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April 20, 2016

Get in NOW for Footnote: four entertaining dances, representing our times

Jack Yan/14.06


Courtesy Footnote

Footnote New Zealand Dance’s NOW 2016 (New Original Work) programme, which hit Wellington tonight after performances in Auckland, presents four original works by New Zealand choreographers Julia Harvie, Sarah Knox, Lucy Marinkovich and Jessie McCall. It’s a particularly enjoyable programme, mixing meanings, humour and, in the case of Elephant Skin, a lot of balloons.
   Each performance begins with a voice recording that sets the stage for the dance that follows, although viewers are still invited to make their own interpretations.
   Centerfolds (sic) begins with a humorous look at gender stereotyping, with the company’s male and female dancers wearing masks with a bun and dresses, signalling that we often take these cues and make automatic assumptions about a strict male–female duality. Marinkovich looks at roles such as waitress, housewife, heroine, songstress, supermodel, and others, questioning our conditioning; and while not every role appears as costumed characters, they are represented through the varied music choices. Masks play a part throughout, along with multiple costume changes, ensuring that Centerfolds never drags for a moment.
   Your Own Personal Exister is one of our favourites, as it examines not only existentialism but its opposite, inauthenticity. McCall does this with the notion of how, at a children’s birthday party, we feel the centre of attention when we wear our paper “crown”, but what if that crown was never removed? It’s an allegory of the selfie era, the “look at me” validation some seek. Three of McCall’s dancers don crowns, but one doesn’t, although he is unaware of this till some way into the performance. Yet this need consumes him eventually, and he joins the inauthenticity of the others.
   One of the regular techniques here had dancers opening their mouths facing upwards while recorded voices played, which worked particularly well, and the voiceover was poignant at the conclusion of the performance (which we won’t spoil here). And what happens when that crown is removed, where does that leave us? Despite the smaller number of Footnote dancers involved, this was a particularly powerful work that was danced beautifully.
   Elephant Skin takes a humorous look with balloons landing on stage at random points, sound effects creating more laughs, and a particularly brave dancer blowing up a balloon till it popped. Harvie explained in a post-show forum that she wanted freshness and tension in the performance, because as humans, we are problem-solvers, and the dance, too, should solve the problem of the randomly placed balloons. There was, of course, an overall structure which the dancers worked around, and one scene where white balloons stood in for clouds as one performer floated across the stage, before the others began popping the cloud around her.
   Harvie also noted that she has a fascination with balloons and that they have a human element to them.
   Disarming Dissent is the most energetic of the four in terms of getting the dancers to generate forceful movements, and by this time one is marvelling at their stamina. Rowan Pearce’s music reached crescendos twice as the energy built up. Dance, exercise and martial arts combine here as Knox talks about the fight we have against the system, but then how we pacify ourselves, drawn back by either that very system or our own impulses.
   The Wellington première at Te Whaea had a unique forum at the end which featured the dancers, Harvie, general manager Richard Aindow as host, and artistic liaison Anita Hunziker.
   The Auckland performances have been (April 15–16), Wellington has one more night (21st, at Te Whaea), Dunedin is on April 28 at Mayfair Theatre, and those in Invercargill will see NOW 2016 on May 1 at Centrestage during the Southland Festival. For tickets and information, head to footnote.org.nz.—Jack Yan, Publisher

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 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.

February 26, 2016

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Speed of Light: sophisticated, modern classics lead New Zealand Festival

