Welcome to Lucireâs 20th anniversary year.
Remember that if you donât see a news update (which will come with an RSS update), you can go to the main part of the website and check out our features.
In the last couple of weeks, weâve had Lola Cristallâs 2017 living guide; an archive interview with Thor director Taika Waititi; one of Stanley Mossâs best travel pieces to date, on five Italian centres, and another on Flemings in London; Elyse Glickman heading to Seoul, and Jack Yan testing the Mazda 3, or Mazda Axela. Weâve also looked at a natural skin care range, Kokulu, and made our picks from the springâsummer 2017 shows from New York Fashion Week.
And, of course, thereâs our print edition: issue 36 features stories on Delikate Rayne and authorâfilmmaker Leslie Zemeckis, and itâs a particularly strong issue on female power. Never mind the outcome of a certain countryâs election: as Bhavana Bhim writes in the opening feature in issue 36, women have been increasing their power throughout the ages.
Expect to see more of our Golden Globesâ suites coverage with Elyse Glickman this weekend in the news section, and more fashion, beauty, travel and living features through January.
Above, from top:Meistens Mozart. An excerpt from Political Mother. Pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty.
The New Zealand School of Danceâs Graduation Season once again brings an expertly executed programme, mixing genres from classical to modern to experimental. Among the programme tonight were three premières: Helgi Tomassonâs Meistens Mozart was performed for the first time in New Zealand, while Amber Hainesâs Incant and Jiři Bubeničekâs Dance Gallantries received their world premières on opening night of the season at Te Whaea. Meistens Mozart started the evening and showed that, with the right arrangement and choreography, the German language could be made cheerful. Songs by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Carl Ditters von Dittersdorf, Bernhard Flies and Jakob Haibel, sung by the Tölzer Boysâ Choir, accompanied the six dancers, the standout of whom was George Liang. Liang had previously been at Canadaâs National Ballet School, and we had seen him perform last month at the Republic of Chinaâs National Day celebration. There were no opening-night jitters from any of the six, who instantly transported us to an alpine society, celebrating springtime love, courtship and playfulness.
The all-male He Taongaâa Gift was an energetic and intense performance where drumbeats from Whirimako Blackâs âTorete te Kioreâ soundtrack sparked sudden moves, a demonstration of control and strength from the 14 dancers. Choreographed by Taiaroa Royal and Taane Mete, He Taonga was created for the School in 2009 and reprised tonight.
Opening the second section, Laura Crawford and Yuri Marques were like delicate dolls in their pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty, Act III, with the choreography after Marius Petipa. Marilyn Rowe, OBE staged and coached, while Qi Huan was répétiteur. This was a tough ballet piece to get right and the pair got stronger as they performed, gaining confidence and drawing us into their romance.
Taking a complete tangent into modern dance was the solo performance of Glitch, a new work from NZSD tutor Victoria Columbus, whose talents we most recently saw at the World of Wearable Art, where she serves as director of choreography. The movements themselves were created by graduate Connor Masseurs, who performed the dance, playing the part of a “glitching” robotic man short-circuiting on stage with skilful, shuddering movements. Masseurs completely absorbed us with his solo: it wasnât just his limbs that Masseurs controlled, he extended the idea to facial movements, inventively finding new ways to glitch. Masseurs first performed the dance at the Grand Théâtre at the Maison de la Culture de Tahiti as part of a gala at the Académie de Danse Annie Fayn. Incant was mysterious, brooding, and ethereal: this all-female work saw dancers come together to generate new shapes, conveying to us notions of clouds, trees in a forest, or tunnels, at times passing a lit sphere between them. Hainesâs choreography was meant to question traditional notions of beauty and got us successfully focusing on the collective moves of the dancers. âThis world,â she notes in the programme, âinvokes a mesmerizing state of collective consciousness and celebrates the power and luminous beauty of shared intention.â A captivating work, it ended the second set of dances. Dance Gallantries was another more traditional work, with 10 dancers telling more playful stories of romance, complemented by Otto Bubeničekâs colourful costume design and solo violin music by J. S. Bach.
