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April 20, 2016

Get in NOW for Footnote: four entertaining dances, representing our times

Jack Yan/14.06


Courtesy Footnote

Footnote New Zealand Dance’s NOW 2016 (New Original Work) programme, which hit Wellington tonight after performances in Auckland, presents four original works by New Zealand choreographers Julia Harvie, Sarah Knox, Lucy Marinkovich and Jessie McCall. It’s a particularly enjoyable programme, mixing meanings, humour and, in the case of Elephant Skin, a lot of balloons.
   Each performance begins with a voice recording that sets the stage for the dance that follows, although viewers are still invited to make their own interpretations.
   Centerfolds (sic) begins with a humorous look at gender stereotyping, with the company’s male and female dancers wearing masks with a bun and dresses, signalling that we often take these cues and make automatic assumptions about a strict male–female duality. Marinkovich looks at roles such as waitress, housewife, heroine, songstress, supermodel, and others, questioning our conditioning; and while not every role appears as costumed characters, they are represented through the varied music choices. Masks play a part throughout, along with multiple costume changes, ensuring that Centerfolds never drags for a moment.
   Your Own Personal Exister is one of our favourites, as it examines not only existentialism but its opposite, inauthenticity. McCall does this with the notion of how, at a children’s birthday party, we feel the centre of attention when we wear our paper “crown”, but what if that crown was never removed? It’s an allegory of the selfie era, the “look at me” validation some seek. Three of McCall’s dancers don crowns, but one doesn’t, although he is unaware of this till some way into the performance. Yet this need consumes him eventually, and he joins the inauthenticity of the others.
   One of the regular techniques here had dancers opening their mouths facing upwards while recorded voices played, which worked particularly well, and the voiceover was poignant at the conclusion of the performance (which we won’t spoil here). And what happens when that crown is removed, where does that leave us? Despite the smaller number of Footnote dancers involved, this was a particularly powerful work that was danced beautifully.
   Elephant Skin takes a humorous look with balloons landing on stage at random points, sound effects creating more laughs, and a particularly brave dancer blowing up a balloon till it popped. Harvie explained in a post-show forum that she wanted freshness and tension in the performance, because as humans, we are problem-solvers, and the dance, too, should solve the problem of the randomly placed balloons. There was, of course, an overall structure which the dancers worked around, and one scene where white balloons stood in for clouds as one performer floated across the stage, before the others began popping the cloud around her.
   Harvie also noted that she has a fascination with balloons and that they have a human element to them.
   Disarming Dissent is the most energetic of the four in terms of getting the dancers to generate forceful movements, and by this time one is marvelling at their stamina. Rowan Pearce’s music reached crescendos twice as the energy built up. Dance, exercise and martial arts combine here as Knox talks about the fight we have against the system, but then how we pacify ourselves, drawn back by either that very system or our own impulses.
   The Wellington première at Te Whaea had a unique forum at the end which featured the dancers, Harvie, general manager Richard Aindow as host, and artistic liaison Anita Hunziker.
   The Auckland performances have been (April 15–16), Wellington has one more night (21st, at Te Whaea), Dunedin is on April 28 at Mayfair Theatre, and those in Invercargill will see NOW 2016 on May 1 at Centrestage during the Southland Festival. For tickets and information, head to footnote.org.nz.—Jack Yan, Publisher

April 6, 2016

New Zealand photographers examine human impact in New York City exhibition

Lucire staff/13.39





Above, from top: Andrew B. White: Single Tree Fog. Claire Price’s L’Enfer VI. Jonathan Pilkington: Piopiotahi 1 & 2. Nichola Clark: Merania.

