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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

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.

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

Production Information

A Passing Cloud
Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House
November 17, 2015
November 21, 2015
Gareth Farr, Dwayne Bloomfield, JS Bach
Javier de Frutos, Andrew Simmons, Neil Ieremia, Andonis Foniadakis
Tracy Grant Lord, Javier de Frutos, Neil Ieremia, Andonis Foniadakis
Jason Morphett
Julien Tarride
Andrew Lees (technical director)
Cast includes
Abigail Boyle, Clytie Campbell, Hayley Donnison, Madeleine Graham, Lucy Green, Linda Messina, Alayna Ng, Kirby Selchow, Mayu Tanigaito, Elisabeth Zorino, Jacob Chown, Damir Emric, William Fitzgerald, Kohei Iwamoto, Shaun James Kelly, Paul Mathews, Joseph Skelton, Shane Urton, Tynan Wood, Lori Gilchrist, Yang Liu, Leonora Voigtlander, Maclean Hopper, Massimo Margaria, Loughlan Prior
Royal New Zealand Ballet
Running time