Two powerful performances open Wanaka festival

Choreographer Loughlan Prior (left) works with Royal New Zealand Ballet dancers on Ultra Violet....
Choreographer Loughlan Prior (left) works with Royal New Zealand Ballet dancers on Ultra Violet. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Wanaka's week for arts aficionados launched with powerful performances from the Royal New Zealand Ballet celebrating two new works and from Maori collaborators addressing climate change.

Choreographer Louise Potiki Bryant, singer-instrumentalist Ariana Tikao and composer Paddy Free treated the opening audience to live highlights from their video installation, which runs for the duration of the Festival of Colour.

Their moody and haunting Te Taki o te Ua/The Sound of Rain offered a Maori perspective on climate issues, including a brutal contemporary dance haka that was more confrontational that any All Black performance.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet finally managed to showcase Ultra Violet, a Loughlan Prior choreography initially slated to open at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden but halted by Covid-19.

London’s loss was Wanaka’s gain, as a breathtaking piece explored how some non-human species see the world literally in a different light.

Dancers fittingly flitted moth-like through light and shade, bare arms and legs flashing in the cool blue light of night as they paired and parted in delicate dream-like sequences set to Claire Cowan’s ethereal compositions.

Every move seemed effortless, despite the difficult lifts and exacting precision required, particularly in group work. Otherworldly, complex, delightful, exquisite and memorable.

The cool Ultra Violet was a complete contrast to the following hot-to trot The Autumn Ball, a Festival of Colour commission from choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull set to driving compositions from Eden Mulholland.

This look at the human lifespan was an up-tempo frenetic burst of technicolour, racing from birth and the development of the individual and relationships to work, mid-life reflection and winding down to a fulfilling end.

Brilliant autumn colours glowed in costume and lighting, and challenging fast-paced cross-stage work saw almost constant motion.

Heart-warming and joyous.



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