Dancers perform the unexpected

Speed of Light is the first programme devised by the RNZB's new artistic director, Francesco Ventriglia.

It is a contemporary triptych ranging in pieces from the manic to a seminal work to a choreographer's response to pretentiousness that is often found in the world of artistic endeavours.

Selon desir (2004), choreographed by Andonis Foniadakis, with a musical score of Bach's St Matthew's and St John's Passions is a frenzied tornado of movement, limbs and hair.

Alayna Ng and Shane Urton are hypnotic, while Massimo Margaria stood out for his beautifully lyric expression.

William Forsythe's In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated is the 1987 boundary pushing masterpiece that challenged both its dancers and audiences during a time when the ballet vocabulary was such that this work shocked audiences.

It did not fit the traditional mould people had come to expect. Dancers are pushed to hyper-extended feats that should not be possible. Mayu Tanigaito exploded on stage with relentless intensity and ferocity. Confidence and conviction are asked for by the dancers.

This is not a piece for the timid. The arresting musical score by Thom Willem is an aural cacophony on the audience and when combined with the movement, is a hyper-charged feast for the senses.

Alexander Ekman's Cacti (2010) is in part a response to previous critical reactions to his work. Here, he places dancers as proletariat workers, where uniformity and conformity are the standard.

They are juxtaposed on stage with a string quartet, something that is more fitting in high society. The 16 dancers are all-encompassing in this work, providing the soundtrack through their ‘‘human orchestra'', when they were not directly accompanied by the superb New Zealand String Quartet.

The quirky duet between Shane Urton and Veronika Maritati gave a comic insight into the dancers' inner voices during a performance. This is a fun and humorous piece that reminds the viewer not to take things so seriously.

The audio commentary suggests that philosophical analysis is not always needed for the symbolic interpretation.

Perhaps sometimes a cactus is simply a cactus ... Or is it? This programme is about performing the unexpected, a divergence from previous seasons we have seen from the RNZB.

Gauging from last night's audience response, it seems we cannot wait for the next installment.

- Penny Nelson 


Speed of Light
Royal New Zealand Ballet
Regent Theatre, March 16




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