24 April 2014

Music drives the night

Deirdre Tarrant

25/05/2011 10:38:00 a.m.

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Stravinsky Selection, The Royal New Zealand Ballet, St James Theatre, May 20, Reviewed by Deirdre Tarrant.
CELEBRATING Stravinsky with three ballets in one ambitious evening promised the excitement and inventiveness that Stravinsky injected into the musical world in his time and it was the music that drove the night. Conducted energetically by the irrepressible Marc Taddei The Vector Orchestra were wonderful. Playing the second two works they particularly brought Petrouchka alive and the dancers responded to the challenges and intricacies note for note and step for step.
Milagros opened the evening and is as powerful as it was when first seen here in 2003. Mesmeric swirls of voluminous asexual white costumes and weaving patterns are part folklorific, part dervish, part religious ritual. The dancers’ movements are constantly pulsing within a circle of life that relentlessly hurls them in and out of orbit and into dangerous and predatory relationships. Spanish choreographer Javier de Frutos takes the touchstone score of the Rite of Spring and makes it his own.
Satisfied with Great Success choreographed by expat and ex RNZB dancer Cameron McMillan takes its title from words of the Maestro himself and opens with a film screen through which we see the dancers and images of Stravinsky when he visited New Zealand and conducted the NZSO in 1961. It was interesting to see the film but somehow slow motion and in reverse did not seem to relate to what followed? The dancers looked athletic and strong but there seemed no relationship to each other or any sense in the rapier like sequences of steps and gymnastic lifts they were executing. The much vaunted design collaboration by Karen Walker was disappointing and distracting. The dress that has been on every billboard and the vibrant yellow were nowhere to be seen? That said, Abigail Boyle was stunning and right in the moment all the way.
The evening concluded with Petrouchka. Marking the centenary of this ballet and with acknowledgement of the original choreographer, Michel Fokine and designer, Alexandre Benois, two of New Zealand’s most illustrious creators came together again to recreate this production. Russell Kerr and Raymond Boyce are magic names and much respected in the world of staging dance. Here, they transport us clearly to a Russian fairground of a bygone era and the tragic story of a puppet who has a soul? Domination, protest, love, despair, hope and heartbreak are as relevant to the human condition today as ever and in this short, totally storybook ballet we feel for Petrouchka and his plight. Medhi Angot was compelling as Petrouchka yearning for the love of the capricious Ballerina (Tonia Looker) but was totally outmanouvered by the omnipresent Moor(Qi Huan). The Charlatan played by Jon Trimmer was always ready to demand and to dash hopes and this story is played out against a cast of characters who are frivolous, larger than life and constantly playacting. The set was colourful and the colours of fantasy were predominant in the set and beautifully detailed costumes. Every balletomane should see this Petrouchka, it is a fine production by a very special partnership.
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