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Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Strength & Grace marks 125 years of women’s suffrage with four poignant premières

Filed by Jack Yan/August 17, 2018/11.56

Ross Brown

The Royal New Zealand Ballet premièred four new works tonight at the State Opera House, marking 125 years of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, the first country where women won the right to vote.
   Introduced by artistic director Patricia Barker, who had personal connections with each of the choreographers, the Strength & Grace season runs only for two nights in Wellington, on August 17 and 18. Barker brought together an international, eclectic group of choreographers—Penny Saunders (USA), Sarah Foster-Sproull (New Zealand), Danielle Rowe (Australia), and Andrea Schermoly (South Africa)—to create works commemorating women.
   With four female creators behind the scenes, each introducing their works with a video, the audience was in for a treat, with both classical and modern ballets as part of the programme.
   Saunders’ So to Speak examined the conversations that took place between women and men in the nineteenth century, as women campaigned for equality. The set, with two chairs, a table, and a lone light, complemented clothing reminiscent of the era. She recognized that while there were suffragettes campaigning publicly, private conversations took place in the home. The dance centred on a wife and husband (performed by Kirby Selchow and Loughlan Prior), and introduced a third character, a daughter (Caroline Wiley), beginning with a pas de deux of the couple, before introducing the additional energy of their child.
   The story is powerful: where the husband might have stopped his wife from her desire to vote through his narrow-mindedness, he could not stop his daughter, who held the hope that her generation would, at least, find a more balanced relationship with her partner. While retelling a historical story, Saunders says she was inspired by modern youth in her country, such as those campaigning for gun control, finding that they were far quicker to change than earlier generations whose willingness to change seemed ‘glacial’ by comparison.
   Foster-Sproull’s Despite the Loss of Small Detail was perfectly placed as the second work: a modern ballet that brought in contemporary dance elements. We had delighted in her Forgotten Things, performed as part of the New Zealand School of Dance graduation seasons in 2015 and 2017, where Foster-Sproull used fists and arms to create unfamiliar shapes and creatures on stage. There is an evolutionary link between Forgotten Things and Despite the Loss of Small Detail as Foster-Sproull played with visual forms here—Abigail Boyle (sharing the lead with Loughlan Prior) enhaloed by other dancers’ hands, for instance—but the overall result was distinctive: dancers in lilac with fur jackets, with abrupt and sharp changes breaking in amongst traditional moves. It was essentially two linked ballets: the first showing off the dancers’ strength as a group; the second a story about the mutual support and the sharing of strength between them.
   Foster-Sproull was inspired by the strength of pioneering feminists, notably Kate Sheppard and the members of the women’s suffrage movement.
   Eden Mulholland’s specially composed electronica score contrasted the first ballet’s more classical and lyrical music, and proved more abstract.
   Rowe’s Remember, Mama began with the notion that behind every great man is a great woman, and sometimes, that great woman is his mother. Again this was two linked ballets in the space of one: the first told a story of a boy who turns into a man, who breaks free of his mother’s influence as he finds his independence, to return later in life to care for her as she ails; the second about the sisterhood of women and the strength in numbers they find. The childhood story was appropriately paired with Mozart’s ‘Twelve Variations on “Ah vous dirai-je, Maman”’. The mother was skilfully played by Nadia Yanowsky, who injected emotion and poignancy into her role; the son, in his different ages, was performed by Shaun James Kelly, Fabio Lo Giudice and Paul Matthews. Lo Giudice’s teenage portrayal, and his rebellion, was arguably the most touching, bringing forth both the love each had for the other, while accepting that we all have to find our own way in life.
   Schermoly’s Stand to Reason was best placed to be the finalé: this was a triumph of feminine power, with eight ballerinas showing off their power and strength—the costumes made sure we saw the muscle tone in their arms—but also making a statement about how women, to this day, still have to explain themselves in a world where pay inequity and other injustices continue to exist. The dancers were, at points, expressing the pain of not being heard, of effectively having their hands bound behind their backs, out of sheer frustration of not having the most simple things understood by society at large.
   Schermoly’s inspiration was a leaflet circulated by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union at the time of the suffrage movement, stating why women should vote. The leaflet was sent to every member of the House of Representatives in 1888, and, in the performance, was attributed to Sheppard. The reasons seem ridiculous today, yet 125 years is only five generations. The first two were: ‘1. Because a democratic government like that of New Zealand already admits the great principle that every adult person, not convicted of crime, nor suspected of lunacy, has an inherent right to a voice in the construction of laws which all must obey.
   ‘2. Because it has not yet been proved that the intelligence of women is only equal to that of children, nor that their social status is on a par with that of lunatics or convicts.’
   The reasons were projected in a typewriter style on to the background, and the performance concluded with a list of countries where women still cannot vote, and a reminder that there are still archaic laws and norms in many societies denying women the most fundamental freedoms and rights.
   This was the most raw and direct of the four in many respects, and a fitting way to conclude Strength & Grace, with a powerful high.
   One further performance takes place at the Opera House, Wellington on August 18 at 7.30 p.m.—Jack Yan, Publisher


