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Ballet Essentials: Royal New Zealand Ballet’s A Passing Cloud

Our quick introduction to this mixed programme of contemporary dance from New Zealand’s national ballet company.

By Rachel Beaumont (Product Manager)

9 November 2015 at 4.06pm | Comment on this article

New Zealand on the World Stage
The Royal New Zealand Ballet is unique among the world’s ballet companies. Founded in 1953 with the express aim of being a domestic touring company to serve its geographically isolated homeland, the RNZB has forged a distinctive identity and artistic voice, and is now an intrinsic part of New Zealand’s national heritage. A Passing Cloud can be seen as a distillation of contemporary New Zealand culture. There are fascinating juxtapositions and questions – about Pasifika culture viewed from outside and within, about the power of dance as a commemoration and about a small company with a unique voice, representing its country on the world stage.

A Birthday Present
Venezuelan choreographer Javier De Frutos created The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud for RNZB in 2013, in celebration of the company’s 60th birthday. It is De Frutos’s fourth work for the company and marked a decade of collaboration together, after the award-winning Milagros (2003), The Celebrated Soubrette (2004) and Banderillero (2006). De Frutos took his inspiration from Pacific cultures: ‘colours, perfumes, patterns and music have all played their part in my inspiration and creation.’ He writes that he wanted this celebratory piece ‘to be extravagant, unapologetic and joyful, and I wanted the dancers to enjoy it too’.

Remember and Reflect
Dear Horizon is New Zealand choreographer Andrew Simmons’s fifth work for RNZB, and was created for the company’s ‘Salute’ programme, which commemorated the centenary of the Gallipoli Landings. Fellow Kiwi Gareth Farr provided the specially commissioned score, a work for solo cello and the New Zealand Army Band. Simmons explains his approach: ‘Conflict is not joyful and nor is it deserving of celebration. I wanted to focus on the human aspects and emotions of war: loss, fear, hopelessness. These are not specific to only one war and neither is this work – I hope that in whatever small way possible it may serve as a reminder and reflection upon all that war takes away.’

Saluting the Fallen
New Zealand choreographer Neil Ieremia also created his work for ‘Salute’. Passchendaele focusses on the battle that saw, on 12 October 1917, the day on which more New Zealanders were killed or wounded in action than any single day before or since. Ieremia says that ‘as an artist my focus has been on exploring a perspective that honours and respects the sacrifice made by so many at Passchendaele, whilst registering the courage of those who were left behind to reassemble the broken pieces of a young nation... The grotesque and brutal nature of war robs humans of humanity – my intention is to do what little I can to remind us of our own’.

According to Desire
Selon Désir (‘According to desire’) was Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis’s first major work, created in 2004 for the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève. Foniadakis credits this work with launching his international career; several other works for Geneva have followed, in addition to commissions from the Martha Graham Dance Company, Ballets Jazz de Montréal and Sydney Dance Company. It features Foniadakis’s now characteristic use of complex, highly energetic ensemble work, in which shifting repeating patterns form a visual counterpoint to the polyphony in Foniadakis’s musical choice of Bach’s opening choruses from the St John and St Matthew Passions.

A Passing Cloud’ runs 17–21 November 2015. Tickets are still available.

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