The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s mixed bill Salute - Remembering WW1 which opens on 22 May will showcase the talents of New Zealand artists working at the top of their field.
NZ choreographers Neil Ieremia and Andrew Simmons have been commissioned by the RNZB to create brand new works for the Salute programme set to scores by NZ composers Dwayne Bloomfield and Gareth Farr, respectively.
"Not only will both pieces have their world premieres in Wellington, ahead of a national tour, but later this year we’ll be performing them in London, Leeds, Canterbury and Rome as part of the our tour to the UK and Italy. It’s very exciting to be taking new New Zealand work to the world stage," says Francesco Ventriglia, the RNZB’s Artistic Director.
For Salute the RNZB is also delighted to be collaborating with the New Zealand Army Band (NZAB) whose 30 professional musicians have an international reputation as one of the finest brass bands in the world and who are regular performers at the Edinburgh Tattoo. The band will be touring with the company to each venue on the seven-centre Salute tour.
Neil Ieremia, founder of the award winning contemporary dance company Black Grace, is creating his second commission for the RNZB. Born in Wellington and of Samoan heritage Neil Ieremia’s powerful dance works are acclaimed throughout the world. His Passchendaele for the RNZB is set to music composed by former NZAB member Dwayne Bloomfield who was born and raised in Timaru. Passchendaele will also feature works by of Auckland artist, Geoff Tune, which are inspired by the artist’s grandfather’s WW1 diaries and recent visits to Gallipoli and Passchendaele, as backdrops.
"The grotesque and brutal nature of war robs humans of humanity - my intention is to do what little I can to remind us of our own. From the haunting journey through the music, to the refined expression in the dancers’ bodies, encapsulating the very human impact of war - this creative process has already left an indelible mark on my spirit. I feel I have grasped a very, very small insight into something that should never be forgotten," says Neil Ieremia.
Highly acclaimed composer Gareth Farr’s specially commissioned score for the NZAB will also feature New Zealand String Quartet cellist, Rolf Gjelsten, who will be performing with the RNZB for Andrew Simmons’ work Dear Horizon.
This is Christchurch born, Dresden-based Andrew Simmons’ fifth choreographic commission for the company. A former RNZB dancer, his talent for choreography was nurtured by the RNZB during the five years he danced with the company. His most recent work for the RNZB, Of Days, was cited by Dance Magazine (USA) as Best New Choreography of 2014 following the company's season in New York.
"It is a very special honour to have been asked to create something for the company as part of this commemorative programme. War cannot really be celebrated and feted, however the human aspect and participation should always be remembered. I wanted to create a work that reflects upon emotions of those affected by conflict." says Andrew Simmons.
The set and costumes for his work have been designed by Aucklander Tracy Grant Lord, a leading designer for ballet, opera and theatre who works with major performance companies throughout Australasia. She has designed many productions for the RNZB including both the acclaimed Cinderella (2007) and Romeo and Juliet (2004).
Two additional works by international choreographers make up the programme - Johan Kobborg’s light hearted Salute and Jiří Kylián’s masterpiece Soldier’s Mass. Salute opens in Wellington on 22 May ahead of touring to Christchurch, Dunedin, Hamilton, Takapuna, Auckland, and will close in Napier on 25 June.
The Royal New Zealand Ballet gratefully acknowledges generous support from the many partners who have contributed to Salute: the Lottery Grants Board, New Zealand Defence Force, Qantas and the Goethe-Institut, together with the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Cultural Diplomacy International Programme, National Sponsor Vodafone and Pub Charity.
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