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New Zealand Dance News – November/December 2021

NZSD 3rd Year Classical Ballet Student Louise Camelbeke. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
NZSD 3rd Year Classical Ballet Student Louise Camelbeke. Photo by Stephen A'Court.

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

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s (RNZB) spectacular programme of three ballets – Venus Rising – will open the company’s 2022 season. Originally cancelled due to COVID in 2020, this much-anticipated programme will now finally, radiantly, make its way to Wellington, Christchurch and Auckland. Three extraordinary works choreographed by three formidable women who have blazed a trail on the international stage make up the powerful programme opening 24 February in Wellington as part of Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts, 4 March in Christchurch, and 10 March as part of Auckland Arts Festival. It captures the spirit of Venus – the brightest of stars, and herald of the dusk and dawn. A sacred goddess of love, beauty and victory over adversity. Meditative and moving, Alice Topp’s award-winning Aurum is inspired by the Japanese art of kintsugi, the practice of mending cracks in precious ceramics with gold, creating a new whole which celebrates the beauty of the broken. Bendigo-born and Resident Choreographer at The Australian Ballet, Topp started her career dancing with the RNZB, which holds a special place in her heart along with Aotearoa’s theatres and dance lovers. The Autumn Ball, created by one of New Zealand’s brightest choreographic stars, Sarah Foster-Sproull, and commissioned in 2021 by the Wanaka Festival of Colour, dances through the circle of life with tenderness, grace and floor-filling fun. The driving rhythms of Eden Mulholland’s commissioned score will have the audience wishing that they could join in the dance. Twyla Tharp is one of the world’s greatest living, indeed legendary, choreographers. In Waterbaby Bagatelles, created in 1994 and never before seen in Aotearoa, 27 dancers leap and spin across the stage in an ever-changing ocean of light; the music flowing seamlessly as groups of dancers sparkle and glow. RNZB Artistic Director Patricia Barker says, “This is a generous, glorious celebration of ballet and the joy of pure dance created by some of the finest choreographers working on the international stage today. With borders still closed and travel restrictions in place, we are delighted to have found a way to start the new year with a celebratory programme that showcases the talents of these three world leading dance makers. We look forward to a vibrant Summer tour with our first festival stop-offs since 2018 and a trio of captivating, uplifting ballets.” For tickets, visit rnzb.org.nz/shows/venus-rising-2.

Due to the current COVID restrictions in Auckland, The New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC) is pleased to be able to offer its community virtual classes to keep dancers moving. For weekly timetable and to register, visit nzdc.org.nz/education/nzdc-virtual-classes

Alice McArthur.
Alice McArthur.

New Zealander Alice McArthur took home the coveted Genée Gold Medal this past September, in The Royal Academy of Dance (RAD)’s flagship event, The Margot Fonteyn International Ballet Competition. This year, the event was held entirely online for the first time in its history. McArthur, who trained at Auckland Academy of Dance and currently studies with Sarah Abendroth at John Cranko School, received this medal over 30 years after her mother won silver in this prestigious competition. Other medals were awarded to Australian dancer Milei Lee (silver medal), British dancer Hannah Martin (bronze medal) and Australian dancer Amelia Soh (bronze medal). The young dancers were judged by Dame Darcey Bussell, president of the RAD; Director of The Royal Ballet Kevin O’Hare; CEO and Artistic Director of Scottish Ballet Christopher Hampson; and Irek Mukhamedov, ballet master for Paris Opera Ballet. They judged the dancers on a 19th or 20th century classical variation, a contemporary solo choreographed by them or for them (Dancer’s Own), a commissioned solo by choreographer Ashley Page and set class exercises. Gerard Charles, artistic director of the RAD, said, “I am so pleased that we were able to make the competition happen this year, after what has been an incredibly challenging time for dance students and teachers. It has been so inspiring to see these young dancers surmount unforeseeable challenges of separation, closed studios and lockdowns, just to take part in the competition, let alone take home a medal. This is a true testament to how deeply they value dance. I would like to extend my heartfelt congratulations not only to all the medallists but also to everyone that took part, their teachers and families.” The RAD remains committed to providing opportunities to aspiring young dancers at this challenging time for the arts industry. In addition to competing for medals and prize money to further their training, all finalists’ solos will be sent to Artistic Directors of leading companies across the world, providing a potentially crucial stepping stone in their career path. The competition has long produced alumni who have gone onto careers with the world’s leading companies, including Francesca Hayward, Xander Parish, Mlindi Kulashe, Stella Abrera, Amber Scott and Steven McRae, to name a few.

Louise Camelbeke, a classical ballet student at the New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD), is one of 81 dancers from 17 countries selected to take part in the Prix de Lausanne 2022. Rigour, excellence and prestige make the Prix de Lausanne international ballet competition a unique platform for young dancers with a very high technical level of technical proficiency. Garry Trinder, director of NZSD, says, “The School is so proud of Louise, a very talented, hardworking and versatile young artist with tremendous potential. We are excited to see her grow through this wonderful experience. The New Zealand School of Dance has enjoyed a formal relationship with the Prix de Lausanne since 2006, when we became one of the Prix’s Partner Schools. However, we have never presented anyone for the competition before now. Dancers accepted for the Prix come along only once in a generation. We are talking about those who will go on to hold principal contracts with the major ballet companies of the world. To be accepted for the Prix is in itself a golden ticket.”

NZSD Ballet Tutor Medhi Angot (previously of Paris Opera Ballet and the Royal New Zealand Ballet) has worked with Camelbeke for six months in preparation for the video audition. Preparation for a competition of this calibre is extensive, including one-on-one technique sessions and performance coaching three times a week. This is all in addition to her current studies and dance training at the New Zealand School of Dance. Angot says, “Louise is a naturally gifted and conscientious dancer. The standard of the Prix is so high, and we are thrilled she will have the chance to be part of it next year to showcase her hard work. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Louise – an experience she will carry with her always.”

Twenty candidates will reach the Prix de Lausanne finals and between six and eight of the winners are awarded scholarships or apprenticeships by one of the Prix de Lausanne partner schools. All candidates take part in an audition class viewed by school and company directors, exposing them to a wide array of potential opportunities.

NZSD Graduation Season 2021.

This year’s Graduation Season of the New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) is a celebration of the talent and creativity that resides in Aotearoa New Zealand. These performances will be a dazzling showcase for the exceptional talents of the School’s young dancers. This year, the School is proud to present seven innovative premieres, by choreographers and creative artists based in New Zealand. Six of the choreographers are alumni of the School – bringing their own particular journeys full-circle. The performances promise an eclectic repertoire of exuberant and moving choreography, reflecting the School’s commitment to innovation and excellence.

Of the three new classical pieces, two are commissioned from highly sought-after choreographers, Loughlan Prior and Shaun James Kelly (both Choreographer-in-Residence with the Royal New Zealand Ballet). Inspired by her dancers, Tabitha Dombroski’s choreography is a timeless work, danced to the music of Maurice Ravel. These ballets convey moments of reflection, poignancy and brilliance. The four new contemporary works entering the NZSD repertoire have been made by ambitious choreographers, Lucy Marinkovich, Eliza Sanders, Jeremy Beck and Matte Roffe. Sometimes explosive, sometimes challenging, sometimes emotional, these pieces will ask the audience to look deeper, higher and wider. Graduation Season 2021 performances at Southward Theatre, Paraparaumu run from 12 – 14 November and at Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre, Wellington  from 19 – 27 November. For tickets and more information, visit www.nzschoolofdance.ac.nz/graduation.

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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