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August 15, 2014

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Allegro journeys from classical to science fiction

Jack Yan/15.57

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Ross Brown

Top A classical approach for Allegro Brillante. Above Larry Keigwin’s Megalopolis.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Allegro: Five Short Ballets, was a bittersweet performance, knowing it would be the last time many in the audience would see the company’s principal guest artist, Gillian Murphy, dance.
   Murphy and her fiancé, RNZB artistic director Ethan Stiefel, are set to return to the US, and she kept a composed, dignified air after the performance when Lucire wished her well for her future.
   The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Andrea Tandy noted that Auckland audiences, who had seen Allegro prior to Wellington’s for a change, gave the five productions a wonderful reception.
   In the first ballet of the five, Allegro Brillante, Murphy and Kohei Iwamoto led a small cast of 10 to Tchaikovsky’s Third Piano Concerto, with choreography by the late George Balanchine. Russian-born Balanchine’s works have been staged by the RNZB from time to time, and Allegro Brillante was performed in 1999 and 2001. With a classical structure and technique, staged by Eve Lawson, it proved an endearing opening to the performances on the first night in Wellington.
   As skilful as the dancers were, Qi Huan’s presence was missed opposite Murphy—Huan moved on to the New Zealand School of Dance, teaching classical ballet, telling us earlier that he could not pass up the opportunity.
   The simple settings allowed Nigel Percy’s lighting to set a very different mood each time.
   Les Lutins, which followed, was a particularly enjoyable comedic ballet. It would be the only one with live music of the five, performed by the impressive Benjamin Baker on violin, and Michael Pansters on piano, while Rory Fairweather-Neylan, Arata Miyagawa and Lucy Green played the role of the goblins, in trousers and braces, with simple, carefree choreography by Johan Kobborg. The interaction between the dancers and Baker was cleverly staged, and the neatly executed jetés and tours en l’air from Fairweather-Neylan and Miyagawa deserve mention.
   Satellites, after the first interval, brought a scientific theme, conveying the equilibrium that satellites maintain in orbit: as dancers go off, new ones emerge. Graphically, orbits appear in the background, designed and animated by Jac Grenfell, dancers held circular mirrors, while electronic music by Jan-Bas Bollen emphasized the high-tech feel. Kinetic sculptures by Jim Murphy continued the theme (segmented planets hanging in the air), as did Donnine Harrison’s costumes (the discs worn by two ballerinas again reflecting the circular theme). Daniel Belton, who was behind the concept and choreography, was inspired by the Bauhaus movement, with its practitioners Oskar Schlemmer, Paul Klee and Moholy-Nagy, successfully blending the geometry and modernistic approach of the school with balletic expression. For once, those who are disciples of, or simply aware of, Bauhaus principles have a ballet that translates those ideas.
   Mattress Suite, choreographed by Larry Keigwin for his own company, delighted in a simple, playful setting, with a mattress as the one prop, telling the story of newlyweds who drift apart, the groom discovering he is homosexual. It is the only one with mature themes and popular songs (‘Ain’t No Sunshine’ as sung by Stevie Wonder, and ‘At Last’ by Etta James) and the mattress itself was used as everything from a wall to a trampoline in six short dances. Cheekily, the dance with a gay threesome is called ‘Straight Duet’.
   The RNZB is the first to perform Mattress Suite outside of Keigwin & Company.
   It was Keigwin again for the finalé, Megalopolis, which went beyond science and into science fiction, blending the cinematic Flash Gordon and Studio 54 into a single ballet, finding great favour with the audience. Megalopolis was certainly energetic—RNZB finalés often are, and rightly so, when presenting a series of ballets—while Fritz Mason’s costume design, in black with silver details, was a retrofuturistic delight.
   Allegro: Five Short Ballets continues in Wellington till the 17th at the St James. Invercargill follows on August 20 at the Civic, while Dunedin’s Regent Theatre plays host on the 23rd inst.—Jack Yan, Publisher