With opening night tonight, the Ora Gallery at 51 Seventh Avenue, New York, NY 10011, is showing Anthropocene Vision: Photography by Four Artists, exhibiting works by four New Zealanders: Nichola Clark, Jonathan Pilkington, Claire Price, and Andrew B. White.
   The images show ‘nature and interiors that conceal—or reveal—vestiges of a human presence,’ noted the gallery. Anthropocene refers to our present era, one where humans have had a permanent impact on Earth. The works being shown attempt to ‘capture, influence, understand, and form a spiritual connection with the world we inhabit.’
   Each photographer covers a different part of the main theme, with Clark exploring land and belonging, looking at Hiruhārama, New Zealand and the Ngāti Hau people, Pilkington examining the relationship humans have with stone; Price studying how humans can manipulate and destroy nature; and White photographing Prospect Park in New York as he studies an urban park and the human presence concealed within his images.
   The exhibition runs till April 29.

April 5, 2016

Royal New Zealand Ballet announces world première of The Wizard of Oz

Lucire staff/12.08


Ross Brown

The Royal New Zealand Ballet released more news about its much-anticipated première this year of The Wizard of Oz, conceived by its artistic director Francesco Ventriglia.
   Based on the 1900 novel by L. Frank Baum, the ballet will be in two acts and will stay true to the source material.
   It began its life in Firenze in 2013 as a one-act ballet but was never performed. Ventriglia took the opportunity to re-create it for the Royal New Zealand Ballet, with the music of French pianist and composer Francis Poulenc. Poulenc’s style is melodical, with the production using the music from his jazz age, earlier in his career. Ventriglia says the score is ‘a greatest hits of Poulenc,’ compiled by RNZB pianist Michael Pansters.
   Said Ventriglia in a release, ‘This story is very close to my heart. I loved it as a child and feel that it holds many truths that are too easily forgotten or overlooked in adulthood. I’m delighted to choreograph this ballet for my New Zealand dancers and to have its world première in New Zealand—my new home.’
   He added, ‘Each character has their own dance vocabulary—classical pointe work, barefooted contemporary ballet, and even some ruby slipper tap dancing.’
   Sets and costumes were designed by Gianluca Falaschi in Italy. Ventriglia said, ‘There’s tutus for the porcelain world, Munchkins in 1930s-style bathing suits, bare-chested flying monkeys, butterfly-gowned Good Witch, exaggerated bustle and black corset for the Wicked Witch and of course loads of green sequins, red glitter and gingham.’
   The Ryman Healthcare Season of The Wizard of Oz kicks off in Wellington on May 4, and will visit nine centres around New Zealand: Christchurch, Invercargill, Dunedin, Blenheim, Rotorua, Auckland, Palmerston North, and Napier. Further information can be found at the Royal New Zealand Ballet website, www.rnzb.org.nz.

April 3, 2016

Gala honours Naomi Campbell, with guests Lena Gercke, Catherine Hummels, Eva Padberg, Franziska Knuppe

Lucire staff/12.49




Gisela Schober

Gala magazine in Germany celebrated its 20th anniversary Spa Awards at the Brenners Park-Hotel & Spa in Baden-Baden, awarding the best names in the cosmetics and hotel industries.
   Supermodel Naomi Campbell was named Beauty Idol of the Year, with the judges citing her various careers in modelling, acting and authoring, and her support of social projects.
   A Special Prize was awarded to Prof Michael Braungart, founder of environmental consulting institute EPEA and a supporter of conservation and the cradle-to-cradle principle.
   Other awards went to Givenchy for its Le Soin Noir Masque Dentelle (Luxury Concepts award), Dr Grandel for Beautygen Renew Body (Innovation Concepts), Weleda for Skin Food Hautcreme (Cult Concepts), Skinceuticals for Metacell Renewal B3 (Men Concepts), Börlind for Beauty Shots Intensiv Konzentrate (Organic Concepts), Clarins for the Art of Touch (Treatment Concepts), Royal Mansour of Morocco (Luxury Hotel City–Resort), and the Four Seasons Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru (Innovative Spa Concepts).
   Guests at the event included Eva Padberg, Stephanie Stumph, Ursula Karven, Catherine Hummels, Julia Dietze, model Lena Gercke, Dagmar Kögel and her daughter Alana Siegel, Jochen Llambi and Motsi Mabuse, Jorge Gonzalez, Franziska Knuppe, Stefan Konarske, Lisa Martinek, Erol Sander and Caroline Godet, Jochen Schropp, Carolina Vera and Birthe Wolter. Barbara Schöneberger was MC and singer Philipp Dittberner performed live at the event.
   Other sponsors included BMW, Cadenzza, Emcur Bio Matcha, Fabletic, Moroccanoil, Pommery, Talbot Runhof and Und Gretel.

























