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Three by Ekman: the Royal New Zealand Ballet shows its witty, ingenious side


NEWS  by Jack Yan/May 20, 2017/12.01



Stephen A’Court

Swedish-born choreographer–director Alexander Ekman, it transpires, was the first person Francesco Ventriglia called when he was first appointed artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Ekman, says Ventriglia, creates choreography that is ‘different, brave, intelligent, witty and fun,’ and he sees the work as being the equivalent of ‘good food’ for the dancers. The three ballets in Three by Ekman are certainly that: modern and relevant, yet somehow also timeless in their appeal. Tuplet, Episode 31 and Cacti keep audiences gripped, while taking us on a journey into unexplored territories.
   They aren’t fully unexplored, mind: regular RNZB attendees will remember Cacti from last year’s trio of ballets in Speed of Light, but seeing it again this time was a renewed pleasure, and connecting it to two more Ekman ballets gives it an extra dimension. As the third ballet, Cacti was a fitting conclusion: when you’re in Ekman’s world, you almost want to stay in it in an attempt to understand the creativity that drives this talented and important modern choreographer. It’s a world that’s energizing, spontaneous, but cheekily self-aware.
   The first foray into that world is Tuplet, a clever 18-minute introduction where the dancers’ own breaths, voices, and the sounds of their bodies become the rhythm. Composer (and a fellow Swedish-born international talent) Mikael Karlsson’s music has a dose of Bart Howard’s ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ as performed by Victor Feldman helped set the mood. Video projections, which were also designed by Ekman, feature slowed-down black-and-white clips of jazz musicians, highlighting the improvised nature of the dance, performed by six dancers standing on white square mats. New Yorker and Parsons alum Nancy Haeyung Bae designed the costumes, which aided the movement well, and Amith Chandrashaker the lighting, which balanced the the dancers with the video screens above. The conclusion was clever and a taste of Ekman’s humour: he showed silent films of audiences applauding as the live one at the St James Theatre did the same while the curtain fell.
   A video introduction to Episode 31 followed, showing the RNZB’s dancers learning the ballet. It’s a tradition of Episode 31, where a short film is made in the city in which it is performed. The film shows that the dancers were not restricted to the studio, as they ventured out from the Theatre in flash-mob style to various Wellington landmarks such as the cable car and the Botanic Garden; Mayor Justin Lester is caught walking by as the company vigorously dances Episode 31 on the waterfront. (The video is below, though we recommend you don’t spoil the experience.) The dance is a celebration of youth, energy and pace, fitting given its origins as a piece created for Julliard (and first performed in 2011; the video there made use of New York City landmarks such as the Subway). Karlsson once again composed the music, with costumes by Julliard’s Luke Simcock, and lighting by Nicole Pearce. Simcock’s visually deconstructed black and white costumes happily mix genders (e.g. skirts and collared dresses with prints of jackets), as does the make-up on the dancers (mustachioed faces on pale white). The pacy performance itself is contrasted with one dancer who moved in slow motion across the front of the stage; the curtain rose and fell to show vignettes of the action going on behind, leaving you wondering: are we really seeing vignettes or are the dancers repositioning themselves intentionally in preparation for the next reveal? The lighting rig came down, flooring was lifted up and moved, and a second slow-motion dancer wandered with a sign reading ‘Beautiful’ in a stark, all-cap Helvetica (the design of this sign itself is an exercise in irony). As with other Ekman ballets, spoken words accompany the action, with poetry (and this is the programme’s list) by Christina Rossetti, William Allingham, Eleanor Farjeon, Robert Louis Stevenson, William Hughes Mearns and Edward Lear.
   A second video came after the interval, where Ekman is seen on a ferry to Somes Island in Wellington, contemplating choreography and its connection to its surroundings. Will I affect the island or will the island affect me? You can’t but help find Ekman’s quirky personality endearing and you form a connection with the choreographer—and understand that there is a method here, from a man who constantly looks for ways to push ballet forward.
   There’s less chaos in Cacti than in Episode 31. Here, spoken word also features, in an unsubtle dig at postmodernism and the pretentious reviews modern dance might get (one only hopes this article is not an example), with a recording written and voiced by Spenser Theberge. The New Zealand String Quartet accompanies the action here, with both composed and improvised music, at least for the first part of Cacti, before classical music (Haydn, Schubert, and Beethoven) takes over. The 16 dancers move their white tiles, shouting and clapping as they added to the rhythm, before bringing in cactus plants on-stage. Ekman himself designed the set and costumes; Tom Visser also worked on the set and designed the lighting. The second part, a duet between characters Aram and Riley, is another humorous Ekman take, where the audience can hear the streams of consciousness from the pair (played by Alexandre Ferreira and Laura Saxon Jones today). As noted in our review last year, Cacti breaks down the pretence and complexity of ballet into basic statements: the two characters are disengaged from any story and just want to get the dance done. The stuffed cat that is thrown on stage still surprises on a second viewing, and we note that it was a different colour this time.
   When Cacti was part of Speed of Light, we only got a dose of Ekman’s style. This time, we were immersed, and Three by Ekman feels more satisfying and complete. It’s one of the RNZB’s most enjoyable modern ballets, and it’s consistent throughout, not just in the expertise of the dancers, but in the tone and ingenuity of the three works.—Jack Yan, Publisher

