Sunday, 15 November 2020

World Ballet Day Highlights #2 - The Royal New Zealand Ballet

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The Royal New Zealand Ballet had a very successful tour of the UK five years ago.  I attended and reviewed their performances of A Passing Cloud in Leeds on 4 Nov 2015 and Giselle in High Wycombe on 7 Nov 2015.   Their contribution to World Ballet Day on 29 Oct 2020 was one of my highlights of that day.  

Since their visit to this country, the company has appointed Patricia Barker as Artistic Director and it was she who welcomed the audience to the company's studios.  For the first 17 minutes, we saw the company's class taken by one of its ballet masters, Nicholas Schutz.  Schutz, like Barker, comes from the United States. So, too, does his wife Laura, who is one of the company's ballet mistresses.  It will be interesting to see whether they influence the company's repertoire and choreography.

World Ballet Day coincided with the opening night of The Sleeping Beauty which is touring New Zealand.  Barker led us to the rehearsal studio where she directed Kate Kadow and suitors in the rose adagio.  Schutz reappeared with Clytie Campbell, the other ballet mistress, to demonstrate how they create the scene where the lilac fairy leads Florimund to the sleeping Aurora.

The last scene was the technical rehearsal at the Wellington Opera House.  Kadow, already in costume for Aurora's 16th birthday, greeted her internet audience in her dressing room. The camera followed her down to the stage pursued by beaming students waving excitedly.  The very last scene showed Aurora's entry, a bit of the rose adagio and one of the scariest Carabosse entries I have ever seen. Judging by the volume of applause I think the last scene must have been the first night in Wellington.

Though New Zealand has been much more successful than most countries at controlling coronavirus the company has not been unaffected by the pandemic.   According to the News page, it has had to endure theatre closures and cancel a visit to London. On World Ballet Day, sunlight streamed through the windows of the rehearsal studios. The dancers trained without face coverings.  The applause in the theatre was thunderous.  While the main reason the RNZB's slot was one of my highlights of World Ballet 2020 is that the company is good it was also because it projected light and hope. Those of us about to enter the Northern Winter were shown an image of ballet in a post-pandemic world, Just as the prince was shown an image of the sleeping Aurora by the lilac fairy.

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