Tutus On Tour

By Kelly Carmichael

Date / Venue:  Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland - Wednesday October 30th

It's a tricky thing, a programme of extracts from well-known ballets such as Tutus on Tour presents. Sometimes it is like catching one segment of a television programme - you're not really sure who the characters are nor do you have enough of a chance to really begin to care. And at a time when dance faces tough competition for audiences - the magnificent Imperial Russian Ballet Company is touring and many a pre-Christmas treat dollar has been sucked into this year's Taylor Swift-Beyonce-Rihana-One Direction whirlwind - Tutus on Tour might have been left playing catch up.

Tutus on Tour, which completes the celebration of the Royal New Zealand Ballet's 60th anniversary year, is well worth seeing. Presenting a selection of highlights and hits from the company's repertory along with a teaser from a new production of Peter and the Wolf, Tutus on Tour is something of a mix tape from the Royal New Zealand Ballet to its fans and admirers. Reaching an impressive 47 venues around heartland NZ fromKaitaia to Stewart Island, the tour splits the company in two and focuses on connecting with audiences in smaller centres.

Delivering a programme of both classic and contemporary pieces in a range of venues - sometimes on simultaneous nights - means some of the elegance and excitement associated with ballet performance such as beautiful sets are not possible. Tutus on Tour was stripped back to an empty stage for all but one of the performances, letting costume and the skill of the dancers carry the story. One of the best fits for this approach is contemporary dance and the innovative 2001 collaboration between the Royal New Zealand Ballet and the iconic music of Split Enz fits the bill perfectly. The second in a medley of duets that evening, the Charlie pas de deux from Ihi FrENZy was beautifullydanced by Abigail Boyle and Dimitri Kleioris, who offered an elegant performance coolly charged with sensuality and sulkiness. This was followed by Little Improvisations, which felt a little vanilla, but hot on its heel came another stunning work.

Through to You is set to what must be one the most sublime pieces of pure, spiritually inflected music ever,Avo Part's celebrated Spiegel im Spiegel. The composition has a stillness and nuanced grace about it, an ability to set a mood of absolute focus and reflection, which somehow choreographer Andrew Simmons has magically transferred into movement. The talented Maree White and Loughlan Prior led the audience through every nuanced sensation in what felt like an antidote to the chaos and crowdedness of contemporary life. Helio Lima was something of a standout in the eternally popular Wedding Pas de Deux from Don Quixote that followed. This piece from a ballet in the grandest Russian style is a tough order. Beginning with a slow, controlled adagio and continuing with alternating solos that saw Lima accomplish dizzying leaps and barrel turns was a real treat.

The second half saw a new RNZB production of Peter and the Wolf. Set in an inner city apartment and accompanied with a narration by Te Radar, the production firmly set its own course. Accompanied byBronte Kelly's playful and sassy duck (something of a scene stealer until dismissed in the traditional manner by the wolf) the production offered a fresh and tongue in cheek interpretation by choreographers Catherine Eddy and Brendan Bradshaw. With a minimal but inventive use of staging the cast gave a clever, funny performance of the classic and much loved children's tale, leaving audiences on a light note but in no doubt as to the range of the Royal New Zealand Ballet's talent.