake The Pas de Trois is more upbeat and provides a contrast to the slow measured Pas de Deux. This contrast is extended yet again with the joyful character Hungarian Dance; character dancing, foot-stompingly appealing. Finally, the ‘Black Swan’ Pas de Deux (Ana Gallardo Lobaina and Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson): so different from the earlier ‘White Swan’ – I sense, strength and determination, rather than fragility and longing; the desire to provide an alternative, and not so innocent, narrative. 

In summary, my reaction to the Swan Lake excerpts is that, in spite of occasional imperfections, there are breath-taking moments and a lot that is charming. Well done dancers!

Clay pas de deux from Logos

This is a complete contrast to the previous ballet excerpts which are a picture of the upright, reaching heavenwards, and careful, stylised interaction between men and women. Clay is a study of a pair of bodies in continuous motion. Grounded earthiness, often floor-bound, frequent full-body contact, in earth-coloured costumes. This work could probably sit comfortably within the genre of contemporary dance, reminiscent of contact improvisation, yet maintaining strong elements of classical training and style (if a dancer has this ability, then why not use it!). A duet that is closely interactive, bodies intertwined and interwoven one second, and parting the next, one lifting another, and sliding of bodies through spaces between body and arm, or body and floor. Physicality, constantly making new connections and shapes. Exploring and expanding the number of possible ways that two dancers can interact, form body shapes, hold, release, lift, embrace, support each other, and swap roles of carrier and carried.  The words that often come to me are ‘cause and effect’ – so much of what I am seeing is of one dancer provoking or offering a possibility and the other dancer reacting and responding. Ana Gillardo Lobaina and Branden Reiners are stunning. Their mutual understanding and trust are evident. A satisfying vision of constant movement and quiet but enjoyable interaction between dancing bodies.


Yet another contrast. Whereas Clay provides a sense of constant movement but with very little horizontal space covered, Prismatic is the opposite: joyful, lively, fast moving across and within the total stage area. The movement is enhanced and driven by the 19th Century composer Brahms at his most triumphal – an ode to joy in movement, so to speak. As a prism bends and changes light to reveal rainbow colours, so there is a quickness, exuberance and colour about this work. We, the audience, are treated to ever changing combinations of dancers: solos, duets, trios, quartets and more. The costumes are contemporary: pale tunics with flashes of colour for the women and unitards for the men: a sense of ease of movement, a neo-classical re-imagining of Brahm’s era in a contemporary setting.  A joyful celebration of the passing of the years and RNZB’s life, growth and, at times, dogged determination to keep dancing. As the programme notes remind us, this work was created to celebrate 70 years of the ballet company and was adapted for this tour.  Nga mihi RNZB!

As mentioned in the programme notes: This programme demonstrates both the versatility of our dancers and the diversity of movement and expression achievable through the art form of classical ballet, and it is our hope that it leaves you captivated, moved, and wanting more! In my opinion, purpose achieved!


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Will leave the audience captivated

Review by Jennifer Shennan 29th Feb 2024

The two recently appointed directors at RNZB, Tobias Perkins and Ty King-Wall, express in the program’s introduction their hope that the national Tutus on Tour production will leave the audience captivated, moved and wanting more. It did and we do.

The program opens with a set of excerpts from Swan Lake, staged after Russell Kerr’s treasured production from 1996. Usually we see either the complete four act ballet (which RNZB will perform in May this year), or just Act II as a stand-alone piece. Here however is a totally new experience—the full four acts reduced to a 40 minute abridged version, so it’s the classic story but without the trimmings, and on a tiny budget. Far from reducing the impact of the mighty original, this in an unexpected way brings out a poignancy and intimacy in the interactions between the characters, in what is effectively a chamber version of the choreography. And with soloists of this calibre, we lose nothing of the quality.

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Smorgasbord of bite-sized offering

Review by Rosheen Fitzgerald 28th Feb 2024

Since 1997 Royal New Zealand Ballet has been whetting the regional appetite for dance with Tutus on Tour – a smorgasbord of bite-sized offerings showcasing the company’s range, setting the tone for the season to come. Those in the know expect a pared back production with a capsule company – no sets, white wash lighting, recorded music and just twelve dancers in total. The show is less about losing oneself in an immersive theatrical experience than an appreciation of ballet for ballet’s sake. 

This iteration commences with excerpts from Swan Lake, which is promised to be performed in full in the winter. Any semblance of storytelling is abandoned in favour of showcasing a selection of fan favourite divertissements from what is probably Tchaikovsky’s most popular ballet.

