An iconic dance work that is credited with changing ballet for ever, and another two internationally acclaimed contemporary works, make up the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s (RNZB) explosive start to 2016.
Speed of Light a mixed bill of three works by some of the world’s most important choreographers, will feature in both the NZ Festival* (26 – 28 Feb) and the Auckland Arts Festival (2 – 6 March) before heading south to Christchurch (10 – 12 March) and Dunedin (16 March).
This is the first programme that Francesco Ventriglia has put together for the national ballet company of 34 dancers since becoming Artistic Director at the end of 2014. ‘For audiences to be able to see these large-scale international dance works in one night – is a gift! It’s a great example of the type of work that I want to showcase in the future while still embracing the past of amazing classical repertoire. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to bring these pieces to New Zealand and to give our dancers the amazing experience of learning and performing them.’
Described by The Guardian newspaper as ‘the work that changed ballet for ever,’ choreographer William Forsythe’s revolutionary In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated was initially commissioned by Rudolf Nureyev for the Paris Opéra Ballet in 1987, for a virtuoso cast of young stars. It is the America-raised, Germany-based choreographer’s most famous work, and has been performed by every major ballet company in the world. This will be the first time that the RNZB has danced it and only the second time that it has ever been performed in New Zealand (the last time was in 1994 by Ballet Frankfurt).
It is a very special work for Francesco Ventriglia who as a young graduate from ballet school was selected by William Forysthe to dance one of the leading male roles in this iconic work at La Scala in Milan. The work is a technical tour de force for the dancers with extended and accelerated ballet positions. Almost 30 years after its creation, In the Middle is as modern as the day it was made.
Fresh from dancing Andonis Foniadakis’ Selon désir during the RNZB’s tour to UK and Italy at the end of last year, the company will premiere this seductive work for New Zealand audiences during Speed of Light. The RNZB’s London performances of Selon désir [according to desire] were described by the Evening Standard newspaper as: ‘Sixteen dancers ride a gale of movement, long loose hair tossed with whiplash motions… this almost biblical throng of bodies like a gang of feral angels.’ From Athens but based in Paris, Andonis Foniadakis is one of Europe’s most important choreographers whose works are performed by renowned ballet companies all over the world.
32 year old Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman’s Cacti, the most recent of the three works making up Speed of Light, has taken the dance world by storm since its premiere in The Hague in 2010. It is now performed by 18 leading companies around the world and will have its New Zealand premiere when the RNZB perform it on the opening night of the NZ Festival. The company will be joined on stage by the New Zealand String Quartet who will tour with the company. The interaction of music, movement and lighting combined with daredevil virtuosity and split second timing give the piece an irresistible energy. The Australian newspaper described it as: ‘delightful, witty, effervescent, playful, surreal and joyously physical’. For Francesco Ventriglia Cacti was the very first work that he dreamed of staging with the RNZB and the first phone call he made after his new appointment as Artistic Director.
*It is the first time in 12 years the RNZB will be part of the New Zealand Festival.