New Zealand Dance News – June/July 2024

RNZB in Alice Topp's 'High Tide' for 'Solace'. Photo by Ross Brown.
RNZB in Alice Topp's 'High Tide' for 'Solace'. Photo by Ross Brown.

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

New Zealand’s Fresh Movement Collective will bring its vibrant dance theatre work, MĀUI, to the Sydney Opera House for an Australian premiere tour from 29 – 31 August. MĀUI tells the story of the heroic demi-god who appears as a prominent figure in Pacific folklore. The show opens with the shared origin story of migration across the Pacific, before unfolding in seven chapters that each delve into a personal trait of Māui – including love, resilience, joy and power. Contemporary and traditional Pacific dance forms are showcased alongside elements of theatre, spoken word, live music, hip hop, haka and capoeira, with animated projections by Harley Campbell.

Based in Auckland, New Zealand, Fresh Movement Collective has been making waves in the street dance scene in New Zealand since 2012. The Australian tour will feature a 30-strong ensemble, including the collective’s four founding members who will perform on stage together for the first time in six years – Hadleigh Pouesi, Christopher Ofanoa, Chantelle Huch and Byron Fa’aui. MĀUI weaves together the movement patterns and languages from many cultures of the Pacific region including Aotearoa/New Zealand, Samoa, Fiji, the Cook Islands and Tonga, reflecting the diverse heritage of the performers.

Artistic Director of Fresh Movement Collective Hadleigh Pouesi says, “Our vision is to be a waka (boat) for stories, and with this season we get to live that vision literally by bringing culture across the Tasman, and continue the ancient traditions of travelling and storytelling. To perform MĀUI at the Sydney Opera House is a dream come true and a really exciting moment in the story of our company. We’ve brought together an all-star cast from the last decade of Fresh to perform MĀUI in Australia for the first time, and we can’t wait to get there.” For tickets and more information, visit www.sydneyoperahouse.com/dance/maui.

RNZB in Sarah Foster-Sproull's 'To Hold' for 'Solace'. Photo by Ross Brown.
RNZB in Sarah Foster-Sproull’s ‘To Hold’ for ‘Solace’. Photo by Ross Brown.

The Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) will present a spectacular trio of ballets for its 2024 winter season. Solace: Dance to feed your soul will light up stages in Te Whanganui-a-Tara Wellington, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland, and Ōtautahi Christchurch from 1 – 17 August, with work by three of the world’s most innovative and celebrated artists, Wayne McGregor, Sarah Foster-Sproull and Alice Topp.

RNZB Artistic Director Ty King-Wall says, “I’m looking forward with such anticipation to our Solace season, in which our dancers and audiences alike will experience the incredible capacity of dance as a language for diversity of expression, and the unbelievable physical capacity of the human body for movement.”

Wayne McGregor’s Infra, from the Latin word for ‘below’, delivers an illuminating portrait of city life. This abstract ballet delves beneath the surface to present a moving mediation on human interactions. Infra premiered at the Royal Opera House in London in 2008. With an LED screen running the width of the stage revealing a mesmerising flow of British artist Julian Opie’s walking figures, Infra features 12 dancers moving through solos, duets and ensembles. Accompanying the work is Max Richter’s elegiac score, which mixes melancholy string melodies with electronic sounds.

Sarah Foster-Sproull’s To Hold is her fifth original work for the RNZB. It explores the intricate wonders of the human form: shape shifting, endlessly inventive. Eden Mulholland’s score adds a powerful sense of primal transformation, pushing and pulling the dancers through the space. The work is enhanced by costumes designed by Donna Jefferis, whose pieces draw inspiration from the high-fashion tailoring and pleated designs of Issey Miyake, elegantly framing the body while supporting the complex choreographic structures.

Completing the programme is High Tide, a poignant new creation by a favourite in New Zealand, RNZB alumna and former Resident Choreographer at The Australian Ballet, Alice Topp. Inspired by the music of Ólafur Arnalds, this ballet reflects on the cycles of life, touching upon themes of growth, fear, and reconciliation. High Tide examines the shadows and lights of existence, represented through the unique stage design by Jon Buswell, which transforms the space into a living sculpture, emphasising the fluid and ever-changing nature of life itself. Tickets for RNZB’s Solace are now available at rnzb.org.nz.

'Dazzlehands' book cover.

New Zealand children’s book Dazzlehands, written by Sacha Cotter and Josh Morgan, is being adapted into a new ballet which will premiere as part of the RNZB’s free school holiday performances at Te Papa this July. The book was published in 2023 in English and te reo Māori. Choreographed by RNZB Principal Joshua Guillemot-Rodgerson for six RNZB dancers, Dazzlehands’ creative team includes Costume Designer Victoria Gridley, Composer William Philipson and Creative Director Lauren Byrne, who is also the RNZB’s Education and Community Engagement Manager. Gareth Tiopara-Waaka will narrate both the English and and te reo Māori shows, and there will be a Relaxed Performance and a performance with New Zealand Sign Language interpretation. Dazzlehands will be 40 minutes long and is appropriate for ages three and over.

The Spinoff described the book as “…a bold, funny, cool farmyard flip that is a riot to read aloud.” On turning this ingenious tale into a ballet, Guillemot-Rodgerson says, “I am thrilled to be adapting Dazzlehands into a moving and grooving ballet bash. The story dances off the pages; it feels like Sacha and Josh were choreographing a dance from the very beginning. I am so lucky to be able to work with this exceptionally talented creative team, and our amazing dancers, to bring tamariki on a journey into how fun ballet can be. The story of our Pig will take them on a rollercoaster ride of hilarity, movement and thrills. They will need to prepare to be DAZZLED in the best possible way.”

Dazzlehands will play at Te Papa’s Soundings Theatre on Friday 12 and Saturday 13 July, followed by a schools-only season at Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland’s Due Drop Events Centre on 19 and 20 September. To order the book, go to huia.co.nz/products/dazzlehands.

NZSD 2nd Yr Contemporary Dance Students Aylin Atalay and Anna Hosking. Photo by Stephen A'Court.
NZSD 2nd Yr Contemporary Dance Students Aylin Atalay and Anna Hosking. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

The New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) will hold its Contemporary Intensive Programme on 16 June at Wellesley Studios, Auckland. For dancers aged 15-18 years, with a sound knowledge of contemporary dance and interest in dance as a career, this programme is for dancers who wish to establish a solid technical foundation and learn key aspects of the contemporary discipline, such as improvisation, contact, partnering and composition. Students will learn from tertiary tutors to gain insight into NZSD’s unique contemporary dance training. The programme runs over a full day, and the members of the NZSD faculty teach all elements of the programme. To register, visit www.nzschoolofdance.ac.nz/courses/contemporary-intensive-programme.

NZSD will also present season Forte from 20 – 22 June, at Whirinaki Whare Taonga, Upper Hutt. The eclectic programme features outstanding performances of both classical ballet repertoire and contemporary dance. Forte will include new works created by the next generation of choreographers. To book tickets, head to www.nzschoolofdance.ac.nz/events/forte.

By Laura Di Orio of Dance Informa.

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