Saturday, 23 July 2011

From Here To There

From Here to There, Royal New Zealand Ballet, Barbican Theatre – reviewed on 16th July

Seven years since their last visit to the UK, the Royal New Zealand Ballet made a triumphant return with their latest triple bill at the Barbican.

Jorma Elo’s Plan to A opened the programme with the company showing technical competence but the choreography lacking cohesion and vitality. The second piece by former company member Andrew Simmons, A Song in the Dark, was simply choreographed with dancers appearing to try out shapes and movements as if in a ballet studio. The six couples rippled and glided, testing the body’s point of balance and suspension. If Simmons’ intention was to create an elegant and uncomplicated ballet with clean lines and beautiful music (by Philip Glass), his vision was well-executed. But it was Jordan Tuinman’s lighting design that elevated the piece into something more satisfying. Through the primarily dark stage and select spotlights, dancer shadows and silhouettes enlivened the plain backdrop and added an appealing depth to the choreography.

The final work, Banderillero (taking its name from the bullfighter that torments the bull) by Javier De Frutos, was the evening’s high point. Combining tribal movement with classical ballet, ten dancers swirled and twisted across the stage. Swathed in flesh-coloured fabric and with bare feet, the performers made balletic poses interesting with sharpened edges and threw their bodies with weight and power. Accentuated by dancers’ breathing and occasional vocal intrusions, the varied sounds of Chinese percussion by Yim Hok-Man complemented the dancing agreeably. The pace repeatedly built up and slowed down, with charming and surprising moments including spectacular lifts and even a passionate lesbian kiss. It was too long to sustain momentum throughout and needs major editing, but showed huge choreographic promise from De Frutos. More importantly, it enabled company dancers to display their superb capabilities and zeal to British audiences after such a long wait.

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