New Zealand Ballet Brings Exciting New Ballet to the UK’s Linbury Studio Theatre

United KingdomUnited Kingdom Various composers, A Passing Cloud: Royal New Zealand Ballet, Royal Opera House (Linbury Studio Theatre), London, 17.11.2015. (J.O’D)

RNZB dancers in MTM The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud Photo  Evan Li
RNZB dancers in The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud (c) Evan Li

The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud

Dancers – Abigail Boyle, Clytie Campbell, Madeleine Graham, Lucy Green, Tonai Looker, Kirby Selchow, Jacob Chown, William Fitzgerald, Maclean Hopper, Paul Matthews, Loughlan Prior, Shane Urton


Choreographer and Designer: Javier de Frutos
Music: The Yandall Sisters, Return to Paradise, Sounds of Aloha Chorus, Barbershop Wears a Lei, Pacific Origins, Ancestral Songs, Tumuena Dance Group, Cook Island Drums, Chants and Sounds, Whare Moke, Extract from the Book of Genesis in te reo Māori
Lighting Designer: Jason Morphett

Dear Horizon

Dancers – Abigail Boyle, Clytie Campbell, Hayley Donnison , Tonai Looker, Kirby Selchow, Mayu Tanigaito, Maclean Hopper, Kohei Iwamoto, Shaun James Kelly, Paul Matthews, Loughlan Prior, Shane Urton


Choreographer: Andrew Simmons
Music: Gareth Farr, Dear Horizon
Lighting Designer: Jason Morphett
Designer: Tracy Grant Lord 


Dancers – Abigail Boyle, Clytie Campbell, Hayley Donnison, Madeleine Graham, Lucy Green, Linda Messina, Alayna Ng, Kirby Selchow, Mayu Tanigaito, Elisabeth Zorino, Jacob Chown, Damir Emric, William Fitzgerald, Kohei Iwamoto, Shaun James Kelly, Paul Matthews, Joseph Skelton, Maclean, Shane Urton, Tynan Wood


Choreographer: Neil Ieremia
Music: Dwayne Bloomfield, Passchendaele October 12th 1917
Artwork: Geoff Tune
Lighting Designer: Jason Morphett 

Selon désir

Dancers – Abigail Boyle, Hayley Donnison, Lori Gilchrist, Yang Liu, Linda Messina, Alayna Ng, Kirby Selchow, Leonora Voigtlander, Jacob Chown, William Fitzgerald, Maclean Hopper, Shaun James Kelly, Massimo Margaria, Paul Matthews, Loughlan Prior, Shane Urton


Choreographer and Designer: Andonis Foniadakis
Composition and Sound Design: Julien Tarride
Music: Johann Sebastian Bach
Lighting Designer: Jason Morphett

On its current tour of the UK the Royal New Zealand Ballet, founded in 1953 and awarded its Royal Charter thirty-one years later, presents two programmes of dance. One is a production of Giselle, the other this mixed bill of four ‘contemporary’ works. The final work on the bill, Andonis Foniadakis’s Selon désir, was first performed by the company in Leeds earlier this month. That might explain the newly-minted energy and excitement the dancers bring to it. But as it alternates between a stage on which there is only one dancer and a stage that is alive with them, between movement at breakneck speed and freeze-frame lifts in which this movement stops, the piece probably transmits an energy and excitement of its own.

Created on the Geneva Ballet in 2004, Selon désir is similar to work by William Forsythe in its presentation of simultaneous and multiple action. The costumes, designed by the choreographer, are identical for men and women. They consist of pleated skirts and loose-necked tops, in different colours, made from a silky material that catches the light. When the dancers turn and spin to the sometimes distorted recordings of Bach’s St. Matthew and St. John Passions, the skirts create patterns of their own. When the dancers stop, the colours of their clothes resemble those of the cloaks worn by figures in Baroque and Renaissance paintings. The references to a Crucifixion, to a Deposition from the Cross, become clear.

The three other works on the programme do not have the same sense of movement that surprises while being coherent at the same time. The movement of Javier de Frutos’s The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud (2013) changes according to a soundtrack that includes ukuleles, Cook Island drums, and a voice delivering extracts from the Book of Genesis in te reo Māori. ‘When I create dance steps,’ de Frutos says of this piece in the programme notes, ‘I’m attempting to be the writer that I would like to have been – it’s a play in which the words are written on the bodies.’

A response by the London-based, Venezuelan choreographer to the Pacific he has known for the last ten years, The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud presents its dancers in white clothes decorated with floral designs. Their duets, though rounded off with ballet’s footwork and ballet’s arms en couronne, have an edgy vibe.

Andrew Simmons’s Dear Horizon and Neil Ieremia’s Passchendaele, both from 2015, were created to commemorate the centenary of the Gallipoli landings during the First World War. Over the darkened stage of the former hangs a net from which tatters of fabric and dying carnations are suspended. Below it, the dancers move with taut bodies. The women, on pointe, begin by resembling wives or lovers. By the end, they are more like the swans of Swan Lake or the Wilis of Giselle. They guide the men towards death.

The setting of Passchendaele is abstract, its men and women more equal in movement that is more muscular. In groups, the women lift each other. A Samoan New Zealander, Neil Ieremia has the men perform the haka, the prelude to battle and sport. It sends a thrill through the audience. But after embracing the women, and being embraced by them, the men lie down one by one on the floor as a single whistle is heard.

John O’Dwyer

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