On the Wellington high street: Mecca opens a new mega-store, while David Jones previews spring

Filed by Sopheak Seng/August 13, 2018/9.52

What once housed the defunct Topshop in Wellington, New Zealand is now beauty mega store Mecca. Combining the Cosmetica and Maxima concept stores, Mecca’s new 435 m² space will be the first of its kind in New Zealand, with offerings of over 100 exclusive brands.
   The open-plan design by O’Neil Langan also houses Mecca’s exclusive Perfumeria and Trove areas, where customers can browse some of the most sought-after brands. The perfumeria will be home to fragrances from Diptyque, Byredo, Frédéric Malle and 100 Bon, while Mecca’s Trove area will house beauty treasures sourced from around the globe, including Iiuvo candles, French Girl skin care and Le Sourcil.—Sopheak Seng, Fashion and Beauty Editor

Meanwhile, David Jones previewed its spring–summer 2018–19 season with a customer shopping night in Wellington last Friday, hosted by Kate Sylvester, Deadly Ponies’ Liam Bowden and Hannah Laity. The evening featured live DJ entertainment and a catwalk show.
   The Australian retailer also showed off its House of Spring campaign, featuring model Victoria Lee, and looks from Kate Sylvester, Aje, and Camilla and Marc.

Sopheak Seng


Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Strength and Grace commemorates 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage

Filed by Lucire staff/July 10, 2018/10.28

Ross Brown

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Strength and Grace season commemorates the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage in New Zealand, the first country where women won the right to vote.
   Four female choreographers will première works for the season, curated by RNZB artistic director Patricia Barker. The season also marks the company’s 65th anniversary.
   Sarah Foster-Sproull (New Zealand), Danielle Rowe (Australia), Penny Saunders (USA), and Andrea Schermoly (South Africa) will showcase their ballets at the Wellington Opera House on August 17 and 18.
   All four are highly acclaimed in the world of ballet: Foster-Sproull is a professional teaching fellow at the University of Auckland, and teaches at Unitec and the New Zealand School of Dance. Rowe is the associate artistic director of SF Dance Works in San Francisco, and a former Australian Ballet principal artist. Saunders is choreographer-in-residence at Grand Rapids Ballet, and formerly of Ballet Arizona, Cedar Lake Ensemble and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Schermoly is the former director of the contemporary department at the Marat Daukayev School of Ballet in Los Angeles, and a two-time winner of the outstanding choreographer award at the Youth America Grand Prix.

Andrew Foster

Jade Butler

Tom Maday

Above, from top: Sarah Foster-Sproull. Danielle Rowe. Penny Saunders. Andrea Schermoly.


Stoa a deeply thoughtful Choreographic Season from the New Zealand School of Dance

Filed by Jack Yan/June 29, 2018/13.09

Stephen A’Court

Above, from top: The entrance. Jack Jenkins’ Continuity in Disruption, with the second- and third-year contemporary dance students. Nadiyah Akbar in Sebastian Gittings’ Phyllis.