A group of 12 performed an extract from Political Mother, the eveningâs one political work with jarring music and clever choreography by Hofesh Shechter. A couple merrily folk-dances in a town square, happy to be part of their society, but are they genuinely happy or manipulated by the state? Their expressions seem to suggest the latter, fooled into believing that all is well and happy in their naïveté. The action moves on to a prison, where the music is muffled and dancers ape being restrained by either arms or ankles. The final scene, with a large group of dancers back in the town, show that the entire society has succumbed to the illusion, raising their arms in acceptance. It makes you question about the times we live in, and whether intellectual discourse is suppressed in favour of simpler ideas, a population told to be happy without really knowing why.
Finally, Tchaikovskyâs music from The Nutcracker was excerpted for the upbeat Tempo di Valse, with the NZSD returning to a ballet to finish the evening. The âWaltz of the Flowersâ was instantly recognizable, the 15 dancers showing classical movements. Nadine Tyson choreographed, while the colourful traditional costumes were designed by Donna Jefferis.
Depending on the show, the pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty may be replaced by Jack Carterâs Pas de deux romantique, with music by Rossini; while Glitch may give way to The Wanderer, choreographed by Columbus and perforned by Liang.
The season runs from November 16 to 26 at Te Whaea in Wellington, New Zealand, with prices ranging from NZ$18 to NZ$33. Tickets can be booked at the New Zealand School of Dance, or online at nzschoolofdance.ac.nz/book-tickets. Weâd rate it another must-see, especially to catch some rising starsâwe understand that some are off overseas, already snatched up by dance companies.âJack Yan, Publisher
Above: The moment: Tania Dawson hears the news that she’s been working toward for most of 2016, that she is the new Miss Universe New Zealand. Centre: After the announcement, Samantha McClung crowns her successor, Tania Dawson, Miss Universe New Zealand 2016. Above: Second runner-up Larissa Allen (left) and runner-up Seresa Lapaz (right) flank Miss Universe New Zealand 2016 Tania Dawson.
Secondary school drama and music studiesâ teacher Tania Dawson, 23, was crowned Miss Universe New Zealand 2016 Saturday night at Skycity Theatre, taking home prizes including a stay at Plantation Bay Resort & Spa in Cebu, Philippines and the use of a Honda Jazz RS Sport Limited for the duration of her reign.
Dawson, who is of half-Filipina extraction, was also the crowd favourite, with a large group of supporters in the live theatre audience.
The event proved to be a Filipina one-two, with Seresa Lapaz, who was born in the Philippines but is a naturalized New Zealander, coming runner-up.
Both ladies hail from Auckland, while second runner-up Larissa Allen comes from Tauranga.
Dawson was crowned by her predecessor, Samantha McClung, who flew from Christchurch to join 2013 titleholder Holly Cassidy in a special parade featuring the exclusive designs of Ankia van der Berg of Golden Gowns.
The sold-out audience enjoyed entertainment from special guest performers Stan Walker, Frankie Stevens, and Ali Walker, as well as the cast of Oh What a Night!, who appeared in a recorded segment filmed earlier on Saturday.
The destination for Dawson, as well as the other national titleholders, is uncertain, but there have been suggestions it could be the Philippines, and already Lapaz has vowed to support her former competitor should she venture there.
Dawson says she sees herself as an advocate for education, and entered the competition because she wanted to practise what she preached: to challenge herself and overcome any self-doubt.
Repeating their roles from last year, Stephen McIvor and Sonia Gray hosted. Stevens was also on the judging panel (particularly appropriate given his similar role in NZ Idol), alongside motivational speaker and social practitioner Areena Deshpande, director of Head2Heels and former Miss Universe New Zealand director Evana Patterson, AJPR boss and BRCA cancer gene awareness champion Anna Jobsz, and arguably the top make-up practitioner and educator in New Zealand, Samala Robinson.
Thanks to the support of Miss Universe New Zealandâs sponsors, including platinum partners Honda New Zealand, Bench, Skycity, the Quadrant Hotels and Suites, Golden Gowns and Beau Joie, and the fund-raising efforts of each yearâs finalists, Miss Universe New Zealand cracked the $100,000 barrier with its donations to Variety, the Childrenâs Charity, this year.
The stream was carried on Lucire, The New Zealand Herald and Stuff, and a delayed version will appear on 3Now.
