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New Zealand Dance News – December 2019

RNZB in 'Hansel and Gretel'. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
RNZB in 'Hansel and Gretel'. Photo by Stephen A'Court.

Find out what’s happening this month in New Zealand dance news!

NZDC's 'This Fragile Planet'. Photo by John McDermott and Caroline Power Photography.
NZDC’s ‘This Fragile Planet’. Photo by John McDermott and Caroline Power Photography.

The New Zealand Dance Company and The Conch with Auckland Live have announced a new work, This Fragile Planet. Inspired by the delicacy of our ecosystems, our effect on mother earth, and the beauty of art and nature intertwining, this work explores the strength of intergenerational democracy and the power of regeneration across the natural world. This Fragile Planet will be premiering at Fringe Town as a part of Auckland Fringe from 25 – 26 February 2020, and Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival from 1 – 2 March 2020. For more information, click here.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) is riding high on the success of Hansel and Gretel, performing to sell out audiences across the nation and receiving outstanding praise from reviewers and audiences. This is the latest commission from RNZB Choreographer in Residence Loughlan Prior, who has teamed up with the talents of Kiwi Hollywood designer Kate Hawley (Crimson PeakSuicide SquadMortal Engines) and composer Claire Cowan. It has proved to be an eclectic and highly entertaining crowd pleaser of a ballet which looks to have already cemented itself as a Christmas classic.

RNZB in 'Hansel and Gretel'. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
RNZB in ‘Hansel and Gretel’. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

RNZB Artistic Director Patricia Barker recently unveiled the RNZB’s 2020 Season – making history as the first full season by a national ballet company featuring works entirely by female choreographers. Headlined by dance legendary award-winning choreographer Twyla Tharp, the 2020 season features superstars like Annabelle Lopez-Ochoa, with rising stars Andrea Schermoly, Penny Saunders, Danielle Rowe, Alice Topp and newly named RNZB Choreographer in Residence Sarah Foster-Sproull.

Dame Kerry Pendergast takes over as RNZB Board Chair at the beginning of 2020, replacing Steven Fyfe, who retires after completing seven years as a Trustee and Chair since 2017. Dame Kerry is a former Mayor of Wellington and Executive Chair of the New Zealand Festival. Currently Chair of the New Zealand Film Commission, she is also a Director of Oceania Healthcare and Deputy Chair of the New Zealand Conservation Authority, and a Trustee of the Wellington International Arts Foundation.

Hamish McKeich has been named RNZB Conductor in Residence. He is currently the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra Principal Conductor in Residence and is renowned for his ability to conduct complex works and wide-ranging musical styles.

The Auckland-based Friedlander Foundation charitable trust will fund two new scholarships for dancers in their first year with the RNZB. The Friedlander Scholarships will sit alongside the long-standing and prestigious Todd Scholarship, expanding the pathways available for talented young New Zealanders to pursue professional careers in dance in Aotearoa. This follows the success of the apprentice programme launched by RNZB Artistic Director Patricia Barker at the beginning of 2019, which has so far seen eight young dancers from New Zealand and Australia take their first steps on the professional stage.

Dance Aotearoa New Zealand (DANZ) selected Olivia O’Brien as the recipient of the 2019 DANZ Dance Residency at The Arts Centre Te Matatiki Toi Ora in Christchurch. The residency was delivered for the first time in Christchurch by DANZ in partnership with The Arts Centre and Movement Art Practice. Sheryl Lowe, DANZ’s executive director, says, “With the ongoing restoration and repopulation of The Arts Centre, DANZ felt Christchurch was an exciting place to host our third dance residency. We hope this residency will contribute to the reinvigoration of the arts and dance community in Christchurch and help to build on the wonderful progress already being made.”

O’Brien was based at The Arts Centre at the end of November, when she had the opportunity to work with assigned dancers and have access to a dance mentor throughout the two-week period. O’Brien will present the work she has created at a showing at the Ōtautahi Tiny Performance Festival. She will also facilitate a workshop at The Arts Centre.

