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Review: New Zealand School of Dance Graduation Season 2019

The New Zealand School of Dance Graduation Season 2019 is a two hour programme consisting of an eclectic mix of styles: the graceful and traditional to the gritty and dark – no moment or movement is wasted in this fast paced show that holds attention throughout.

Eight technically challenging works are performed with two intervals, giving the audience just enough time to catch its breath before the graduates launch into the next performance. The show consists of established ballet and contemporary dance routines, along with new commissioned works.

The show opens with the classic Concerto Barocco, which is beautifully expressed by the dancers. Riley-Jane Dickie, Callum Phipps, and Honor Christian-Slane have seemingly effortless timing and are technically sound, you can sense the trust and connection between them.

A show stopper of an opener.

Jerky bass music opens the next performance – Velociraptor – a contemporary dance that lures us into a world of quick, jerky, primal movements perfectly timed to a haunting piano. Limbs and shoulders move as if pulled by an invisible rope. The performers dance, wrestle, push and pull with perfect precision, like a Duchamp painting come to life.

Velociraptor is an unnerving work by Scott Ewen.

Not Odd Human (excerpts) is introduced by ‘Jeff’ who tells us the performers are there to explain humanity. This is another contemporary piece, a seeming mix of medieval villagers, Irish zombies, flappers in a strop…this romp is a modern St Virus’ dance, a witch hunt explained with profound human emotions.

Did it answer any questions? No. But it didn’t have to.

A beautiful ballet solo performed by Rench Soriano opens the second half of the programme, and entrances with perfect pirouettes and magical timing.

The Visually stunning Re:Structure by Ross McCormack is a new work commissioned for the season and is something completely different.

The ensemble works together to use and navigate a 5 metre pole with ingenious movement. The group move like electrons surrounding a nucleus, or blood vessels pumping blood to a heart – or maybe it is an electrical current?

The throbbing piece slowly builds, formations are created, then torn down as the dancers connect, then break apart, then reconnect again.

The third work in this section is Round of Angels, a 1980’s work which consists of a flock of male angels and a female soloist. The group achieves some amazing technical lifts, and the ensemble works perfectly together to create something quite emotionally expressive.

The final part of the programme has two strong works. The first is an ensemble piece featuring 13 pairs of ballet dancers performing to a range of music by Handel.

The technical side is utterly fantastic. There are some quite challenging lifts and quick changes in this fast marching dance, and it is executed perfectly. This piece gives some individual dancers a chance to show off their prowess, while the group as a whole gives a controlled and masterful performance.

Raewyn Hill, a graduate of New Zealand School of Dance wrote the final work, Carnivale 4. This dramatic piece has the ensemble moving together like an intense turbulent wave, which builds to a crescendo of beautifully planned chaos.

The dancers, wearing long red robes and moving like zen masters, chant like disturbed warriors. It’s as if humanity has reverted back to its most primal origins – are we watching anguish or joy?

The show is incredible. From musical choice to choreography to performance, it is a brilliant achievement in expression an emotion from established students to the up-and-comers.

As P.T Barnum said “Always leave them wanting more.”