The New Zealand School of Dance’s Choreographic Season, which sees its students create their own choreography in collaboration with composer and sound designer Te Aihe Butler, is again a must-see for those who enjoy inventive, contemporary dance. Each time we head to this event there’s a new take from the students, and Stoa, the name of this season, taken from the Greek word στοά, for portico or gallery, is no exception.
   Running till July 7, Stoa, representing an exploration of deeper thoughts, sees the audience escorted to the basement spaces at Te Whaea, the National Dance and Drama Centre. This was the students’ initiative, taking the Choreographic Season’s dances out of the traditional theatre venue. The first space, with its four pillars used imaginatively as part of several dances, works very well, both for the dancers’ performances and the acoustics.
   Dressed in white, year two and three students kicked off proceedings, advancing slowly on stage. Glow, choreographed by Ngaere Jenkins and Laifa Ta’ala, and 平衡—Balanced Ping Heng, choreographed by Jareen Wee, were both positive dance statements. Glow opened with a touching waiata solo, before all the dancers joined in as the life force of the story expanded. Balanced, in telling its story of dualities, was particularly entertaining, with its coordination between the large groups of dancers and graceful, yet purposeful, movements. It concluded with the dancers "fading" into the white walls, the sign here that one dance had finished and another was about to begin.
   Jack Jenkins’ Continuity in Disruption was characterized by mass and rapid movements of the dancers. We observed two separate groups, one with flowing movements, the other with jarring ones, perhaps representing the conflict between nature and outside forces (the story is about recovery after a bush fire); but, overall, Jenkins successfully told a story about rebuilding and community in one of the more positive themes of the evening. Beam, choreographed by Kia Jewell, featured a smaller group of eight, incorporating the pillars into the routine as though they were energy sources; Lachlan Broughton’s Fallout told a story about fighting conformity, concluding powerfully with the year two and three dancers clamouring for the light at the top of one beam (think of the film adaptation of World War Z and the zombies attempting to scale a wall), only for the light from Act II to beckon gently through flashes.
   A brief intermission followed before we were escorted to the second space, not dissimilar from the first with its own support pillars. The dancers had changed into black for Altering Direction Harnessing Distraction, choreographed by Chris Clegg, another large, moving ensemble piece about the uniqueness of each person’s experience, to kick off the second act. Phyllis, by Sebastian Geilings, centred on one woman’s tumultous relationship, in what was the evening’s most visceral dance. Both Akbar and Riley Fitzgerald had some aggressive moves toward each other, and it was deeply emotional as a work; Tim Hecker’s ‘Virginal II’ track was the perfect accompaniment.
   Olivia Foley’s Rev powerfully explored themes of renewal, while Understanding Now, choreographed by Braedyn Humphries, told a story of society’s tendency to distance itself from nonconformity—until, invariably, it wakes up to the fact that that voice was right all along. Humphries’ “trapped” dancer doesn’t avenge the one who imprisoned him (represented by tape on the floor), instead removing it to set all free. Alanna Main’s Cleanse explored assimilation, and had themes of liberation and newfound perception. The finalé, Neidan, featured 12 dancers in more revealing outfits, in keeping with choreographer Samuel Gilovitz’s more raw, purer dance exploring the power of introspection.
   This was a deeply thoughtful series, with only a few words uttered in the whole programme, each dance inquiring into different emotions. It was distinct from earlier Choreographic Seasons, and will delight all fans of contemporary dance. The executions are professional, and the basement seating made the production seem more personal and powerful to the audience. The NZSD is on a high with this programme, and we can’t wait to see how well the students perform at their next show. Bookings are available at—Jack Yan, Publisher

Stephen A’Court

Above, from top: Ngaere Jenkins & Laifa Ta’ala’s Glow, with Cheyanne Teka. Jareen Wee’s 平衡, with second- and third-year students. Beam, choreography by Kia Jewell, with Laifa Ta’ala in the foreground. Ta’ala again in Beam. Lachlan Broughton’s Fallout, with Rachel Trent. Jareen Wee and Braedyn Humphries in Altering Direction Harnessing Distraction, choreographed by Chris Clegg. Rev, by Olivia Foley, featuring Rachel Trent, Braedyn Humphries and Chase Clegg-Robinson. Alanna Main’s Cleanse. Understanding Now, choreographed by Braedyn Humphries. Riley Fitzgerald in Neidan, choreographed by Samuel Gilovitz.


