In a continuation of their tireless commitment to producing ground-breaking work, Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Dancing With Mozart offers four works from outstanding choreographers set to the music of the beloved composer, in a case of epic music inspiring provocative dance.
With a programme that offers three New Zealand premieres and one world premiere, it’s a production that needs to be on the radar of any ballet and dance fan.
The exquisite showcase includes 20th Century dance legend and master choreographer George Balanchine’s 1956 work Divertimento No. 15. Balanchine considered Mozart’s work in B flat to be the finest divertimento ever written, and created a work that speaks to that inspiration and admiration in a celebration of his outstanding musicality. Permission to stage this historically-significant piece is granted to very few elite ballet companies worldwide, so it’s testament to the quality of the RNZB’s output that they will stage the work in New Zealand for the first time, assisted by celebrated Balanchine repetiteur Francia Russell, who has more than 60 years’ experience in performing and staging his works.
Renowned Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián, who is doing double-barrel duties in the programme, cites Balanchine as one of his own greatest influences. Works by this prolific modern master are in great demand all over the world, and Petite Mort and Sechs Tänze will both be seen for the first time in New Zealand as part of Dancing With Mozart. Created in 1991 to mark the second centenary of Mozart’s death and including both the composer’s Piano Concerto in A Major – Adagio and Piano Concerto in C Major – Andante, Petite Mort is one of Kylián’s most celebrated works, and includes mesmerising choreography based around fencing foils. The light-hearted Sechs Tänze (Six Dances) meanwhile is a witty and whimsical work that Kylián himself has referred to as “choreographic doodling”. Set to some of Mozart’s German dances, it shows off the Czech choreographer’s sense of humour and invention to full effect.
The chain of inspiration continues, with New Zealand-born, UK-based choreographer Corey Baker having been inspired by Jiří Kylián more than by any other artist, and having performed Petite Mort himself while dancing in Europe. In a first for the ballet world, Baker travelled to Antarctica in February with RNZB dancer Madeleine Graham, where together they created a dance film to highlight climate change. This piece – the only ballet ever created on the frozen continent – has become the basis for Baker’s new work The Last Dance, which feature’s Mozart’s unfinished Requiem, and receives its world premiere in Dancing With Mozart.
With both all-time ballet classics and a world premiere work on the programme, all linked through the genius of Mozart’s music – itself played to perfection by the CSO – and plenty of talent up on stage as well, this promises to be a very special performance.
Image credit: Ross Brown