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Review: RNZB - Three By Ekman

The Isaac Theatre Royal was crackling with effervescent energy throughout the en pointe celebration of The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s triumphant trifecta of prominent and prodigious young Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman’s works, Three By Ekman. This thrilling triple-bill presentation of his pieces Tuplet, Episode 31 and Cacti are a world first, giving the rapturous audience a chance to come properly to grips with his athletic, witty and irreverent style, which tosses aside much of the look and gravitas of traditional classical ballet. At the top of the bill, Tuplet casually segues us into the show as dancers appear one by one on stage before the house lights go down, before kicking off proper with a silhouetted solo that leads into the six performers using immaculate timing and their own bodies as percussion instruments with explosive energy and rhythmic urgency. The longer and larger group work Episode 31 begins with an amusing short film created by Ekman himself before the monochromatically-clad dancers appear with a gender-norms challenging twist – ladies sporting moustaches and gentlemen wearing skirts. Short scenes throw up solos, duos and ensemble work as the curtain raising and lowering and poetry voiceovers add to the intrigue. Finally, the satirical and inventive Cacti, beautifully accompanied by the New Zealand String Quartet, (as well as the titular, magnificently preened cacti themselves) seems to send up contemporary dance itself before the highlight of a gracious duet by Veronika Maritati and Shi-Huai Liang, set to a conversation about a relationship break-up. Sophisticated staging and minimalist colour scenes make the work visually arresting. At the end of the night we’re left exhilarated, philosophical, and energized, with Ekman’s own amply demonstrated frenetic energy more than a little contagious.
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