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May 22, 2011

Stravinsky Selection shows Royal New Zealand Ballet’s breadth of skill

Jack Yan/6.19

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Stravinsky Selections
Ross Brown/Royal New Zealand Ballet

Above Company artists Antonia Hewitt, Medhi Angot and Tonia Looker pose for this publicity shot for the Royal New Zealand Ballet.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Stravinsky Selection sees three ballets in a particularly rewarding package. If you wish to see a mixture of modern and traditional, if you like the more lyrical nature of a later composer, or if you appreciate the sheer breadth and depth of the RNZB performers’ skills, then you win on all counts.
   Russian-born composer Igor Stravinsky had collaborated with Pablo Picasso, Coco Chanel, Ballets Russes impresario Sergei Diaghilev and choreographer George Balanchine, and was one of the last century’s most influential. Time named him one of the 100 most influential people of the century.
   Javier de Frutos’s Milagros, set to Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring, is modern and unconventional, though the skill is undeniable, and the RNZB has had much acclaim since the ballet was first performed in 2003. Male and female dancers, in flowing white costumes, each with a number faintly showing through the back like a football shirt worn as an undergarment, moved both graciously and violently; the word ferocious was used in the RNZB’s own materials.
   As far as this magazine’s readers are concerned, it may be the involvement of fashion designer Karen Walker in Satisfied with Great Success (set to Scènes de Ballet) that captures attention. Walker created the costumes, while Cameron McMillan choreographed. Film footage of Stravinsky appears at the start and the end of the 25-minute ballet, though the beauty of this ballet means that you wind up wanting more at its end. Walker’s work certainly brightened the mood of this ballet.
   She had redesigned the costumes mere weeks before the première on Friday night.
   The RNZB definitely saved the best till last. Petrouchka, following the Michel Fokine choreography, explores themes of freedom, love and tragedy, expressed poignantly by the company, and was the perfect way to end the evening on a high.
   A coat, donated by the Royal New Zealand Ballet to Te Papa Tongarewa, the Museum of New Zealand, was remade from the original pattern, while the dancing bear costume also needed to be re-created after the earlier one was stolen.
   Producer Russell Kerr deservedly received a standing ovation.
   Regrettably, Stravinsky Selection played only for three nights in Wellington—closing night is Sunday—though we hope Auckland readers will head to the ASB Theatre at the Aotea Centre between May 25 and 28 for the performances there.
   Napier is next (May 31 and June 1), followed by Invercargill (June 8 and 9). More details can be found at the RNZB website.Jack Yan, Publisher

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