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August 20, 2015

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream: where talent surpasses itself

Jack Yan/16.19

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Stephen A’Court

Top Dancers Tonia Looker and MacLean Hopper in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Above Tonia Looker and Harry Skinner.

If you ever wish to see the Royal New Zealand Ballet when everyone has reached beyond what you knew was their peak, then A Midsummer Night’s Dream presents that very opportunity: a ballet where the quality is jaw-droppingly magnificent, where choreographer, designer, lighting designer, and musical director have surpassed themselves, and where the dancers have revelled in bringing a production to life.
   In tonight’s (August 20) world premi√®re, Tracy Grant Lord‚Äôs designs are the first thing you notice, a galactic image of the night sky projected on to the curtain before the action is revealed, then a set that can only be described as her best work reviewed by Lucire to date. Set in a fairy dell in the wood, Lord‚Äôs imagination takes us into a world of cabanas and fungi, with electric blue shades offsetting the dark, night sky. It is the Royal New Zealand Ballet‚Äôs largest set, complete with bridges, multiple staircases, even a pole from which Puck slides down. Lord notes that her design ‚Äėincludes particular structural, decorative and technical elements that exist only for this production, and have all been developed and manufactured in the company workshops.‚Äô This is a unique interpretation, a master-class in ballet set design, all the more impressive when one considers that Lord had a budget to work to. She envelopes us with her world even before the dancers take their first step.
   Kendall Smith‚Äôs lighting design comes into its own with Lord‚Äôs set, keeping the cabanas‚Äô interiors dark when unused and lighting them subtly when dancers appear. His moon, in Act II, appears as a round, fluorescent ring, emerging from behind the mesh. With Lord employing a single set for the entire ballet, Smith‚Äôs lighting gave the production a sense of variety and change throughout. We noted earlier that Smith employed 4,000 LEDs and 2,000 m of fibreoptic cable, and we can certainly say they were put to excellent use. Smith, whose r√©sum√© includes lighting for Andrea Boccelli and Luciano Pavarotti, and some of the most respected companies in the US, was flown out with the support of the US Embassy, giving another world-class aspect to A Midsummer Night‚Äôs Dream.
   Lord also stretched her imagination with the costumes, giving the initial illusion that the fairies were petite; it was only when Oberon and Titania appeared that you began realizing their true scale. Oberon‚Äôs and Puck‚Äôs costumes had a more cinematic, modern bent than seen in other interpretations of A Midsummer Night‚Äôs Dream, with the former having a plunging neckline and a science-fiction feel to it. The fairies‚Äô wings and headgear had metallic detailing, again taking us beyond the typical dell and going past the usual, traditional elements that earlier productions tend to rely on.
   Rising star Liam Scarlett did not disappoint, either, with choreography that expresses a witty yet respectful take on the Shakespeare play. Whether it was transforming Bottom into a donkey, and his subsequent comical pas de deux with Titania, having Puck swing down √† la the cinematic Tarzan to commence his antics in the second act, or the strongly romantic pas de deux between Oberon and Titania, Scarlett‚Äôs interpretation brought the Mendelssohn score to life, matching movement masterfully to music.
   The music, too, saw RNZB musical director Nigel Gaynor go further than he typically has. Mendelssohn‚Äôs score was insufficient for a full-length ballet. Gaynor and Scarlett collaborated, choosing additional Mendelssohn pieces to give the characters greater depth and the story more completeness. Various opuses have been added along with incidental music, and Mendelssohn fans will recognize them and marvel at just how well they have been incorporated, not least how fittingly the choreography has been applied. It‚Äôs this characterization which marks out Scarlett‚Äôs work. The interactions between the characters‚ÄĒOberon and Puck, Titania and Bottom, Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, and the comical pursuit by both Lysander and Demetrius toward Helena‚ÄĒgives the RNZB‚Äôs production exceptional entertainment value. Like its The Nutcracker of 2010, the dance techniques are rich enough for the adult ballet-goer to appreciate, while the structure and comical elements give children plenty to enjoy.
   Adding incidental music from Mendelssohn is not new‚ÄĒBalanchine did the same in his version‚ÄĒbut the level of dedication is apparent.
   And all this before commenting on the dancing itself, which was exquisite.
   MacLean Hopper had the commanding nature of Oberon on opening night. Tonia Looker‚Äôs Titania had a beauty and elegance that never diminished even when dancing with a donkey, thanks to her control. However, Kohei Iwamoto arguably stole the show as Puck, with an irreverence that the audience loved. Harry Skinner‚Äôs Bottom may have had a relatively minor role but his transformation, complete with tail, ensured he was remembered. Lori Gilchrist (Hermia), Joseph Skelton (Lysander), Abigail Boyle (Helena) and Demetrius (Paul Mathews) contrasted each other‚Äôs emotions through simple movements; when both men are entranced by Helena, Boyle‚Äôs movements conveyed her shock at the energetic pursuit‚ÄĒaccompanied by an equally energetic rejection of Hermia. Scarlett was never too clever for his own good: he kept to the story and the score, and delivered through the characters in subtle ways, a sign of a choreographer who works in close collaboration with his dancers.
   It was a privilege to see A Midsummer Night‚Äôs Dream in Wellington as a world premi√®re; after its New Zealand tour (which runs till September 20), it will next be performed by the Queensland Ballet, with whom the RNZB co-produced, in 2016.
   The Vodafone season of A Midsummer Night‚Äôs Dream runs through August 23 in Wellington; Christchurch sees the ballet from August 27 to 29; it opens in Auckland on September 2, running to September 6. It reaches Rotorua for a single performance on September 10, Palmerston North on September 16, and Napier on September 19 and 20. Full details can be found at www.rnzb.org.nz.‚ÄĒJack Yan, Publisher



