Month: January 2014

LA arrival snaps!

What day is it? What time is it? Time to explore LA! I spent my first day here busy navigating and attempting to use a GPS in a hire car with Alayna, Harry, Antonia and Laura. Receiving visual confirmation of my LA imaginings, Alayna bravely and very competently drove through the palm tree lined streets- getting acquainted with driving on the other side of the road. Sunset Boulevard, Beverly Hills, Bel Air, Hollywood Hills, Santa Monica, Venice Beach and Rodeo Drive…despite getting lost a few times we had a fantastic day out! Celebrity alert! Name drop incoming. Dot-Marie Jones, known to me from the TV hit GLEE was within our reach as we enjoyed a late lunch.

Tomorrow brings an adventure to DISNEYLAND. It’s time to attempt to get a good nights sleep and recover from slight jet lag. Here are a few snaps from todays shenanigans. Cannot wait to perform here!

Tonia 🙂

Wellywood destination- Hollywood

The last sand is trickling through the ‎hourglass as I look forward to my remaining few days in Wellington for a little while. LA here I come! Having only ever passed through the hustle and bustle of LA airport, I am eager to see the city itself. I am imagining something out of a scene from HBO’s ‘Entourage’- sun tanned movie stars and TV actors, sunglasses reflecting the sunshine that glitters on a Hollywood lifestyle.

A phone interview I had a few days ago with www.lol-la.com led me to do a little research on what’s on in LA, further feeding my excitement to get there. Of course, what’s on in LA is the RNZB performing ‘Giselle.’ Go, kiwi, go!

With class and rehearsal and my favourite moment; performing, with any luck there may be time to squeeze a little trip to Disneyland in also. A place that calls itself ‘the happiest place on earth’ deserves a visit in my opinion!

As per usual my trusty camera will be coming with me and I look forward to writing and capturing our adventure, touring and performing in the U.S.A!

Tonia 🙂

Dancing with style

The day draws ever closer. 4 days remain until we are jetting off to the United States. Amongst the newly bought winter woollies are very eager dancers, ready and rearing to go. Rehearsals, physiotherapy and last minute pre travel errands have kept me incredibly busy this week and my blog daily countdown has suffered. I am a firm believer that having a lot to do is never a bad thing so all this pre tour excitement is making me a very happy dancer indeed.

Gillian Murphy, Antonia Hewitt, Tonia Looker, Tamsin Cooper, Mayu Tanigaito, Abigail Boyle and Lucy Green

Gillian Murphy, Antonia Hewitt, Tonia Looker, Tamsin Cooper, Mayu Tanigaito, Abigail Boyle and Lucy Green

Despite the sweat, grunt and hard working days in studio there is always room for a little style and allure! Today I had the privilege to meet NZ fashion designer Tamsin Cooper. Dressed in pink and lace and looking ever so glamorous she is simply charming. Tamsin has been so kind as to provide the female dancers with evening bags perfect for an after show function in the U.S.A, and we get to keep them too! Feeling special! Tamsin has also designed an evening coat for Gillian Murphy. In a quote from The New Zealand Herald Tamsin says “Travelling to New York with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and creating a signature coat for a ballerina as incredible as Gillian Murphy and accessories for the ballerinas, is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”

On the top floor of RNZB headquarters, hair sprayed, make up applied and favourite rehearsal gear chosen, Antonia, Abigail, Lucy, Mayu, Gillian and I gathered for our photo shoot with Tamsin. Set in the wardrobe department, tutus hanging from the ceiling, reams of vibrant fabric, costume racks bursting with tulle skirts and assorted lycra provided the perfect environment for the shoot. It was most certainly a wonderful afternoon.

We finished our day with a meeting discussing the itinerary of the tour. Reality is setting in. We really are going on tour soon and it’s time to pack. Hopefully I can fit my giant winter coat, boots, spare pointe shoes and rehearsal gear as well as everything else into my suitcase. I can’t wait to get on the plane and head to L.A!

Tonia 🙂

Day 8 in Pictures

Enjoying a lovely, relaxed Sunday off I have been going through all the dance photos I have taken in the past 3 years. I want to share with you, a few of my favourite images. Hopefully this year I have more time behind the camera lens with many more moments of dance to capture. 8 days remain until we leave on our U.S.A tour! Exciting stuff!!

Tonia 🙂

10,9,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1 Blast off!

We leave for the U.S.A in just 10 days! Each day I shall be posting a little documentation of what life brings as the big day draws ever closer. So there is no better way to kick things off than with day ten! Today.

Gillian Murphy- perfectly balletic in her U.S tour t-shirt.

Gillian Murphy- perfectly balletic in her U.S tour t-shirt.

 

Day 10-

Dark, looming rain clouds draped the sky in the early wee hours of this morning as I shuffled out of bed. I am certainly feeling the hours of rehearsal. My feet take a little while to spread out and adjust to the floor and although sleep has refreshed me, my legs are not fooled. I can feel the muscle aches from this weeks practice. This is a fantastic thing. I look forward to another day of rehearsal and another chance to work hard and do what I adore most- to dance.

Arriving at work I glanced over the days timetable, triple checking that I knew what the running order of the day was. There is always time here for a cup of coffee and breakfast and of course I have to check instagram!

Challenge number one for the day- what will I wear for class? It may sound a little ridiculous but it’s amazing how different a certain leotard can make you feel. It’s also a good excuse for a chat with fellow dancers in the change room before warming up.

