The Wellingtonista

Random stuff about Wellington since 2005

I like the St James theatre but not what was on stage

by Joanna on June 7, 2012 in Events, Theatre

Last night we – along with a range of other fancy media types were invited by Positively Wellington Venues to have drinks & canapes and watch Rock the Ballet at the Saint James Theatre last night .  Based on the lovely people we met, and the amazing food and service we were offered (Lightly seared tuna on wonton crisps! Vegetarian summer rolls! Chorizo arancini balls! Mini cupcakes that tasted like brownies topped with quenelles of really excellent chocolate mousse! Lots and lots of cheese!) I would have no hestiation in recommending PWV for your events. Rock the Ballet, however, was not really my thing. After the jump, blowup dolls, bad cover versions and Chippendale dancers…

 “Rasta Thomas’ Rock the Ballet is a fusion of classic ballet technique blended with the excitement of musical theatre, hip hop, ballet, tap, contemporary, gymnastics and more.

Rasta Thomas’ Rock the Ballet features a stellar soundtrack including some of the biggest hits from U2, Michael Jackson, Prince, Queen, Coldplay and Lenny Kravitz.  Set against a backdrop of video projected scenery, the show is exciting, fun, fleshy, raunchy powerful, and brilliantly entertaining and as the New York Times wrote: “Rasta Thomas has enormous talent and undeniable charisma”, “Excellent dancers”, “Crowd pleasing”.

There is no question that the dancers from Rock the Ballet are very good dancers, with incredible physiques. And the middle-aged women in the audience (and Sir Ian McKellan) certainly enjoyed it when they took their shirts off, if all the squealing and clapping and cheering was anything to go by. Hell, I like a V pelvic bone as much as the next person, but it was definitely unnecessary to have them finish on Right Said Fred’s “Too sexy”.  And there were other aspects of the show that I found incredibly problematic.

For starters, that soundtrack? I thought that maybe I wasn’t giving the show a fair go because it started out with a Black Eyed Peas track  (uuuuuuuuuuuuugh) but then I realised that all the music was covers. Covers that tried to be as faithful to the original as possible, which made the fact that they weren’t even worse. Okay, I get that music rights aren’t cheap, but I guess because I’m kind of pedantic,

The one song that wasn’t popular music was a piece from Carmen (I think), which featured the men dancing with blowup dolls, to much tittering from the audience. Oh how daring. Except that they weren’t even sex dolls with holes, they were just inflatable. I wished that we could have seen women dancing with skill and artistry, instead of the kind of troubling image of something supposed to be a woman being flung around on stage and comically deflated. The fact that there was one woman dancer in the company played up on this misogynist tone, with some of the pieces coming off as a little pack-rapey. I thought the projected backdrops were poorly done (like a screensaver from Hackers) and unnecessary because the dancers were more effective against just different colours. I also wanted a little more cohesion in story-telling, and while all the dancers were great individually, they were slightly out of sync with each other at times.

Okay, that said though, it was a little like watching So You Think You Can Dance, which I do like to watch, except with all my least favourite songs (which I know is a very subjective area). If you like it when men not wearing very much come out at WoW, or you think that dance can only be ponces in tights (and someone is trying to prove you wrong), then this is probably the sort of show that you should go to. For myself, I think I will stick to the Royal New Zealand ballet.

Joanna McLeod

Joanna McLeod has started calling herself the Empress of the Internet because she can. As well as wrangling the other site contributors and Getting Shit Done, she likes to eat, drink and write in equal amounts. Yes, she would love to be invited along to your event in order to do those things. Joanna's also the best person to talk to if you're interested in advertising on the site.

Logan June 7, 2012 at 9:22 pm

Wow, thanks for this review. I was just sitting here, kind of sad I missed out on tickets. Seems I dodged a bullet, though! I would have been upset about the same things you highlighted.

Paddy June 8, 2012 at 11:52 am

My female flatmate also found the dancers taking their shirts off highly enjoyable, however I might stick with All My Sons for my next outing.

Anna June 11, 2012 at 9:58 am

Interesting that you found Rock The Ballet not enjoyable. I thought it was an excellent display of creativity, without the need for frump and dramatic sets as a lot of ballets require. Let me remind you that most young people these days are not exposed to the arts scene as much as they should be, particularly to the “old-fashioned” world of ballet. The use of pop music was especially fresh and vibrant, and I am sure many a member of the younger audience would’ve appreciated this. Your mention of “pack-rapey” is just a tad prudish and quite frankly, totally unjustified. It was a display of fun, light-hearted dance, and a great show on all counts. And yes, you’re right, Sir Ian McKellan was enjoying himself, I sat but 2 seats away from him. Quite rightly so, being an excellent purveyor of the fine arts himself

Michael Hudson-Doyle June 11, 2012 at 10:55 am

If you want to see ballet without frump, then go watch the RNZB! They’re great. (Didn’t see Rock the Ballet)

Amy June 11, 2012 at 4:40 pm

A bunch of guys flinging inflatable dolls around and then deflating them? Sounds like the term ‘pack-rapey’ is pretty justified to me. (Also not sure how canned covers of pop/rock songs can count as ‘especially fresh and vibrant’ unless one doesn’t get out much.)
Thanks for the review Joanna, was tossing up about seeing this in Auckland and won’t bother now. RNZB are plenty creative AND innovative enough for me without pandering to what they think ‘young people these days’ might want.

Kelly June 11, 2012 at 4:57 pm

I just found the whole thing quite amateur, unlike some people I wasn’t all that impressed with the dancing and to be honest, the Michael Jackson segment reminded me a little bit too much of the final dance scene in Center Stage (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uo3_U4jquTk)

At the end of the day, I was offended by the misogyny of the whole thing and my first thought when the male dancers were circling around the sole female dancer was ‘woah, that’s a bit rapey’. It’s not being a prude, it just is a fact that for some people it was rapey. And really, dancing dolls? It’s been done quite a few times.

Joanna June 11, 2012 at 5:07 pm

Ha! I knew there was a reason I was expecting them to dance to ‘Canned Heat’!

Megan June 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm

I saw this last Thursday night. It was terrible – while the dancers were obviously very talented, the choreography was disjointed and repetitive. The “scenery” was amateur, the music was pathetic, and there was no feeling (frankly we were a bit bored). Half our party left at intermission and I openly laughed at much of the second part. I honestly cannot understand how anyone went to this and thought it was amazing. As my friend said, it was like watching an under-produced dance school end of year production.

DeepRed June 13, 2012 at 7:24 pm

Critics came to a similar conclusion with “We Will Rock You: The Musical”. One went as far as comparing it to Prolefeed.

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