Mozart’s music a marvellous inspiration

A shortened version of this review appeared in the NZ Herald on 9 July 2018
Royal NZ Ballet Sechs Tanz 2018
Madeleine Graham and Massimo Margaria in Sechs Tanz, Photo by Stephen A’Court

Marvellous music by Mozart has inspired many choreographers over the centuries, including 20th century ballet masters George Balanchine and Jiri Kylian, and relative newcomer Corey Baker.  Their strongly contrasting works are juxtaposed in the Royal NZ Ballet’s Dancing with Mozart touring programme.

Russian-American Balanchine is represented by his canonical and technically exacting Divertimento 15 from 1956. Set to Mozart’s Divertimento No. 15 in B flat major K287, it echoes the music in step-for-note detail, following its structure of divisions, themes, and variations. An ever-changing array of formations match the changing moods of the music.  Crystal chandeliers hang above the 16 dancers and an azure blue backdrop ensures the detailed decorative toppings of the women’s lemon and grey tutus are featured.

Guest dancers Nadia Yankowsky and Veronika Part dance with secure authority. Soloists Kate Kadow, Sara Garbowski and Mayu Tanigaito sparkle in their variations while Joseph Skelton, Alexandre Ferreira and Wan Bin Yuan provide sound partnering and assured solos. The corps de ballet perform confidently and with polish and we “see the music dance” much as Balanchine intended.

Duncan Grimley’s “completion” of Mozart’s famously unfinished Requiem in D minor K626 accompanies Kiwi ex-patriate Corey Baker’s The Last Dance, mourning the ecological disaster of melting Antarctic ice and rising sea levels, degradation of animal life, and eventual human drowning. The dancing mostly offers an ensemble of slow writhing, rolling, stuttering and twitching with inserted solo moments, set alongside a pas de deux which offers a ballet equivalent of mining’s caged canaries, a couple in a large box slowly filling with melted ice water. Though simplistic and scenographically naïve, this iconoclastic work is warmly received.

The slower sections of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A major K488 and Piano Concerto in C major K467 are the setting for two sublimely satisfying iconic ballets by Czech master choreographer Jiri Kylian. Petite Mort (Little Death) offers a meditation on orgasm, accompanied by fencing foils, black crinolines, flesh-coloured underwear and a huge silk sheet.  The foils and the women are metaphorical doubles as they partner the men in parries and thrusts or roll against the floor. Though the references are metaphorical, the air is charged with sensuality. This work is closely followed by Sechs Tanzes (Six Dances) set to Mozart’s Deutsche Tanze K571. This suite is all wit and whimsy, wickedness and flirtation, with group sections interspersed by solos and duets which revel in individuality, and involve the occasional presence of such objects as apples and foils, those black crinolines again, and a hail of bubbles. Both Kylian works are superbly delivered by all, with panache and impeccable timing. Felipe Domingos is outstanding in both works.

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