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February 21, 2005 | by  | in Theatre | [ssba]

Tutus on Tour

The New Zealand Post season of Tutus on Tour is extremely demanding for the artists of the Royal New Zealand Ballet Company. The company of 32 is split in order to cover 49 centres throughout the North and South island. This is significant; we didn’t even realize New Zealand had 49 centres. What’s more, each troupe of 16 performs four complex works which range from classical to modern and include a smattering of Latin-inspired dance and a tribute to nineteenth century ‘tutu’ on the way.

The show opens with Si Supieras, a romantic, tango-inspired piece based on a traditional tango of the same name. It is a sensual ballet and combines flirtatious tango moves, which the audience gleefully recognize, and the elegance of ballet. Choreographed by Turid Revfeim, the current Ballet Mistress for the Royal New Zealand Ballet and composed by Jonathan Besser, it utilizes nine passionate dancers and is the perfect introduction to Tutus on Tour. It is a highly charged, sensual, sexy and emotional piece that explores the idea of a devoted, loving couple dealing with what anthropology students would call ‘extra-pair coupling’.

Next is the Wedding ‘pas de deux’ from Act III of the classical ballet Sleeping Beauty. ‘Pas de deux’ is a traditional pattern in ballet and consists of an introduction duo of both male and female dancers, a male solo followed by a female solo and a conclusion with both dancers bringing the solos together. This piece was restaged by Sheriyin Kennedy. The Wedding ‘pas de deux’ is a stunning piece of classical ballet which is able to be appreciated by both the ballet virgin (Jules) and those with much more ballet experience (Karen). The dancers are dressed traditionally in matching wedding-white costume with the bride in tutu and tiara and the male part performed in tunic and tight tights.

The next piece was Verge, a visually stunning, cheeky and thought provoking piece of modern ballet. Opinions on interpretation varied from Shakespearian (the fairies in A Midsummer Nights Dream) through post modern to science fiction. What must be said, though, is that it is a return to natural movements and colors and is a celebration of the theatre space. It was composed by former professor of Music at Canterbury University John Richie and choreographed by Sarah McCullagh. Androgynous ultra modern costume is designed by Elizabeth Whiting.

The final piece is Esquiesses (pronounced ess-keese), described as a subversive homage to the tradition of nineteenth century tutu. It is a beautiful piece and the reviewers’ favorite and combines solo dancers, duos and groups of larger dancers finishing with a finale piece which uses all sixteen tour dances. Female dancers are dressed elegantly in hand crafted tutus, each taking over forty man hours to produce and studded with Swarovski sequins designed by Gary Harris, the Artistic Director of the company. Choreography is provided by Manchester native Christopher Hampson and the pieces are composed by Charles-Valentin Alkan. Esquiesses literally means sketches and refers to forty-eight extremely technical (as is the ballet to match) piano pieces composed by Alkan between 1847 and 1862. Esquiesses takes combines seven of these works to create an enjoyable, varied and acrobatic experience.

The lighting for the show was designed by another Englishman Jason Morphett who has worked with numerous ballet and theatre performances and musical acts such as the Chemical Brothers and David Bowie. Lighting is simple, elegant and functional which is a necessity with such a grueling tour.

The New Zealand Post season of Tutus on Tour is an excellent introduction to ballet for virgins and is a wonderful experience for those with more experience. Of special note is the commentary thoughtfully provided by the four-year-old in the row behind us. I highly appreciated the continual stating the obvious comments such as “he’s lifting her up” or “the man’s dancing with the other man” where Karen did not. Nevertheless it added to the ambiance of Tutus on Tour and made the slightly foreboding Westpac St. James Theatre as intimate as any pokey school hall that the company would be visiting.

For those Wellington bound who take an interest in ballet, Tutus on Tour is returning on the 23rd (Upper Hutt) and 24th (Lower Hutt) of March for the two final North Island shows. It may pay to book soon though, these bi-annual tours are extremely popular, especially with ballet-enthused little girls, so both shows will book out early.

Tutus on Tour
Royal New Zealand Ballet
Theatres and school halls up and down the country 10 February to 24 March


About the Author ()

HAILING FROM the upper-middle- class hell of Havelock North, Jules is in the final semester of a bachelor’s degree in Trenchermanship (majoring in Gourmandry), is a self-professed Anarcho-Dandy and resides in the Aro Valley. He likes to spend his days pursuing whimsical follies of every sort and his evenings gallivanting through the bars and restaurants of Wellington in search of the perfect wine list. He has unfailingly dedicated his life to the excessive consumption of food and drink (despite having no discernable way of paying for it), and expects to die of simultaneous heart and kidney failure at thirty-nine. His only hope is that very soon people will start to pay him for his opinions (of which he is endowed with aplenty). Jules has a penchant for vintage Oloroso.

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