The Harry Haythorne Award - Royal New Zealand Ballet
5 November 2016, Studio 1 St James Theatre, Wellington
Reviewed by Deirdre Tarrant
This award is in memory of Artistic Director Harry Haythorne, also a charismatic performer and personality and a key contributor to the development of our national ballet company.
An opportunity for dancers to create and to reach away from the dancing to the conceptual and contextual side that is choreography is always a good thing. There were three works in the Award competition. It seems inappropriate to review these developing works other than to commend the new choreographers, Shaun James Kelly, Charles McCall and Laura Saxon- Jones for their entries. The first part of the evening's programme, however, was three excerpts from the company's 2016 repertoire and a new work by the Award inaugural winner in 2015.
The Duet from Alexander Ekman's Cacti opened and was confidently danced by Veronika Maritati and Loughlan Prior. Fun, quirky, nicely paced and underplayed, this 'conversation' worked just as effectively close up and personal in a studio setting - although the clarity of line and extension seemed less precise and more transient close up.
The Duet from Selon Désir (Andonis Foniadakis) fared less well. Limited release of the torso and a lack of dynamic contrast gave the solo a hair-flinging and rather manic sense of desperation- dancers Alana Ng and Paul Mathews were interesting but chunky partnering ultimately created an unsatisfying relationship between them.
William Forsyth is an international 'god' of contemporary dance and his In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated was a standout earlier this year. It was equally pleasurable to see the Quartet again. Powerful control, strong lines slicing the space - every footfall needs to resonate and did. This is a touchstone work of its time and dancers Abigail Boyle, Mayu Tanigaito, William Fitzgerald and Massimo Margaria were electric.
Diminished Illusions was a premiere work by Loughlan Prior and he spoke of his interest in multi- media and film as an integral part of his creative process. Videoscape by Jeremy Brick and Max Patte and music by Francesca Mountfort were strong components that played out alongside the dance. The challenge is to determine where the focus lies and how this works between them. At times the balance was interesting and at times it felt over layered and distracting. Brief quartets and octets were beautiful illusions and ensemble work set against a tangle of screen bodies provided diminished purpose and a sense of desperation. For me, the dancers needed to settle their energies and clarify the 'why' of the work. There were gorgeous lines and physicality but ultimately there was too much of a good thing. Dancing, moving, music and image need to balance and take their turn to give this work a context.
Promising and credit to all, especially to choreographer Loughlan Prior, but I wanted it to take a breath. Though life does seem to be hurtling more and more and dance is a voice of our time - if that is an inspiration then so be it . A personal opportunity to share dance with the company thanks to director Francesco Ventriglia, the Ballet Foundation and all who made this happen.