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

by Joanna on June 7, 2012

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.

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