Top Promotional image for A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Above Forget retro: the sketch for Oberon’s costume.

August 18, 2015

Fan Phenomena: James Bond gives 007 fans more; while Sugoi invites you to the world of Bill Murray

Jack Yan/12.09

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In the year of a new James Bond movie, many books emerge. Invariably, there’ll be one on the films themselves, taking readers through the 50-plus years of the Eon Productions’ series, and, if it’s very comprehensive, the 1950s CBS TV version of Casino Royale, the 1967 spoof of the same name, and Never Say Never Again will rate more than a mention. There’ll be something about Ian Fleming, and another book on one aspect of the Bond world (gadgets, stunts, music, or something else). Seasoned Bond fans will think the circus is in town again, because the new book about the films adds little to their existing knowledge.
   Claire Hines‚Äôs Fan Phenomena: James Bond, from Intellect Books (¬£15¬∑50, US$22, releasing November 15), is something different altogether: Bond from an academic and completely cultural viewpoint. Intellect is famous for its titles on popular culture and creative practice, with a rigorous academic bent, and Fan Phenomena: James Bond continues the series but takes the reader into the world of Ian Fleming‚Äôs super-spy.
   Hines serves as editor, and there are 11 very distinct contributions to her volume, dealing with everything from canonicity to 007‚Äôs appearance as ‚ÄėLadykiller Jimmy‚Äô in Alan Moore‚Äôs comics; Bond as a cult brand and cultural phenomenon to the clothes he wears; from the James Bond films through a feminist viewpoint to analyses of his masculinity and identity. Interspersed between these are four ‚ÄėFan Appreciation‚Äô sections, featuring an interview with √ľber-fan and former Bond novel continuation author Raymond Benson, artist and collector Peter Lorenz, 007 Museum owner James Bond (who had his name legally changed by deed poll) and cross-players CousinCecily and Winter.
   Even the most seasoned Bond fan might not have considered the impact of the character, books and films, and the book fulfils a very important role: it gives them something new. William Proctor‚Äôs analysis of continuity gets the book off to a healthy start after Hines‚Äôs introduction, though typographically it suffers: the type is inexplicably small, though the layout is modern and the visuals help lift things. Getting Raymond Benson in there early on also helps position Fan Phenomena: James Bond as a book for the cognoscenti as well as those who want an academic examination, and Benson reveals a little more behind the scenes of his years as the official continuation author.
   Matthew Freeman, in considering the many media in which Bond occupies, including the gaming world, shows just how the phenomenon breaks the established rules and succeeds, while Jes√ļs Jim√©nez-Varea and Antonio Pineda‚Äôs chapter on Moore‚Äôs comics is bound to take many fans into uncharted territory. Joshua Wille‚Äôs chapter on fan edits does the same: while many know about ABC-TV‚Äôs cutting of On Her Majesty‚Äôs Secret Service when it aired on US TV, but there are numerous fan edits made in the digital era that had this author hunting the forums.
   Artist Peter Lorenz‚Äôs Bond film posters are stunning and present a nice visual break before Lucy Bolton‚Äôs chapter analysing the phenomenology of Bond. Bolton‚Äôs piece is perhaps closest to those Bond ‚Äúcollectable‚ÄĚ books that come out with the films as she analysed the films from Dr No to Skyfall, and fans may have their own interpretations of their cultural significance through the years. Editor Hines‚Äôs own chapter looks at Bond as cult brand, and is fascinating in her study of the 1960s Eon films. Hines reconciles how cult and mainstream come together with the Bond series, successfully. Lisa Funnell gives Bond a feminist slant and the enjoyment she derives as an assistant professor teaching women‚Äôs studies.
   Stephanie Jones looks at the Bond lifestyle but primarily through the analysis of one work, The Complete James Bond Lifestyle Seminar, which she reveals is relatively light on Bond references, leading to a less satisfying chapter‚ÄĒthough it could hardly be blamed on Jones. Llewella Burton‚Äôs chapter on Bond and fashion, and how it became a style through the rise of merchandising as the movies became blockbusters with Goldfinger is punctuated by photos from Galeries Lafayette as it opened a James Bond boutique in 1965, again gold dust for Bond fans. Karen Brooks‚Äôs and Lisa Hill‚Äôs chapter analyses the new and old masculinities through the three Daniel Craig films of 2006, 2008 and 2012.
   Crossplayers CousinCecily and Winter talk about their love of James Bond and Q, leading neatly on the final chapter by Elizabeth J. Nielsen, which deals with Bond’s homoerotic moments and subtexts. She traces them to Fleming himself in the torture scene in Casino Royale, before covering the flirting between Bond and the new Q in Skyfall, which itself has a phenomenon, attracting both women and the LGBTQ community.
   This is a volume for the intelligent Bond fan, someone who appreciates learning about the impact of Ian Fleming‚Äôs creation. Of course the films are covered more, as it was through them that Bond became a global phenomenon. The reader walks away having been better informed: this is not a Bond book for the light reader who wants reassurance of the facts they already know, but one which gives them something more satisfying to consider.