Three by Ekman tours till June 15. For venue and booking information, visit www.rnzb.org.nz.

Tailor Skincare launches Your Blend, an innovative, customized two-step moisturizing formula


NEWS  by Jack Yan/May 5, 2017/23.47




Jack Yan

Tailor Skincare, riding high from the award-winning Renew, launched its Your Blend line at Power Yoga Living Studio in Wellington on Friday.
   Founder Sara Quilter, wearing Wilson Trollope and, appropriately for a yoga studio, barefoot, welcomed Tailor staff, clients and supporters—including her parents—and told a confident and heartfelt story on why she created Your Blend.
   Your Blend, described as a ‘personalized multifunctional, morning and night moisturizer’, is a two-step formula, using two extracts as a customized solution for each wearer’s skin and lifestyle. A quick online consultation, which takes into account genetics, environmental factors and skin type generates a recommendation for the two extracts. Your Blend addresses both the skin type (extracts numbered 1–3) and skin concern (4–6), in attractive packaging designed in-house by their communications’ and marketing manager, Stacy Heyman.
   Tailor Skincare recommends adding Renew for best results.
   In a quick post-speech chat to Lucire, Quilter mentioned the inspiration hit her while holidaying in Bali, and she was driven by her belief that everyone should get the best skin care possible.
   The event saw Good Buzz kombucha, Peter Yealands wine, and Soul Organics super juices served to VIPs.—Jack Yan, Publisher

Tailor Renew: does exactly what it says on the box


NEWS  by Jack Yan/April 18, 2017/14.20

Tailor Skincare’s Renew is a probiotic serum that’s already picked up an Innovation Award for Best Formulation from the New Zealand Society of Cosmetic Chemists. For the service of our readers, we put it to the test, as we do with other products that come across our desk.
   In the case of Renew, I wanted to get a real-world sense of how it might work. Believing in “tested on humans”, my other half came to the rescue, putting the serum on one hand but not the other at night.
   Within a day there was a noticeable difference where the serum had been applied: the skin felt softer and smoother to the touch, even healthier. Things continued to improve over the week: it really works.
   It did exactly what Tailor claims: it stimulated and revitalized the skin, thanks to its probiotic lysate and grape seed extract. The lysate-based Prorenew Complex CLR ingredient is unique to Tailor, while grape-seed extract is a known antioxidant that protects the skin. These work with the body’s own processes.
   ‘Renew’ is an honest claim—here’s a product whose name is a real claim to what it does.
   Tailor recommends that it be used for the face and neck after cleansing and moisturizing, using ‘a pea-sized amount’. It works with all skin types.
   Tailor Renew, retailing for NZ$69, is made in New Zealand, and is cruelty-free.—Jack Yan, Publisher

