Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

20/03/2013 - 22/03/2013

Reading Cinemas, Wellington

16/05/2013 - 17/05/2013

Auckland Arts Festival 2013

Production Details

Virtuosi / Sue Healey’s film will screen 
Thursday 16 May at 7pm at the New Zealand Film Archive

and 9.30pm Friday 17 May at Reading Cinema 
as part of the Edge / Wellington Documentary Film Festival.

Virtuosi is a beautiful and inspirational feature-length documentary about the passionate drive to be an artist and the special nature of virtuosity in dance.  Created by award-winning choreographer and filmmaker Sue Healey with music by New Zealand jazz legend Mike Nock, Virtuosi reveals intimate and astounding portraits of eight New Zealand dance artists who left their homeland to pursue careers around the world.

Take the rare chance to witness the artistry of these dancers, hear about their fascinating dance lineages and learn about their connections back to New Zealand.



Director of Photography: Judd Overton

Editors: Lindi Harrison and Sue Healey

Producers: Sue Healey and Viv Rosman - Performing Lines

1hr 20mins

NZ dancers in their element, writ large

Review by Virginia Kennard 19th May 2013

Virtuosi is less a documentary or dance film than a visual collage of filmed portraiture. It features eight Kiwi dancers and choreographers who have made their way to success on the international scene. Virtuosi is an exploration of what it means to dance, be New Zealanders and of home.

Sue Healey spent two days filming each dancer, household names to the dance industry in New Zealand, in their various international bases. Inviting them to dance for screen, either improvised or choreographed, we watch them talk and move and dance in places of personal importance. A sense of place, whether that be a reference to connection to the land or simply a place they enjoy being, is a central theme to this work: they climb trees, dance on (forbidden) rocks, traverse sandy beaches, dance-loiter on couches on the side of the road, shift objects in their homes. The viewer is a guest in their lives as they talk about dance or themselves or themselves as dance, with simply their face filling the frame.  When else could we get to inspect a dancer’s face this intently?

Interviews ranged from Mark’s lengthy outline of his background and history and Claire laughing at her entry into the Brussels scene via Wim Vandekeybus, to Lisa remembering her bewilderment of the friendliness of New Zealanders upon her return from Berlin, and Ross discovering his talent for playing the fool alongside the precision learnt at ADT.

The screen time of each was variable, and for the most part this was appropriate: clearly a choice based on the filmed material and revealing the shifting process of filming and interviews based on who and where. However the viewer was often left wondering whether one would see more of Mark Baldwin, or why Lisa Densem had extra moments of whimsy. Maybe a more refined interview method, or rigorous editing could have  prevented personalities overshadowing others.

This imblance of person vs dance, however, would onbvioulsy be redressed in the format originally intended, and still waiting ti be mounted —  a multi-screen installation of the various portraits. The varied screen time would not be a problem in such a presentation but does make it a little difficult to watch as a continued narrative.

The cinematography and musical choices were distinct and perfect for each dancer. Having access to the entire catalogue of music from composer Mike Nock, Healey made inspired selections well-synched with the dancer in question: the quirky fool of Ross, the introspective quiet of Lisa. The eloquence and reined-energy of Mark, the intrepid, malleable Raewyn. The discipline and clarity of Sarah Jane, the energy of Craig. The clear, considered and playful Jeremy, the buzz and eagerness of Claire.  In particular that the camera angles for Ross were off-kilter and the music for Lisa more ethereal.

The real pleasure in this film was watching dancers I know, have met, admire, done class with, discussed the nature of dance with, in their elements: discussing their art, their background, the future of dance, simply dancing. Healey’s impeccable skill as a dance film-maker really comes to the fore in the closing sequence of edited dance sequences from all dancers. Her burgeoning skills as a documentary film-maker are revealed in the insight we gain of each of the dancers’ foci and perspective, cementing this work as a visual collage destined for a gallery space.

A place to re-appraise one’s own practice and enjoy the impact of Kiwis on the dance world at large. 


New Zealand School of Dance May 23rd, 2013

We loved seeing 'Virtuosi' here in Wellington, and having Sue Healey as guest teacher at the New Zealand School of Dance was a real treat. thank you Sue.

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Eloquent and beautiful dance documentary

Review by Raewyn Whyte 21st Mar 2013

Virtuosi is a feature-length documentary by Sydney-based Kiwi filmmaker and choreographer Sue Healey that is showing at film and arts festivals around the world. It makes a welcome appearance here as part of Auckland Arts Festival and runs until tomorrow night at Q Loft.

The film’s focus is on eight New Zealand dance artists who for the past decade or two (or even three) have made their careers overseas with regular forays home to teach and choreograph or dance: Jeremy Nelson in London, New York and Copenhagen; Lisa Densem in Berlin; Mark Baldwin in Sydney and London; Claire O’Neil in Brussels; Craig Bary and Sarah-Jayne Howard in various Australian cities; Ross McCormack in Adelaide and Brussels; and Raewyn Hill in Hong Kong, Paris and Townsville.

