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Royal New Zealand Ballet: A Passing Cloud – The Marlowe Theatre, Canterbury

Choreography: Javier de Frutos, Andrew Simmons, Neil Ieremia, Andonis Foniadakis

Reviewer: Tim Frost

A powerful and varied mixed programme, with a pleasing symmetry to its four parts, A Passing Cloud is a journey into the sounds, shapes and life of New Zealand, through dark periods of world conflict, into a representation of heaven and earth.

Starting in a big circle, with trees and flowers imprinted into the costumes, The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud morphs into a series of ritual dances using a variety of traditional sounds. At times it’s like a giant radio being tuned with white noise linking the pieces of music together. Although a touch overlong, Overall it’s a great introduction to this Pacific region, although surprisingly not a work created by a New Zealander. Venezuelan superstar choreographer Javier de Frutos has developed a deep affinity with the country and its music during several commissions from the RNZB, and acknowledges that he has become ‘an obsessive collector of Pasifika music’. The best moments involving spoken extracts from the Book of Genesis in Te Reo Maori, while dancers form jerky letter-like shapes to accompany.

Intense strings and thundering timpani heralds the second work, Dear Horizon. Much darker in all ways, with music, lighting and costumes set in the half-light. Created to celebrate the centenary of the Gallipoli landing by New Zealand choreographer Andrew Simmons and composer Gareth Farr, it is, perhaps deliberately, harder to stomach than the rest of the programme, but does provide an excellent contrast to the other works.

Continuing the theme of conflict, Passchendaele commemorates 12 October 1917 when 845 New Zealanders were killed and over 3000 injured at the battle referred to in the title. The music, by Dwayne Bloomfield is played by the New Zealand Army Band and features some astounding moments, not least the start where a melee of music, light and dance set the scene for the terrible events of that fateful day. A mournful trumpet theme flows into a battery of loud percussion, signifying the ‘over the top’ moments. Towards the end, door knocks signify the moment that every family involved in the war effort would have dreaded. Costumes were neutral shades and Neil Ieremia’s choreography matches the intensity of the music.

After all these fascinating new works, of which many paragraphs were written in the printed brochure, the final piece, with only a few lines, seems like a bit of an afterthought. It proves to be an extraordinary tour-de-force: twenty minutes of incredible, life-affirming energy with looped sounds from Bach’s St Matthew and St John Passions. Originally created for the Ballet du Grand Théâtre de Genève in 2004 by Greek choreographer Andonis Foniadakis, it is without doubt one of the most amazing dance pieces one has seen.

It’s good to see Canterbury continue to establish itself as a centre for ballet outside of the capital, particularly with these modern works. The audience may not have been large but welcomed this fascinating programme with enthusiasm. It will be presented at the Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, next week and one would certainly consider heading up on the fast train for a second look!

Runs until 11th November 2015 | Image: Evan Li

Choreography: Javier de Frutos, Andrew Simmons, Neil Ieremia, Andonis Foniadakis Reviewer: Tim Frost A powerful and varied mixed programme, with a pleasing symmetry to its four parts, A Passing Cloud is a journey into the sounds, shapes and life of New Zealand, through dark periods of world conflict, into a representation of heaven and earth. Starting in a big circle, with trees and flowers imprinted into the costumes, The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud morphs into a series of ritual dances using a variety of traditional sounds. At times it’s like a giant radio being tuned with white noise linking…

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