Catching our eye: stand-outs at the 2017 ID Emerging Designer Awards


NEWS  by Chris Park/March 26, 2017/11.52

Thirty finalists were selected to showcase their capsule collections at the 2017 ID Emerging Designer Awards’ runway show. Hosted on a crisp autumn evening in the iconic Dunedin Railway Station, the finalists were chosen by a panel of judges from over 150 different entrants, with designers coming from all over the world.
   Head judge Tanya Carlson said that, although it might sound cliché and make her sound like a broken record, she truly believes that the standard of the submissions continues to rise and we were fortunate to see some of the talent.
   Here were some of the designers which particularly caught our attention.

Marina, Talia Jimenez, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW
Winner of the Golden Centre Prize for the Most Commercial Collection




Chris Park/The Park Brothers

   First off the runway, the collection featured playful digital prints of overlapping marine animals. Jimenez balanced the vibrant imagery by using mostly pastel colours for the prints and keeping the overall colour palette minimal.
   The collection was inspired by a trip to the Sydney Fish Markets in Piermont, where she experienced an overwhelming cacophony of marine-themed advertisements, overfilled crates of prawns, and mud crabs tied up in string everywhere.
   The prints were featured on PVC overalls faced with cotton worn with merino turtleneck knits, and oversized raincoats, referencing clothing traditionally worn by fishermen. The prints might be fun but the imposition of the prints on top of “fishermen” alludes to the over-exploitation of the marine ecosystem, and our excess indulgence in the spoils of the sea.




Chris Park/The Park Brothers

Above: Close-ups from Talia Jimenez’s Marina collection.

The Daily Show, Megan Stewart, Massey University, Wellington, New Zealand
NZME and ‘Viva’ Editorial Prize for Best New Zealand Collection







Chris Park/The Park Brothers

   This collection is a sharp critique on the distortionary effect that electronic communication and mass media have on our perception of reality. The distortionary effect is expressed in a very literal sense by the use of distorted imagery from television shows and twisted knits.
   She references digital media and the pixels of a screen by incorporating 90-degree angles and rectangles in her patterns, which further add to the warping when the square clothing twists around the human form.
   The television imagery was selected and distorted by Stewart herself, before being printed onto hessian-like material. The shoulder construction hangs by the elbows, adding to the warping effect on our perception of the clothing.
   The bright playful colours and mesmerizing patterns belie the warning messages that Stewart transmits to the viewer, of how being absorbed into media will warp one’s perception of reality.

XXX, Nehma Vitols, University of Technology, Sydney, NSW
H&J First Prize








Chris Park/The Park Brothers

   Vitols’s collection was ethereal. The pieces looked like they were hovering in front and behind the models rather than being worn by them, and yet it the composite fabric used by Vitols that gave it a stiffness belying the translucency of the wraith-like materials.
   Nehma created this material by taking silk organza and bonding it with stiff cotton organdy, then applying laser-cut Tyvek detailing in white to add visual depth. As the models walked down the runway, the fabric would shimmer and float, as if it had a mind of its own.
   The pieces were cleverly constructed from scraps of fabric left over from creating archetypal garments, held together using a combination of ties made out of leftover strips of fabric, contrast top-stitching and golden zips, which provided some weight and textural contrast to the sheer fabric.
   The complexity of the construction, the innovative materials and the brilliant execution led to Vitols taking out the grand prize at ID for 2017. Congratulations!—Chris Park, Special Correspondent




Chris Park/The Park Brothers

Above: Detail from Nehma Vitols’s collection, XXX, which took first prize at the ID Emerging Designer Awards.

A grand Petit double bill: Royal New Zealand Ballet performs Carmen and L’Arlésienne


NEWS  by Jack Yan/March 22, 2017/13.15




Stephen A’Court

Above, from top: Joseph Skelton as Don José and Natalya Kusch as Carmen in Carmen. Yuri Marques, with Shaun James Kelly as Frédêric and Madeleine Graham as Vivette in L’Arlésienne. Madeleine Graham as Vivette and Shaun James Kelly as Frédêri in L’Arlésienne.

