Royal New Zealand Ballet’s 2014 season

Early next year, Ethan Stiefel, the artistic director of the Royal New Zealand Ballet, will take his company back to his homeland.

The United States tour will offer a snapshot of what Stiefel’s achieved during his two years as the artistic director in New Zealand.

Covering four cities from 31 January to 16 February, the US tour will begin with RNZB’s production of Giselle (Stiefel/Kobborg) in Los Angeles and then Santa Barbara.

In Minneapolis, the RNZB will dance a mixed bill of four works, Stiefel’s own Bier Halle, Benjamin Millepied’s 28 Variations on a Theme of Paganini (2005), Little Improvisations by Antony Tudor (1953) and Banderillero by Javier De Frutos (2006).

At the last of the four venues, the Joyce Theater in New York, the mixed program will include only three pieces, Millepied’s 28 Variations on a Theme of Paganini, De Frutos’ Banderillero and Andrew Simmons’ Of Days.

It’s interesting that Stiefel has not programmed his own work, Bier Halle, for the New York season.

At home in New Zealand the three pillars of the RNZB’s 2014 rep will be Coppelia, a mixed bill, titled Allegro: Five Short Ballets, and A Christmas Carol.

RNZB is staging the Australian Ballet’s production of Coppelia, designed by Kristian Fredrikson, and Northern Ballet Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol, choreographed by Massimo Moricone and designed by Lez Brotherston, with direction by Christopher Gable.

(The ballet premiered during Gable’s term as artistic director of the Northern Ballet Theatre).

Allegro: Five Short Ballets, comprises Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante (1956), a work that the choreographer said “contains everything I know about the classical ballet in 13 minutes”; Kobborg’s Les Lutins (The Goblins), choreographed in 2009 for a Royal Ballet season in the Linbury Studio; Daniel Belton’s Satellites, a new piece by the New Zealand choreographer and film maker; and two pieces by Larry Keigwin, Mattress Suite (2003) and Megalopolis, the latter first performed by Juilliard students in 2009.

When Les Lutins was performed in London its starry cast was Sergei Polunin, Steven McRae and Alina Cojocaru.

Mattress Suite was a hit for Keigwin and no wonder, with the entrancing music for the six individual pieces, all danced on or near a mattress.

The first two are danced to the voices of Cecilia Bartoli and Gyorgy Fischer, the third to Bartoli alone, the fourth to Stevie Wonder, the fifth to Verdi and the last, titled At Last, to the lovely standard, sung by Etta James.

Australasia and Christmas ballets are not the compulsory partnership they are in the United States but we seem to be moving that way with Queensland Ballet and the Australian Ballet both presenting Nutcrackers this year (QB plans to every year) and now the RNZB staging A Christmas Carol next year.

There’s always safety in a Christmas show of course. Full houses? You can bet on it.

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A Christmas Carol, Northern Ballet Theatre production, photo © Bill Cooper

A Christmas Carol, Northern Ballet Theatre production, photo © Bill Cooper

A Christmas Carol, Northern Ballet Theatre production, photo © Bill Cooper

A Christmas Carol, Northern Ballet Theatre production, photo © Bill Cooper

A Christmas Carol, Northern Ballet Theatre production, photo © Bill Cooper

A Christmas Carol, Northern Ballet Theatre production, photo © Bill Cooper

Andrew Veyette and Megan Fairchild, in Allegro Brillante, New York City Ballet, photo © Paul Kolnik

Andrew Veyette and Megan Fairchild, in Allegro Brillante, New York City Ballet, photo © Paul Kolnik

Steven McRae, Alina Cojocaru, Sergei Polunin, Johan Kobborg's Les Lutins, Royal Ballet, photo © Bill Cooper

Steven McRae, Alina Cojocaru, Sergei Polunin, Johan Kobborg’s Les Lutins, Royal Ballet, photo © Bill Cooper

Megalopolis, choreography Larry Keigwin, Juilliard School, 2011, photo © Rachel Neville

Megalopolis, choreography Larry Keigwin, Juilliard School, 2011, photo © Rachel Neville

Paul Matthews and Kohei Iwamoto in Bier Halle, choreography Ethan Stiefel, Royal New Zealand Ballet, photo © Evan Li

Paul Matthews and Kohei Iwamoto in Bier Halle, choreography Ethan Stiefel, Royal New Zealand Ballet, photo © Evan Li