New Zealand School of Dance: “Graduation Season 2015” -
Te Whaea Theatre Wellington, November 19 & 20 -
The New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) continues to impress with the strength and versatility of its students in this season of dance designed to both challenge and display. While classical and contemporary dance are given equal prominence, two key works from the classical canon bookend the diverse program, beginning with the Grand Pas from Paquita.
Staged by Anna-Marie Holmes (after Petipa), this cornerstone of nineteenth century repertoire offered challenges that the eight dancers in the corps largely met, showing defined footwork, beautiful precision of the head and arms, and pencil sharp lines.
Four soloists, Megan Wright, Lola Howard, Georgia Powley and Mayuri Hashimoto, each performed their variations with excellent use of the space, clean technique and bright stylish presence.
In the pas de deux Yayoi Matches and Yuri Marques were stylish and confident. Marques showed wonderful charisma, and, for one so young, soaring but controlled elevation, and excellent partnering skills. The alternate cast of Yeo Chan Yee and Felipe Domingos (another charismatic dancer), was equally elegant, performing the presage lifts with ease.
As always with NZSD, the contemporary works were freshly innovative and performed with passion and great technical skill. NZSD graduate Sarah Foster-Sproull’s Forgotten Things, choreographed in collaboration with the second and third year students, explores metamorphosis, embodying the idea of the dancers together as one cell “with many identities,” which then fragments, and re-assembles itself. The exposed limbs of the dancers (otherwise all in black) are the focus, as, with clever lighting, the arrangement of hands and lower legs to collectively form different shapes is highlighted, showing quite breath-taking inventiveness. The detail and athleticism of the movement and the conviction and zeal with which it was performed made this work compelling.
Cnoditions of Entry (no it’s not a typo) by NZSD graduate, Thomas Bradley, is a dimly lit work, with rather dystopian overtones seemingly tied to the philosophy of Heidegger and his concepts of time and being. The eight dancers in baggy blue pants, green tops, and vivid orange, almost burka-like head coverings present striking imagery. The movement construct moves from the broad, sliding, and space-eating, to the minute, almost robotic; all to an extraordinary soundscape, also created by Bradley, which ranges from the rhythmic to the pulsating and discordant.
Excerpts from As It Fades, choreographed by Singaporean, Kuik Swee Boon to a score compiled from music by Max Richter and Bani Hayaki was the final contemporary offering. Also a thematically dark work, the movement has a relentless quality of desperation to it that is, nonetheless, quite poignant. Exploding from the dancers – sharp, percussive, and detailed in its use of arms and upper body – it is mesmerising in its intensity. The juxtaposition of this relentlessness with the calm undertones of the score is spellbinding, as the dancers group, then splinter and regroup.
Balanchine’s duet, Tarantella, a non-stop cardio challenge, was a saucy interlude between contemporary works. Both casts nailed the frenetic footwork, furiously fast arms and percussive precision with the tambourine, which made this party-piece so enjoyable. Jeremie Gan had a particularly jaunty style, wonderful attack and unflagging energy.
Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s 1986 work Concerto, to the Shostakovich Piano Concerto No 2, played live on two pianos, was the final challenge for the classical dancers. The pared-back neo-classical movement, precise and detailed, is unforgiving, but again the dancers, many of them first year students, acquitted themselves well.
Leading couple, Yeo Chan Yee and George Liang were serene and composed in the first movement, while Powley showed good attack and a lovely line in the third movement solo.
Howard and Jerry Wan Jiajing performed the second movement pas de deux exquisitely. Their languidly slow lifts and supported turns flowed seamlessly, while Howard showed a beautifully extended line, with a glorious use of the upper body and light as a breath ports de bras.
Concerto was a sublime ending to a delightful program!
– Denise Richardson