Review: “Allegro” – Royal New Zealand Ballet, Auckland, 30 July 2014

Over recent years, the Royal New Zealand Ballet have had good success with their mixed-bill programmes and if opening night audience reaction was anything to go by, they have another winner with their most recent programme Allegro.

That headline title comes from the opening Allegro Brillante choreographed by the master George Balanchine and set to part of the first movement of Tchaikovsky’s 3rd piano concerto. Staged by Balanchine Trust and Australian Ballet repetiteur and ballet mistress Eve Lawson, it is everything you would expect to see – grace, symmetry, and flashes of Russian romanticism on top of classical technique. Add Principal Guest Artist Gillian Murphy with her trademark precision and stage presence accompanied by the RNZB’s Kohei Iwamoto together with four well-drilled pairs and you have an excellent start to a evening of ballet.

Les Lutins (The Goblins) is, as the programme notes state, a light-hearted game for a trio of dancers accompanied by a violinist and pianist. Again, the title is taken from one of the pieces accompanying the dancers by Antonio Bazzini and the accompaniment was provided live by violinist Benjamin Baker and pianist Michael Pansters. This was a delightfully charming performance by Lucy Green, Rory Fairweather-Neyland and Arata Miyagawa. Choreographer Johan Kobborg’s usual attention to structural and muscial details again showed through and we were left wanting more.

Satellites was the first of the two longest works in this programme and was a commissioned work from New Zealand visual artist Daniel Belton with kinetic sculpture from Jim Murphy, costumes from Donnine Harrison and music by Dutch composer and sound designer Jan-Bas Bollen. The combination of dance, the electronic score and the lighting effects all serve to project element of space and the various synchronous and asynchronous orbits of satellites and other spatial matter not only around Earth but around other planets as well. Whether one likes it or not is definitely a matter of personal taste. As a multimedia experience on a number of different levels, it does work and the RNZB deserve credit for commissioning a very interesting work.

The second half comprised two pieces from by leading New York-based contemporary dance choreographer Larry Keigwin. The first, Mattress Suite, is a set of six short vignettes taking place on or around a mattress. Without wanting to spoil what is involved, it is easy to see why this signature work of Keigwin’s company is popular and the RNZB are apparently the first company outside the United States to perform it. Alana Ng and Shane Urton together with William Fitzgerald and Paul Matthews acquit themselves well and are suitably endowed for their respective roles.

Critics have called Megalopolis a cross between formalism and club culture and it is certainly that. The formalism comes musically from Steve Reich’s Six Marimbas and initially the atmosphere is reminiscent of the 1920’s movies portraying a very stylised future. The repetitive, yet highly structural patterned music and energetic movements are perfectly aligned but we are abruptly brought to earth through the club dimension which comes from MIA’s World Town and XR2. Balletic style meets and meshes with street funk and hip-hop. Little wonder that this got the biggest cheers from the audience.

All in all, Allegro is a quintuple set of high class delights. Definitely worth seeing.

About TI

TI is based in Auckland, New Zealand. TI's somewhat eclectic interests include (but are certainly not limited to) legal humour (the law can be funny), good wine, the search for the best possible chocolate, alcoholic beverages, travel, commercial aircraft, photography, weird news stories and classical music.
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