Tutus on Tour: Making the hard look easy

Last updated 09:49 22/10/2013
Fairfax NZ

The Royal New Zealand Ballet is taking their 60th season of Tutus on Tour to a town near you.

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Being just metres from Royal New Zealand Ballet dancers while they train shows how making things look easy is exceptionally hard work.

Ballet dancers, the consistently underrated athletes of the art world, make the hardest of physical tasks beautiful.

They jump hard and fall softly, serenely smile while profusely sweating, and relentlessly spin atop hostile pointe shoes on their toes, all while acting out a story.

But it is just their 9-5.

They start at 9.30am at their Wellington-based headquarters, have a regular ballet lesson, start rehearsing, and take a one-hour break for lunch.

Their bosses, in the form of a ballet master and/or mistress, sit in a panel in front of them.

Sometimes, and just before a major show, artistic director Ethan Stiefel will sit on the panel.

Stiefel, known best to lay people as the main character in ballet flick Center Stage (Cooper Nielson), and to ballet-philes as a former principal dancer who danced for several major international companies.

In between each act, with the dancers' chests heaving and drenched in sweat, he examines their performance from their technique to the expression on their faces.

Currently, it is all in preparation for Tutus on Tour, where the company divides in half and, for six weeks, goes on the road and performs in almost 50 towns and cities across New Zealand.

The dancers perform in community theatres, town halls and school gyms. It's all about reaching as many audiences as possible.

The extensive tour, celebrating its 60th birthday this year, presents a platter of ballets, from the breathtakingly technical Don Quixote to the intimate Little Improvisations, with dancers Harry Skinner and Yang Liu dancing as children playing in an attic.

A new version of Peter and the Wolf will also be premiered, choreographed by RNZB dancers Brendan Bradshaw and Catherine Eddy.

Combining a balanced diet of blasts from the past and some new material, Stiefel says that if any ballet program define the phrase "something for everyone", this is it.

- Tutus on Tour opens in Wellington tomorrow. Click here for other dates and venues.

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