This is a chance to make good on their eponymous promise and air out the tutus – sumptuous costuming from their 1996 production that will ensure all the pink puff dressed little girls in the audience won’t go home disappointed. Kristian Fredrikson’s rich colours, dagged puff sleeves, gilded seams, corsetry and intricate embroidery radiate opulence and occasion.

The choreography dates from this production too, though only the most fastidious note taker could distinguish it from Petipa and Ivanov’s iconic composition – and rightly so. It would be a challenge either to improve on or to persuade audiences to accept anything other than this staple of the artform. 

A male solo variation, more pathos than flashy show of skill, transitions quickly to the beloved White Swan pas-de-deux, before the often parodied, and likely the most well-known piece of ballet choreography – Dance of the Cygnets, performed by a corps of just four. This is classical, music box ballet, executed adeptly, meeting audience expectations early. Contrary to old school ideals, rather than attempting uniformity to the erasure of personality, the corps, though exactly in tandem, retain their individuality. 

A pair of pas de trois inject some lightness. The peasant dance from Act I infuses elements of folk to the classical steps, while Act III’s Hungarian dance is a vibrant czardas, dancers’ metallic aspects winking in the stage lights as they whirl to a crescendo. 

We close with the Black Swan pas de deux, a flex for its technical difficulty – the famed thirty two frenzied fouettés eliciting applause. Flawlessly executed, principal Kate Kadow’s Odile is mischievous and coquettish, in contrast to the pure solemnity of Ana Gallardo Lobaina’s Odette, but her performance falls short of being believably evil. 

The second half begins with Clay – the work of prolific Australian choreographer and RNZB alumna Alice Topp. Developed as a stand-alone variation in 2019, Topp expanded on it, creating Lagos, which was performed by the company last year as part of Lightscapes, but only in the major metropolises. Seemingly regional audiences can only digest less conventional, more challenging works when taken with a spoonful of classical sugar. 

The stark simplicity of the staging suits the piece. Ana Gallardo Lobaina is clad in a simple shift, barefoot; Branden Reiners in plain loose fitting black pants. The music – Ludovico Einaudi’s Whirling Winds – a piano led composition featuring sustained strings, is filled with tension, building the atmosphere to create a sonic backdrop.

Locked in each other’s attention, the pair flow over one another, two parts of a whole, displaying the myriad of novel ways two people can fit together. It is an exercise in mutual manipulation, unafraid to be ugly. Passion, desperation, vulnerability exude from their every movement, conveying a depth of emotion palpable throughout the auditorium. The music ends before the dance, leaving them to finish to only the echoing of their footfalls, the silence of a collective held breath. It’s awkward and messy and utterly authentic, wholly captivating.

The final piece is particular to this company. RNZB’s first contemporary work, 1959’s Prismatic Variations was a collaboration between founder Poul Gnatt and former Artistic Director, Russell Kerr. Last year, current choreographer in residence, Shaun James Kelly, created the homage, Prismatic, for a one off gala celebrating the company’s 70th anniversary. In this iteration he has reworked and extended the piece for fewer dancers.

Costumes have the look of Soviet era gymnasts garb – for practice not performance. Set to Brahms’ St Anthony Variations, the piece casts its net wide for influence – from classical to modernity to today. A light and playful piece, in contrast to Clay’s brooding, strength, pride and humour abound. But despite the easy flow between variations, something is lacking. Without Swan Lake’s familiar thread of story, or Clay’s gut punch of emotion, though executed to perfection, Prismatic feels in need of meaning, falling a little short of the connection audiences seek.


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Bringing live dance to smaller venues

Review by Dr Ian Lochhead 28th Feb 2024

A few years ago the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s annual tours to smaller centres, Tutus on Tour, seemed in danger of being scrapped, but happily it has been re-established as a core component of the company’s mission to bring ballet to all New Zealanders from Northland to Central Otago.  As this current tour amply demonstrates, Tutus on Tour is more than just an exercise in bringing live dance to smaller venues across the country, it is an opportunity to entice audiences from the regions to attend full-scale productions in the larger theatres of our main centres.  It also supports the creative development of the company’s dancers, allowing them to become familiar with the challenges of new roles, not just in the rehearsal studio, but through repeated performances on stage before an audience.  With a revival of Russell Kerr’s staging of the full-length Swan Lake scheduled for May and June, this is intelligent programming. 