Top A scene from What About Bob?, by Jon Boam. Centre Lost in Translation, by Grace Danico. Above Lost in Translation, by Henry Kaye.

On a briefer note, but still tied with film, Sugoi Books has released an A5 book called Cook Your Own Food: a Bill Murray Scratch and Sniff, retailing at ¬£6. There are 20 pp., with 10 smells, with some stunning illustrations, with artists reinterpreting key moments from Murray‚Äôs films, focusing on his culinary habits. ‚ÄėScratch the smelly pads at the top right and enter the world of Bill Murray,‚Äô the publisher asks, and you are spoiled with scenes from Lost in Translation, Caddyshack, Groundhog Day, What About Bob?, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou and others. For ¬£6, the illustrations are so good it doesn‚Äôt even matter if you have a poor sense of smell.‚ÄĒJack Yan, Publisher

August 17, 2015

Keeping it natural: Stoneleigh launches Wild Valley range of wild-fermented wines

Lucire staff/3.56

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Stoneleigh launched its Wild Valley range at the end of last week, a line-up of wild-fermented New Zealand wines comprising a 2015 Marlborough sauvignon blanc and a 2014 Marlborough pinot noir.
   The Stoneleigh Wild Valley wines get their complexity from nature, fermented by indigenous yeasts that are naturally present in the Rapaura, Marlborough vineyards. By allowing nature to take its course, the wines have an added texture to the fruity, citrus flavours that earlier Stoneleigh wines are known for.
   There has been minimal intervention, though Stoneleigh winemaker Jamie Marfell (left) stresses that a great deal of care has still gone into each wine. ‘Stoneleigh Wild Valley uses naturally occurring micro-flora to ferment the fruit, which gives the resulting wines the purest expression of our terroir. It‚Äôs like capturing the essence of our Marlborough vineyards in a bottle,’ he says.
   The 2015 Marlborough sauvignon blanc features lifted grapefruit and nectarine aromas, and citrus and passionfruit flavours, and the 2014 Marlborough pinot noir has flavours of wild berries, strawberries, raspberries and dark cherries with a subtle, toasty savouriness, according to Stoneleigh.
   The wines retail at NZ$18¬∑99 each throughout New Zealand.