What a treat to see two of Roland Petit’s ballets—L’Arlésienne and Carmen—performed by the Royal New Zealand Ballet, faithfully executing two of the late Parisian maestro’s works, staged by the Roland Petit Trust’s Luigi Bonino.
   They are particularly close to RNZB artistic director Francesco Ventriglia’s heart, having worked with Petit himself and having danced the role of the Toreador in Carmen in Milano and New York after the maestro cast him. ‘Maestro Petit was the first to trust me as an artist, and it was a turning point,’ writes Ventriglia in the notes to the season’s performances.
   Both are passionate ballets, but perhaps more so tonight as the RNZB returned home to Wellington to perform them for the first time, dedicated to their late senior costumier, Andrew Pfeiffer, who passed away March 3 after three decades’ service to the company.
   Ventriglia, accompanied by RNZB executive director Frances Turner, made the announcement on stage before the curtain went up.
   When it did, we were taken into Provence with the first ballet, L’Arlésienne. It’s the briefer of the two ballets (and receives a lower billing in RNZB publicity: it’s Carmen with L’Arlésienne) but particularly intense, exploring themes of dreams, isolation and solitude. The ballet draws from Provençal folk music and costumes—costumier Christine Laurent gives black shawls to the women and vests with a red sash to the men—and the pas de deux between Frédéri (Shaun James Kelly) and Vivette (Madeleine Graham) is tinged with intensity and tragedy. Frédéri’s descent into madness through his obsession with the unseen Girl from Arles is well portrayed by Kelly, especially his solo at the end as he tries hard to break through his mental turmoil—for a finalé it’s particularly powerful and Kelly builds to it and carries it. Graham’s Vivette tries in vain to save him with emotions showing in her light and flowing dance and her expressions. It’s a tragic end for a man who refused to conform and who allows his obsession to dominate him.
   The ballet is characterized by the small steps from folk dance, contrasting Frédéri’s wilder, grander contemporary moves as he tries to break from the rigidness of Provençal society; while simple sets by Réné Allio keep the focus on the leads, from a canvas cloth with an abstract landscape to the final window.
   That simplicity is in contrast to the rich and somewhat sinister reds in the first two scenes in Carmen: the tobacco factory exterior that opens the second ballet sees a giant wooden frame and hanging laundry as the full cast performs; the tavern scene has a touch of surrealism with the barren frames of the wooden chairs adding to the spectacle. There’s fake cigarette smoke emanating from the stage (the scene calls for dancers to light up). Here it’s the late Antoni Clavé’s costume and set design at work, the women in bodices with zig-zag lines. Among this we first meet Carmen, played to perfection tonight by RNZB’s Ukrainian-born, Wien-trained guest artist Natalya Kusch, a powerful ballerina in total control of her craft. Her Carmen oozed defiance, with her cropped hair and short black dress. It’s the company’s ability to attract international talent that adds to its world-class performances, and Kusch’s Carmen was a veritable femme fatale, her en pointe moves emphasizing her prowess.
   After Carmen and Don José (Joseph Skelton) spend the night together, their pas de deux was particularly sensual—watch for one explicit move where Skelton arches his back and Kusch lays and rubs on top of him—and hinted at the peril ahead. Skelton’s tense portrayal as he stabs the victim drew you more deeply into the ballet, while his final confrontation with Carmen is powerful and tragic.
   Carmen is the grander of the two, and a spectacular note to finish on. With the relatively short run time, it packs a great deal in, making it more concentrated than the Rio de Janeiro-set version performed by the RNZB in 2010, a full-length ballet by Didy Veldman.
   The Two Ballets by Roland Petit, Carmen with L’Arlésienne, continue till April 1, with four more performances in Wellington (from March 23 to 25) before moving to Auckland (March 29 to April 1). Further details are available at the RNZB’s website.—Jack Yan, Publisher



Stephen A’Court

Above, from top: Massimo Margaria as Chief Bandit, Joseph Skelton as Don José and Natalya Kusch as Carmen in Carmen. RNZB dancers with Joseph Skelton as Don José in Carmen.

