Preview: The NZ Festival and Auckland Arts Festival
The biennial NZ Festival will transform Wellington into a thriving, enlivening festival city, abuzz with a celebration of cutting-edge culture from some of the best arts and artists from around the world from 23 February to 18 March. Up north, the annual Auckland Arts Festival from 8-25 March features a non-stop showcase of acts from New Zealand and overseas spanning theatre, dance, music, comedy and the visual arts.
Displaying a great spirit of collaboration and partnership, the Auckland Arts Festival (AAF) and New Zealand Festival (NZF) will work together as co-presenters of new works by The New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC), The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) and French Vietnamese Company Nouveau Cirque du Vietnam.
OrphEus – a dance opera is a bold new work by NZDC performing alongside American tenor Aaron Sheehan and baroque ensemble Latitude 37. Combining the power of dance, live music and theatre with the incredible vision of Michael Parmenter, OrphEus confronts the power of music and voice in both the personal and the political realms, revealing, in this familiar story of love and loss, the tensions between seduction and restraint, harmony and disorder.
The Piano: the ballet is inspired by Jane Campion’s award-winning film, The Piano. RNZB will stage the world premiere of this new full-length dance work by Jiří Bubeníček, which was originally conceived as a short work for Dortmund Ballet. Re-imagined and expanded for RNZB, The Piano: the ballet gives the story a new and distinctively New Zealand voice and, in dance, a powerful new means of expression.
In À Ố Làng Phố, woven baskets become trampolines and bamboo poles create a playground for daring acrobatics. The show features a mixture of serene South Vietnamese music, contemporary hip hop and a full range of circus skills with the aid of bamboo, the signature aesthetic of Nouveau Cirque du Vietnam.
The Artistic Director of the NZ Festival, Shelagh Magadza, says, “After marking a major milestone in 2016 with our 30th anniversary, the 2018 programme looks to the future – inviting audiences to explore ground-breaking arts experiences made by some of the world’s most inventive artists”.
The programme of dance also includes the return of choreographer Michael Keegan-Dolan with his take on the ballet classic Swan Lake/Loch na hEala; the Olivier Award–winning dance theatre work, Betroffenheit, by Jonathon Young and Crystal Pite and Beyond Time by U-Theatre from Taiwan, a fusion of martial-arts inspired choreography and percussion set against a backdrop of stunning visual projections. Live music gig meets art gallery meets theatre, dance and film in Rushes by Movement of the Human. This inter-arts experience created by Malia Johnston, Rowan Pierce and Eden Mulholland challenges audiences to choose their own adventure, picking a pathway through a series of performance spaces that can be explored at will.
Jonathan Bielski, Artistic Director, Auckland Arts Festival, who replaced Carla van Zon this year says he wanted his first festival to bring people together and tell stories of communities, histories and cultures.
“Auckland Arts Festival is the home for ambitious and compelling ideas that celebrate humanity and uplift the spirit. We champion the storyteller, the adventurer, the provocateur and the creator. We have a commitment to tangata whenua while also celebrating contemporary and cosmopolitan Auckland,” says Bielski.
In addition to the shows co-presented with the NZF, the dance programme also includes English National Ballet’s production of Akram Khan’s Giselle, which will be performed exclusively in New Zealand for the AAF. The classical ballet’s tale of love, betrayal and redemption is transported to the 21st century as peasants of the story are now outcast migrant factory workers; and the essential themes of class and dislocation are given a bracing contemporary relevance.