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August 14, 2014

Mana Wahine: a powerful celebration of womanhood and history

Jack Yan/4.40

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Alex Efimoff

Mana Wahine, which had its première in June in Rotorua for Matariki, arrived in Wellington last night with the first of a brief series of performances (until August 16), with a powerful celebration of womanhood by the Okareka Dance Company.
   Mana Wahine tells the story of Te Aokapurangi, who was captured in battle but returned later to save her people from slaughter.
   The production began with the image of the storyteller, Tūī Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield, a descendant of Te Aokapurangi, appearing on the curtains prior to the show, a foretaste of the clever use of lighting and imagery projected on the dance floor and walls. Her evocative waerea incantation from the first scene led to powerful, purposeful choreography performed by five dancers, Bianca Hyslop, Maria Munkowits, Nancy Wijohn, Chrissy Kokiri and Jana Castillo.
   Graceful and strong, the quintet were chosen for their experience as women and those from whom they have descended.
   Mana Wahine blends different genres of dance, captivating the audience between its sets so seamlessly, and is a beautiful tribute to Te Aokapurangi while shining a light on the proud people in our country’s past.
   Even without knowing the historical aspect one has to admire the authentic and sincere performances of the five dancers.
   The production was inspired by a conversation between cousins Tui Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield and Okarewa artistic director Taiaroa Royal, on their ancestry and the Ngāti Ohomairangi of Te Arawa, namely the matriarch Kearoa and Te Aokapurangi of Ngāti Rangiwewehi and Tapuika. Both women were responsible for saving their people, demonstrating in New Zealand’s history the power and role of women.
   Ranapiri-Ransfield researched the story, and wrote the lyrics and composed the music for the karanga, waerea and patere, and it is her voice that the audience hears. Victoria Kelly composed the rest of the score. Malia Johnston, with her extensive choreographic experience, co-authored Mana Wahine. Taane Mete directed Mana Wahine, calling it one of the ‘most rewarding experiences I have ever encountered.’ The collaboration between the talents, including technical production manager Jonny Cross, producer Rachael Penman, rehearsal director Natalie Clark and administrator Jesse Wikiriwhi, have resulted in a real, enriching production.—Jack Yan, Publisher

Mana Wahine runs till August 16, with daily performances at 7.30 p.m., and one matinee on Saturday at 2 p.m., at Te Whaea, New Zealand National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Road, Newtown, Wellington. Tickets are $20–$40, plus booking fees. Bookings can be made by telephone on 0800 BUY-TIX or visit www.eventfinder.co.nz.

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August 7, 2014

Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 finalists bid farewell to the Cape Dara Resort, Pattaya

Lucire staff/13.32

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Alan Raga

It’s always hard saying goodbye, especially in tropical temperatures in the 30s, and facing a prospect of the remainder of winter back in New Zealand—but that’s what the top 25 finalists at Miss Universe New Zealand had to do today. The last breakfast of the tour at the Cape Dara Resort was a fitting farewell to the five-star treatment given by the property. There was a brief moment for some shopping, before the afternoon transfer to Subarnabhumi Airport, Bangkok.
   The finalists began checking in at 3.45 p.m. local time, with their flight arriving in Auckland on Friday morning NZST.
   From there, they will continue competing in the entrepreneurial challenge, raise funds for Variety, the Children’s Charity, and head to the countdown to the final at the Sky City Theatre on September 18, 2014.
   The public can vote for their favourite contestant, either through an online i-vote or text voting: see nextmissnz.com/top25.shtml for voting details. Further updates of the competition are on the Miss Universe New Zealand Facebook and Instagram, with hashtags #missuniversenz and #munz14.