Gisela Schober, Axel Kirchhof

March 5, 2016

Finding the Upper East Side’s far eastern haute cuisine at Philippe by Philippe Chow

Lola Cristall/10.38



Philippe by Philippe Chow, located on the Upper East Side in New York City, radiates with elegantly modern, yet simple, décor. The cozy setting welcomes guests into an elongated dining area in a slightly boisterous surrounding. For a quieter dining experience, a separate, private, serene room awaits guests. Lit candles glimmer within the romantic backdrop as hints of red underline the scene.
   Chow’s Beijing-style cuisine, with a modern twist, demonstrates his haute culinary skill. Dishes can be accompanied by a tasty cocktail, a delicate wine, or a delectable martini. Whether a whole steamed fish of the day with a simple soy sauce alongside minced green scallions and ginger vegetables, appetizing chicken satay, crisply luscious glazed pecking duck with house-made pancakes, delightful lettuce wraps, deliciously steamed shrimp, vegetable dumplings or crispy scallion pancakes, each dish explodes with intense flavours. While appetizers and main course are divine, the desserts are just as exciting. Pastry chef Kostas Paterakis presents a number of sweets to choose from, including a red velvet cake with cream cheese icing and dark chocolate layer cake. The pastries are mouthwatering and heavenly, both beautifully accompanied by a delicious raspberry sauce.
   Chef Chow has over three decades’ worth of cooking expertise, since his teenage years in Hong Kong. Since 2005, he has been sharing his culinary skill, revealing his knowledge and know-how amongst New Yorkers, celebrities and many notables. Guests can look forward to haute cuisine with dishes that reveal the chef’s close attention to detail, in the complexity of taste to a marvellous presentation.—Lola Cristall, Paris Editor






February 27, 2016

Gala Italia: New York gets a taste of the best Italian wines

Lola Cristall/2.33



The 31st edition of Gala Italia certainly proved to be a lavish, elegant and classy event at the Pierre Hotel in New York City. The Italian Wine & Food Institute’s (IWFI) event combines delectable wines with good food amongst enjoyable company. Chef Ashfer Biju and pastry chef Michael Mignano served enticing dishes with appetizing, high-end ingredients, paired with a selection of nine different wines ranging from sparkling to deliciously sweet, each intended to revive the senses. The variety of wines were: 2006 Ferrari, Riserva Lunelli, Trento DOC; 2014 Planeta, Chardonnay, Sicilia IGT; 2013 Tenuta Santa Caterina, Silente delle Marne, Monferrato Bianco DOC; 2011 Marchesi Antinori, Villa Antinori Chianti Classico DOCG Riserva; 2008 Tenute Lunelli, Carapace, Montefalco Sagrantino DOCG; 2008 Condè, Sangiovese di Romagna DOC Riserva; 2007 Mezzacorona, NOS Teroldego Rotaliano DOC Riserva; 2012 Bertani, Villa Arvedi, Amarone della Valpolicella Valpantena DOCG; and 2011 Sorrentino, Fior di Ginestre, Passito IGT Pompeiano. They provided various tastes for different palates with immensely flavoured textures to accompany the five-course menu, including a cheese platter.
   Ferrari’s Riserva Lunelli, made using a traditional method called metedo classico evoked succulent flavours in one sip. A bouquet of savoury aromas erupted while sipping on delectable Tenute Lunelli’s Carapace, appropriately accompanying a tasty citrus semolina olive oil cake.
   Roma-based Eredi Pisanò’s menswear fashion collection featured a number of pieces as the company toured the Grand Ballroom to introduce guests to sophisticated ensembles. As the intimate crowd continued to indulge in a delectable meal in the midst of this exquisite ambiance, a select few, who had contributed to the victory of Italian wine in the US, were recognized for their work and honoured with an award by the IWFI’s president, Lucio Caputo. Vittorio Assaf and Fabio Granato (the Serafina Restaurant Group), Sirio Maccioni (Le Cirque), Mary Ewing-Mulligan, MW (the president of the International Wine Center), Florence Fabricant (a New York Times food writer), John F. Mariani (a food and wine editor and author) and Adam Stru (founder and chairman of wine enthusiast companies), were recognized for their contributions to the wine industry.—Lola Cristall, Paris Editor

