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Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Dancing with Mozart

Being fervent fans of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, we went to the opening night of their latest production, the intriguingly titled "Dancing with Mozart."  While we had mixed feelings about the second act, which seemed to trivialize an oncoming world crisis -- though with the best of intentions, rather like an earnest junior college attempt -- the rest was marvelous.  Stunning.  The troupe is everything brilliant -- energetic, talented, beautiful, handsome, just wonderful to watch.

The Dominion Post, in its wisdom, has neglected to post a review, so I hereby copy from a Wellington City Council-sponsored online theatrical review site.


George Balanchine’s Divertimento 15, staged by Francia Russell; Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort and Sechs Tänze staged by Stefan Zeromski
The Last Dance created by Corey Baker.
Presented by The Royal New Zealand Ballet.

at Opera House, Wellington
From 31 May 2018 to 2 Jun 2018

Reviewed by Deirdre Tarrant, 1 Jun 2018

4 ballets 3 choreographers 1 composer is the byline that positions this Season and the title tells us that the evening is united by the music of Mozart. This is an interesting starting point and connects four works that would otherwise be unlikely to be seen together.

The opening work, Balanchine’s Divertimento No 15, is quintessential classical ballet. Requiring clarity and self- assured technique it is strongly performed with its many intricacies and technical challenges. An acknowledged Balanchine choreographic masterpiece of precise patterning using  solos, duets and group enchainements, exquisite tutus and elegant whiteness fill the stage and are set against a Balanchine ‘blue’ cyclorama with dazzling chandeliers overhead. The dancers all sparkle too although they have a high tensile nervous energy on opening night that will certainly settle as they tour. The calm composure of Alexander Ferreira and dazzling extensions of Mayu Tanigato are notable.  A piece of ballet heritage we don’t see often and meticulously remounted for the RNZB by Francia Russeli. The Wellington Orchestra conducted by the ebullient Marc Taddei plays very well and their presence is much applauded and appreciated.

The second work is The Last Dance to a remix/ remake of Mozart’s Requiem by Duncan Grimley who comments that he must be the only composer asked to complete the Requiem and not to sound like Mozart!  Choreographed by Corey Baker who originally began his dance career in Christchurch and most recently travelled to Antarctica to make a dance film - Antarctica:The first dance.  This Antarctica theme is again a stated context for Baker’s work on the company, with melting icecaps  and rising water the catalyst. Simplistic, sculptural, disengaged and disembodied white-clad dancers ultimately turn black as crystalline cubes of water are poured into a room representing the world of humanity. The vocabulary is rather static and unimaginative and I do not feel that it develops  the concept effectively. Such  a serious global issue with elaborate staging and design content needs a movement vocabulary to match.                                                                                         

The second half of the programme presents two works by Jiri Kylian. Petite Mort or Little Death is a famous work first danced by Nederland Dans Theater  in Salzburg in 1991 and has been seen worldwide since then. Exhuberance, aggression, symbolism, sexuality, vulnerability, ecstasy  - personal responses inform this very athletic and aesthetic work and the dancers are totally on top of their game. Stunning.

Kylian’s Black and White ballets form a strong body of works that were made for Nederland Dans Theater and Petite Mort was the last in that series. The first of these ballets, Seches Tanze, was made in 1986 and this masquerade of fantasy and madness closes our evening. Humorous, fun, fast, frivolous, baroque and brilliant Seches Tanze brings the night to a hi-octane and literally bubbly end. The dancers revel in their roles and are both engaged and engaging.

This is the first mixed bill season from new Artistic Director Patricia Barker and the dancers are looking great. Bravo. Lighting is overseen throughout with a real sense of magical staging by Michael Mazzola. Dancing with Mozart travels to Christchurch, Dunedin, Blenheim, Palmerston North, Napier and Auckland . Go see it.

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