Alan Raga

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Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 finalists visit Pattaya’s orphanage on last full day in Thailand

Lucire staff/3.54

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Alan Raga

On their last full day in Thailand, the Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 finalists remained in Pattaya for their official events, visiting the Sanctuary of Truth, regarded the most beautiful temple in the area and still under construction using timber, and the Central Festival shopping district.
   Five contestants had their photo shoots with Alan Raga, wearing Surface Too Deep and Honey & Co. swimwear.
   The afternoon programme saw a visit to the Pattaya orphanage, possibly the most moving experience of the tour.
   The Father Ray Foundation, which looks after 850 orphans, disadvantaged and abused children, and children with disabilities, played host for an event which saw two of the young speakers move the finalists to tears. The Foundation’s policy is that no child is turned away. Its website accepts donations in US and Canadian dollars, euros, pounds sterling as well as baht.
   The finalists were greeted by Fathers Peter and Michael, the president and vice-president of the Foundation, and watched three performances. The first was from children from the Father Ray Day Care Centre, who performed a routine about a caterpillar turning into a butterfly; the second was from a student group using wheelchairs from the Redemptorist Vocational School for People with Disabilities, and the third was from the choir at the Pattaya Redemptorist School for the Blind who sang ‘Amazing Grace’ and ‘You Are My Sunshine’.
   They laid flowers at the statue of Father Ray, the founder of the NGO, who passed away 11 years ago this month.
   The final, beachside dinner in Pattaya was hosted by Damrong Puttan, a former senator and proprietor of KS Magazine. Afterwards, the finalists returned to the Cape Dara Resort for their final night.
   The Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 grand final takes place at Sky City Theatre, Auckland, on September 18. The public will have a hand in deciding the winner, through text voting and through the electronic i-vote. See nextmissnz.com/top25.shtml for voting details. Further updates of the competition are on the Miss Universe New Zealand Facebook and Instagram, with hashtags #missuniversenz and #munz14.





















Alan Raga

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August 6, 2014

Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 finalists arrive in Pattaya, Thailand

Lucire staff/3.45

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Alan Raga

The Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 finalists, currently touring Thailand, wound up their Bangkok events on Monday night with an event hosted by the Charoen Pokphand Group, a Thai conglomerate set up by Chinese immigrants in the 1920s, at the Grand Mercure Bangkok Fortune hotel.
   On Tuesday, they set off for Pattaya, famous for its beach resorts, 100 km southeast of the capital. Pattaya City put on a welcome and luncheon for the top 25, again well attended by officials, before a visit to Thai Thani, a Thai arts and culture village. Thai Thani, to open on August 8, aims to showcase its cultural parades and activities, and the finalists were given a personal tour by its owner, seeing Thai food from different regions and traditional performances. They also participated in fruit carving under instruction from Thai Thani’s staff. Nigel Godfrey, executive director of Miss Universe New Zealand, presented officials with gifts, including a framed souvenir featuring photographs of all 25 finalists.
   Four contestants had their swimwear shoots Tuesday with photographer Alan Raga, again wearing Surface Too Deep and Honey & Co. swimwear.
   Accommodation for Miss Universe New Zealand in Pattaya is at the Cape Dara Resort, where they will remain till August 7.
   The Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 grand final takes place at Sky City Theatre, Auckland, on September 18. The public will have a hand in deciding the winner, through text voting and through the electronic i-vote. See nextmissnz.com/top25.shtml for voting details. Further updates of the competition are on the Miss Universe New Zealand Facebook and Instagram, with hashtags #missuniversenz and #munz14.










Alan Raga

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August 5, 2014

Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 finalists fulfil their diplomatic mission