Aēsop opens Wellington, New Zealand store; H&M confirms Commercial Bay, Auckland, for August 30

Filed by Lucire staff/June 12, 2018/12.02

Bottom image: Wellington City Council Archives

Aēsop, the Australian skin care company, has launched its Wellington concept store at the corner of Featherston Street and Brandon Street.
   New Zealand may be its neighbour, but the Australian company has been opening locations in some of the biggest cities in the world—London, Paris, New York and Singapore among them—before setting its sights on sites closer to home.
   Each location has been thoroughly respectful to its home, and the new store at Change House is no exception.
   Architect Rufus Knight—a New Zealander who hailed from Ōpōtiki—and Aēsop retail architectural manager Denise Neri were on hand to discuss the ideas behind the 88 m² location, packed with VIPs and a live string quartet for its launch on June 7.
   Knight says his design had to be in keeping with the 1930s design of the building, and his approach was that of ‘Dutch modernism’. The original architecture had obvious art-déco influences, but also the Chicago school, and Knight stuck with that. Inside, Aēsop has employed dark walls, offset against a parquet floor, and the oiled timber shelves themselves mirror the art-déco curves outside. The sink is fitted with aged brass taps. It’s a pleasant experience when one shops for Aēsop’s extensive product line in Wellington, including skin, hair, and body care, all using the highest-quality ingredients.

In other retail news, Hennes & Mauritz has confirmed its Commercial Bay, Auckland location will open on August 30. This brings the Swedish giant right into the centre of Auckland, on the corner of Customs and Queen Streets, with a 3,500 m² location, comprising apparel and accessories for men, women, children, and babies, and H&M’s Home concept. This follows earlier openings at Sylvia Park, Auckland; Christchurch central; and Lower Hutt, Wellington.


DedCool, the unisex, vegan, cruelty-free fragrance brand, launches in New Zealand

Filed by Jack Yan/June 11, 2018/15.25

Jack Yan

DedCool has launched in New Zealand, and is available now via Mooma.
   The brainchild of Los Angeles entrepreneur Carina Chazana, the DedCool fragrances are vegan, cruelty-free, and non-toxic. Chazana, whose parents are behind La Natura, had been experimenting with natural beauty products since childhood, creating her first fragrance at 13.
   Mooma’s Rose Miller, who met Chazana before deciding to stock her range, was impressed with her business savvy. She felt that there was a niche for DedCool in New Zealand, and expects to see it in ‘the same realm as cult perfumers like Le Labo and Byredo’ (covered in Lucire issue 29’s ‘The history of smelling expensive’ in 2012).
   DedCool’s range of five fragrances, available as eaux de parfum or roll-on oils, is unisex, and go from musky and woody to spring-like and dewy. Chazana had discovered that more “masculine” scents worked for her, rather than the florals her peers preferred, and judging by her brand’s rapid rise, many agree with her.
   We sampled several of DedCool’s offerings, and have to conclude that it’s the fragrance range of 2018 (and the year’s not even up). It has both a strong, grounded brand—Chazana had a clear idea of the look for the packaging as well as the scents from very early on in DedCool’s development—and a socially responsible mission to stay natural. Additionally, the fact it’s gender-neutral (answering the demands of women ever since this magazine’s been around) taps into the Zeitgeist of 2018.
   DedCool enjoyed its New Zealand launch at an equally hip location: the Robert Heald Gallery on Cuba Mall’s Left Bank, with Lucire fashion ed. Sopheak Seng having created the platters served on the night.
   The scents have real staying power, so the perfumes’ 50 ml size, retailing at NZ$110, is generous. The roll-ons are 4 ml, available at NZ$65. Sample packs of all five are available at NZ$40, and singles at NZ$8. Mooma’s website is at—Jack Yan, Publisher

Jack Yan


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