August 11, 2015

De Grisogono founder Fawaz Gruosi marks birthday with celebrity and royalty

Lucire staff/5.37

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Bruno Bebert


Courtesy de Grisogono

De Grisogono founder Fawaz Gruosi celebrated his 63rd birthday with 500 guests, including friends and family, at the Cala di Volpe Hotel on the Costa Smeralda in Porto Cervo, Italy on August 8. On the guest list were celebrities including Victoria Silvstedt, Margherita Marzotto, Barth√©l√©my d’Ollone, Alessia Tedeschi, Simona Ventura, Elisabetta Gregoraci, Prince Emmanuel-Philibert de Savoie, Ventura Carraro, and Claudia Galanti, while Mika performed live in honour of Gruosi.
   The Cala di Volpe is where Gruosi likes to stay when not at the family residence, according to his company.
   The party had a central theme of love, with the words displayed in large lettering by the poolside. Said Gruosi in a release, ‘While in my opinion, every instant in life is reason to celebrate, there is one day that resonates in my heart and that is the day on which I was born. Since then, and every day, life has given me its most precious gifts‚ÄĒhealth, love, friendship and happiness. To me, to be surrounded by those I love and of whom I am fond is the best way to thank them and an act of love.’
   The cocktail party took place around the hotel pool, while a fireworks’ display led guests to the dinner. The after-party took place on the beach and ran till dawn.


















Bruno Bebert or courtesy de Grisogono

August 9, 2015

Footnote New Zealand Dance celebrates its 30th anniversary this August with première and events

Lucire staff/14.02

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Above Footnote at its home at 125 Cuba Street.

Footnote New Zealand Dance celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, and on August 28‚Äď9, it will premi√®re 30Forward at the Wellington Opera House to mark the anniversary.
   The premi√®re will take place in Wellington, before heading to the Christchurch Arts Festival, Auckland’s Tempo Dance Festival, then to Gisborne, the Kokomai Creative Festival in Carterton, and the Tauranga Arts Festival.
   The production features highlights from past works, as curated by founding director Deirdre Tarrant, and a new commission from choreographer Malia Johnston.
   Footnote will begin its celebrations on August 21 with The Art of Footnote, at a venue on Cuba Street to be announced during August. This exhibition shows posters, programmes and concept designs from Footnote over the last three decades, and runs till August 30.
   A Pecha Kucha event at the Wellington City Gallery, focusing on the culture of movement (covering dance, music, visual art and performance) takes place on August 27. The Tarrant Dance Studios at 125 Cuba Street, Wellington welcomes visitors on August 29 to an open house, while the August 29 performance of 30Forward will be followed by a function.
   The Christchurch dates are August 31‚ÄďSeptember 1; Auckland on October 15 and 17; Gisborne on October 21; Carterton on October 24; and Tauranga on October 30.
   Tickets are on sale now‚ÄĒvisit footnote.org.nz for ticketing information.


Above Rehearsing in 2012.

August 6, 2015

Sponsored video: Appleton Estate’s Jamaican tradition is assured

Lucire staff/15.07

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The Caribbean is most closely associated with rum when it comes to alcohol, and Appleton Estate is arguably the brand that rum lovers will think of when Jamaica comes up. Now part of Campari, Appleton Estate’s history goes back to the dawn of rum itself, to 1655 when the British captured the islands from the Spanish.
   This 4,614 ha estate is the oldest sugar estate and distillery in the country that has been in continuous production, and the brand readily plays on its Jamaican heritage, especially in its latest spot that connects the island‚Äôs culture and spirit with the rum itself.
   In the Nassau Valley, from where Jamaica‚Äôs fruits and vegetables predominantly come, Appleton Estate began creating rum in 1749, and now has a range of three core types: the Signature Blend Jamaica Rum, the Reserve Blend Jamaica Rum and the Extra 12 Year Old Jamaica Rum. Two limited-edition luxury rums form the remainder of the range: the 21 Year Old Jamaica Rum and 50 Year Old Jamaica Rum‚ÄĒJamaica Independence Reserve.
   They are known for their bold aromas and fruity notes, with the Reserve having an added complexity. The Independence Reserve, launched in 2012 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the country‚Äôs independence, saw 800 bottles released worldwide, with an even more complex bouquet and intensity.
   The process is environmentally friendly today, with an emission-free boiler, a process to turn the filter press mud into fertilizer, and an extensive recycling programme in the Nassau Valley. Under the eye of Joy Spence, the first woman to hold the position of Master Blender in the spirits‚Äô industry, Appleton Estate continues its Jamaican tradition, one which its current owner is keen to uphold, as can be seen in its latest spot.



