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May 20, 2016

An extensive Scope: NZ School of Dance blends Choreographic Season pieces into thoughtful, cohesive work

Jack Yan/14.13





Stephen A’Court

Above, from top: Connor Masseurs. A scene from Scope. Kent Giebel-Date and Christina Guieb. Christina Guieb.

The New Zealand School of Dance’s Choreographic Season for 2016, Scope, blended its 10 performance so seamlessly, and with related themes, that it worked well as a single, larger piece, despite the many talents and styles involved in choreography, music and dance.
   Each time we attend an NZSD performance, we’re always impressed by how they mix things up. Sometimes, it’s in the style of dancing or the changes to the venue. This time, they’ve surprised us yet again by not having breaks between each work, allowing them to flow naturally. Other than at the beginning, when half-dressed dancers emerged on stage in a row, only to have their neatly folded outfits fall from the sky, there were also no costume changes.
   Scope’s notes hint at the related themes, all centring on the energies that drive life on Earth, and how humanity can be destructive, but also how it can unite and bring people together. The flow did mean it was sometimes difficult to see when one performance finished and another started—this is not meant as a negative criticism, because the effect is that the audience became particularly engrossed.
   The performances flowed so seamlessly thanks largely, we believe, to the collaborative processes by the 10 graduating students of the New Zealand School of Dance, who created and performed their own works, cooperating with lighting and sound designers as well as fellow students in following years. It was particularly immersive, more so than the 2015 season that Lucire thought very highly of.
   In a release, the show’s coordinator, Victoria Colombus, herself an alumna, noted, ‘This year the New Zealand School of Dance students and Toi Whakaari students are cultivating a very collaborative working process. They have been working together to investigate overriding themes and how they can utilize different elements of stagecraft and performance to sew together these common threads.’ It worked.
   ‘Trophics’, choreographed by Tristan Carter with music by Te Aihe Butler, involved the entire cast, essentially evolving. The first scene showed them essentially running on to the stage but as they progressed, their moves became more complex, as though they discovered they had more limbs and abilities. This evolved into the next performance, printed in the programme with a blank box and the cubed sign as its title, with the introduction of white boxes as props but signifying that we can find peace among our busy lives. Christopher Mills’s ‘Box Cubed’ (for ease of typesetting here) concluded with female dancers calling out to others scattered among the audience, the matriarchy evolved into the patriarchy with ‘Obelus’, a male-exclusive performance that mixed martial arts with the flow of dance, examining themes of rivalry, the toppling of leadership, and the resulting power vacuum. There was thoroughly enjoyable choreography by Jag Popham.
   From here the performances became more otherworldly—and one can see the evolutionary theme continue into a more technical arena. ‘The Private Sphere’ introduced themes of contrast: ‘Plastic fruit and tending flowers. Air freshener and painted landscapes,’ read the programme, but we saw it as humanity’s attempt to introduce technology, but not always in a pleasant way. Dancers mimicked robotic movements as they portrayed artificial materials; could the theme have been the draining of humanity from our everyday lives? From Isaac di Natale’s ‘The Private Sphere’, we moved into Breanna Timms’s ‘Atlas of Intangible’, where the movements became fluid again, almost to show that advancements can see us claw back our humanity. Timms’s idea was to show the connections between all life through energy, how the actions of one influence another, and this was done with great beauty and more tradition in the choreography, helped with music such as Estonian composer Arvo Pärt’s ‘Summa for Strings’.
   Samuel Hall’s ‘Come along and Feel the Kairos’, a reference to that perfect moment, involved audience members in the front row (Lucire’s second-row seat meant the note-taking continued), who became part of a mass performance. Dancers in the centre connected while one remained outside the lines formed by the audience and their guides; and despite the presence of amateurs on stage there was a flow that held our attention.
   ‘Blight’, choreographed by Tiana Lung, had many layers that tied back to earlier themes of technology and humankind’s attempts to quell nature as a result; a dancer representing new life is controlled and quashed by existing life forms. ‘Shaving a Cactus’, choreographed by Holly Newsome, again introduced a technological theme (helped by Crooked Colours’ ‘Step (Woolymammoth × Tsuruda Remix)’ as the soundtrack) and synthesized voices which dancers. Te Aihe Butler’s music editing for Jessica Newman’s ‘XXX’ took us back to the start thematically, with sound effects that were basic and raw. The whole cast returned for an energetic finalé in Isabel Estrella’s ‘Temenos’.
   Scope, the New Zealand School of Dance’s Choreographic Season for 2016, runs from May 20 to 28 at Te Whaea, the National Dance and Drama Centre, in Newtown, Wellington. Tickets are priced from NZ$12 to NZ$23; bookings and further information can be found at the NZSD’s website at www.nzschoolofdance.ac.nz.—Jack Yan, Publisher


Stephen A’Court

Above: The third-year contemporary students at the New Zealand School of Dance for 2016.