Jack Yan/14.13



Bill Cooper


Maarten Holl

Above, from top: Selon désir, with dancers Abigail Boyle and Loughlan Prior. In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, with Mayu Tanigaito. With tiles and cacti in Cacti.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Speed of Light, kicking off the New Zealand Festival in Wellington on Friday night, comprised an enjoyable contemporary programme that showed the strength of this world-class company. The first programme put together by Francesco Ventriglia in his role as the RNZB’s artistic director, it showed how prepared the dancers were to embrace a series of challenging and inspirational modern classics just as readily as they have taken on more traditional fare. The three are united, notes Ventriglia, by the idea of light and its precision and power; to us, it’s the relevance of each of the three ballets’ themes: all different, all giving us food for thought. Ventriglia has shown a sophistication and an understanding of the deeper meanings of ballet in choosing these particular three, which we heartily recommend.
   Selon désir kicked off the evening, choreographed by Andonis Foniadakis. The RNZB had already performed this work in the UK and Italy, but tonight saw its New Zealand première. First performed by the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève in 2004, this is a particularly powerful work set to Bach, with an introduction with an electronic score composed by Julien Tarride. Alayna Ng started alone, moving energetically on to the stage, loose hair flying and her body dropping to the floor, before fifteen other dancers join her in quick succession, marching on and danced with assertiveness, but carried so gracefully. The two Bach choruses—the St Matthew and St John Passions—add to the atmosphere, with the strings adding to the beauty of the movements; a pas de deux in the middle of the performance showed just how free the movements were, and how Foniadakis’s ideas of agony and martyrdom could still be danced with such grace and fluidity. The colours of the costumes—men and women in tops and skirts—are earthy, inspired by Renaissance paintings, and they were equally loose, adding to the sense of flight across the stage.
   This was in contrast to In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, which had been commissioned by Rudolf Nureyev for the Paris Opéra Ballet, choreographed by William Forsythe, who also designed the lighting, stage and costumes. Premièring in 1987, the second ballet is very much a product of its time, with electric performances from the RNZB: turquoise leotards that showed off the muscular frames; indulgent, abrupt movements; dancers posing while others pulsed; and an electronic score by Thom Willems that shocked from its very first note. In 1987, Forsythe was fêted for In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, with how charged it was to audiences; it still has the capacity to do that today. The theme remains classical, but it’s in the power and the challenge to classical ideas that makes In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated fresh. Every decade, certainly since this ballet’s creation, has had its disrupters; so much so that that term is now embedded as a desirable trait in entrepreneurial activity. That’s the best way to think of In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated: a ballet that inspires us to shake the establishment in our own lives.
   After such heady themes, Cacti brought a dose of humour. Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman used his national culture’s appreciation of irony: this is a country that quietly celebrates fame, for instance. Ventriglia says that this was the work he wanted to stage with the RNZB, even before he was appointed. This postmodern work, first performed in the Netherlands in 2010, parodies the reviews of contemporary dance and the affectations therein. A spoken introduction read by Spenser Theberge samples such pretentious words, as 16 dancers arrive atop their tiles, dancing, clapping and shouting within their very restricted spaces, before a surreal scene where they each bring a cactus plant on to the stage. It’s not meant to "mean" anything—even if Theberge’s reading in artsy-luvvie terms suggests cacti truly know what comes from standing the Earth’s soil, unlike dancers who merely perform on the ground. But the meaninglessness of over-analysis is part of the beauty of it, just as the lighting rig comes down to restrict the dancers from above; or a dot-matrix sign flashes the ballet’s name from the wings. It’s designed to poke fun at clichés and of the modern media and marketing landscape. This is the wit of the ballet, made even more obvious by the pas de deux which lets us hear the dancers’ thoughts, deconstructing the complexity and beauty of ballet into almost banal statements, before a stuffed black cat is thrown from above the stage on to the floor, a shrieking meow accompanying its fall.
   The New Zealand String Quartet accompanies this final performance, with recorded music forming most of the central part. The work is more familiar here, with compositions from Haydn, Beethoven, and Schubert. Cheekily, the RNZB has reproduced the spoken-word text in the programme (a must, incidentally), as well as the stream-of-consciousness thoughts of the duet from the characters Aram and Riley. Humour aside, this was beautifully performed: the 16 dancers on their tiles kept the audience entertained despite lacking the freedom of movement of Selon désir, while the duet was cleverly executed, with the deconstruction actually enhancing one’s appreciation of the fluid movements.
   It always helps to end things on a fun note, especially as Speed of Light starts the New Zealand Festival, and the levity is bound to get audiences talking. And rightly so. This was a highly entertaining contemporary programme, and it’s heartening to note that the Royal New Zealand Ballet will take this to the Auckland Arts’ Festival as well as to the South Island next.
   Dates for Speed of Light are: Wellington, February 26 to 28 inclusive; Auckland, March 2–6; Christchurch, March 10–12; Dunedin, March 16. For booking information, visit www.rnzb.org.nz.—Jack Yan, Publisher