Post sponsored by Appleton Estate

Filed under: environment, history, living, TV
July 23, 2015

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: a world premi√®re for the Royal New Zealand Ballet

Jack Yan/5.47

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A Midsummer Night’s Dream is not just a Royal New Zealand Ballet premi√®re, it’s a world premi√®re‚ÄĒso if you’re looking for a ballet event to attend in mid-August, this should be the one on your calendar.
   Created by Liam Scarlett, ballet’s fast-rising star who is now one of the most sought-after choreographers today, A Midsummer Night’s Dream will have its premi√®re in Wellington on August 20, before heading to Christchurch, Auckland, Rotorua, Palmerston North and Napier over the following weeks. As well as Scarlett’s choreography, it features the biggest set ever created by the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
   Ipswich-born Scarlett, 29, is already known for his witty, inventive approach and is one of the most passionate choreographers in ballet today.
   He was the Royal Ballet’s first Artist in Residence, creating ballets for that company including Despite and Vayamos al Diablo in 2006, through to the Jubilee pas de deux to celebrate HM Queen Elizabeth II’s diamond jubilee.
   He has created works for Ballet Black, New York City Ballet, Miami City Ballet, K-Ballet, the English National Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theatre.
   A Midsummer Night’s Dream is his third full-length ballet.
   ‚ÄėWe are incredibly excited to showcase this sensational new ballet created for the RNZB by the talented Liam Scarlett. This magical tale will cast its spell on audiences of all ages. And as with all the best stories, true love and friendship triumph in the end,’ said RNZB artistic director Francesco Ventriglia in a release.
   Said Scarlett, ‘Shakespeare’s tale of wit, love, petty quarrels and mistaken identities has captured the hearts of audiences young and old for centuries and has secured its place in history as one of the greatest stories ever told. It is with great pleasure and responsibility that I have the opportunity to transform this magical piece of work into a ballet. Being able to create this for the RNZB is a joy, and the end result will be a testament to their talent and enthusiasm and all that this wonderful company has to offer.’
   RNZB managing director Amanda Skoog notes that the company is partnering with the Queensland Ballet to realize the production.
   Tracy Grant Lord, known for Cinderella and many of the RNZB’s other successes, will design the new production, which the company notes will have ‘thousands of lights, glitter and butterflies.’ The make-up look sees Lord working closely with MAC Cosmetics, while Kendall Smith, who worked on Giselle, is lighting the set using over 4,000 LEDs and 2,000 m of fibreoptic cable.
   The Mendelssohn score will be performed by the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra in Wellington, the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra in Christchurch, and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra in Auckland, conducted by RNZB music director Nigel Gaynor.
   Vodafone New Zealand continues its national sponsorship of the Royal New Zealand Ballet.
   A Midsummer Night’s Dream begins in Wellington on August 20, and runs through August 23; Christchurch sees the ballet from August 27 to 29; it opens in Auckland on September 2, running to September 6. It reaches Rotorua for a single performance on September 10, Palmerston North on September 16, and Napier on September 19 and 20. Full details can be found at www.rnzb.org.nz.‚ÄĒJack Yan, Publisher

July 21, 2015

Loxy’s brings its hair expertise to Wellington, New Zealand

Jack Yan/23.30

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Loxy’s Boutique opened its Wellington location on Tory Street earlier this month, with a pink-carpet event hosted by founder Kate Jarrett.
   Jarrett, a Wellingtonian by birth, originally opened Loxy‚Äôs in Auckland, where she and her husband had moved. After years in the corporate world, she found she had a passion for hair extensions, and learned a micro-weave technique that she trained herself to do. She swears by the technique (and was a fitting ambassador for it on the night), enough to have started her salon in Ponsonby, and always had in mind to open up in her home town.
   She was encouraged to open in Wellington after her clients began asking whether Loxy‚Äôs had a branch in the capital, and the boutique finally opened its doors with a very welcome mid-winter celebration.
   As Jarrett was expecting a baby (carrying her daughter very well), naturally guests could choose from San Pellegrino water (restocked midway through the event) but those who were more adventurous could opt for Sileni wine and Rekorderlig cider. Canap√©s from Jess‚Äôs Underground Kitchen were served, while visible around the boutique were products from Loxy‚Äôs suppliers, including O&M and Davines. Guests were treated to goodies from them, as well as Libertine blends, Eleven Australia, Tailor Skincare, Snackpack, and Skin Spa.
   Oliver Marchant, already well known in the Wellington hair scene, manages the new boutique, which offers both hair services‚ÄĒincluding its well known micro-weft extension technique, as well as spray-tanning. Hair extension consultations are free, and its services are very reasonably priced for the level of expertise clients will get. There‚Äôs more at www.loxys.co.nz.‚ÄĒJack Yan, Publisher








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