May 11, 2016

Indulging in nostalgia: new Catalina Island Museum opening

Lucire staff/13.26



Copyright Bunny Yeager/Galerie Schuster

Top: Architect’s rendering of the new Catalina Island Museum façade. Above: Bettie Page on the Florida beach, 1954.

Day trippers appreciate the southern California destination Catalina Island, easily accessible from Los Angeles. You take the ferry boat from Long Beach, cross the channel, and in about an hour, land in the car-free heritage hamlet of Avalon Harbor. There, nothing has changed for years. Long a haunt of Hollywood celebrities and their international guests, Catalina thrives on the tourist trade. In days of yore the allure was deep-sea fishing and exhibition games at the summer home of the Chicago Cubs baseball team. Today the menu includes boutique shopping, dining and people-watching, nature trekking, mountain biking, zip lines and excellent snorkelling.
   The big news this season is the grand opening of the Ada Blanche Wrigley Schreiner Building, new home of the Catalina Island Museum, located at 217 Metropole Avenue, an easy walk from the ferry terminal. Two gala weeks of celebration will occur from June 18 to July 4. A gem of a museum, the institution is devoted to art, culture and history, and the sparkling new facility houses a fine collection of cultural artifact, ceramics, rare photography and nostalgia. A launch exhibition features recently discovered photos of pin-up model Bettie Page, taken in Miami by photographer Bunny Yeager in the 1950s. Other events scheduled include VIP receptions, and Tibetan sand-painting in the skylit atrium. A very reasonable membership to the Museum brings a host of benefits, well worth the charitable contribution. For more information visit www.catalinamuseum.org.—Stanley Moss, Travel Editor




Above, from top: A young Norma Jean Baker lived on Catalina in the years before she became Marilyn Monroe. The Chicago Cubs (Stan Hack and Barney Olsen, pictured in 1941) delighted crowds in the summer months. Winston Churchill managed to land a California marlin during a visit.

May 4, 2016

Royal New Zealand Ballet’s The Wizard of Oz: a family-friendly feast

Jack Yan/14.29



Ross Brown

I truly hope Francesco Ventriglia’s The Wizard of Oz will be performed all over the world, because this family-friendly ballet has all the ingredients for first-time and seasoned watchers alike. What we saw at the world première tonight in Wellington were skilful dancing, moments of contemplation, beautiful staging and design, and a masterful matching to the music of Francis Poulenc.
   Based on the book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum, rather than the 1939 MGM film, The Wizard of Oz, audiences are helped by the familiar storyline, which is common to both. Ventriglia keeps the basic idea but takes some different parts from the book compared to the well known film, and in the adaptation to a ballet enhances certain scenes. The structure is of a classical ballet, as are many of the dance moves, including some neatly executed lifts and catches in two pas de deux in Act II, between the Prince and Princess of Porcelain (William Fitzgerald and Laura Jones on opening night), and the Wizard (Fitzgerald again) and Dorothy (Lucy Green).
   Ventriglia forgoes the cyclone in favour of a simpler Dorothy in hospital with a coma, watched over by her Uncle Henry (Sir Jon Trimmer), but once she is deposited in the land of the Munchkins, you know that the action has started. The use of this device is very personal to Ventriglia, and can be traced back to when he was five years old in Genova, when he noticed that a girl in isolation in a children’s hospital had gone from her bed one day. His mother told him that she had gone to the Emerald City in the Land of Oz.
   A blue sky backdrop links each scene with Dorothy, and on its first appearance in Act I, lights up one’s mood. Gianluca Falaschi, The Wizard of Oz’s designer, approaches the set with both creativity and sensibility. Doors open up revealing different scenes behind the sky set, depending on the context, but it works well, giving the stage additional depth. Watch out for both the Emerald City, which borders on a bright discothèque—and no, there are no shades of 1974’s film The Wiz here—and the Kingdom of Porcelain, which is revealed in the second act. There is one beautiful touch near the close of the second act where the Wizard offers to take Dorothy away, but the fear of revealing spoilers prevent me from telling you just what Falaschi has created.
   The costumes deserve extra mention. Glinda, the Witch of the North, danced by Abigail Boyle with plenty of movements en pointe, sparkled with a bright white costume that featured 1,000 sequinned butterflies, giving her an other-worldliness; this contrasted Dorothy’s simpler farm dress that Falaschi says took its cue from the film. Dorothy’s multiple costume changes—her "saucer tutu" for the Porcelain scene, for instance—hint at the chequered pattern of her original dress, so audiences are clear that Green is dancing in the same role. The Witch of the West (Mayu Tanigaito) only has the Flying Monkeys for her allies in this version, but she enters the stage looking sinister, her outfit having connections to more adult themes but considerably toned down for a family audience. The Flying Monkeys, meanwhile, are bare-chested but masked while they are under her spell, wearing large, black skirts. Elaborate, dominating movements convey their evil intent, while the chandeliers and prison cage on the set contrast with the simplicity of the blue sky of Dorothy’s world.
   Scarecrow (Loughlan Prior) deserves additional mention since he is the first character to follow Dorothy and, therefore, has a greater role on stage; Prior’s floppy, soft movements convey his character’s construction neatly. Tin Man (Massimo Margaria)’s metallic detailing on his outfit wasn’t as easily seen and almost looked as though he was wearing a body colour, but thankfully this newer interpretation allowed the ballerino much freer movement. Jacob Chown got into his Lion character from his first moment on stage, right through to when he took a bow.
   Felipe Domingos, as the Guardian of the Emerald City cut a distinctive figure with his flowing movements, and shone in his first scene; Harry Skinner’s Yellow Cat, chasing after the mice played by Linda Messina and Tonia Looker, was a particularly likeable comedic performance (though one wonders why the cat is bigger than the dog: Toto is a stuffed toy in this version). Watch out, too, for a tap-dancing scene as Green dons red shoes instead of the Silver Shoes from the book.
   Falaschi is inspired by 1930s bathing costumes, flapper dresses and cloches, and a bellhop’s uniform for the Guardian, all of which he works in to give The Wizard of Oz, a visual feel that is its own. In all, 37 new costumes were created for the production.
   Jason Morphett’s lighting was particularly clever, as Falaschi’s box set forced him to use lights in the corner. He based his concepts on Poulenc’s music, which lent itself well to visuals thanks to its lyrical nature. I tend to find lyrical scores can paint a scene better than those founded on sound effects, and the compilation of various Poulenc compositions, compiled by RNZB pianist Michael Pansters from two dozen recordings, worked well as a complete ballet. Ventriglia calls the score ‘very cinematic,’ and that seems a very apt description.
   As detailed in our preview, the ballet began life as an unperformed, single-act ballet, which Ventriglia first conceived when artistic director of Maggio Danze in Firenze. There is an additional meaning here, as Ventriglia, who hails from Italy, has had to ask himself just what ‘home’ means, as Dorothy had to discover: ‘My conclusion is that home is where you feel grounded and comfortable within yourself,’ he writes in the programme. ‘For me that place is the dance studio.’
   The work, he writes, has been adapted to the dancing style of the company and the new inspirations he has found in New Zealand since his arrival a year and a half ago.
   The Wizard of Oz achieves its aim of being a big-story ballet that appeals to everyone, and audiences will be delighted at this latest production.
   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.—Jack Yan, Publisher


