Seen: Salute

Royal New Zealand Ballet

New Zealand Army Band

Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna

Saturday 13th June


Salute is a four-part mixed bill created as a unique commemoration of the First World War. The performance features two New Zealand and two international choreographers, and is predominantly contemporary ballet. The RNZB are superbly supported by the New Zealand Army Band.


Dear Horizon

Choreographer: Andrew Simmons

Music: Gareth Farr

Solo Cello: Rolf Gjelsten

Design: Tracy Grant Lord

Lighting: Jason Morphett


The evening opens with the world premiere of Kiwi choreographer Andrew Simmons’ Dear Horizon. The work is appropriately dark and beautifully designed, with the suggestion of crosses, poppies and handwritten letters barely illuminated above the stage. Simmons has chosen a non-narrative approach to the sobering subject of war, focussing instead on the human aspects of loss, fear and hopelessness. Choreographically, there are some strong motifs in this work. At times, I felt challenged by the music, however, the solo cello was haunting and beautiful. Loughlan Prior stood out in this piece for me, effortlessly delivering elegant technique, extension and strength.


Soldier’s Mass

Choreographer: Jiří Kylián

Music: Bohuslav Martinů: Polni Mse (1939)

Design: Jiří Kylián

Lighting: Kees Tjebbes


Twenty-five years to the day since its world premiere, Kylián’s Soldier’s Mass is as relevant and poignant as it has ever been. A work for twelve men, Soldier’s Mass is a response to Martinů’s criticism of the sacrifice of Czechoslovakia to the German Reich at the 1938 Munich conference. Kylián’s choreography is masterful; the dancers are moved across the breadth of the space with speed and skill. Laura Jones, replacing a male dancer, is convincing and strong. She minimises her feminine energy onstage, and performs with courage and attack.


RNZB dancers in Dear Horizon credit Evan Boli

[Dear Horizon]



Choreographer: Johan Kobborg

Music: Hans Christian Lumbye

Design: Natalia Stewart

Lighting: Jason Morphett


Salute was created for the University of North Carolina School of the Arts in 2010. It is the only classical ballet of the evening, and is light-hearted and energetic. Following the solemnity of Dear Horizon and Soldier’s Mass, Salute is initially a strange contrast of programming. The decision makes sense though, once Harry Skinner introduces his detailed and subtle comic timing and the audience relaxes, realising the ballet is humorous. The ballet comprises a series of short sections, exploring the relationships between young soldiers and their girlfriends. There is plenty of space for the dancers to showcase their personalities and virtuosic ability here: Adriana Harper, Bronte Kelly and Katherine Grange are delightfully entertaining, Harry Skinner pirouettes effortlessly on command, and Alayna Ng is infectiously joyful, delivering an energetic and engaging performance.



Choreographer: Neil Ieremia

Music: Dwayne Bloomfield

Design: Neil Ieremia

Lighting: Jason Morphett


“As an artist my focus has been on exploring a perspective that honours and respects the sacrifice made by so many at Passchendael, whilst registering the courage of those who were left behind to reassemble the broken pieces of a young nation”.


Ieremia’s Passchendaele is captivating and breathtaking from beginning to end. Abigail Boyle’s opening solo is performed with brilliant power and control, and the speed of the choreography is arresting in its vitality. The programme synopsis was very helpful in understanding the motivation for the work and the aural detail in the music; a must-read before the ballet begins. Signatures of Ieremia’s work are clearly evident, but turned up a notch on the dancers of the RNZB – faster, more intricate and technically secure. Jacob Chown excelled in Passchendaele; his strength, masculinity and attack made this my favourite of his contemporary performances. Like the other works in the programme, I was relieved that Ieremia’s was no glorification of war. Each piece has humanity at its core, and is sophisticated and respectful. Similarly, there was no sense of the sadness of the subject-matter being exploited. The women’s gradual release of their embrace of the men in Passchendaele was absolutely understated, and beautifully emotional.


Gold Stars: 4.5 / 5


Salute opens this Wednesday the 17th in Auckland


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