Every opportunity to see the Royal New Zealand Balletâs Giselle is a renewed pleasure. First performed in 2012, and garnering a great review from this publication for its outstanding choreography and production. Conceived in Wellington four years ago by then RNZB artistic director Ethan Stiefel, with Johan Kobborg, Giselle has become one of the companyâs signature ballets, performed in China, the US, the UK, and Italy.
What was astonishing was being able to enjoy Giselle as though we had never seen the 2012 premiĂšre: there was a freshness about the latest performance, despite our being familiar with the story. On opening night, Qi Huan, who had retired from the RNZB to teach at the New Zealand School of Dance, returned to take up the role of Albrecht, which we saw him perform in 2012. The years since his 2014 departure havenât diminished his skills one iota: the ballerino still has a star quality that places him a cut above so many, and his entrechats in the second act showed the power and grace that we have come to expect from someone who has mastered his craft. Also performing Albrecht on other occasions is Daniel Gaudiello, former principal dancer of the Australian Ballet, who is similarly acclaimed.
Lucy Green took the title role on opening night and it was her youthfulness that gave Giselle a fresh take; the drama of Giselle descending into madness in the first act was so well done that one couldnât help but sympathize with her characterâs pain. Her pas de deux with Huan were exquisite and romantic.
Also of note was the extensive pointe work by the Wilis in the second act, which demonstrated that the RNZB remains on top of its game.
Jacob Chownâs Hilarion and Mayu Tanigaitoâs Myrtha deserve mention in supporting roles: the dancing by both performers was integral to the story and Chownâs battle with the Wilis was emotionally done; Tanigaito kept the pace of the less plot-driven second act going with intricate skill till we saw what had happened to Giselle and Albrecht. Tanigaito also plays Giselle in performances where Gaudiello is Albrecht, and itâs not hard to see her take on the role with aplomb.
Stiefel returned to Wellington to fine-tune the production, working with his successor, Francesco Ventriglia, who was responsible for the casting of Huan and Gaudiello.
Marc Taddei conducted Orchestra Wellington, also giving the performance a new energy, performing the full-length score by Adolphe Adam. He will also conduct the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra, the Dunedin Symphony Orchestra and Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra when Giselle reaches those cities. Giselle opened in Wellington on August 11, before touring to Napier, Christchurch, Dunedin, Auckland, Rotorua, and Palmerston North, where the season concludes on September 9. Full details are at the Royal New Zealand Balletâs website, rnzb.org.nz.âJack Yan, Publisher
Above: The team behind A Billion Lives, and Doc Edge organizers Dan Shannon and Alex Lee.
Those of us outside the vaping world have probably looked at e-cigarettes, wondering why on earth these could be better for your health. Or we may have thought they were a fad, since the only people I knew who vaped were tech hipsters, who enjoyed vaping as though it was a matter of course, and nothing to be curious aboutâthereby keeping their habit a closed shop. But then, perhaps they were tired of repeating themselves, and had settled into being comfortable with their e-cigs. A Billion Lives is a documentary that takes a look into this world, but it does so much more. The title refers to the number of people who can be saved if they give up smoking, but there are powerful forces at play to ensure that people donât. And those forces have ensured that there is misinformation about vaping and the potential for the technology to save lives.
Filmmaker Aaron Biebert, who directed and narrated the film which had its world premiĂšre in Wellington as part of the Doc Edge Festival, journeyed to 13 countries on four continents to find similar patterns worldwide: here is a life-saving technology of e-cigarettes, but governments were banning them or fining citizens over their use, ignoring the science and deciding to be complicit with the tobacco industry in keeping people addicted to a harmful product. Instead, governments spend money spreading lies about e-cigarettes, calling them a gateway to cigarettes, or that one could get formaldehyde poisoning, claims that the film demonstrably refutes. E-cigarettes are not completely safe, and the film acknowledges that, but they have proven to be a successful tool to help those giving up smoking, especially where mainstream solutions have failed.
In his own country, the US, Biebert points out that governments collect far more revenue from cigarette taxation than from several industries combined, and have no real incentive to cut off the flow of dollars. E-cigarettes, which were invented by pharmacist Hon Lik in China, were conceived as a way to give up smoking, and have been successful for 30 million people around the world. A Billion Lives points out that nicotine is not what causes lung cancer, and that the US Surgeon-General has said as much. What are harmful are the tar and 4,000 chemicals in modern cigarettes. It equates nicotine with coffee in terms of addictiveness, and the figure of 95 per cent less harmful than a typical cigarette featured prominently in the film. Vaping essentially allows one to get the pleasure of nicotine without the harm of the tar and toxins.