February 26, 2016

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Speed of Light: sophisticated, modern classics lead New Zealand Festival

Jack Yan/14.13



Bill Cooper


Maarten Holl

Above, from top: Selon désir, with dancers Abigail Boyle and Loughlan Prior. In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, with Mayu Tanigaito. With tiles and cacti in Cacti.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Speed of Light, kicking off the New Zealand Festival in Wellington on Friday night, comprised an enjoyable contemporary programme that showed the strength of this world-class company. The first programme put together by Francesco Ventriglia in his role as the RNZB’s artistic director, it showed how prepared the dancers were to embrace a series of challenging and inspirational modern classics just as readily as they have taken on more traditional fare. The three are united, notes Ventriglia, by the idea of light and its precision and power; to us, it’s the relevance of each of the three ballets’ themes: all different, all giving us food for thought. Ventriglia has shown a sophistication and an understanding of the deeper meanings of ballet in choosing these particular three, which we heartily recommend.
   Selon désir kicked off the evening, choreographed by Andonis Foniadakis. The RNZB had already performed this work in the UK and Italy, but tonight saw its New Zealand première. First performed by the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève in 2004, this is a particularly powerful work set to Bach, with an introduction with an electronic score composed by Julien Tarride. Alayna Ng started alone, moving energetically on to the stage, loose hair flying and her body dropping to the floor, before fifteen other dancers join her in quick succession, marching on and danced with assertiveness, but carried so gracefully. The two Bach choruses—the St Matthew and St John Passions—add to the atmosphere, with the strings adding to the beauty of the movements; a pas de deux in the middle of the performance showed just how free the movements were, and how Foniadakis’s ideas of agony and martyrdom could still be danced with such grace and fluidity. The colours of the costumes—men and women in tops and skirts—are earthy, inspired by Renaissance paintings, and they were equally loose, adding to the sense of flight across the stage.
   This was in contrast to In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, which had been commissioned by Rudolf Nureyev for the Paris Opéra Ballet, choreographed by William Forsythe, who also designed the lighting, stage and costumes. Premièring in 1987, the second ballet is very much a product of its time, with electric performances from the RNZB: turquoise leotards that showed off the muscular frames; indulgent, abrupt movements; dancers posing while others pulsed; and an electronic score by Thom Willems that shocked from its very first note. In 1987, Forsythe was fêted for In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, with how charged it was to audiences; it still has the capacity to do that today. The theme remains classical, but it’s in the power and the challenge to classical ideas that makes In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated fresh. Every decade, certainly since this ballet’s creation, has had its disrupters; so much so that that term is now embedded as a desirable trait in entrepreneurial activity. That’s the best way to think of In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated: a ballet that inspires us to shake the establishment in our own lives.
   After such heady themes, Cacti brought a dose of humour. Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman used his national culture’s appreciation of irony: this is a country that quietly celebrates fame, for instance. Ventriglia says that this was the work he wanted to stage with the RNZB, even before he was appointed. This postmodern work, first performed in the Netherlands in 2010, parodies the reviews of contemporary dance and the affectations therein. A spoken introduction read by Spenser Theberge samples such pretentious words, as 16 dancers arrive atop their tiles, dancing, clapping and shouting within their very restricted spaces, before a surreal scene where they each bring a cactus plant on to the stage. It’s not meant to "mean" anything—even if Theberge’s reading in artsy-luvvie terms suggests cacti truly know what comes from standing the Earth’s soil, unlike dancers who merely perform on the ground. But the meaninglessness of over-analysis is part of the beauty of it, just as the lighting rig comes down to restrict the dancers from above; or a dot-matrix sign flashes the ballet’s name from the wings. It’s designed to poke fun at clichés and of the modern media and marketing landscape. This is the wit of the ballet, made even more obvious by the pas de deux which lets us hear the dancers’ thoughts, deconstructing the complexity and beauty of ballet into almost banal statements, before a stuffed black cat is thrown from above the stage on to the floor, a shrieking meow accompanying its fall.
   The New Zealand String Quartet accompanies this final performance, with recorded music forming most of the central part. The work is more familiar here, with compositions from Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert. Cheekily, the RNZB has reproduced the spoken-word text in the programme (a must, incidentally), as well as the stream-of-consciousness thoughts of the duet from the characters Aram and Riley. Humour aside, this was beautifully performed: the 16 dancers on their tiles kept the audience entertained despite lacking the freedom of movement of Selon désir, while the duet was cleverly executed, with the deconstruction actually enhancing one’s appreciation of the fluid movements.
   It always helps to end things on a fun note, especially as Speed of Light starts the New Zealand Festival, and the levity is bound to get audiences talking. And rightly so. This was a highly entertaining contemporary programme, and it’s heartening to note that the Royal New Zealand Ballet will take this to the Auckland Arts’ Festival as well as to the South Island next.
   Dates for Speed of Light are: Wellington, February 26 to 28 inclusive; Auckland, March 2–6; Christchurch, March 10–12; Dunedin, March 16. For booking information, visit www.rnzb.org.nz.—Jack Yan, Publisher