Lucire staff/5.51

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Alan Raga

Other than the early 5.30 a.m. call to get ready for a live TV appearance on Channel 5 to 10 million viewers in Thailand, Monday saw the Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 finalists fulfil part of their diplomatic role, visiting the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for an official function hosted by Sihasak Phuangketkeow, Permanent Secretary for Foreign Affairs. The Thai Ambassador to New Zealand, HE Noppadon Theppitak, was also in attendance, amidst substantial local media interest.
   It was also a day for the New Zealand national anthem, broadcast both on television in the morning and sung at the Ministry in the evening.
   They met the top place holders from Miss Universe Thailand, including Pimbongkod Chankaew, who will represent Thailand at the international competition later this year.
   At the ministerial event, Miss Universe New Zealand executive director Nigel Godfrey presented his opposite number at Miss Universe Thailand, Surang Prempree, a framed invitation for her titleholder to come to New Zealand later in 2014.
   In addition, four contestants had a very early morning shoot with Alan Raga, again wearing Surface Too Deep and Honey & Co. swimwear, completed before 8 a.m.
   Channel 5 has since uploaded its clip to YouTube, embedded below.
   Godfrey notes in his interview with Channel 5, as the Thai people are justifiably concerned about their perception in international media, ‘We have seen nothing but safety … For us we could not feel safer, and that certainly is something we will be telling people in New Zealand when we go back.’
   In the afternoon, the top 25 went to Central Embassy, a shopping centre in Bangkok, to try their hand at cooking traditional Thai cuisine at the Issaya Cooking Studio. Their experience has already hit the Thai press, appearing in Thairath, one of the biggest newspapers in the country.
   The Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 grand final takes place at Sky City Theatre, Auckland, on September 18. The public will have a hand in deciding the winner, through text voting and through the electronic i-vote. See nextmissnz.com/top25.shtml for voting details. Further updates of the competition are on the Miss Universe New Zealand Facebook and Instagram, with hashtags #missuniversenz and #munz14.










Alan Raga

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August 4, 2014

The Body Shop has the perfect beauty suite in the era of the selfie

Lucire staff/9.49

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In the era of the selfie, the Body Shop has responded. Not only has the word entered the lexicon, there’ll even be a Pygmalion-based TV show starring Karen Gillan and John Cho bearing that name. We’ve even seen cellphone manufacturers no longer refer to a reverse camera, but a selfie camera, on their new models.
   Available today in New Zealand is the All-in-One Instablur, a five-action perfector to hide skin blemishes—the Body Shop says one can say goodbye to filters.
   Instablur, available in a universal shade, has spherical powders with moisturizing vitamin E that helps smooth pores and hides blemishes.
   The Body Shop has also released the Smoky 2-in-1 Gel Liner (NZ$25) to intensify brows, using Community Fair Trade oils and ultra-dark pigments; a new eye colour in the Colour Crush range (NZ$21·50) with new shades (our picks are Champagne Kiss, the special-edition Gorgeous Gold and Golden Cinnamon as the in-trend ones, but look out for the special-edition Sunshine Love as well); a new red shade for its lip and cheek stain (NZ$25·25)—it’s particularly striking, again staying right on the beauty trends; and the Colour Crush Shine lip colour (NZ$27·75), formerly Colourglide Shine, again using Community Fair Trade oils to moisturize your lips.


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Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 finalists experience Thai culture first-hand

Lucire staff/9.11

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Alan Raga

The Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 finalists had a 5.30 a.m. call on Monday, preparing to head to the Channel 5 studios in Bangkok for a 7 a.m. appearance with both the Thai ambassador to New Zealand Noppadon Theppitak and Miss Universe New Zealand executive director Nigel Godfrey.
   The show they appeared on, where they talked about their experiences in Thailand, reaches 10 million viewers domestically, and another 170 countries worldwide via satellite.
   Sunday’s schedule was somewhat more relaxed, with a morning visit to the Suan Sam Pran Riverside Thai Village to experience making traditional craft and food, as well as learning a few dance steps, while six contestants stayed behind for their swimwear shoots wearing Surface Too Deep and Honey & Co., with photographer Alan Raga.
   It was not until the evening that Thailand Travel & Tourism hosted the finalists at the Sofitel, before they returned to their accommodation at the Hilton Bangkok.
   Monday’s programme, meanwhile, saw the top 25 finalists at the Issaya Cooking Studio, where they tried their hand at cooking, at Bangkok’s Central Embassy shopping centre.
   The Miss Universe New Zealand 2014 grand final takes place at Sky City Theatre, Auckland, on September 18. The public will have a hand in deciding the winner, through text voting and through the electronic i-vote. See nextmissnz.com/top25.shtml for voting details. Further updates of the competition are on the Miss Universe New Zealand Facebook and Instagram, with hashtags #missuniversenz and #munz14.











Alan Raga


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