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New Zealand Dance News – April 2021

Loughlan Prior working with NZSD students Louise Camelbeke and Zachary Healy. Photo by Amber Griffin.

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

Two new works by Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) Choreographers in Residence will premiere at the Wanaka Festival of Colour on 12 April. Presented by the Wanaka Festival of Colour in association with the RNZB, Loughlan Prior’s Ultra Violet and Sarah Foster-Sproull’s The Autumn Ball are not just electric new works by beloved New Zealand choreographers, but each boasts an all-Kiwi music repertoire. 

Prior’s Ultra Violet is predicated on the instinctual ability of many birds and insects to see electromagnetic wavelengths shorter than that of visible light, a skill necessary for navigation and survival. Musically evocative and choreographically dense, the dancers are depicted as soaring birds or fossicking insects, traversing their way through the musical landscape, and on a journey to discover colours beyond the edges of our visible spectrum.  Ultra Violet was originally created for a short season at London’s Royal Opera House, in early 2020. With the arrival of the COVID pandemic, the ballet never reached the stage. Therefore, this performance at The Festival of Colour is made all the more special.  Ultra Violet features Katherine Minor, Kirby Selchow, Katherine Skelton, Paul Mathews, Joseph Skelton and Laurynas Vėjalis.

The choreographic idea for Foster-Sproull’s The Autumn Ball was born following meaningful conversation with the Festival of Colour’s outgoing Artistic Director Philip Tremewan. The work looks at the experience of entering the ‘Autumn of one’s years’ through first cycling through some of life’s major events. Foster-Sproull says, “It is a pleasure and honour to work with my Royal New Zealand Ballet whānau to present a new work at a festival close to my heart, where I once performed as a young dancer. I want to express my sincere love and respect to my collaborating dancers who are some of the most talented and toughest in the business. Additional acknowledgements to Eden Mulholland (my favourite composer) for his stellar score, and Donna Jefferis for always having the best costuming ideas.” For more information, visit rnzb.org.nz/shows/wanaka-festival-of-colour

Given that so many festivals and outdoor events were postponed last year due to COVID, the New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) has been thrilled to see so many of its alumni featuring at several of New Zealand’s prestigious arts events, including Wellington Fringe Festival, Cuba Dupa, Auckland Arts Festival, Dunedin Fringe Festival and Wanaka’s Festival of Colour. This term, guest teachers at NZSD have included Elijah Kennar, working on his all-male piece ‘Mealofa’ for Auckland’s Pacific Dance Festival. Distinguished Graduate and Choreographer in Residence at the Royal New Zealand Ballet Loughlan Prior has been workshopping his new creation for the School’s end of year Graduation Season.

Rodney Bell's 'Meremere'. Photo by Vanessa Rushton Photography.
Rodney Bell’s ‘Meremere’. Photo by Vanessa Rushton Photography.

The show that has received numerous ovations, glittering reviews and a fistful of awards is back on tour as Meremere, performed and created by Rodney Bell, tours to Auckland, Bannockburn, Wanaka, Invercargill, New Plymouth, Tauranga, Hamilton and Whangarei this April and May. Meremere is a powerful and engaging autobiographical work in response to Bell’s extraordinary life and the series of events that have been incredibly unique for one individual to experience in a lifetime. This multimedia performance piece has been developed in collaboration with director Malia Johnston’s performance design company Movement of the Human (MOTH). Meremere includes AV by award-winning designer Rowan Pierce, and music composed by the highly talented Eden Mulholland, played live during this tour by his equally prolific brother Jolyon Mulholland, bringing this insightful, surprising and very personal story to life. You can watch the trailer here.

The New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC) holds a number of weekly classes in Tamaki Makaurau, Auckland. This includes Morning Company Classes for pre-professional/professional level dancers, Contemporary Classes for int/adv level and senior over 60s Feisty Feet dance classes. For more information about these classes, visit nzdc.org.nz/education. NZDC is looking forward to its National tour travelling to Auckland, Whangarei and Christchurch this September. More information will be announced soon.

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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