Lusi Faiva in 'Becoming Masina'. Photo courtesy of DANZ.
Lusi Faiva in ‘Becoming Masina’. Photo courtesy of DANZ.

Auckland dancer Lusi Faiva, highly commended in the PAK’n’SAVE Artistic Achievement Award at Te Putanga Toi Arts Access Awards 2019, is now the subject of a documentary called Becoming Masina. Made by Veronica Maître, a student at the South Seas Film and Television School, Becoming Masina had its first screening on 30 November in Auckland. Maître describes this assignment as the students’ “passion project – anything we were really interested in and wanted to learn more about”, adding that she is interested in how people with disabilities are represented in dance and theatre. Faiva is a very active and highly-regarded member of the arts community, having worked with many national and international choreographers over the years. She attends every show she is invited to, and always congratulates and supports fellow dancers and choreographers in their efforts, both in person and on social media. “As a performer with a disability, I have had to overcome barriers, with people saying that I can’t talk or dance,” Faiva says. “But it seems that I have proved them wrong. I believe it is possible for anyone who has a disability to achieve their dreams in this able-bodied world!”

International Ballet Workshops (IBW) is thrilled to be bringing international guest teachers Katherina Markowskaja and Maxim Chachegorov to New Zealand for its Summer 2020 “In the Footsteps of Vaganova” Series this January. The Summer 2020 workshops will not only give students the chance to take classes in classical ballet, contemporary and repertoire with two incredible teachers, but will also bring opportunities for some lucky students to attend the Easter Dance workshops at Palucca University of Dance in Dresden, Germany and Prague Ballet Intensive, 2020 on scholarship. Classes are filling very quickly, with some classes already sold out, so don’t delay in booking your place to learn from these amazing Russian ballet stars. The IBW Summer 2020 Auckland workshops will be held 13 – 15 January 2020, at Wellesley Studios. For more information and to register, visit www.ibwdance.com

Black Grace's 'Versus'. Photo by Simon Wilson.
Black Grace’s ‘Versus’. Photo by Simon Wilson.

The 2020 Auckland Arts Festival (AAF) programme has been announced. The annual multi-arts celebration returns to locations across Tāmaki Makaurau from 11 – 29 March 2020. Auckland’s many theatres, galleries, and unique venues will house some exciting performance, art and music events from New Zealand and around the world. The vast programme of more than 40 individual events celebrates people and culture, investigates some of the most important issues facing the world today and offers audiences a chance to escape with a few laughs. Shows and events tackle the big questions around climate change, who gets to control narrative and be intellectually provocative, before filling us up with pure joy. The AAF 2020 programme features theatre, dance, circus, cabaret, opera, music and visual arts. 

AAF Artistic Director Jonathan Bielski says, “We enter the 2020 Auckland Arts Festival both reflecting and celebrating. We are reflecting on the complexities of the human condition, the challenges to our environment but also celebrating all that is great about summer in Auckland. Festivals give us permission to explore big ideas and then engage in sheer exuberance! Our 12th festival contrasts the tough stuff with escapism and elation, laughter and excitement. Reminding us of the joyfulness of human life in gleeful celebration of all that is fun and good in the world.” For more information, visit www.aucklandfestival.co.nz

NZSD Students performing the School song at 2019 Graduation Ceremony.
NZSD Students performing the School song at 2019 Graduation Ceremony.

2019 sees another group of talented classical ballet and contemporary dance students graduate from The New Zealand School of Dance. Twenty-one students have already signed paid contracts with prestigious local and international ballet and contemporary dance companies to begin work in December and early 2020. These include: Atamira, Catapult, Expressions/Australian Dance Collective, Legs Against the Wall, Leipziger Ballett, New Zealand Dance Festival, Oklahoma City Ballet, Queensland Ballet, Stephanie Lake Company’s Colossus at Sydney Festival 2020, Thüringer Staatsballett, Toi Poneke Choreographic Art Residency, Washington Ballet. This announcement follows a very successful Graduation Season, with students performing technically demanding and physically challenging works to sell-out audiences and glowing reviews. More contracts are to be announced shortly.

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa. 

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