New Zealand Dance News – Oct/Nov 2022

The New Zealand Dance Company. Photo by John McDermott.
The New Zealand Dance Company. Photo by John McDermott.

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

The New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) has played a significant role in shaping this country’s dance culture for more than half a century, and its 55th Anniversary Performance Season programmes proudly reflect its achievements. The season is an opportunity to witness the high calibre of students and the results of working with inspirational world class tutors. Audiences at Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre will be treated to a comprehensive mix of contemporary dance and classical ballet featuring outstanding choreography from NZSD alumni and teachers. This year’s Performance Season is a celebration of the talent and creativity that resides in Aotearoa New Zealand, presenting a dazzling showcase for the exceptional talents of the School’s young dancers. The season opens with the classical ballet programme followed by the contemporary dance programme the next evening. Performances will alternate throughout the season.

NZSD 2nd Year Contemporary Dance Students Minami Kurota and Sofija Milic. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
NZSD 2nd Year Contemporary Dance Students Minami Kurota and Sofija Milic. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

The five works in the ballet programme are all choreographed by NZSD Distinguished Graduate and highly sought-after dance maker Loughlan Prior (choreographer-in-residence to the Royal New Zealand Ballet). These include VerseCurious Alchemy and Time Weaver. Highlighted within the programme are two world premieres – Coloratura and Storms Surge. “I would call it a ‘choreographer’s dream’ to build a programme like this,” Prior says. “As a graduate of the school, it is a true honour to return home to create, coach and work with the talented students of Te Whaea. Looking back at past works and revisiting these with new energy has been like opening a time capsule; developing brand new creations tailor made for the students of 2022 has been a true gift. Thank you to Garry Trinder and the NZSD community for supporting this incredibly special performance season.” 

This year, the contemporary dance programme showcases five innovative works, all of which are choreographed by NZSD alumni and teachers, bringing their own particular journeys full-circle.  

Distinguished Graduate and active member of the Australian and New Zealand dance community, Craig Bary, presents his work, State of Perpetuation, created in collaboration with 2nd and 3rd year Contemporary Dance Majors. Distinguished Graduate Sarah Foster-Sproull’s new work, To The Forest // To The Island, is a gut buster (think cross-fit but dance moves). “It’s always a pleasure to work with the students at the New Zealand School of Dance,” says Foster-Sproull. “What I enjoy most about the experience is the chance to share work, collaboratively problem solve and to meet a new generation of talented performers. Good banter in the studio is key for me, and working alongside the students and Paula Steeds-Huston has been key in making things fun and productive. They are such a great bunch of clever humans to work with.” Other works in the contemporary programme include Midlight by Christina Chan and Aymeric Bichonand new commissions fromHolly Newsome and Tyler Carney. 

Expect a wide range of thrilling and uplifting pieces from the NZSD. The Performance Season at Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre will be held from 16 – 26 November. For tickets and more information, head to www.nzschoolofdance.ac.nz.

Auckland choreographer Dr Suzanne Cowan has some “exciting opportunities” on the horizon, including an invitation to create new work for an accessible contemporary dance festival in Seoul, South Korea. A dance organisation called Light Sound Friends commissioned Cowan to create a new work for its annual contemporary dance festival, KIADA, in 2023. She will visit Seoul for a two-week pre-residency in late October, and will return to Seoul in 2023, to complete the residency and be part of the festival. “It’s exciting to be working internationally again after being based in New Zealand since 2004,” Cowan says. “I’m really looking forward to the cultural exchange and stimulation. Seoul is known as the centre of contemporary art in Asia, so it will be fascinating to see the kind of work they are making and get a Korean perspective on making dance and art.” Cowan also hopes to tour a revised version of her solo show, Manifesto of a Good Cripple, in 2024. “It premiered in 2019, at the Basement Theatre, and I’m excited about breathing new life into it and taking it on tour,” she says. “I value the longevity of work and also the opportunity to reinvent it so it’s fresh and relevant.”

