William Forsythe's iconic work

In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated

, the centrepiece of new artistic director Francesco Ventriglia's first mixed bill programme for the RNZB, is said to have changed ballet forever.

The company's pitch perfect performance of the piece in this festival season will certainly change its benchmark of success forever - and the expectations of a smitten audience.

Costumed in the traditional emerald green tops and black tights, which leave the dancers' bodies as undisguised as the bare stage on which they perform, Abigail Boyle, Mayu Tanigaito, Tonia Looker, Yang Liu, Alayna Ng, Clytie Campbell, William Fitzgerald, Massimo Margaria and Shaun James Kelly slay the audacious choreography with aplomb.

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It is a hard act to follow but Alexander Ekman's Cacti is up to the challenge with the cast clad in unisex ensemble. Cacti takes more than a sly poke at haughtily verbose dance critics and analysts.

The New Zealand String Quartet plays live, weaving among the set pieces and dancers on stage. Then there is the mysterious awarding of the cacti. But a cheeky effervescence, an irrepressible energy and a beguiling wit prevails.

The programme opens with Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis' Selon Desir, which takes its cue from the opening choruses of the St Matthew and St John Passions and the emotional and colour palettes of Renaissance paintings.

Speed of Light
Where and when: RNZ Ballet, SkyCity, till Sunday.