The Royal NZ Ballet's Bold Moves presents four contrasting works which bring into focus the fundamentals of ballet: essentials of form, 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 is on display throughout the performance.
George Balanchine's Serenade (1934), set to Tchaikovsky's 1880 Serenade for Strings in C, Op. 48, opens the programme. 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 follows, 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 feature in Stand to Reason, a contemporary work commissioned from South African choreographer Andrea Schermoly originally for the Company's 2018 Suffrage programme.
The women's gestures and interactions are reminiscent of the rhetoric of protest and resistance, argument and persuasion, anger and imprecation. With rapid movements that criss-cross the space, and use of projected text, this has memorable standout moments and identifies the countries where women are still denied the right to vote.
Act II, of William Forsythe's innovative 1984 ode to ballet's history Artifact, closes the programme. A complex work which frames two couples against the corps de ballet, the couples explore the extremes of ballet positions and movement. 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.
What: Royal New Ballet, Bold Moves.
Where & when: ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre; now touring to Palmerston North, Christchurch, Dunedin and Napier until Sunday, September 15.
Reviewed by: Raewyn Whyte.