The Body Shop’s Drops of Youth and Drops of Light liquid peels: effective and perfect for sensitive skin


NEWS  by Nathalia Archila/March 20, 2017/9.42


We’ve been sampling the Body Shop’s new Drops of Youth Youth Liquid Peel and Drops of Light Pure Resurfacing Liquid Peel, coming soon to New Zealand. These products claim to deliver a smoother, healthier, more youthful and lighter skin.
   I tried out both products, and they get Lucire’s thumbs-up. The formula between them both is similar, so you’d choose which one you want based on your preference. Drops of Light features red algæ extract from the North Atlantic and vitamin C. Drops of Youth is 100 per cent vegan, enriched with edelweiss, sea holly and criste marine plant stem cells. The liquid peels help skin appear brighter, refined and more even. At first, I wasn’t sure how they worked, because they are not like a traditional exfoliant scrub. After a bit of research, I found out that a liquid peel essentially takes off the top layer of dead cells from your face. The first thing I noticed when I opened Drops of Youth was the smell: it was nice and clean, and the texture was like a really refreshing cold jelly. I applied the product on my face, massaging for around 20 seconds, and noticed that these little balls of dead skin cells were forming. After I wiped the product off my face, my skin felt amazing, and appeared soft and bright.
   I am really careful with my skin routine and not to keen to introduce new products because I’ve had a very long battle with rosacea and sensitive skin. However, with the Body Shop’s liquid peels I didn’t experience any rosacea outbreaks or reactions, which tells me they are great for those with sensitive skin. I’ve kept using the products two to three times a week and I notice my skin feels much softer and glowing now!—Nathalia Archila

Allbirds releases limited-edition Wool Runner, teaming up with independent Wellington businesses


NEWS  by Nathalia Archila/February 7, 2017/23.32

Allbirds has launched an eight-day celebration in Wellington starting today to promote artisans and creators who share its brand’s philosophy of quality and independence.
   Allbirds, a sustainable footwear brand co-founded by former All Whites skipper Tim Brown, has teamed up with craft brewery Garage Project, coffee roaster Coffee Supreme, and chocolatier Wellington Chocolate Factory. Each has created an Allbirds-inspired product that ties in with the brand’s new shoe, the Wool Runner.
   The Wool Runner features a merino wool upper and a plant-based in-sole, making the shoe particularly light and keeping the wearer’s feet fresh. Time went so far as to call it ‘the world’s most comfortable shoe’.
   The Wellington businesses have limited-edition Allbirds Wool Runners, finished in black, with details that unique to each partner.
   During the eight days, Allbirds has invited travellers passing through Wellington Airport to try the Wool Runner. They also have a pop-up store at creative video agency Wrestler, 21 Jessie Street, Te Aro, where one can try on and buy the limited-edition design.
   The limited-edition design can also be found from February 8 at www.allbirds.co.nz.
   Allbirds has also collaborated with artists Andrew J. Steel and Toby Morris, who have created a mural in the Eva Street alleyway to celebrate the programme.
   Other events will be announced via Allbirds’ Instagram page.—Nathalia Archila

Special features to kick off Lucire’s 20th anniversary year


NEWS  by Lucire staff/January 5, 2017/10.31


Paula Sweet

Above: Stanley Moss heads to Punta Ala in one of his best travel pieces to date. Click here to read it.

Welcome to Lucire’s 20th anniversary year.
   Remember that if you don’t 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, we’ve had Lola Cristall’s 2017 living guide; an archive interview with Thor director Taika Waititi; one of Stanley Moss’s 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. We’ve also looked at a natural skin care range, Kokulu, and made our picks from the spring–summer 2017 shows from New York Fashion Week.
   And, of course, there’s our print edition: issue 36 features stories on Delikate Rayne and author–filmmaker Leslie Zemeckis, and it’s a particularly strong issue on female power. Never mind the outcome of a certain country’s 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 Globes’ suites coverage with Elyse Glickman this weekend in the news section, and more fashion, beauty, travel and living features through January.

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