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Royal New Zealand Ballet – Tutus On Tour

Martin Boswell



Thursday February 22
‘Tutus on Tour’ is the RNZB’s traditional annual trek to numerous small towns the length of the country, with the company split into North and South Island halves. The North Island crew opened the season to rapturous and well-deserved applause at the St. James Theatre on February 22.
The two-hour programme opens with the famous ‘Pas de Quatre’ (Perrot, 1845), 14 glorious minutes of sugar-coated one-upwomanship. This is the only piece of the evening which fails to convince completely, perhaps because ballets from the Romantic era are not the RNZB’s strongest suit. Nevertheless, an infectious enthusiasm develops and Adriana Harper stands out for her musicality and exuberance.
‘Theme and Deviations’ is Andrew Simmons’ first work for the company: four male dancers act to provide a well-conceived counterpoint to the ‘Pas de Quatre’. This is a great start for Simmons – the work has plenty to commend it, including high energy and some novel movement combinations. The vocabulary is balletic and consciously athletic. Only the annoying costumes, like two halves of different pairs of pyjamas, detract from a successful debut.
It is a thrill to be able to see 20th century classics such as Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s ‘Concerto Pas de Deux’ (1966). Qi Huan and Catherine Eddy, two exemplary and fluid technicians, executed this startling and difficult pas de deux with ease. Huan is a very accomplished partner who enables Eddy to display her gorgeous classical line to full advantage. MacMillan wrings a suitably poetic and elegant dance from the Andante from Shostakovich’s Second Piano Concerto.
Sensational is an appropriate word to describe Cameron McMillan’s new work ‘Equilibrium’, set to Philip Glass’s terrific Violin Concerto. The eight dancers race to and through contorted balance positions, including a memorable boomerang motif. The sequences are so exhilarating it’s great to be able to see them repeated with variations. The choreography, which salutes Douglas Wright, is a hard-out test of what the current crop of versatile RNZB dancers can achieve. All eight dancers move fabulously and look good in their sexy bondage-meets-velvet costumes by Moana Nepia. After various combinations of dancers, the work ends with an exciting group piece full of accurate canon and powerful unison.
The final piece is the elegant, classical, Hungarian-themed ‘Raymonda Variations’. Abigail Boyle is no less than ravishing in the famous and stylish Raymonda solo. She can tease with a crisp flick of the head or a languorous arm movement, without for a moment losing her regal bearing. The RNZB’s current high standard in the classical repertoire ensures Glazunov’s music and Petipa’s demanding choreography are well-served.
No crowd could fail to be pleased by this well-chosen line-up. A sensible, comprehensive and good-value printed programme is available for this season. Those who missed the Wellington performances would be amply-rewarded by a dash to Wainuiomata (March 30), Paraparaumu (April 1), or Upper Hutt (April 5). Bravo, can’t wait for Swan Lake.