February 3, 2016

Royal New Zealand Ballet kicks off Speed of Light, with première at the New Zealand Festival

Lucire staff/1.29

The Royal New Zealand Ballet kicks off 2016 with Speed of Light, a mixed bill of three works, to feature at the New Zealand Festival and the Auckland Arts’ Festival, before touring the South Island. It marks the first programme put together by Francesco Ventriglia since he joined the company in 2014.
   The first work is William Forsythe’s In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated, originally commissioned by Rudolf Nureyev for the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1987. It will be the RNZB’s first time dancing this ballet, and the second time it has been performed in New Zealand. Ventriglia himself was once selected by Forsythe to dance one of the lead roles at La Scala in Milano. The music of J. S. Bach accompanies this ballet; Julien Tarride created the composition and sound design.
   The second work is Andonis Foniadakis’ Selon désir, which the RNZB performed when on tour in the UK and Italy in 2015. New Zealand audiences will see the company give this Selon désir its New Zealand première this work during the New Zealand Festival. Music is by Thom Willems in collaboration with Les Stuck, staging by Thierry Guiderdoni, and technical supervision by Tanja Rühl.
   Finally, Alexander Ekman’s Cacti, makes up the third work, with the New Zealand String Quartet joining the RNZB. A parody of contemporary dance’s excesses, Ekman created this work for 16 dancers in 2010. It has been nominated for a Swan Award in Holland for best new dance production, the Critics’ Circle Award and an Olivier Award. Lighting and co-set design are by Tom Visser, music is by Joseph Haydn, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert, and staging by Ana Lucaciu.
   Dates for Speed of Light are: Wellington, February 26 to 28 inclusive; Auckland, March 2–6; Christchurch, March 10–12; Dunedin, March 16. For booking information, visit www.rnzb.org.nz.
   The world première of the Ryman Healthcare Season of The Wizard of Oz is May 4 in Wellington, choreographed by Francesco Ventriglia, with music by Francis Poulenc, and design by Gianluca Falaschi.

January 12, 2016

News in brief: Susan Sarandon for L’Oréal; Toxit’s hand-made sunglasses; lecture by fashion historian at Massey University

Lucire staff/12.30




Top Susan Sarandon for L’Oréal. Centre From Toxit’s latest campaign for its hand-made sunglasses. Above Passage #5 coat-dress and belt, from the Dior spring–summer 2011 haute couture collection by John Galliano, from the collection of the Royal Ontario Museum.

