Review: Bold Moves – Musicality and mindfulness, positioning, placement and passion: ballet's fundamentals (2019)

Caption: Soloists Mayu Tanigaito and Massimo Margaria in William Forsythe’s Artifact II.
Bold Moves by the Royal New Zealand Ballet. Wellington, NZ. 15 August 2019.
Photo credit: Stephen A’Court. COPYRIGHT ©Stephen A’Court

The Royal NZ Ballet’s Bold Moves presented four contrasting works which brought into focus the fundamentals of ballet, from the essentials of form to the requisite musicality of performance, the achievement of precision and positioning in space and in relation to other moving bodies, and the mindfulness necessary to meld individuals into a mass. Mastery of these fundamentals was on display throughout the evening.  

Opening the programme was George Balanchine’s Serenade (1934), set to Pyotr Ilytich Tschaikovsky’s 1880 Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48. A plotless, abstract work, it features 26 dancers in blue costumes set against a glowing blue screen. Their dancing echoes the patterning and moods of the music and requires utter precision in placement, positioning and timing.

A bravura divertissement from the Russian repertoire followed, The Flames of Paris Pas De Deux choreographed by Vasily Vainonen to stirring revolutionary music by Boris Assafieff. This shifted the  focus to individual virtuosity, securely demonstrated with elegance and aplomb by Mayu Tanigato and Laurynas Vejalis.

Eight staunch, strong, determined women in knee length black dresses featured in Stand to Reason, a contemporary work commissioned from South African Andrea Schermoly for the Company’s 2018 Suffrage programme, now making its Auckland debut. The women’s gestures and interactions were reminiscent of the rhetoric of protest and resistance, argument and persuasion, anger and imprecation.  With rapid movements that criss-crossed the space, and use of projected text, this had memorable standout moments and identified the countries where women still lack the right to vote.

Closing the programme was Act II of William Forsythe’s innovative 1984 ode to ballet’s history, Artifact. A complex work which frames two couples against the corps de ballet. The couples explore extreme extensions which break the conventional classical proprieties, and the intricacies of epaulement, the ways in which torsion of the upper body enable transitional movements and distort line. They are framed by the corps, mostly standing or lying at the edges of the stage while they work through all possible variations for the arms. The curtain crashes down repeatedly as the dancers change places, creating curiosity about what will come next.

Written for NZ Herald. Pubished behind paywall on 26 August 2019.

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