February 18, 2016

News in brief: shrinking swimsuits, Guess’s spring smartwatches, and romantic holiday activities

Lucire staff/8.14


Karen Ishiguro

Auckland, New Zealand’s 10 Days of Fashion in the City will see the New Zealand Fashion Museum exhibit The Shrinking Swimsuit: 100 Years of Fashionable Swimwear in New Zealand, taking place at Te Wero Island (on the waterfront promenade, on the city side of the drawbridge), from February 26 to March 6, 12 to 6 p.m. daily, with early openings of 7.30 to 9 a.m. on March 3 and 4.
   The exhibit will feature swimwear that represent their eras, from an Edwardian sailor suit to the newest of styles from Lonely and Moontide, revisiting everything from 1930s woollen suits, the Hollywood-inspired looks of the 1950s, and thigh-high swimwear from the ’80s.
   Guess entered the smartwatch game last November, and its latest designs for spring 2016, powered by Martian Watches, are on show this week in Barcelona at the Sequel AG–Guess Watches booth in Hall Congress Square, stand CS124. The ladies’ design features a 41 mm case, featuring light blue crystals atop a silver case with a sky blue leather band. The men’s design measures 45 mm, with a black and silver silhouette and a red second hand. The watches sync to IOS or Android smartphones via Bluetooth, and have a microphone and clear audio speaker, allowing wearers to give voice commands.
   Finally, the Lake District’s holiday letting agency, Lakelovers, surveyed 168 of its customers in February to find out what the most romantic holiday activities were for couples. Dining at a restaurant came out tops, with 21·2 per cent of respondents, followed by watching a sunset, going for a picnic, taking photos, star-gazing, watching a movie, taking in some art, spa pampering, shopping and playing games.

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