There was a definite determination in class today. Being Friday, and nearly the end of our working week, it was our last chance before the weekend to rehearse together. There was still time, however, for a little laughter and silliness despite the high level of concentration.

We finished our day rehearsing Willis from ‘Giselle.’ What beautiful music this act of the ballet brings. Such a haunting and lilting resonance. The beast that is the Willis, making their prey dance until the death, is back in full force. Polishing lines and timing and every head angle until the clock strikes 5:45pm and it’s time to conclude.

Delicious dinner of salad and steak for me tonight with a delightful hot cup of peppermint tea and enough time to unwind…and blog 😉 before bed.

Tonia 🙂

 

RNZB Dancers rolling out and warming up.

RNZB Dancers rolling out and warming up.

 

 

Bare feet, hair down!

Banderillero- photo by Bill Cooper

Banderillero- photo by Bill Cooper

Banderillero. I had no idea when I was first introduced to this work in 2011 that it would instantly become my favourite and most loved dance work to perform. I am not the only one in the RNZB to attest to feeling the same way. If it were to receive customer product reviews I strongly believe that sales would skyrocket!

Javier de Frutos…how can I describe him best? Javier is an incredible choreographer and such a delight to work with. He has an amazing intelligence when it comes to understanding different personalities and knowing his audience. Inside and outside studio walls he is sincere, down to earth and well, just awesome! All at the RNZB love him and it is an honour to be able to perform his work again.

In bare feet, letting our hair down we have the freedom to explore a different element of dance that cannot be found wearing pointe shoes. My school training was very classically based so this grounded, bare foot fierceness is something I have had to work on over my 6 years with the RNZB. Out of this I have discovered a whole new love for dance in a more contemporary style as well as my infatuation with the classical method.

A big difference is the audible breathing in Banderillero. I remember back in 2011 when Javier came to restage the piece, the first thing he challenged us to do was breathe and make noises to go with the movements. “I want to hear inhaling and exhaling, I want to hear you breathing.” For classically trained dancers who are used to being as silent as possible it was a little daunting. However, the result is breath-taking (to follow the breathing theme 😉 ). There is so much life and energy in the movements and it makes this piece so incredibly engaging.

As the countdown continues, in 2 weeks it will be performance time in the U.S.A. It is a hive of activity at NZ ballet headquarters. I have my warm, winter coat and the excitement is setting in! Nearly time to go.

Tonia 🙂

Powerful Sounds

Of Days by Andrew Simmons- photo credit Evan Li

Of Days by Andrew Simmons- photo credit Evan Li

Frequently mentioned in a dance studio is the importance of listening to the music and counts. Putting movement to the fine undercurrents of sound or maybe instead to the main melody. As a dancer you learn to hear every noise and beat. Over the years, especially when being tutored in the acting side of a character it is often said, “don’t be afraid of doing nothing in the silence.” As a movement based personality the pull is to fill every moment with steps. This is how I have come to understand the power of silence and stillness. That dancing with music and sound is just as powerful and beautiful as movement with silence. I suppose what I am trying to say is that music and sound whether it is existent or non-existent has a vast influence on both dancers emotions and movement quality and the effect on the audience.

This is highlighted strongly for me when rehearsing Andrew Simmons stunningly beautiful piece ‘Of Days.’ We will be taking this piece to America in just 2 weeks time. What strikes me most when dancing Andrew’s piece is the incredibly powerful effect that the music has on the way I feel. He explores all avenues of movement in silence and to every undercurrent of every instrument and also melody. Your body is stretched to complement every flow and pull of the musical score. The beauty of the music he has chosen for ‘Of Days’ is divine. From composers Olafur Arnalds, Dustin O’Halloran and Ludovico Einaudi it’s the kind of music you could feel completely at peace just listening to with your eyes closed. There is not a set character requirement to this piece. Yet I feel when I dance it that it takes me on an emotional journey. I have an intent and purpose to who I am in the piece and where it takes me. It is in these rehearsals that I realise how much of a profound effect that sound of any kind has on dance and the feeling that is created.

Tonia 🙂

The U.S.A Countdown

A slightly belated happy new year to all! I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas and New Year.

It was wonderful to have time with friends and family on holiday. The call of the RNZB studios was strong though and it is marvellous to be back at work. With only 3 weeks until we jet set to the U.S.A taking a range of different dance works there is much to be rehearsed in little time. The pieces in this overseas tour hold an immense depth of meaning to me. Stunning music, a diverse range of movement styles and an opportunity to be completely wrapped up in dance all day, every day. It’s a dance lovers dream come true. I am completely infatuated with my work.

Sleep time dreams of choreography are woken early. Beginning with a fresh espresso and a bowl of cereal with fruit I head to work to begin my ritual warm up before class. It’s quiet in the studio in the early hours. Stretching dancers are dotted around on the floor, headphones in, pilates foam rollers and therobands out. There’s a quiet determination and focus. Everyone ready to work together to rehearse and polish the upcoming show.

After class a full day of rehearsals commence. We spend almost 6 hours a day rehearsing and this time is never wasted. It can be tough work, but oh so rewarding. I don’t believe I could ever find an apt way to properly describe the feeling of being on stage, after weeks of rehearsal and claiming the reward that a show brings. However, over the next couple of weeks I will be writing little entries leading up to this U.S.A tour and hopefully getting a little more practice taking photos. I look forward to writing my little musings on life in 2014.

Tonia 🙂