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A Passing Cloud review at the Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House – ‘speed, stamina and precision’

Members of the Royal New Zealand Ballet performing The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud. Photo: Evan Li Members of the Royal New Zealand Ballet performing The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud. Photo: Evan Li
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Speed, stamina and precision characterise this vibrant touring company, the Royal New Zealand Ballet, which was founded in 1953 to take dance into the far-flung communities of New Zealand. The pioneering spirit of their early years is evident in their selections and their ability to switch from neo-classical to contemporary dance without missing a beat.

Javier de Frutos’ piece The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud provides the perfect calling card; six couples inhabit various kaleidoscopic patterns and move through a lightly ritualised work that suggests a high school disco, complete with fleeting moments of attraction and rejection. Rhythmically complex and fuelled by indigenous Pasifika songs, it is an exuberant and infectious celebration of youth. A pas de trois, in which a girl is tossed this way and that with reckless abandon, sudden embraces and momentary collapses, is just one example of its unflagging invention. The longest piece of the evening, it seems the shortest.

Andrew Simmons’ Dear Horizon and Neil Ieremia’s Passchendaele offer two different views of conflict. The former, conducted beneath an enormous structure that looks like a frozen tornado in the shadowy glow of burning light, is a succession of relays employing neo-classical steps and melodramatic music that improves as it goes on. The latter is a short but affecting memorial piece that resurrects the dead of the First World War and reunites them with wives and girlfriends for one last dance.

Selon Desir is a restless, pointless, whirling dervish work that hints at Merce Cunningham, but has neither discipline nor context. Both men and women wear skirts to de-specify gender, which is subsequently defined by the length of their hair. It all descends into writhing, orgiastic chaos. I was waiting for Moses to smash the tablets.

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Four works of varying quality showcase the versatility and energy of the young dancers of Royal New Zealand Ballet