The Piano: the ballet, I imagined myself as every character, in the situations in the story, and tried to react to those situations with movement. Once I was in the studio with the dancers, I could see if the movement fitted with their versions of the characters – if it didn’t we could change it. My aim is always for the story to be very clear, but for the movement to be free, without lots of gesture and mime.
Each character has their own movement vocabulary: Ada is elegant and neoclassical and quite ‘closed’, especially at the start of the ballet, and she wears pointe shoes some of the time. Stewart is very stiff and upright, then he explodes; Baines is gentle and fluid, and like the dancers portraying the local community, his movements are ‘grounded’ and more rooted in contemporary dance than classical ballet. The Reverend Campbell is a little fussy – not comical, but a bit lighter than the others. The quality of acting is vital for all the characters, and this was something that was very important when we came to cast the young dancers as Flora. While they needed to be musical and able to dance, I wanted them to be very honest performers, unafraid to be onstage and to show true reactions and emotions.
To me, Jane Campion’s film is a masterpiece. I want the audience watching the ballet to feel drawn back into the beginnings of New Zealand, as she portrayed them, but to experience the energy and emotions of the characters in the present. Dance is always in the moment, and that’s what makes it a truly living art.
A ballet in two acts based on the Novel by Jane Campion and Kate Pullinger
Created for the Royal New Zealand Ballet
St. James Theatre, Wellington, Friday 23 February 2018
Choreography, staging and music arrangement: Jiří Bubeníček
Set, video design, music arrangement
and music composition: Otto Bubeníček
Rehearsal Assistant: Arsen Mehrabyan
Costume design: Elsa Pavanel
Lighting design: Jeremy Fern and Jiří Bubeníček
RNZB Māori Advisor: Moss Patterson
Ada McGrath: Abigail Boyle
Flora: Hazel Couper
George Baines: Alex Ferreira
Alistair Stewart: Paul Mathews
Reverend Campbell: Shaun James Kelly
Nessie: Mayu Tanigaito
Aunt Morag: Kirby Selchow
Local Community: Massimo Margaria, Fabio Lo Giudice, Felipe Domingos, Luke Cooper, Caroline Wiley, Rhiannon Fairless
Sailors: Nathan Mennis, William Fitzgerald, Yuri Marques, Wan Bin Yuan
Party Couples: Nathan Mennis/Rhiannon Fairless, William Fitzgerald/Katherine Minor, Felipe Domingos/Marie Varlet
Children: Olivia McElhinney, Coco Giera, Gemma Lew, Lucy Klee, James Penfold