Speed Of Light: Three Brilliant Dance Works

You don’t genuinely attend the ballet in the hopes of a few laughs but that's exactly what was delivered.
Joanna Gibbs
March 07, 2016

Overview

Selon Désir was both overwhelming and captivating and reminded me distinctively of a kaleidoscope I had as a kid. A single dancer dangles and dances on her feet under suspended speakers. With rigid and fluid movements her body acts as a suspension to her hair, which is whipped and slashed in all directions.

A beautiful chaos of dancers soon join the stage in a perpetual canon of dance creating the illusion of hundreds where there were only a few handfuls. Dancers simply walk across the stage and step into a chorus of dance with speed, determination and audacity.

The intended depiction of heaven and earth is painted well, as the powerful and intense music of 'St Matthew' and 'St John Passions' by Bach carries the dancers meandering across the stage, or perhaps the dancers are carrying the music, I still can't quite decide which is more accurate.

In a few sentences Selon Désir is beautifully depicted and controlled chaos. It's what one might imagine the archives of religion to look like in the history books or in the galleries.

In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated - the name of the second dance makes reference to the two golden cherries suspended above the dancers. One could be forgiven for not noticing these however, as the jolt of electronic sound signalling the beginning of the performance, was abrupt enough to startle even those already on the edge of their seats.

Attention to technique trumped any story line the audience may have been hoping to see. The dance is purely physical and unyielding, an evolutionary testament to ballet. The set is strictly minimal, sombre black with sharp lighting, all attention is forced and fixed on the movements of the dancers, to which it is readily given.

Sassy with an air of ‘we don’t care' dancers dressed in metallic dark green leotards perform strict pointés and brisk movements. Dancers seemed to be showing off, demanding that the audience see ballet in a new light. Almost as if to say ‘and you thought you knew what ballet was’. There is an underlining violence emphasised by stretched limbs and sharp turns. In The Middle, Somewhat Elevated is a highly energized piece and dancers jolt and crash onto the stage with terrifying accuracy.

Saving the best for last, the third performance and the quirkiest of the three by far was Cacti created by Alexander Ekman. You don’t genuinely attend the ballet in the hopes of a few laughs, but that is exactly what Cacti delivered, even if a few of those laughs were a tad uncertain.

This dance/spoken word/musical performance was exceptionally odd but not lacking in humor, whit and infectious glee. A parody directed at critics and reviewers everywhere. Sixteen dancers holding a striking resemblance to a chimney sweep, sailor and clown, all dance, mime and show cheek.  Situated on white evenly placed and gleaming platforms, the dancers are accompanied by the New Zealand string quartet and an orchestral sound track.

The nonsensical and at times ironic commentary teases the audience about the meaning of the performance but still nothing is explained by either the voice or the dancers as they lead up to the grand revealing of sixteen potted...cacti?

The strong reputation of the Royal New Zealand Ballet exists for a reason. Contemporary Ballet is always an entertaining watch and Speed of Light is no exception. As a little girl however, when I dreamed of growing up to be a ballerina I did not, surprisingly enough, envision it including any type of cactaceae.

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