April 20, 2016

New Zealand gets first Renault Zoé glimpse at Leading the Charge event in Wellington

Jack Yan/6.13



New Zealanders got their first look at the Renault Zoé last Friday at the Leading the Charge event in Wellington.
   The electric car, which has been a standard-bearer for the French company’s zero-emissions ambitions alongside its Twizy single-passenger commuter, arrived in the country only that week in right-hand drive form and made its way to the event at the CQ Hotel in Wellington.
   The Zoé posed alongside the Tesla Model S and the BMW i3, which is the subject of an upcoming comprehensive Lucire road test.
   Leading the Charge is a real-world north-to-south road trip from Cape Reinga to Bluff, New Zealand to educate people about zero-carbon motoring, to prove that it is indeed possible, even in a country like New Zealand where major cities are scattered around the landscape, with rural roads linking them.
   Better NZ Trust and EECA are behind the drive, and for Wellingtonians, guest speaker Steve West was on hand to talk about his venture, Charge Net NZ, which aims to have 100 fast-charge stations located nationally.
   Instead of the nightly charge of a car via the mains, which can take all night, these fast chargers pump electricity through in less than half an hour, making the electric car particularly viable. Presently, owners of electric cars pay no road tax.
   In New Zealand, where electricity is in part sourced from hydro sources, electric cars make environmental sense overall.
   Host CQ Hotels had installed eight electric car charging stations in its car park, as part of its social responsibility to the environment.
   The cars have made their way now to the South Island. You can follow @leadingthecharge on Instagram for the latest updates.—Jack Yan, Publisher







April 15, 2016

Lucire TV: Duke and Duchess of Cambridge hike to monastery on Bhutanese cliff face

Lucire staff/12.35


The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge headed to Paro Taktshang, Bhutan, on the second day of their royal visit to the kingdom. They had flown in from India on Thursday.
   Paro Taktshang, also known as the Tiger’s Nest monastery, is located on a cliff face, 3,000 m above sea level. The royal couple walked 900 m to the revered site, taking three hours to reach the monastery, built in 1692.
   The Duchess wore a Jaeger white blouse, Really Wild khaki leather waistcoat, khaki Zara jeans, and her 10-year-old, calf-length Penelope Chilvers boots.
   ‘It was quite tough on the way up,’ noted Prince William. The Duchess said that it was a ‘great way to burn off the curry.’
   The Prince’s father, the Prince of Wales, half-completed the hike in 1998.
   In the evening, they attended a reception for British nationals and people with close ties to the UK that evening. The Duchess wore a red gown with a poppy print by Beulah, from its spring–summer 2015 collection. The poppy is Bhutan’s national symbol.

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

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