Although it’s been known since December 31, L’Oréal Paris has only this week made it official in a lot of its markets: Susan Sarandon is its new spokeswoman, stating, ‘An Oscar winner, mother, activist, entrepreneur, fighter, and a beautiful example of what it means to age with grace, Sarandon is a true woman of worth. Highly respected by her peers and adored by the public, Sarandon is proving that age is just a number and that happiness is the ultimate beauty tool.’
   ‘Susan is a cinematic icon. She is strong, charismatic and talented and has a compelling sense of self. Her outspoken activism, captivating film work and authentic charm continues to inspire women to be fearless and believe in their convictions,’ said Cyril Chapuy, L’Oréal Paris brand global president in a release. ‘She is a real woman of worth inside and out. We are honoured to have Susan as a new L’Oréalista.’
   Toxit is a new sunglasses’ brand from Italy with one notable point of difference: they’re made by hand. Italian companies are involved at each stage: the Som Occhiali company in Calalzo di Cadore is in charge of the production process; Toffoli di Toffoli Costantino, in the same town, manufactures the acetate parts; the plastics come from Mazzucchelli SpA; the lenses are made by Sel Optical Divisione Filtri Solari; the cases by Pikappa in Vicenza; and the packaging is made by Scatolificio 2 G, near Padua. The products are 100 per cent reliable and safe, says Toxit.
   Te Papa Tongarewa Museum of New Zealand advises that on February 9 at 6 p.m., Dr Alexandra Palmer, Nora E. Vaughan Fashion Costume Senior Curator and Chair of the Veronika Gervers Research Fellowship in Textiles & Costume at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM), will present a lecture at ‘The Pit’, Te Ara Hihiko, Block 12, College of Creative Arts, Massey University, Wellington on Frock Coats, Redingotes and Dior: Fashion in the Royal Ontario Museum, 1909–2016. Palmer will discuss the significance of ROM’s collection of western fashionable dress collected over the last 100 years, and contextualize it within the museum’s larger textile and costume collection.
   She will also give stories on how key items, both historical and contemporary, were acquired, including ROM’s commission of a spring–summer 2011 Christian Dior haute couture gown, Passage #5, by John Galliano.
   A RSVP to V.Karaminas@massey.ac.nz is essential to secure a place.

December 22, 2015

Win a luxury skin care pack with Lucire and Skin Institute

Lucire staff/23.57




Before 2015 is out, Lucire has the pleasure of announcing another giveaway, this time in association with Skin Institute.
   Skin Institute is a multi-disciplinary specialist centre focusing on cosmetic medicine, skin cancer detection and treatment, clinical dermatology, vein treatment and surgery, and its 18th clinic has recently opened in central Wellington.
   To commemorate the opening of the new clinic, we have a luxury skin care pack to give away, compromising an Aspect Dr ABC Essential Skin Kit, Cherry Black zinc sunscreen and two Coola Liplux SPF lip balms. The value of this pack is NZ$310.
   To find out more about the new Wellington clinic or to book a free cosmetic consultation or mole spot check, visit www.skininstitute.co.nz or call 64 4 499-8001.
   To enter, become a fan of the Lucire Facebook fan page, then like the post where we’ve detailed this prize. This is for New Zealand-based readers only. We’ll draw it on January 22, 2016.

November 18, 2015

A masterful Graduation Season at the New Zealand School of Dance, with two world premières

Jack Yan/14.14



Stephen A’Court

Top Concerto, part of the New Zealand School of Dance Graduation Season 2015. Above Sarah-Foster Sproull’s Forgotten Things, with the unfamiliar sight of a string of fists, waving in the space.

