I always look forward to the RNZB's mid-year mixed-bill seasons - I love modern ballet, and the great thing about a mixed bill is that if you're not really captivated by one piece, another different piece will be along in a minute.
Case in point - Allegro Brillante. Is it OK to say I find Balanchine a bit of a snooze? (*hides from the Americans*) To be fair, the only other Balanchine piece I've seen is Who Cares? (hint: not me), and I saw that in the NYC bill when the entire audience was still REELING from the stunning previous piece, the utterly brilliant Final Dress.
Of course the dancers all looked gorgeous and danced absolutely beautifully, and Gillian Murphy showed us all why she is such a superstar with her wonderfully confident and assured stage presence. Unfortunately the Balanchine costumes were typically dated and unattractive, with voluminous pleat-front skirts and silly one-shoulder-strap details, and the backs of all the ladies' bodices were in a different colour (pinky-peach), which was bad enough with the green, but was just so wrong against the other, DIFFERENT shade of peach in the soloist costume (shudder). I really liked the clever formation work, but the piece didn't have a plot or emotional storyline, and the style can be quite stiff and jerky at times. But I LOVED the lighting - I was down the front on eye level with the stage, and the dancers were bathed in brilliant light and seemed to float magically above me.
Les Lutins lived up to the hype! So much fun - who doesn't love a good old-fashioned dance-off? Once again Rory Fairweather-Neylan absolutely OWNED his role (he was drop-dead awesome in Coppelia and the Bournonville pas de deux in the last two seasons, too). Lucy Green and Arata Miyagawa were just as fantastic, and the live music was wonderful. A super-entertaining crowd-pleaser!
Satellites was SO interesting! I think overall it was the one that intrigued me the most, and the one I am most keen on seeing again. The movement was lovely, very beautiful and fluid, and performed exquisitely. I'm not sure about the monotonous electronic music (although I think that was kind of the point), and I didn't like the very casual costumes which reminded me of gym gear and PJs . . . Apparently there was kinetic sculpture happening too, but I 100% missed that because I was watching the fabulous dancing (the same thing happened a while back with the projected text in Of Days - no time to read it, VERY busy watching dancing). I loved the style, the performances, and the groups and pairings such as Clytie dancing with Adriana, and ultra-petite Tonia dancing with much taller Loughlan.
Apparently "Mattress Suite contains mature themes". Although we were only warned of this ON THE NIGHT. Nothing graphic, just various configurations of lovers dancing around in their undies. ;)
Alayna Ng in Mattress Suite just blew me away with her compelling, dramatic performance. She's famous for her million-dollar smile, but this piece really showcased a huge range of emotion. I got completely swept up in her dancing, and although the audience giggled quite a few times I took it all Very Seriously. It was a deeply memorable piece which I can't stop thinking about. (Listening to the audience talking it over afterwards was hilarious, especially the reactions to the 3 men - but I am not going to repeat it here because SPOILERS.)
I'd heard that Megalopolis was the dancers' favourite piece to perform, and wow did it show! The energy, enthusiasm and excitement boiling off the stage was so infectious - I heard audience members saying afterwards that they felt inspired and just wanted to dance! The choreography was so modern it's a real stretch to call it ballet, but it was so great to watch. The lighting was really clever, the music was pumping, and the costumes were absolutely gorgeous. Everyone put so much into their dancing and it was fun fun FUN! Kohei Iwamoto really stood out with his amazing strength, precision, energy and commitment.
Thanks for a great night out, RNZB! Keep doing what you're doing - you are COOL.