The Butterfly Effect

by Francesca Horsley / 25 December, 2004
The best dance of 2004.

Best Ballet Production: Madame Butterfly. The Royal New Zealand Ballet's production of Madame Butterfly accentuated the company's strengths of youth and dramatic expression. It was an elegantly simple work of desire and passion set amid a culturally charged background. The work delivered strong and sensitive characterisation, an effective dramatic structure and lyrical dancing by the soloists.

Second: Abhisheka, by expat Adrian Burnett. A sumptuous, exotic work, Abhisheka combined a clever, silky set, John Psathas's wonderful music and a con-fident blend of classical and contemporary movement.

Best Contemporary Dance Production: Ngai Tahu 32, by Atamira Dance Collective. This work was a beautifully constructed multi-media production that interwove historic events, ritual and spirituality. Choreo-grapher Louise Potiki Bryant has a talent for sustained theatrical tension, emotional storyline and poetic insight, and - as with any good storyteller - her own family's journey became a universal tale of endurance and renewal.

Second: Terrain, by Guy Ryan and Malia Johnston. Set in a confined theatrical space, Terrain was an intimate, intense exploration of place, distance and scale. It took iconic mid-20th-century modernism and deconstructed it for a 21st-century audience, shifting the boundaries between performer and viewer, permanence and travel, engagement and distraction.

Best Contemporary Choreographer: Malia Johnston's artistic depth and versatility were revealed in two strong works. Her ensemble piece, Miniatures, was rich with imagery and invention. Terrain, her collaborative piece with Guy Ryan, was taut and intellectual. Johnston has the ability to translate her concepts into cohesive and highly crafted movement.

Second: Raewyn Hill's work, Angels with Dirty Feet, built on her signature strengths of emotionally charged and daring movement to create a work of strong social realism.

Best New Work by Emerging Contemporary Choreographer: Magic Box by Alexa Wilson. A multi-media extravaganza that confronted a dizzying array of themes and issues. Wilson overlays video, dialogue and movement to fracture our constructed realities. Her unnerving clarity and audacious style reveal an intellect and imagination capable of a major work.

Best Female Dancer - Ballet: Pieter Symonds has featured in a range of works projecting depth of character and brilliant dancing. Her role in Abhisheka created a powerful and alluring figure, with contrasting characterisation. Sadly, she is now with London's Ballet Rambert.

Second: Yu Takayama, a recent addition to the RNZB, was captivating as Swanhilda in Coppelia. She proved her talent by stepping into the lead role in Madame Butterfly at short notice, winning audiences with her endearing acting and skilled dancing.

Best Female Dancer - Contemporary: Malia Johnston's dancing in Miniatures and Terrain encompassed soft, fluid movement, lyrical partnering, sustained and demanding balances. She made it all look effortless.

Second: Sarah Sproull, dancing in Miniatures and Angels with Dirty Feet, showed her versatility, skill and dramatic flair.

Best Male Dancer - Ballet: Douglas McCubbin was a highly convincing Pinkerton in Madame Butterfly. He combined dynamic solos, passionate and confident partnering and strong characterisation.

Second: Sir Jon Trimmer always has an adept touch, but his Dr Coppelius in Coppelia was a cornerstone of the production. In the theatrical production Meeting Karpovsky, his sensitive characterisation starring alongside Helen Moulder was pure delight.

Best Male Dancer - Contemporary. First Equal: Taane Mete and Michael Parmenter in Parmenter's Tristan and Isolde were a brilliant partnership, producing stunning dancing. They combined strength and vulnerability, with Mete's subtle and elegant physicality complementing Parmenter's rugged, tormented introspection.

Second: Craig Bary dancing in Angels with Dirty Feet was emotionally committed and eloquently realised.

Best International Dance: Foi, by Les Ballets C de la B from Belgium, was a highlight of the New Zealand Festival of the Arts. It embraced - and deconstructed - multiple themes, contemporary and timeless, wrenching the minds and emotions of the audience. A remarkable, chilling, affirming work.

Second: Underland, choreographed by New York's Stephen Petronio for the Sydney Dance Company, featured wonderfully crafted and danced episodic movement, Nick Cave's dark, compelling songs and giant triptych video images.

Best Musical Score: Paddy Free's empathetic score and creative partnership in the multi-media production of Ngai Tahu 32 were beautifully attuned to the nuance and flow of the movement, and central to the impact of the work.

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