Sara Garbowski dancing in Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Tutus on Tour, 2022.
Touring Tutus, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Choreography: Shaun James Kelly, Christopher Wheeldon, Val Caniparoli, Marius Petipa, Olivier Wever. The Opera House, Wellington, 7 October. Reviewed by Brigitte Knight.
The famous ambitious of the Royal New Zealand Ballet Tutus on tour was, at its peak, a comprehensive six-week biennial tour in which the company split into two and performed in dozens of cities from the upper North Island to the lower South.
It was the season that recognized the pioneering roots of the company when the dancers doubled as a stage crew and were hosted by generous Kiwi hosts across the country. A certain magic is created when the RNZB performs in small local venues, offering an exchange and a connection with the public that faithfully reflects its status as a national company.
Reduced to 10 centers, 2022’s Tutus on Tour offers a comprehensive program of five works featuring both classical and contemporary ballet. Opening the show is ‘The Ground Beneath Our Feet’ by choreographer-in-residence Shaun James Kelly, which premiered at RNZB’s choreography series in 2018. As his first work for the main stage, the ballet clearly showcased the voice Kelly’s choreography from the get-go, indulging her preferences for technically demanding partnerships, a fast-paced neoclassical movement vocabulary, and iconic pointe slides. A manipulated Bach score and a variety of transitions ensure that the work is well-paced, light and lively.
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* Behind the scenes of the RNZB’s Tutus on Tour
‘After The Rain Pas de Deux’ (2005) by Christopher Wheeldon made its RNZB debut during Tutus on Tour. The final pas de deux is a masterclass in nuance and restraint, Wheeldon making exquisite use of stillness, broken line versus extended line, and pattern. On the captivating Spiegel im spiegel (Mirror in the mirror) of Arvo Pärt, the spectacle holds the public in suspense. Depth, intimacy and clarity underlie this subtly sophisticated performance by Kate Kadow and Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson, facilitated by their highly refined technique and the realization of a partnership in the truest sense of the word.
‘Waltz of the Pohutukawa Flowers’ and ‘Grand Pas de Deux’ – excerpts from RNZB’s ‘The Nutcracker’ (2018) choreographed by Val Caniparoli – have the largest cast on the program, including a dozen female corps de ballet, Kirby Selchow as Dew Drop, Mayu Tanigaito as Sugarplum Fairy, and Laurynas Vėjalis as Cavalier. With its iconic Tchaikovsky score and traditional format, “The Nutcracker” nevertheless allows Caniparoli to create pleasing geometric formations and stimulating choreographic details for the soloists. Selchow plays with characteristic joy and panache, and the pas de deux by Tanigaito and Vėjalis is particularly impressive in its opening moments.
“Le Corsaire Pas de Trois” is an opportunity to celebrate spectacle and virtuosity thanks to principal dancers Mayu Tanigaito, Paul Mathews and Laurynas Vėjalis. Best viewed from the stalls to appreciate the magnificent elevation, Le Corsaire is a treat for lovers of classical ballet.
Created for Grand Rapids Ballet in 2013, Olivier Wevers’ contemporary ballet “The Sofa” follows an arc of descending and ascending action, with the wacky and sometimes superficial first and last movements complementing a richer and more densely choreographed second movement. The set functions as a musical staging rather than the Greek choir it is presented to, which traditionally offers a unique perspective, feeding the narrative and articulating a clear point of view.
Soloists Ana Gallardo Lobaina, Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson and Shaun James Kelly perform their roles with stamina and style, and this season sees a welcome return to the spotlight for Madeleine Graham. Each of The Sofa’s three movements feels longer than the underlying concepts warrant, however, the dancers’ performances are impressively sustained with a strong commitment to character.
Tutus on Tour is an entertaining and neat program of works, and with a great variety it offers something for everyone.