Tutus on Tour
Royal New Zealand Ballet
Oamaru Opera House, Friday 13 March 2020
Reviewed by Sofia Kalogeropoulou
Tutus on Tour, the regional touring programme of 2020 by the Royal New Zealand Ballet is one not to miss. The eclectic short-in-length works ranging from classical to contemporary ballet and choreographed by national and international choreographers are enticing and guarantee to appeal to a wide audience while the exquisite dancing will inspire young and old.
The evening at the Oamaru Opera House began with Wayward by Canadian dancer and choreographer Kiara Flavin. This was a refreshing work and a perfect opening for the overall performance that set the mood for the pieces to come. Reminiscent of a Degas painting, the ballet started with a dancer tying her ribbons under a wash of light and progressed into a series of pas de deux and group ensembles. Stripped of elaborate scenery and highly complex enchaînements, the choreography capitalised on the simplicity of gestural movement vocabulary and showcased the art form at its best. The eloquently performed ports de bras contrasted with occasional intricate footwork sequences set to Vivaldi’s music, revealing the dancers’ artistry, musicality and technical ability.
In contrast to the abstract poetics of the first piece, Remember, Mama choreographed by Danielle Rowe was a period and context-specific piece. Originally commissioned for the RNZB’s critically acclaimed Strength & Grace season in 2018, marking the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, the work delves into the tender relationship between a mother and son at different stages of their life, from childhood to old age. Choreographically the amalgamation of contemporary ballet fused with folkish steps, marching and playful handstands reflected the concept of the work while the interpretation of the dancers made of a convincing performance.
Penny Saunders’s Berceuse was a compelling pas de deux, well-crafted and distinct in its style and aesthetic. In a constant interplay between classical and contemporary dance, fluid movements, directional changes and highly complex partnering skills, the choreography encapsulates relationship tensions and drama even when the dancers move away from each other momentarily. Noteworthy is the captivating performance of Ella Chambers who abandoned herself into the arms of her partner Calum Gray during the edgy and electrifying lifts.
The evening closed with Artemis Rising by internationally acclaimed New Zealand choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull. Conceptually and choreographically the work delivers what it sets out to do; pay homage to Abigail Boyle, a much loved recently retired RNZB dancer. The staging and topography of the dance is effective and conveys intention as the chorus of dancers dressed in black engage in a repetitive motif juxtaposing the dynamic and exuberant dancing personality of Ana Gallardo – the principal dancer - whose performative presence was exhilarating. Occasionally, the chorus would surround her and echo her gestures by creating hand-sculpted tableaus that reinforced the statues of the dancer as the goddess of stage.
Overall, the performance was enthusiastically received by the audience. Every time I watch the Royal New Zealand Ballet perform it is an affirmation that the company is growing in its versatility to dance a wide range of styles and repertoire, and in its technical prowess and artistic excellence.