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Dancing with Mozart - Royal New Zealand Ballet
31 May 2018, Opera House, Wellington

Reviewed by Ann Hunt 

Choreographed and designed by New Zealand born Corey Baker, The Last Dance is the most politically relevant production the Royal New Zealand Ballet has done in years. It is also one of the most chillingly moving.

Driven by his intention to highlight climate change, Baker collaborated with composer Duncan Grimley, who uses excerpts from Mozart’s sublime Requiem, as well as deconstructing the same music. The fragmentation of it echoes the breaking down of our future world. This music and that of the two Kylian works is recorded.

Choreographically it is somewhat cautious, but the drama of the work carries it forward. 

Integral to its success is the brilliant lighting design of Michael Mazzola.

Eight dancers in white body suits on a white minimalist set represent the ice. Mayu Tanigaito and Joseph Skelton sit inside a large Perspex box. This is our world – its people oblivious to the destruction around them. 

The melting ice is conveyed by pieces of the dancers’ costumes beginning to peel off, revealing the black beneath, while part of the white floor is simply picked up and carried away. The climax is devastatingly relentless and apt.

Everyone involved deserved their standing ovation. 

George Balanchine’s Divertimento No. 15 is problematic. It’s pure, undiluted classicism demands dancing of the highest order.  It needs exceptional clarity, ease of execution and effortless speed, while keeping a pure classical line.

Some, such as Guest Artists Veronika Part and Nadia Yanowsky seem at ease here. They are warm, expansive dancers, with beautiful arms, and fluid upper body strength. Mayu Tanigaito, who appears in every work of the evening with apparently limitless energy, is beautifully placed and a delight. Joseph Skelton seems born to dance Balanchine with his noble carriage, pure line and excellent partnering. His pas de deux with Tanigaito is quite lovely. Also impressive are Alexandre Ferreira and Wan Bin Yuan. But not all the dancers were able to deliver to these high standards.

Additionally, in spite of knowledgeable staging by Guest Francia Russell, Orchestra Wellington’s  sensitive playing under the lively baton of Marc Taddei, attractive  costumes by Barbara Karinska, and the dancers smiling fixedly throughout enough to make their jaws ache, the work appears dated.     

Choreographer Jiri Kylian’s celebrated two works Petite Mort and Sechs Tanze are companion pieces usually performed in the same programme. Both are staged here by Stefan Zeromski.

The beautiful, mellow lighting design is a joint effort by Kylian (concept) and Joop Caboort (realisation).

Petite Mort is danced to Mozart’s Piano Concertos in A major, and C major, and the witty costume design is by Joke Visser.

Kylian’s choreography requires great plasticity, elegance and clarity from his dancers, which the entire cast ably deliver.

The work encompasses the joy of sexual union and the transience of life. From the superb opening image of 6 male dancers holding foils, symbolic of death which always accompanies us, this is masterly choreography. 

From start to finish Sechs Tanze is a hilarious romp that never lets up. With Deutsche Tanze, Kylian has perfectly captured Mozart’s own irreverence and zest for life.

The cast dance with gusto and bottomless energy. This audience favourite is a great finale to an eclectic evening of dance.  

Dancing with Mozart tours to Christchurch, Invercargill, Dunedin, Blenheim, Palmerston North, Napier and Auckland until 8 July.

Read Theatreview review (Deirdre Tarrant)

Dancing with Mozart by the Royal NZ Ballet

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