The New Zealand School of Dance Graduation Season performances, which began tonight (Wednesday), are always a highlight. It’s the culmination of a lot of hard work from second- and third-year students, and the six performances this year offer a very entertaining mix, especially for lovers of classical ballet.
   In previous years, the NZSD has put more contemporary dance on the menu, but the mixture in tonight’s programme was equally welcome. Paquita, the grand-pas, kicked off the evening, choreographed by Anna-Marie Holmes after Marius Petipa. The students showed immense promise, and we wouldn’t be surprised to see many of them dance professionally in ballet before long. Yayoi Matches, in the title role, and Yuri Marques da Silva, who hails from Brazil, danced the role of Lucien, increasingly captivated us during the performance. The costumes were hand-made by Donna Jefferis, assisted by the students of the Diploma of Costume Construction at Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School, according to the NZSD.
   Forgotten Things took us to the other end of the spectrum with an incredibly inventive contemporary performance. With bare arms and hands, contrasting the black outfits worn by every dancer, we were exposed to unusual shapes: what does a string of fists look like as they wave in mid-air like the legs of a squid in the sea, or the hands of two dozen dancers opened out in antler formation? The idea behind the dance was to show cell division, phagocytosis and metamorphosis, translating the microscopic to human size. The beauty came from the fluid movement unusual shapes that we form with our arms, legs and hands when they are put together en masse, and we’d go so far as to say this was the cleverest dance of the evening. Sarah Foster-Sproull, a graduate herself, choreographed in her fourth commission, collaborating with the students: although trained in classical dance while at NZSD, she now choreographs contemporary dance, and, based on what we saw, very successfully. The second- and third-year students here gelled, and this dance showcased their coordination. The level of rehearsal in Forgotten Things, a world première, was evident.
   Cnoditions of Entry (the misspelling is intentional) was another contemporary première, and hugely enjoyable. NZSD alumnus Thomas Bradley (class of 2012), choreographed and provided the score made up of electronica and bass noises, and even designed the costumes along with Jefferis. Bradley’s notes indicate that the dance was in two parts: the first created a mutual understanding between them; the second conveying ‘exhaustion suspension apology and defeat’. It began in darkness, with orange-hooded, androgynous dancers huddled in a group. Abrupt movements, angular, backwards steps conveyed a confusion, as though the society that had been formed was suddenly devoid of structure or rules, feeling like the aftermath of war. Rectangular lights shone on the two sides of the stage as dancers struggled to move toward it, escaping their personal prisons; the term ‘techno-dystopia’ came to mind.
   Tarantella, a George Balanchine ballet with the masterful (and new father, with a one-month-old baby) Qi Huan as the répétiteur, saw us say at the conclusion of the pas de deux: ‘Hire these two now.’ Danced by Megan Wright and Jeremie Gan, this light-hearted yet passionate ballet needed the pair to master some very quick steps and changes of directions, and while inspired by Neapolitan street dance, the foundation is classical. It is not an easy ballet but we couldn’t fault either Wright or Gan.
   Playing the game of contrasts in the programme, the contemporary As It Fades, originally commissioned by T.H.E Dance Company of Singapore and created by Kuik Swee Boon in 2011, was an energetic performance, and showed what the dancers were capable of, with strong, purposeful movements, accompanied by the strings in Max Richter’s ‘Jan’s Notebook’ and ‘November’, which painted a world struggling to understand itself. The tension sharply vanished at the end where a dancer was surrounded by the others, caught in a chair, exhausted, breathing heavily, conveying that notion of defeat and solitude. As the performance ended, the Richter score did not feel out of place in a bleak science-fiction film from the turn of the 1970s, with credits rolling as a dancer walked off-stage into the darkness, making us wonder what lay beyond the abyss. It was very clever, and got us ready for the final performance.
   That final performance was Concerto, an abstract ballet choreographed by Kenneth MacMillan after he joined the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, with a musical score by Dmitri Shostakovich (many audiences will know his work not from ballet but from the theme tune of Reilly: Ace of Spies; this was his ‘Piano Concerto No. 2 in F’), that premièred in 1966, staged here by Lynn Wallis and coached by Stephen Beagley. Two pianists provided the Shostakovich score, while the 29 NZSD dancers were resplendent in yellow, orange and red, in costumes courtesy of the Australian Ballet. How could one not feel upbeat? The three movements began with the allegro, the corps de ballet doing a well coordinated en pointe, with Yeo Chan Yee and George Liang as the central couple performing some very skilful, quick turns. By this point the classical dancers were all in the swing of things, and there was not a single hesitation as Concerto moved to the andante and a romantic pas de deux from Lola Howard and Jerry Wan, before the final movement that opened with a beautiful solo from Georgia Powley before the ensemble brought the performance to a spirited, optimistic close.
   The Graduation Season runs till November 28 at the New Zealand School of Dance at at Te Whaea: National Dance & Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Road, Newtown, Wellington, New Zealand. Each performance is at 7.30 p.m. except for Sunday and Monday; matinees are at 2 p.m. on Sunday, November 22 and Saturday, November 28. Tickets are NZ$33 for adults, NZ$25 for students, seniors and groups of 10 or more, and NZ$18 for children under 13. Bookings are available online.Jack Yan, Publisher



Stephen A’Court

Top New Zealand School of Dance student Yuri Marques da Silva. Above Georgia Rudd and Christopher Mills.


Amber Griffin

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