Broken into three sittings over one night, the first act offers the classical ballet Concerto Barocco and two contemporary works. In Concerto Barocco the cast are impeccably presented, and on-point (pun intended) in their classic white costumes. Bach’s symphony is brought to life accompanied by the impressive strength of the chorus. The choreography reminded me of childhood games, with performers joining hands and weaving in and out of each other’s arch. The cast maintained an infectious energy of boundless joy throughout these games.
New Zealand School of Dance Graduation Season 2019. NZSD Students - Courtney Lim & Tessa Redman - 'Velociraptor'. Choreography by Scott Ewen. Photo by Stephen A'Court
Dressed in earthy tones, modern piece Velociraptor explores primal, ritualistic movement. Dim amber light creeps from the side, growing stronger throughout. The performers’ shadows grow more defined and emit a lit-campfire ambience. Bandages unwind from dancers’ wrists and become a playful web and barriers between partners. They become magically bound.
No Odd Human is a surprising and quirky conclusion to the first act. Excerpts of Sam Coren’s contemporary choreography play with genre and comedy. Like a dadaist’s collage, No Odd Human is a mad, scrapbook of a dance. Like changing stations on the radio, the dancers would krump violently, mime riding a horse and Irish jig in a matter of seconds. A cast member addresses the audience asking what is the purpose of it all? You may or may not find the answer in this wild and incredibly expressive experiment.
New Zealand School of Dance Graduation Season 2019. NZSD 3rd Yr Contemporary Students - 'Not Odd Human'. Choreography by Sam Coren. Photo by Stephen A'Court
After a quick interval, Rench Soriano begins the second act with a solo in Five Variations on a Theme. Though he be but little, he is fierce. In this very short segment Soriano shows off his incredible balance and agility. This is the solo performance of the night, and I’m sure others like myself would be interested in seeing a season of individual performances, to allow each student to command a of their own.
The evening returns to modern dance with an ambitious piece devised by Ross McCormack. Dark and dangerous, Re:Structure is a pole like you’ve never seen before. Seven dancers create stunning visuals with a five-meter metal pole. With acrobatic choreography, the cast climb on each other and the giant staff to make an intimidating totem pole. The dancers are electric and charge the audience with their spooky stares.
New Zealand School of Dance Graduation Season 2019. NZSD Contemporary Dance Students - 'Re.Structure'. Choreography by Ross McCormack. Photo by Stephen A'Court
Returning to ballet, Round of Angels paints a dreamy, ethereal scene. Teal costumes glisten in the blue spotlight like paua in a rockpool. It is a refreshing change to see the almost entirely male group of ballet dancers explore the femininity and grace of the genre. I wondered how gender roles could have been played with more in the 2019 Graduate Season.
The season closed with two high-energy ensembles. Cheerful couples in bright colour coded costumes skip and leap with joy in the ballet excerpt of Handel - A Celebration. A few first night fumbles do not distract from the dancer’s skill and athleticism but let me know that these stars are human after all.
New Zealand School of Dance Graduation Season 2019. NZSD Classical Students - 'Handel-A Celebration’. Choreography by Helgi Tomasson. Photo by Stephen A'Court
New Zealand School of Dance Graduation Season 2019. NZSD Contemporary Students - 'Carnivale.4'. Choreography by Raewyn Hill & Dancers. Photo by Stephen A'Court
I left the show feeling as proud as the parents I spotted in the audience. The NZSD students have bright futures. Their performances tonight reflected the dancers' connection with their peers, the audience and their passion. See the future of dance at Te Whaea until November 30th.