Dancing with Mozart: Royal New Zealand Ballet

Four Ballets + Three Choreographers + One Composer
30 June - 1 July, Napier Municipal Theatre
By Megan Seawright


Divertimento no.15
Choreographer: George Balanchine.
Music: Mozart Divertimento no.15 in B flat major, K287

First choreographed by renown neoclassical choreographer George Balanchine in 1952 as Caracole, then refined to Divertimento no.15 in 1956, this work has long been recognised for Balanchine’s sensitive choreographic understanding of Mozart’s music.

As if colluding, I find myself somehow suspended in a vast ballroom seated to one end (the theatre) and the dancers conveying the formalities of form and the gracious nuances beholden of another time at the other (the stage). Rising us to this imagined refinement of the classical era, there is a singular saturating blue backdrop, balanced lighting and three large overhead chandeliers.

Notable is the strongly designed negative space between dancers. They thread finely through these architectural dynamics, which add ambience and visual wholeness to the performance. Costumes are light like waxy winter flowers, fitting for this season.

The stage is open. There is no narrative. As the piece progresses the dancing is increasingly complex and quick. Solos are particular to the earnings of finesse, containment, and perfect positioning, all carried and carved through deep layers of muscle evidently honed, a complement to the RNZB, and to the commitment of a dancer’s entire body to any singular gesture. This makes all the movement beautiful.

Ballerina’s relevé en pointe with a smile quick and smart to a stop, and with an occasional modern swirl as livening of neoclassical form. Partnering holds court and is meet with interlude from corps de ballet surging and retreating into stilled positions. Pointe work is a silent carriage across the stage with rarely an audible landing throughout. To the end of this elegance all bow to each other in thanks.


The Last Dance
Choreographer: Corey Baker.
Music: Duncan Grimley and Mozart Requiem in D minor K626

A contemporary work, stark with ice bright lighting and crisp white costumes, dancers harboured to half a stage with a dominant cube framing filling the other.

The first part of this work was set in brilliant white and with lush floor movements between dancers that suspended us strongly into the clear, sharp majesty of Antarctica. We sensed peaks, crevasses and clean wilds. Humanity was introduced through the contrasting use of multi-media tech. Static sound set against Duncan Grimley’s further arrangement of Mozart’s music, text projections on the screen walls of the cube. Exciting stuff for ballet!

There’s strong reference to this cyber ages’ relentless deconstruction of Earth’s natural aesthetic. Accordingly, in the cube, two dancers – as the human dynamic – were contained and driven in black costumes with a self-absorption conveying no awareness of impact: a structural imposition on all layers. These consequences encroached on the ice landscape as a melting onslaught as the dancers’ white costumes where stripped away to black underneath, like exposing rock: a geological landscape of barren breakage.

The final part was too brief; the work simply ended.

Along the way there were new motifs introduced too quickly to be integrated sufficiently for visual success in the timeframe of this work. And momentary out of sync timing affected the view. I wanted more time given to this piece. There were human shadows upon ‘The World’ and additional water filled clear cubes taken from the back of stage and poured into the framing like the Big Melt, which may have been more successful had the water poured onto the two dancers. As it was it looked a little like a miss, a random filling gesture, an important one though with the dancers ending suspended by a hand grip like death to humanity.


Petite Mort
Choreographer: Jiří Kylián
Music: Mozart Piano Concerto in A Major K488, Adagio, and Piano Concerto in C major K467, Andante.

The common thread of Mozart’s music continues through Jiří Kylián’s contemporary pieces though themes and intent are different. ‘Petite Mort’ a small death, reference to sexual ecstasy, has us bound in intimacy immediately. Partnered or in company, a grand airing with billowing fabric like a silky blanket opens our view. The dancers unreserved technique quickens, and all is unified by constant fluid contact and demanding turns of rolling and parting sensuality.

Lit with golden lighting, rather romantic in pace and directly facing otherwise. There was no unease, for this is pure bodily architecture. Men with a foil sword, the partner self; potent, bent, spun and curving and entirely symbolic, emphasising the coming dynamics of partnering; the power, domination and relenting, and of course, simply, taken away within it all. Dancers are splayed and beneath, on top and spun through dance. Seriously complex and beautiful ballet, my favourite of the evening.

Each dancer yielded their part with quiet emotion and never exposed anything less than neutral care, even if the gestural notion wasn’t. At times, this work of intense and continuous technique was flicked away causally with humour and via the props; structured black Victorian dresses that were imbodied with men and woman volleying between them. Those inflexible bindings of couture, age old reservation and a ‘what-ever’ gush at it all.


Sech’s Tänze (Six dances)
Choreographer: Jiří Kylián
Music: Mozart Sechs Deutsche Tänze, K571

With an even flow, Sech Tänze starts light-hearted where Petite Mort finished in emotion. Jiří Kylián’s choreography is full of humour and drama. This is a great fun romp. While there is no narrative there is plenty of character. There are low rumbles and corsets, black wigs and wild punk hair. Dancers lean and leap across the stage, conveying an assemblage of stereotypes from the mad, the prostitute, the john, the tell-tail, the swap, the tease, the competition, the dandy, and most wonderfully the drag queen. All is suggestive, all is hilarious. The sword is reintroduced implying many things, as are the Victorian corseted dress props leading to a flying apple and an off-with-his-head moment. Dance to entertain while exposing all manner of societal whims and mores, the work contained all the poise and dash of contemporary ballet with white costuming fitting to Mozart’s classical era.  Many a powered wig hustle on stage.Tt all shakes out til the end with a further excess: bubbles!… which, like us the audience, float up and away on the air.

An excellent evening!









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