New Choreographic Series – Royal New Zealand Ballet
1-2 March 2019, Opera House, Wellington
Reviewed by Deirdre Tarrant
Four new works make a programme of new contemporary dance for the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB). This company is hardwired into our artistic DNA and this programme promises an exploration and a reach outward into the world of different dance. Exciting steps!
Choreographer Moss Patterson’s work, Hine, opened strongly with a tight haka-influenced ensemble performed by the men and led by Luke Cooper. Powerful and passionate, I felt as if here we had the arts equivalent of revered All Blacks and a real connection between ballet and tikanga. The following sections of the work struggled to deliver. The women's stilted and unison pointe work lacked clarity and there was little crafting of the ideas or movement vocabulary. The episodic structure was accompanied by loud music, projection and strobe lighting resulting in almost choreographic chaos - a pity as the promised chance to relate to the mauri and tohu of Patterson’s own ancestral roots left me rather confused and bemused.
James O’Hara ‘s work The Sky Is Not So Different From Us, Perhaps was intriguing and unfolded through a layering of gauze as six dancers found their movement voice and floated effortlessly through the space. Live, looped violin accompaniment by Anita Clark, perfectly supported the flows and falls, twists and rhythmic play of the dancers. Mesmeric and with that glorious sense of personal escapism that comes at unexpected moments this was a joyous journey we were privileged to fleetingly share.
The Ground Beneath Our Feet by company dancer Shaun James Kelly returned us to the familiar and firm footholds of classical technique. In a rainbow of colour in costume and lighting, five couples pushed virtuosity to balletic limits. Beautifully crafted and danced with wonderful assurance and authority, this was an outstanding first choreography and gave the dancers challenges that they clearly were keen and able to achieve. In a standout line-up Mayu Tanigaito and her partner Alexander Ferreira stood out. Music by JS Bach was given a modern sound by Massimo Margaria.
Sarah Foster-Sproull made the final work, Artemis Rising, for Abigail Boyle as she leaves the company following thirteen years of memorable performances. Music composed by the amazing Eden Mulholland was haunting and perfect. Boyle is an RNZB goddess in her own right so it was interesting to see Foster–Sproull take to this theme in her tribute choreography. The hand gestures and ‘picture images’ that are becoming trademarks of her creativity were there in a Greek-like choreographic chorus that encompassed Artemis in her dance of past, present and possibility. Richly layered and earthed in herself, Artemis finds ways to fly - a fitting finale. Incredible that on the same day, in the same city, Foster-Sproull and Eden Mulholland had another inspired collaboration - Mass Solitude being performed by Footnote New Zealand Dance and Guangdong Modern Dance Company.
The RNZB New Choreographic Series is beginning a national tour- go and see these new works - there is much to reflect on and enjoy.