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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 première, Tracy Grant Lord’s 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’s 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’s largest set, complete with bridges, multiple staircases, even a pole from which Puck slides down. Lord notes that her design ‘includes particular structural, decorative and technical elements that exist only for this production, and have all been developed and manufactured in the company workshops.’ 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’s lighting design comes into its own with Lord’s set, keeping the cabanas’ 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’s 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 résumé 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’s 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’s and Puck’s costumes had a more cinematic, modern bent than seen in other interpretations of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, with the former having a plunging neckline and a science-fiction feel to it. The fairies’ 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 à la the cinematic Tarzan to commence his antics in the second act, or the strongly romantic pas de deux between Oberon and Titania, Scarlett’s 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’s 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’s this characterization which marks out Scarlett’s work. The interactions between the characters—Oberon and Puck, Titania and Bottom, Hermia and Lysander, Helena and Demetrius, and the comical pursuit by both Lysander and Demetrius toward Helena—gives the RNZB’s 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—Balanchine did the same in his version—but 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’s 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’s 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’s emotions through simple movements; when both men are entranced by Helena, Boyle’s movements conveyed her shock at the energetic pursuit—accompanied 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’s Dream in Wellington as a world première; 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’s 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.—Jack Yan, Publisher



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

August 13, 2015

Trilogy launches Raha perfume, benefiting So They Can to empower Tanzanian women and children

Lucire staff/12.14

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Trilogy has introduced a second perfume called Raha, following its limited-edition Jua Natural Perfume last year. The Raha Natural Perfume, again in partnership with So They Can, is another limited edition, which sees NZ$2 from every sale donated to the charity to educate and empower Kenyan and Tanzanian communities.
   Raha, developed in conjunction with perfumer Yves Dombrowsky, is a natural perfume with Tanzanian sunflower oil as its base, produced by one of So They Can’s projects. Its top notes are green galbanum, citrus, bergamot and black pepper, mid-notes are composed of blue iris, marine accord, rose and frankincense, and the basenotes are warm vanilla with subtle spice. All are natural ingredients.
   The name Raha translates to joy in Swahili, and the fragrance was inspired by the warn African rain which ‘brings joy, growth and survival. It cools the thirsty land, sharpens the crisp aromas of the bush, and brings life to plants, animals and people,’ says the company.
   The 7·5 ml roll-on applicator perfume oil retails for NZ$24·90 and hits stores on August 15 in New Zealand.
   Two hundred and fifty bottles are donated to So They Can for their own fundraising as well.
   Jua raised NZ$20,000, enough to provide an annual income for 50 women sunflower farmers and harvesters in Tanzania, according to Trilogy. The target this year is NZ$30,000, providing for 50 Tanzanian women and a full year’s education for 500 children.



Top Women farmers in Tanzania during the harvest. Above A sunflower field in Tanzania.

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 28–9, it will première 30Forward at the Wellington Opera House to mark the anniversary.
   The première 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–September 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—visit footnote.org.nz for ticketing information.


Above Rehearsing in 2012.

July 23, 2015

A Midsummer Night’s Dream: a world première 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 première, it’s a world première—so 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 première 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.
   â€˜We 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.—Jack 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’s 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’s 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. Canapés from Jess’s Underground Kitchen were served, while visible around the boutique were products from Loxy’s 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—including 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’s more at www.loxys.co.nz.—Jack Yan, Publisher








June 19, 2015

Phoenix Organics’ Love Project helps clean up New Zealand’s polluted rivers

Fenella Clarke/22.55

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Top Phoenix Organics’ promotional image for its latest venture to tackle river pollution. Above The sites for the Love Project’s tree-planting between June and September. Below left A #loveyourwater promotional card, with wildflower seeds embedded within.

