Stunning Dance Performances

Wonderful School of Dance Graduation Finale

Reviewed by Ann Hunt. Photos by Stephen A’Court.

school-of-dance-3Each year the standard of the students graduating from the New Zealand School of Dance just seems to get better.

This year the array of talent on stage is stunning. As well as the third year students, those in the second and first years also participate in this production.

This year features three world premieres. One is by Australian dancer/choreographer Amber Haines from DanceNorth and the other by Jiri and Otto Bubenicek, whose most recent work was choreographed for the San Francisco Ballet Company.

The programme runs from Tuesday November 22 to Saturday November 26, at the New Zealand School of Dance Te Whaea : National Dance & Drama Centre, Newtown, Wellington, so you’ve still time to catch it.

Mozart sets the tone

mozart-1The diverse programme opens with Meistens Mozart. The seven songs, as the title suggests, are mainly by Mozart, with additional ones by Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf and Bernhard Flies and Jakob Haibl.

Choreographed by Helgi Tomasson in 1991 for the San Francisco Ballet Company, it evokes alpine meadows and clear sparkling skies. Fetchingly costumed in white, the work is pretty to look at but a little dated in style.

Nevertheless it is given a sparkling performance by all six dancers. Particular mention must go to the beautifully clear, sweeping movement of third year student George Liang. This fleet-footed, elegant dancer is very impressive.  He has great balon and there is a contained joy in his dancing.

Sophie Arbuckle also stood out with her lovely arms and gentle assurance.

He Taonga – A Gift delights once again

the-giftWhat a pleasure it was to see again the powerful work He Taonga – A Gift, choreographed by Taiaroa Royal and Taane Mete of Okareka Dance Company.

First performed at the School for Graduation 2009, it has lost none of its impact. To music by Whirimako Black and Aleksandra Vrebalov, it has a mysterious, ritualistic quality that is very compelling. Garbed in long split skirts, which move beautifully with the body, the fourteen male dancers all give passionate performances and are all very evenly matched.

Tristan Carter is outstanding as the central figure. This beautifully conceived and choreographed work is superb.

Exquisite costumes feature in The Sleeping Beauty duo

After the first interval, the pas de deux from Act 111 of The Sleeping Beauty, followed. This taxing duet is a big ask for such young dancers, but Laura Crawford and Yuri Marques acquitted themselves well and with good rapport between them.

Crawford is a nicely placed dancer with a pleasing line, while Marques has a most regal bearing and excellent elevation in his solo.

Aurora’s tutu in this piece is quite exquisite, with its delicate sequins and pastel colour. Costumes throughout the production are excellent and have been made by Jane Boocock and students from the Diploma in Costume Construction from Toi Whakaari, supervised by Donna Jefferis.

GLITCH is fascinating and challenging

Connor Masseurs performed with striking intensity in GLITCH to music by Edit – Dex. This intriguing solo piece was created for this second year contemporary dance student to perform at the twentieth anniversary gala of Academie de Danse Annie Fayn, in Papeete, French Polynesia in March 2016.

The work was quite disturbing in a good way! The choreography, which includes aspects of contemporary dance, street dance and robotics, focuses on dislocation and isolation. At times it was almost repellent, and yet we were fascinated by its oddity and by the extremely skilful rendering of it by Masseurs.

The movement was created by Masseurs and arranged by Victoria Colombus.

Haines delightful piece features an all-woman cast

incantAustralian choreographer Amber Haines created a new work Incant, and this is its world premiere. The piece is created on fourteen women dancers – an excellent balance given that He Taonga was designed for fourteen male dancers.

In the beginning we see a group of women huddled together who move and break apart and rejoin throughout the dance’s progress. This grouping and separating becomes quite mesmeric. During the separations, there are solos and duets, but always the group re-forms.

graduationHaines has said that the world she has created here, ...invokes a mesmerising state of collective consciousness and celebrates the power and luminous beauty of shared intention.

Subdued light envelopes the stage. The dancers are garbed in beautiful soft velvet tops and long wide trousers. They move almost hypnotically and a feeling of focussed unity and other worldly-ness pervades.  All dance uniformly well, but special mention should go to Tiana Lung and Breanna Timms.

The music by Alisdair Macindoe fitted perfectly, with its use of tinkling bells, rattles and held notes.

Czech masterpiece one of many highlights

Another world premiere and certainly an evening highlight is the delightful and aptly named Dance Gallantries. Choreographed by Jiri Bubenicek, with costume designs by his twin brother Otto Bubenicek, this pure movement work emphasises the beautiful innocence of the young dancers. It also allows their different personalities to emerge.

graduation-2Reminiscent in some ways of the choreography of Mark Morris, with its fluidity and innovative movement, this breezy summery neo-classical piece is totally engaging.

The dancers made the difficult lifts and spins look easy and appeared to be having the time of their lives dancing it, which of course made us enjoy it even more.

Otto’s costumes with their slighted muted tones of blue/green, wine, teal and brown, suited the choreography and tenor of the work perfectly. The short dresses of the women flowed with their bodies and enhanced their movements.

It was extremely well danced by all the cast of ten, especially George Liang, Jaidyn Cumming, Laura Crawford and Saul Newport.  While Jack Whiter came into his own in his strong solo.

This lovely work which demands to be seen again, moves in its closing sequence with the efforts of the dancers to create something that is perfect in such an imperfect world.

Political Mother makes an appropriate political statement!

And now for something completely different! Political Mother. This extraordinary work which was first shown here by the Hofesh Shechter Dance Company at the 2012 NZ International Festival of the Arts, is an absolute tour de force. Shechter’s choreography and the loud relentless music by various composers, are visceral in their impact. A powerful condemnation of oppressive dictatorships everywhere and totally relevant to this century – or any century for that matter – it is given a stunning performance by all twelve of these young dancers.

Sam Coren, from Shechter’s Company, worked with the students in NZ for a month, and hand-picked those who would dance it. This definitely shows. Every dancer gave it their hearts and then some.  Tristan Carter and Tiana Lung were particularly powerful.

Superb choreography and costuming for the finale

The final work, Tempo Di Valse is another world premiere. The music is the Waltz of the Flowers from Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker and the choreography is arranged by Nadine Tyson.

The very pretty costumes are designed by Donna Jefferis. This is an effervescent way to end this extremely varied and enjoyable programme. All danced with obvious enjoyment, and Luke Cooper and Benedict Crossley-Pritchard dance with aplomb and display excellent partnering.