It was a bitterly cold but bright and sunny day today, Monday. There has been quite a bit of snow in some other parts of New Zealand, particularly in the south and on higher land. It really feels as if winter has arrived.
Although we usually get up a bit later on Sundays, this week was an exception, as we were up at 7am to watch The Eurovision Song Contest. This year saw the 60th year of this competition, with a total of 40 countries taking part in Vienna. The heats earlier in the week knocked out a fair number so we didn’t have to sit through all 40 on Sunday. Australia was in the competition this year, in celebration of the 60th birthday and because there is a huge fan base there. We enjoyed bacon rolls for breakfast, which sustained us through the 4 hours (!) of the competition. The Swedish entry “Heroes” sung by Måns Zelmerlöw won so there was much joy in this household as you can imagine. You can catch the song on YouTube if you wish – worth watching if only for the graphics!
From the ridiculousness of that annual event, I spent the evening at a sublime evening of dance by The Royal New Zealand ballet. The four pieces had as a theme, war, and featured two world premieres. The evening began with “Dear Horizon”, choreographed by New Zealander Andrew Simmons (whose piece “Of Days” I saw and loved not long after we moved to New Zealand) with a specially commissioned score by Gareth Farr. It was a piece for 12 dancers, six male and six female, and was a lyrical and somber piece that made a great opener. This was followed by “Soldier’s Mass” by one of my favourite choreographers, Jiri Kylian. The music was by Martinu and from 1939. For me, this was undoubtedly the best piece of the evening, with the dancers forming wonderful shapes and patterns, moving as unison or in groups. The piece is normally danced by 12 men, but the night we went, one of the dancers was a woman. I was intrigued as to why, and thanks to Facebook, discovered that one of the dancers had been injured and that dancer Laura Jones took over the role.
The third piece was “Salute”, choreographed by Johan Kobborg. This was in complete contrast to the first two, being a light and frothy piece about soldiers and their girlfriends. I can see why it was chosen to lighten the mood of the evening, but it was perhaps too light – and so Danish! You could really see the influence of Bournonville in the whole piece.
I was looking forward to the final piece of the evening, “Passchendale”, with choreography by Neil Ieremia of the Black Grace company and another world premiere. The music, by Dwayne Bloomfield, was dramatic and soaring, and the work ended with the sound of knocking on a door to symbolise the telegraph boy bringing news of death to families around New Zealand.
All in all, a great evening of dance and music played for 3 of the pieces by the New Zealand Army Band. Two dancers in particular shone – Paul Mathews and Joseph Skelton (pictured above) – who danced in all of the pieces.
The company will be heading to the UK later this year, so if you get a chance, go and see this small but vibrant company.
Pictures from The Royal New Zealand Ballet website, except for the cover picture which is one of mine.