Rather than presenting excerpts from Swan Lake as a series of discreet items they are performed as an interconnected sequence, beginning with Siegfried’s yearning Act II solo and ending with his complete submission to the seductive Odile.  In between we encounter Siegfried’s discovery of the swan queen, Odette, a trio of dancers from the prince’s Act I birthday celebration, the Neopolitan couple from the Act III betrothal festivities and finally the celebrated Act III pas de deux, one of classical ballet’s great showpieces.  The dancers have been well prepared by Turid Revfeim and we can look forward to the full staging in May with relish.  As the Act II Odette and Siegfried, Katherine Minor and Kihiro Kusukami perform securely but they have yet to find the inner life of the drama in which the Odette yearns for the true love that will liberate her from the spell of the evil magician, Von Rothbart, while Siegfried also searches for love rather than just the marriageable princess required in order to fulfill his dynastic duties.  Lev Ivanov’s choreography for their pas de deux unfolds seamlessly as if an invisible thread links its opening phrases to the final fluttering exit of Odette.  It is a pinnacle of the art form that many of the world’s greatest dancers have tested themselves against in a never-ending search to uncover its expressive core, so it is no criticism of Minor and Kusukami to suggest that they will continue to develop their interpretation as this tour progresses.

The Dance of the Little Swans, is one of the best loved sequences from the entire ballet and it provides a moment of emotional release in the course of Act II. Its intricate, synchronised, footwork, the linked arms and co-ordinated head movements of the four cygnets, along with the rhythmic pulse of Tchaikovsky’s score, allows audiences to recover their breath after what should be the heart-stopping intensity of the preceding pas de deux.  The well-matched quartet of Catrina Estévez-Collins, Monet Galea-Hewitt, Jennifer Ulloa and Ena Takahashi bring focus and precision to their performance.

For anyone familiar with the ballet as a whole, the Act I pas de trois seems a little out of place in the current sequence, but it is performed strongly by Kirby Selchow, Cadence Barrack and Calum Gray. The Neopolitan dance from Act III is given a spirited performance by Ema Takahashi and Levi Teachout, setting the scene for the culminating ‘Black Swan’ pas de deux.  In this staging there is contrasted casting in the two principal roles, meaning that Siegfried is now performed by Laurynas Vėjalis and Odile by Mayu Tanigaito. Tanigaito exudes the magnetic brilliance that Odile directs towards Seigfried in order to deceive him into foreswearing Odette, while Vėjalis revels in the athleticism of Siegfried’s variations, not just as virtuosity for its own sake but as an expression of the elation he feels as a result of his encounter with Odile.  By the time we reach the coda, in which Odile stands triumphant before the smitten Siegfried, Tanigaito and Vėjalis have convinced us that May’s performances of the full-length ballet are not to be missed.

The second half of the programme is devoted to the company’s contemporary repertoire.  Katherine Minor and Calum Gray are convincing in Alice Topp’s ‘Clay’ pas de deux from her 2023 work, Logos. This is a demanding piece, both expressively and technically, with the dancers alternately drawn towards one another and pulled apart, full of sinuous couplings and complex lifts.  Shorn of its context in the larger work, it loses some of its impact but it effectively conveys the flavour of Topp’s choreography.

Prismatic, created by resident choreographer and dancer Shaun James Kelly for the RNZB’s seventieth anniversary gala in 2023, pays tribute to one of the company’s signature works from its early years, Prismatic Variations, choreographed by company founder Poul Gnatt and Russell Kerr. Set to the same score, Brahm’s Variations on a Theme by Haydn, and with costumes by Donna Jeffries that evoke those of the earlier ballet, this is a celebratory work that gives the entire troupe an opportunity to shine in a sequence of solos, duets and ensembles.  The conceit of allowing the dance to continue even after the music of each variation has ended seemed initially to take both dancers and audience by surprise, but as the work unfolded the choreographer’s intentions became clearer.  A highlight was the sequence of Variations V and VI, with its bubbling horn accompaniment, in which the company’s men responded to the energy of the music with vigour, forming a surging pyramid of bodies at its climax.  Just as Brahms teases the listener at the end as the music surges, dies away, and then revives, Kelly responds with sweeps of movement that suddenly dissipate and then return.  It is a suitable, celebratory note to bring the programme to an end and the large Ashburton audience responded with enthusiasm.

Unlike on some previous tours, audiences attending 2024’s iteration of Tutus on Tour can feel confident that they are seeing a programme of works that have been part of the fare that audiences in the main centres have recently enjoyed, although without the full sets that touring to smaller venues precludes.  This is as it should be and long may Tutus on tour continue.


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