Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman is in focus in the Royal NZ Ballet's latest season.

Just 33 years old, Ekman's output is prodigious, creating not only ballets but also film, opera and large-scale events; he is much in demand around the world.

The three ballets presented here, Tuplet, Episode 31 and Cacti, are entertaining pieces without any deep significance. They're anti-classical in terms of style and genre and with comedic moments to raise chuckles every now and then.

Ekman intends you to sit back and enjoy what comes. (If you are close to the stage, the kinetic excitement of the dancers is bound to get under your skin as well.) A number of his hallmarks feature in these works: a preoccupation with rhythm and philosophical questions, intermixing music from several different sources, the inclusion of voiceovers and the use of floor mats, rostra and lighting to create small areas within which the dancers perform.


Despite the rapid pace, the dancers seem to relish performing the fast paced, sharp-edged and often edgy movement sequences interspersed with brightly lit freeze frame moments. Each of the ballets, nevertheless, remains distinct.

Tuplet is a playful work performed for six dancers dressed in blue jeans and black silk vests each with their own dance floor to move around the stage. It asks unanswered questions about the sources and significance of rhythm in our lives.

Episode 31 has the look and feel of a large-scale fashion shoot, with 20 or so dancers stylishly dressed in variants of black and white clothing. Children's poetry by Christina Rosetti features behind a shadowy duet for dancers Massimo Margaria and Alexandre Ferreira.

Cacti, seen here last year, is the most scenographically sophisticated of the three works, with beautifully delivered live music from the NZ String Quartet enlivening proceedings, and the ongoing reconfiguration of the stage space by the dancers. A recorded conversation about a relationship breakup is echoed in a featured duet danced with alacrity by Veronika Martaia and Shih-Huai Liang.

Three by Ekman is the type of ballet that offers something for everyone to enjoy.

What: Three by Ekman, the Royal NZ Ballet
Were & when: ASB Waterfront Theatre, until Thursday, 1 June