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Choreographer Andi Schermoly during rehearsals. Photo/Jeremy Brick

Choreographer Andi Schermoly showcases the strength of ballerinas in new piece

Choreographer Andi Schermoly’s work for the Royal New Zealand Ballet places the beauty and power of women centre stage.

It’s a clever play on words, the title of guest choreographer Andi Schermoly’s work  “Stand to Reason”, commissioned by the Royal New Zealand Ballet to mark 125 years of women’s suffrage.

It stands to reason, of course, that women should have the right to vote – but it’s also a call to arms. “To stand is an action,” she says. “Nothing gets done unless we do something about it. The piece builds in energy, becoming really relentless at the end, and you see that’s how you make change – by being relentless.

“It’s also a reminder we have to be vigilant and remember that what people have fought for can be easily taken away.”

Now based in Los Angeles, Schermoly grew up in South Africa, where she was a member of the Olympic rhythmic gymnastics team. She had learnt some colonial history at school, so already knew a bit about the suffrage movement when she was approached by the ballet company to create a work for its Strength & Grace season in Wellington last year. But it was only when she began researching the issue more deeply that she stumbled across a pamphlet by Kate Sheppard called “10 Reasons Why Women Should Vote”.

Royal New Zealand Ballet dancers Madeleine Graham, Caroline Wiley and Mayu Tanigaito in “Stand to Reason”.  Photo/Stephen A'Court

The piece that pamphlet inspired is being re-staged for RNZB’s Bold Moves tour (16 August-15 September), alongside George Balanchine’s 1934 work “Serenade” and William Forsythe’s 1984 “Artifact II”, a “blast of bold colour”. Extracts from Sheppard’s pamphlet will be projected behind the dancers – stirring words that galvanised people into action, but also highlight the absurdity of having to spell out the rightness of the cause.

“Celebrating the suffragettes is beautiful and necessary,” says Schermoly, “but this is also a perspective on the fight for equality and how women are still struggling for so many rights across the world.”

This isn’t the first piece she’s choreographed purely for women, but Schermoly reckons audiences don’t get enough exposure to the real strength and power of female dancers. “A whole bunch of women on stage like this is so powerful – they don’t need a guy to lift them. They’re pretty bad-ass all by themselves.”

Related articles: Why Royal New Zealand Ballet's Choreographic Series is a defining moment | Raising the barre: The women in their 60s taking up ballet | The world's first ballet in Antarctica has a message for our time

This article was first published in the August 2019 issue of North & South.

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