Yet as a society, we have come to equate nicotine as being the evil, addictive substance, and thatâs no accident.
This point is made halfway into the film, with a good part of the first section looking into the history of cigarettes (Flintstones sponsor announcements for Winston cigarettes elicited laughs from the audience), and David Goerlitz, the Winston male model from the 1980s, being a particularly effective interviewee, discussing how he went from a smoking advocate earning millions to having a crisis of conscience when his brother developed lung cancer and died. Goerlitz went to the other side, and became a high-profile spokesman who was able to talk in plain language just what governments, Big Tobacco, and Big Pharma (which sells patches and gum, and would like to continue doing so) were doing. Health professionals were being marketed to far more than the public, permitting Big Pharma to continue to sell its products, the film notes.
Biebert was able to get other interviewees at a very high level, including Dr Derek Yach, the former executive director of the World Health Organization, and Dr Delon Human, former president of the World Medical Association, among others, speaking plainly about how lives could be saved through vaping e-cigarettes, a tool which could get smokers to kick their habit.
Meanwhile, the pro-smoking side was represented through historical clipsâyou get the feeling that we had only touched the surface of what was out there, with corporations spending thousands of millions to fund biased studies and get on to our airwaves.
Beautifully shot and scored, this independently funded feature tells a story about our times and just why so many citizens today are wary of their governments and multinational corporations. Those who oppose global trade agreements, for instance, do not do so in isolationâand while A Billion Lives takes no political side, it does tap into the Zeitgeist of our modern suspicion about what is on our airwaves and what are the motives behind it. Like Adam Curtis, whose documentaries seek to explain the complex in simple terms, Biebert has done the same, narrating and directing, although he appears on camera as well when narrative gaps need to be plugged. He is an honest, frank speaker, and gives the film a personal touch.
Young smokers who tried e-cigarettes were often people who already smoked and saw them as a way to give up their addiction, and most, Biebert pointed out in a post-screening Q&A, were not even using nicotine in their e-cigarettes.
Yet the state of California, where Biebert is based, spent $75 million telling us about the evils of e-cigarettes, said the director in his Q&A; while in the film, he points out that US federal funds were being illegally used for lobbying activities. The American Lung Association had deceived the public, too, notes Biebert, who told the audience, âIf you get powerful charities on side, you can do anything.â The increasing restrictions on e-cigarettes in the US, the subject of federal lawsuits, was equated to âProhibition IIâ.
Dr Marewa Glover of End Smoking NZ, who introduced the film at its premiĂšre, said that young people were using e-cigarettes as a way round peer pressure, when people in their circle smoked.
However, Australia has already banned e-cigarettes, with one interviewee, Vince, who sold them, telling a story about being raided by authorities and now faces losing his home as he fought the government on principle. He believed firmly he was saving lives. There are massive fines for vaping in Brunei and Hong Kong. There were restrictions in New Zealand, too, noted Glover, although those who sought to misinform were technically in breach of the countryâs health legislation.
Biebert says he is neither a smoker nor a vaper; but all good documentary-makers, he had a commitment to get the right information out there. He acknowledges that vapers have not given themselves the best image, either, and that A Billion Lives can only be one small part of getting the truth out.
âWe need to cut the head off the monster,â said Biebert, âand the monster is being funded by big business. We need more than the movie. People need to get the right information.â
He added, âThe truth ends up winning. Even condoms were illegal in the US at one time.â A Billion Lives will begin making its way to other countries. The website is at abillionlives.com, while the movieâs Instagram is at abillionlivesfilm.âJack Yan, Publisher
Above: The author (centre) joins Aaron Biebert, director (left) and Jesse Hieb, producer, for a photo.
Footnote New Zealand Danceâs 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. Itâs 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 companyâs 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 maleâfemale 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 childrenâs birthday party, we feel the centre of attention when we wear our paper âcrownâ, but what if that crown was never removed? Itâs an allegory of the selfie era, the âlook at meâ validation some seek. Three of McCallâs dancers don crowns, but one doesnât, 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 wonât 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 Pearceâs 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 premiĂšre 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 15â16), 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.âJack Yan, Publisher