Thursday, July 8, 2010

Royal New Zealand Ballet – Carmen

Right from the beginning with the opening curtain the audience was filled with suspense with what was to come. There was a tangible excitement as the Auckland Philharmonic began Bizet’s opening score.

It was obvious right from the start, as the dancers appeared in denim, that this was no ordinary ballet. In fact there wasn’t a pair of pointe shoes or tights to be seen. It was all bare legs, bare feet, cut off jeans and the odd sneaker.

The way the choreographer fused contemporary dance vocabulary with ballet, jazz and musical theatre makes Carmen really accessible for anyone to enjoy. This is the kind of ballet that you could take a real bloke to. But some of the not so subtle moments in the bedroom scene might not be so suitable for the kids.

There were a number of duets where the graceful, sexy, sultry, ever flirtatious and confident Carmen left us in no doubt as to her power and passion. We were surprised at times how the store telling captured our attention to the point where we barely noticed any of the slick scene changes.

With the costumes being based on every day clothing, the dancers are relied upon to convey the story through their body movements – which they all did incredibly well. One of the key elements to successful story telling in ballet is the clever use of gesture. A standout example of this is the interchange between Carmen & Jose as she convinces him to set her free.

The story of Carmen changes according to the climate in which it is created. The Royal New Zealand Ballet version includes the use of technology, film and modernisation of the musical score by John Longstaff.

The story was so vividly presented that at one point I felt I could have been watching a silent movie. The music and dance complemented each other perfectly. Given that Carmen has such a well-known score it is a tall order to create such an entrancing mix of music and dance – but they succeeded without a doubt. The strength and agility of the dancers contributed greatly to the often humorous concoction.

The real strength in this performance is the way the relationships have been created. Not only between the dancers but between the dancers and the audience. I felt real emotion and connection to what was happening. The characters were believable and someone we could all relate to.

Normally I come away from a dance performance with a number of critiques but it was difficult to find fault with this vibrant and slick performance. The dancers, lighting, costumes and set were all in synch.

If you’ve never been to the ballet before - this is a great place to start!

Reviewed by Allie Carter & Natalie Dowd

Click here for ticket details