It is quite rare to go to an evening of dance made up of short pieces to come out liking all of them, but that is what I felt coming out of the current programme by the Royal New Zealand Ballet, Allegro.
The first piece was Balanchine’s ‘Allegro Brilliante’, a work from 1956 (and previously performed by RNZB in 1999 and 2001). This is danced by 1 principal couple and 4 other couples. We were lucky to see Gillian Murphy as the ‘principal lady’ who was as graceful as ever. If you like Balanchine, and I do, then you would love this piece. The costumes for the women were gorgeous shades of pale green and deep peachy pink which complemented the movements.
Next up was ‘Les Lutins’ choreographed by Johan Kobborg, a lively piece for three dancers, with two musicians (a violinist and pianist) on stage with the dancers. This is a real virtuoso piece, both or the dancers and the musicians. It is full of energy, wonderful jumps and humour. I was really impressed with the cast of Lucy Green, Rory Fairweather-Neylan and Arata Miyagawa. The violinist was Benjamin Baker and the pianist Michael Pansters.
After a short break, we were treated to ‘Satellites’ which I think was my favourite of the evening. Choreographed by Daniel Belton, the piece also featured kinetic sculpture as part of the piece, with projections, lasers and glittering lights. The dancers were in white and held what I can only describe as orbs as they danced to the music of Dutch composer Jan-Bas Bollen. The kinetic sculpture was created by Jim Murphy and the motion graphics by Jac Grenfell.
The fourth piece, ‘Mattress Suite’, choreographed by Larry Keigwin, is a series of six short dances all taking place on or around a mattress. The pieces were all created separately between 2001 and 2004 and put together as part of the choreographer’s 10th anniversary in 2013. I felt this went on a bit long, but it was still really interesting mix of solos, duets and a trio for three men. You can hear the choreographer talking about this and the final work of the evening, ‘Megalopolis’ here. This piece is a work for 20 dancers, and was a close contender for my favourite piece of the evening. The dancers were dressed in a mix of black costumes decorated with bands of silver. The music was a mix of Steve Reich and MIA, which was a kind of odd and jarring mix that kind of worked well.
This was the last full programme under the artistic directorship of Ethan Stiefel. It will be interesting to see in what direction the company is steered under whoever takes over.
Review based on performance at ASB Theatre, Auckland, 2nd August 2014
Pictures from http://www.rnzb.co.nz