In 2019, Cowan became the first woman and wheelchair user in the world to receive a PhD in Dance. Then, earlier this year, she designed and taught an online course called The History and Theory of Integrated Dance at Rutgers University in the United States. She has been a member of Auckland dance company Touch Compass since 1999. In her blog, The evolution of Touch Compass, she writes, “For the past 20 years, Touch Compass has been a touchstone for me throughout my artistic career, and so I have always wanted to see it thrive and grow.” Along with Cowan’s own artistic projects, Touch Compass has numerous projects on the go, including Lusi Faiva’s new work, Aiga, which will be developed over three years and will be directed in collaboration with Moana Ete; Madrid-based Israeli choreographer Sharon Fridman’s new ensemble work called Tuarā Wairua which will premiere in 2023; and Touch Compass’ second International Creative Leadership Series, featuring dance, arts and theatre experts from Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom. For more information on Touch Compass, visit www.touchcompass.org.nz

The New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC) has a full few months coming up. Premieringat Tempo Dance Festival 2022 as part of the Tempo: Te Rerenga o Tere programme, Australian choreographer Jo Lloyd and her longtime collaborators Duane Morrison(music) and Andrew Treloar (costumes) take a leap into creating their first ‘play without words’, for dance.Lloyd is an award-winning dance artist based in Melbourne, working with choreography as a social encounter, revealing behavior over various durations and contexts. She has presented work in Japan, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Melbourne International Festival, the National Gallery of Australia, Mona Foma Tasmania, Liveworks and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney. Years of gathered phrases, statements and insults will culminate in an embodied live work that explores our tendency to be preoccupied with drama and our fascination with the inevitable. What They Said is Lloyd’s first work made on a New Zealand company and promises to be both relentless and mesmerising – a feast for the senses that’s not to be missed.

In late October, NZDC will embark on a national tour of ArteFact, which premiered digitally as part of the digital programme at Auckland Arts Festival in 2022. This playful site-specific dance/theatre work created by Arts Laureate Ross McCormack considers the reverence we place on objects housed within formal spaces such as art galleries, museums and libraries and our behaviour in relationship to the conventions of these buildings. Inspired by the physical structure of the Auckland War Memorial Museum Tāmaki Paenga Hira and the tireless work of the visitor hosts, security guards and all who work at the iconic institution, the reimagined ArteFact will be performed as part of both Dunedin and Nelson Arts Festivals before performances at The Arts Centre Christchurch on November 2, and a return by popular demand to Auckland War Memorial Museum on November 8. Rabbit holes of possibility will open for a synthesis of performers, visitor hosts, security guards or art experts who will invite audiences to disrupt the tension often on display in formal spaces. Developed to be presented “bespoke” in a range of different buildings, McCormack masterfully fuses signature elements of physical theatre and comedy interwoven with his iconic style of movement to reveal some irresistible secrets of the human experience. Tickets for all performances are available at nzdc.org.nz.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB)’s hugely popular Tutus on Tour – a tasting menu of ballet treats – will deliver rays of early summer sunshine to stages across the country, from Auckland’s North Shore to Invercargill, from 7 October. Artistic Director Patricia Barker has curated a gorgeous gala programme which showcases RNZB dancers at their very best. Beloved classical favourites sit alongside more recent works, including one New Zealand premiere. The pas de trois from Le Corsaire offers firecracker virtuosity, while the joyful ‘Waltz of the Pohutukawa Flowers’ and grand pas de deux from the RNZB’s production of The Nutcracker, choreographed by Val Caniparoli, heralds the Christmas season with warmth and grandeur. On the contemporary side, Christopher Wheeldon’s After the Rain pas de deux (2005) makes its RNZB debut. Gentle and tender, showing a profound connection between its performers, it is a work that is cherished by every dancer lucky enough to perform it. Olivier Wevers’ The Sofa (2013), to music by Mozart, introduces this rising star of contemporary ballet to Aotearoa.

RNZB Season 2022 Tutus on Tour.
RNZB Season 2022 Tutus on Tour.

Rounding out this generous programme of dance is RNZB Choreographer in Residence Shaun James Kelly’s The Ground Beneath Our Feet (2019), an exuberant ballet, tailor-made for the RNZB, that rides the scintillating rhythms of its music like a rollercoaster.

Barker says, “It’s been a while since we’ve been able to stop in at some of our regional theatres, something we normally all look forward to very much each year. This Tutus on Tour programme is a full, rich, exciting showcase of ballet from across the spectrum, and it is suitable for people of all ages. In fact, given the bite-sized nature of our Tutus on Tour programmes, we love welcoming younger ones to experience all kinds of ballet.”

Reintroduced in 2017, Tutus on Tour is a chance for ballet lovers young and old across the country to indulge their passion. The enchanting summer programme will sell quickly, so it is recommended ticket buyers move quickly. Tutus on Tour will return in February-March 2023, visiting additional venues from the Far North to the Deep South. Dates and details will be announced in October. For tickets, visit rnzb.org.nz

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa. 

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