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Arts: NZ Ballet's Saltarello is Journey Essential

Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Saltarello A Journey Essential

Review By Selwyn Manning – Scoop Co-Editor

Auckland show-goers would be wise not to miss the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Saltarello performance on stage at the Aotea Centre for its last show in this city on Saturday night.


Christopher Hampson's Saltarello. Photo: Bill Cooper.

The Meridian Energy Season of Saltarello -- The programme takes one on a journey via contemporary dance beginning around 1350 Florence through a meditative exploration of contemporary dance interpretations. Look for simple, bold staging and stylised costuming. There may not be a story to follow but there will be ideas. Check out the footwear - it is literally a case of if the shoe fits. The dancers wear pointe shoes in Saltarello, a dead giveaway of classical influence; while The Celebrated Soubrette has dancers in high-heeled shoes so they can combine ballet movements and showgirl dancing. The transformation is magic.

Saturday’s Auckland performance will feature: Jane Turner, Alex Wagner leading with Saltarello, Pieter Symonds, Yorkie Chadwick leading with Abhisheka, and Pieter Symonds in the limelight with The Celebrated Soubrette.

Wednesday night’s opening performance in Auckland was superb.

Saltarello is a passionate dance style firing a pulse of life brought alive on-stage by New Zealand Ballet elegance. Age old sounds are reborn, the choreography perfectly interpreted by the dancers who present in grace, a mind’s-eye-view of Old-Italy mystique. The Costumes in silver and black are slink Romanesque – the performance: alive, moody, kinetic, brilliant classical technique.

Choreographed by Christopher Hampson - design by Gary Harris - Music: On The Way to Bethlehem.

Next stop on the journey ventures into Sanskrit with Abisheka.

Abisheka literally an initiation into a new work by Otautau-born Adrian Burnett set to John Psathas' meditative and moving score. Abisheka means anointment or to sprinkle or pour. This is displayed in a mesmerizing flow of form and time the dancer being the carriage back to a time where submitting to stillness and peace is the inner challenge.

The dancers flow as does sand twisting in ghostly form down through a symbolic hour-glass from stage ceiling to here and now. This work is abstract in essence, delicate, intimate with an edge of danger that threads but remains elusive. The dancers sway in ceremonial effect against gold walls in costumes of ghee, coconut-milk and black. Abisheka is a powerful venture within a world resting parallel to our own.

Choreography: Adrian Burnett – Design: Tracy Grant – Music: Abisheka, performed by the New Zealand String Quartet.

Soubrette provides the contrast in this tri-performance – there in the raw is Soubrette, the brashness of Las Vegas culture unmasked. The RNZ Ballet dancers draw from that nail-polish veneer a core of back-stage insecurity where a lead dancer is made all to aware of talent surrounding her, seeking centre-stage and the limelight of which that coveted place draws.


Frutos' The Celebrated Soubrette. Photo: Bill Cooper

Soubrette is Javier De Frutos' tribute to Las Vegas nightlife. With soul-searching and sequins in equal measure, the work is informed by the gritty true-life stories of people working in the entertainment capital of the world.

Shudder at the rawness of pecking order politics – within here there’s humour explored and delivered – the dancers present the strut, the push, a swivel here, twist of a wrist there, a hip thrust, high kick, false eyelash honesty that makes Las Vegas the show-girl capital of the world.

Soubrette delivers the audience back into today’s world – but through reflection this show leaves one threaded to an inner world found only within an interpretative place discovered when the very best of dance is performed.


Frutos' The Celebrated Soubrette. Photo: Bill Cooper

Choreography: Javier De Frutos – Design: Jackie Galloway – Music: Le Tombeau de Liberace by Michael Daugherty.

Remaining Shows:
Auckland: -6 March - Dunedin: 9 March - Christchurch: 12-14 March - Wellington: 18-21 March

  • Bookings, see

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