On June 5, Phoenix Organics started planting native plants along polluted rivers for the Love Project, a venture which started last year with the company helping to remove 5,000 â„“ of rubbish from New Zealand beaches.
   When figures were released by regional councils last month revealing that more than half of New Zealand rivers were unsafe to swim in and that Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Canterbury and Northland were the worst, Phoenix knew it had to help.
   Co-founder of Sustainable Coastlines, Sam Judd, said, ‘Working with Phoenix Organics, we’re helping communities to stop pollution at its source by setting up riparian planting events—these help reduce pollutants entering rivers by reestablishing native vegetation.’
   Phoenix is hoping that through the Love Project, its customers will feel inspired to make a real difference in New Zealand’s coastal areas.
   â€˜We’ve been committed to sustainability since day one and believe New Zealand should continue to build on its clean, green image through involving communities in projects like this,’ said Steve Cook, marketing manager for Phoenix Organics.
   The Love Project is also partnering with environmental artist Martin Hill, based in Wanaka, to create a sculpture during the project, with more information about being released late July.
   Auckland saw the first planting day on June 5 at Wakaaranga Creek; Wellington follows on June 26 at Owhiro Stream. Christchurch’s day is on July 31 at Travis Wetland, while Nelson’s is on August 21 at Corder Park. Northland and Waikato are in September.
   To find out more, you can look at Phoenix Organics’ Facebook and Instagram as well as the hashtag #loveyourwater.—Fenella Clarke


Above Phoenix Organics has planted one tree on behalf of Lucire publisher Jack Yan.

June 10, 2015

New Zealand Eco Fashion Week launches with mayoral reception

Jack Yan/4.43

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Masanori Udagawa/Photowellington

Lucire is UNEP's first fashion industry partnerThe third New Zealand Eco Fashion Week had its launch last night, hosted by the Mayor of Hutt City, Ray Wallace.
   The Dowse Art Centre played host to the mayoral reception. Denise Anglesey, the founder and director of the event, introduced her team, and it was apparent from the very swish launch that feedback from the 2014 week on how to take things to the next level had been taken on board. It also demonstrated a growing confidence from the Mayor and council in the event.
   Anglesey had secured Miranda Brown, one of New Zealand’s best known socially responsible designers, to headline for the Saturday show, and tickets to the event were selling faster than in previous years.
   Peruvian Fair Trade shoe brand Inkkas, jewellery label Sylver & Shackel, Gem Chérie, Ron Tekawa, Dane Dagger, Julia May, Undivided and others showed that Angelsey’s event attracted designers from well beyond the region, and the 2016 event, she noted, could include a name from the US.
   The Hutt City Council had come on board as the premier partner for New Zealand Eco Fashion Week, with Mayor Wallace noting his concern about the disposable culture that had emerged in recent times. He believed that this was extremely harmful for the environment, and praised the eco-fashion movement.
   The Mayor also believed Hutt City to be a thriving, creative hub, with a growing part of the economy participating in its Technology Valley. He saw New Zealand Eco Fashion Week playing a strong part in the city’s creativity.
   German-made Sante, a natural, organic make-up brand with a 100 per cent plant base, will be used on all 45 models at the event, and is a gold sponsor. The Hodge Group and Coffee News are the event’s other two gold sponsors.
   Also present were Panache Model Agency, Salon Revue, and Peter Yealands Wines, which provided the alcohol at the launch.
   The programme extends beyond the Saturday show; full details are at its website. There are talks from Brown on Thursday, a pop-up shop at 127 Jackson Street, Petone, a make-up demonstration, and a wardrobe swap.—Jack Yan, Publisher


Masanori Udagawa/Photowellington


Jack Yan

Top Model Allie O’Regan is made up using Sante natural cosmetics at New Zealand Eco Fashion Week. Above Inkkas’ Fair Trade, eco-friendly shoes made by Peruvian artisans.

June 9, 2015

Michael Beel wins New Zealand Hairdresser of the Year with Oriental Bloom collection

Fenella Clarke/4.13

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Wellington-based hairdresser Michael Beel has won New Zealand Hairdresser of the Year at Sydney’s Hair Expo, thought of as the “Oscars of hairdressing” in some circles, last night.
   The winning collection, named Oriental Bloom, was inspired by orchids, the work of Georgia O’Keeffe and the glamour of 1930s Shanghai. Beel also wanted the collection to be all about sculptural hair. This was the fifth time he entered, realizing a life-long ambition to get the top accolade. In previous years, Beel won the Educator of the Year award in 2013 and Industry Hairdresser of the Year in 2014.
   Beel started working at a hair salon in Dunedin for extra cash before started his apprenticeship. He then moved to Wellington to finish it. For the last 13 years, Beel has been working at Buoy Hairdressing, and is now the creative director of the salon. He is an educator for both GHD and L’Oréal Professionnel, and his work has featured in numerous fashion magazines, including Lucire.
   His winning collection was styled by Dan Ahwa, photographed by Jessica Sim, with make-up by Kiekie Stanners from MAC.—Fenella Clarke

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