Mozart: not my favourite composer. Watching dance: one of my favourite things. An evening based around four pieces danced to Mozart: good concept, especially as two of the pieces were by Jiří Kylián, one of my favourite choreographers. And so it was with interest that I went to Dancing with Mozart, a mixed programme performed by the Royal New Zealand Ballet. With the St James’ Theatre currently under earthquake strengthening work, the rest of this season’s performances are taking place at the Opera House.
Anyway, to the works themselves. The evening began with a piece by Balanchine, Divertimento No. 15. Some people love Balanchine, others find him formulaic. Nevertheless, there is no doubt he is hugely influential choreographer, and I would bet that there is a company somewhere in the world performing one of his pieces every month. I have mixed feelings about his work, finding some of his pieces saccharine and over long, yet enjoying others like the slightly more abstract Agon.
Unfortunately, Divertimento No, 15 fell into the first category. There were some lovely images, good dancing and it was fine. Just that – fine. The costumes, designed for the first production by Barbara Karinska, were dated, and, with minor modifications, worn by whoever is performing the work in accordance with The Balanchine Trust. As I watched the endless solos and ensemble pieces, I tried to guess the year it was premiered…and you know what? I got it right – 1956! I have obviously seen too much dance over the years…..
And so to the second piece, which was brand new and in stark contrast to the Balanchine. Earlier this year, New Zealand choreographer Corey Baker and RNZB dancer Madeleine Graham, travelled to Antarctica to a create dance film, The First Dance. The new piece we saw as part of this evening of dance, follows on from this work, both of them concerned with the effects of global warming in Antarctica. Entitled The Last Dance, it is danced to, what was described in the programme as a deconstructed Requiem in D minor. I wanted to like this work, I really did, but it kind of failed. Some parts were interesting, but the, end, with the obvious pouring of water over dancers, who then proceeded to ‘drown’ was verging on the comical (and surely a bit dangerous, making a slippy stage?).
The final two works of the evening were Jiří Kylián, Petite Mort and Sechs Tanze (Six Dances). I had seen both of these before, back in Europe, many years ago. Both these works are humorous, and yet still full of all sorts of interesting moments.
Petite Mort begins with six male dancers with six swords, a stunning opening. The dancers also interplay with black torsos in crinolines, sometimes used by the female dancers, sometimes by the male. It is a fun and clever piece, which grabs your attention. Sechs Tanze, its partner piece, is also an exuberant work, and also one where the costumes play a part – the powder on the wigs really needs to fly around. I would suggest you have a look on YouTube if you want to see bits of these works. Without doubt, these were my favourites of the evening, as anticipated.
All in all, I enjoyed the evening, with its contrasting works united by music, ended on a high note. It was, however, a bit disappointing, in that my feelings before the evening of how I would react, were exactly as predicted. It would have been nice to have been proved wrong.
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