Wedding bells

by Francesca Horsley / 30 December, 2006

Best ballet production: Trinity, the Royal New Zealand Ballet's triple bill revealed the company's versatility and talent for contemporary ballet in Christopher Hampson's Esquisses, with its elegant 21st-century classicism; Javier De Frutos's Banderillero, a teasing voyeuristic work that explored ritualistic spectacle and exoticism; and Michael Parmenter's Les Noces, a blend of formal, stark choreography, humour and chaos expressed through a Russian peasant wedding.

Runner-up: A home-grown affair, RNZB's The Wedding was an irreverent romp aimed at popular appeal with its cleverly stylised set, costumes and choreo-graphy. Xtreme OTT, nothing was spared - in fact, a wedding never to forget. Witty, light, entertaining.

Best contemporary dance production: Requiem by MAU, artistic director Lemi Ponifasio; lighting Helen Todd. A deep, slow, spiritual journey; a pageant of grief, leave-taking, renewal and community filtered through movement, ceremony, waiata, brilliant lighting, technology and soundscape. Unravelling our fractured strands of being, Requiem then reaffirmed them with elegant simplicity.

Runner-up: Acquisitions 06, Touch Compass Dance Company. In a programme of six works of cutting-edge choreography, this remarkable mixed-ability company delivered humorous, intelligent and dextrous dances.

Best contemporary choreographer: Douglas Wright. Once again, Wright showed us his mastery of dance, this time in Black Milk, with its dark moral and political landscape. From the fierce and mesmeric opening scene as a naked dancer cut through the space, to ensembles of finely detailed gesture, joyful duets and comic tangles of movement, his unerring yet frightening brilliance seared the senses.

Runner-up: Malia Johnston continued to experiment and develop her choreo-graphy in engaging works. Working Title (Left) in Footnote Dance Company's Feats of Fancy and The Big, The Bad, The Beautiful in Acquisitions 06 were skilful investigations into the body's relationship with space, weight and nuance.

Best new work by emerging contemporary choreographer: Memoirs of Active Service, by Maaka Pepene, Atamira Dance Collective. An evocative, well-researched work that seamlessly integrated dance and theatrical elements, capturing the intensity and poignancy of the World War II era.

Runner-up: ( )Scape, by Julia Milsom, explored multiple personalities that scrambled and tussled for identity. A clever mix of dance ideas and narrative.

Best female dancer - ballet: Chantelle Kerr showed wonderful artistry in the pas de deux in Esquisses, and was the epitome of the ditzy bride in The Wedding. Kerr has a talent for strong characterisation, and is equally gifted in abstract works.

Runner-up: The versatile Alana Baird mastered both modernistic choreography as the bride in Les Noces and classical artistry in the pas de quatre in Esquisses and Queen of the Wilis in Giselle.

Best female dancer - contemporary: Liana Yew was outstanding; her integrity and technique allowed her to perfectly execute the choreographer's intent, yet create a distinctive presence in demanding works The Collection, Night Blooms and Nok Nok Turn.

Runner-up: Kelly Nash interpreted roles with flair, authenticity and empathy. Her excellence as a dancer was revealed in Black Milk, Nok Nok Turn and Memoirs of Active Service.

Best male dancer - ballet: Qi Huan has the qualities of the classic premier danseur - superb technique, vigour and elegance. In the roles of Brad, the groom-to-be in The Wedding, and Albrecht in Giselle, he showed versatility and refined artistry.

Runner-up: Michael Braun has a fluid vibrant quality and strong stage presence, portrayed as the true love in The Wedding and the Groom in Les Noces.

Best male dancer - contemporary: Paul Young, a passionately expressive dancer, consistently performed to a high standard. In ( )Scape, Acquisitions 06 and Rites of Passage, among others, his generosity and commitment brought depth and character to the works.

Runner-up: Alex Leonhartsberger has an immaculate technique, charisma and a sinuous, natural style, highlighted in his roles in Black Milk and The Nature of Wishing.

Best international dance: Yumiko Yoskioka, Japanese Butoh solo dance artist in Before the Dawn, alternated human, animal and bird movement/expression in an animistic journey that gave presence to living shapes, old souls and new voices.

Runner-up: Expat Carol Brown was spellbinding in Aarero Stone where she examined themes of lamentation and myth. In an austere pageant of dance poetry, Brown told stories of women: tragic, bold and clandestine.

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