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NZ Ballet takes three bites of the Big Apple

NYC, Three Short Ballets from the Big Apple
Civic Theatre, Auckland
Until March 4th

Then New Zealand Tour

The Royal NZ Ballet's latest show NYC continues the great tradition of triple bills highlighting the superb talent of the company.

The three works all have connections with New York and the new artistic Director Ethan Stiefel. There also some of his colleagues from the city and his fiancé, the guest dancer Gillian Murphy. They appear to have given the company a tune up, injecting a new vigour and big city aspirations.

The opening work “28 Variations on a Theme by Paganini” based on the work by Brahms was set on a plain black stage with one crystal chandelier. Each of the short movement was like the clear beautiful jewels of the chandelier, each with different facets and dimensions.

The female dancers in their pastel pinks and mauves and the males in their grey were like beautiful moths or butterflies and the black space like a giant display box, preserving their delicate dances.

The separate sequences piled up on each other with barely a break to allow audience applause (unlike the final dance of the evening “Who Cares” where the audience responded with waves of enthusiastic applause after each section).

The momentum of the dances was intense as the dancers went through their paces. At times they seemed to be propelled by the music, responding with dynamic movements. At other times they seemed more self-contained like little wind-up children’s ballerinas while sometimes it seems as though they were engaged in flamboyant random acts.

Some of the dancing was classical but added to this were traces of contemporary approaches mixed with humour and coquettishness.

While there was no real linking narrative there were scenes which looked as though they were lifted from classical ballets adding a surreal quality to the piece.

The dancers displayed an acute awareness of the space they were dancing in and the spaces they created between each other.

The second work on the programme “Final Dress”, a new commission choreographed by Larry Keigwin was very different with the music of Brahms replaced by the heavy beat of New York composer Adam Crystal. The setting was the completely stripped down stage of the Civic exposing even the rear wall. This became the rehearsal space for the dance company as real life and invention met in an extension of the TV series “The Secret Lives of Dancers”.

The dancers clad in black shorts and tops rehearsed with a mixture of companionship and competition with an undertone of sexual frisson with sultry displays as well as some voyeuristic posturing including the finely built Sergio Torrado.

In contrast to the first work there was also a different approach to shape creation with lots of jagged and angular movements and poses creating an electric tautness.

The scene then shifts to the dance hall where the individuals and couples act out another set of relationships which includes a delicate pas de deux by Lucy Balfour and Dimitri Kleioris which was flecked through with tension.

Crystal’s music really made this piece come alive with its hints of Eastern and Eastern European physical dance giving it fresh energy and drive.

The third work on the programme “Who Cares” was a Balanchine work based around the songs of George Gershwin. It’s a piece which combines ballet with Broadway shows and the musicals which featured the great dancers such as Fred Astaire.

Each of the dancers got an opportunity to do a star turn including Gillian Murphy with a performance which was exquisite. While she was clearly the best dancer on stage the dancers of the company looked world class as well.

This is a triple bill which will be remembered for a long time and "Final Dress” which is one of the great contemporary dance pieces should be repeated as often as possible.

A member of John Daly-Peoples’ family is on the board of the RNZB

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