Read the review


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Breathtakingly beautiful and articulate

Review by Jennifer Nikolai 21st Mar 2013

The press on Virtuosi describes this dance documentary as:  
a beautiful and inspirational feature-length documentary about the passionate drive to be an artist and the special nature of virtuosity in dance.  Created by award-winning choreographer and filmmaker Sue Healey with music by New Zealand jazz legend Mike Nock, “Virtuosi” reveals intimate and astounding portraits of eight New Zealand dance artists who left their homeland to pursue careers around the world.

If you are a New Zealander, if you are an artist, if you are a dancer, if you love dance, if you live in New Zealand but call another country home, if you love stories told by people about people and what they can’t live without – see this doco. 

Basically this is a review where the reviewer asks all audiences to please support this project…it pertains to you. 

To you. 

To you is not a complete sentence, but it encapsulates what the viewer takes with them as they pick up their bags after this screening, walk to the bus or the bike or the car, and text their Mother or husband with the message “I’ll be home soon.” 

As clichéd as this text message may be, it’s true.  You will find yourself texting your loved ones: B home soon xo.  Alternately you will text them: I miss you.

For Sue Healey (big applause) and team, this documentary marks the beginning of more on this subject.  Sue creates works in threes. Sue has begun creating variations on this theme and envisages multiple iterations of this work.  She has enough material for a professional lifetime here in this documentary.   She has found a range of mediums to exhibit and interrogate this content.  Sue left New Zealand as a teenager.  She lives and works in Australia.  She is successful.

Experientially, it was an absolute pleasure to view this documentary here in Auckland with an audience of dance supporters, academics, performers, reviewers and family members!  Thank you Sue – We love this film!!

Virtuosi is overwhelmingly, structurally satisfying.  The multiple subjects and their intimate narratives weave through the questions posed around the curiosity Sue has for how location determines who you are.  One of the initial and ongoing themes asks: Why dance? 

Sarah-Jayne Howard (stunning as she is) opens the film dancing, as she responds to why she dances.  She paints an intimate portrait of her love of the art she has chosen and the concept of success appears early in her story.  She states that she feels successful because she chose the path that was right for her.  Like Sue and the 7 other subjects, she is successful.

The chosen path, to leave New Zealand in order to pursue a career in dance, is a path that these subjects share.  As articulated by the eight beautiful Kiwi dancers in this documentary; many dancers leave New Zealand for a career overseas. Eight cine-portraits paint images of beautiful dancers in their homes or cityscapes overseas, and/or in locations back in New Zealand.   The dancer diaspora is not particular to New Zealand.  It does not only represent leaving a small Pacific country, or leaving because there is no work here.  These artists left to pursue their own cutting edge – or to accept an opportunity via invitation, to lead the scene they enter, overseas.   They took the opportunity that was presented, because they are really, really, REALLY good at what they do!

Another theme of taking kinesthetic, embodied intelligence to a location overseas, reminds the viewer of the vulnerability and strength the body endures.  It is the artists’ suitcase, and it is what they have to offer.  Voices reveal that the New Zealand body is a powerful, warm, naïve and giving body – and that the food, the geography and lifestyle archetypically Kiwi, contributes to strong thighs and rooted lower limbs.  The Kiwiana of the body in this doco is articulated not only in dance archival images, moving images and interview footage, but in the articulate narratives, poetic and honest, as a soundtrack.

Sound plays a dominant role in these portraits.  Sue was fortunate to work with New Zealand legend, composer Mike Nock in this sound and image partnering.  The diverse sound score excites and accompanies the 8 voices, their moving images and our increased attraction to who and why they are, and how we hear them.

The cinematography must be mentioned as being repeatedly breathtaking.  Of course the subject matter is attractive in itself; beautiful movers in nature or in funky studio apartments.  The images chase and pause from edit to edit, capturing a deeper layer in each of the portraits, giving eyes and feet and bellies attention amidst flowing water or looming towers.  The high contrast images show quirky, funny, epic people, like rooftops and water and rocks, with colours and textures presenting another side to their stories.  We want to keep eating up what we see and hear. 

In experiencing this doco, you will fall in love, you will shed a tear, you will see endless beautiful images of people you know.  You will simultaneously travel and stay home.  You will consider what home means.  To you.

This work gives due respect to the working dancer, the persistent dancer that goes where they are called in order to satisfy their need to dance.  So few stories are told of dancers as strong, resilient and persistent artists.  This story paints them so, and also shows them as beautiful in their struggles with location and the call to home.  The nostalgic conventions in this film allow any audience member either from New Zealand or elsewhere, to align and see these stories as their own.  Dance is the medium.

Many people move TO New Zealand.  I moved here from Canada a decade ago.  I love how small it is, how beautiful it is, how inviting and peaceful it is…my list goes on.  New Zealand images, colours like nowhere else in the world, sounds of animals and nature we take for granted, and strong, national characteristics are highlighted in this film.  Sue herself calls it a very Kiwi film.  I agree. 

Virtuosi is being received with enthusiasm internationally.  It is our story, regardless of place of birth. It is delicate, powerful, beautifully shot and edited and it effectively shows off the extraordinary talents of these eight New Zealanders.


If you have not yet attended a screening, you must, Thursday 21st or Friday 22nd at 6:30, Q Loft in Queen Street.  I would go again, but I have chosen to hear a voice from Canada, Neil Young live at the Vector Arena tonight …cause when I hear him, he takes me home.     


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