Interview Feature: Venus Rising
I sat down with Katherine Minor, a soloist with the Royal New Zealand Ballet, to discuss rehearsing during COVID lockdown, what it’s like being back in the studio, and the RNZB’s upcoming Venus Rising tour.
The Royal New Zealand Ballet will be one of the first dance companies in the world to return to the stage with their new tour Venus Rising. Featuring four extraordinary new pieces created by four world-renowned female choreographers, this show hits the Wellington stage from August 20, and will be touring around the country from then.
Inspired by Venus, the brightest of stars, these beautiful works showcase love, intimacy, and the strength of victory over adversity. In such fraught times, they are a beautiful link to what makes us human.
I: So, Katherine, what did you get up to during lockdown?
Katherine Minor: I noticed lockdown was definitely time to slow down the pace of life. Lots of reading and long walks and speaking with people who I haven’t spoken to a while. It felt like this really long, very quiet summer vacation when no-one was around.
I: I understand you spent some time during lockdown rehearsing via Zoom with the RNZB.
What was that like as an experience?
The biggest thing that came out of lockdown was the realisation that dancers take having a studio and a lot of space for granted. That daily Zoom class felt very precious, and essential to connect with the company. We worked on bar work – I did mine holding onto a bookcase.
However, it was an amazing opportunity to do classes with people all around the world. That was quite special. There were people from other companies Zooming into our class, I got to see people I hadn’t spoken to in years. Ours is a very connected community.
I: I’m sure it felt very different to get back into a studio after such a long time apart.
It was strange at first seeing other people after going a few weeks without having any close interaction. The first time we were allowed to partner each other felt very foreign and strange. Being able to feel each other. It took a bit of time for certain coordination to come back, to do jumps and pointe work and turn and take up space in such a big room.
What I’ve thought about a little bit are how important the arts are in a time like this – this way of transmitting a feeling and a message that’s transported subjectively instead of via the news feed which often makes us feel like that’s our only reality. Maybe going to a performance or getting in touch with something artistic is a reminder that times were different before this, that they will be different when this is over.
I: Moving onto Venus Rising. What pieces are you involved with?
I am in Within, Without (choreographed by Andrea Schermoly), Waterbaby Bagatelles (Twyla Tharp) and Aurum (Alice Topp).
I: What has rehearsing this season been like?
It has been very exciting working with four different, renowned women choreographers. The process of working with each of them has been very different, but wonderful in their own ways. They’ve all been very different personalities that have something new to offer.
All the pieces have music which I could just listen to all day. For me, that’s normally what can make a piece really nice to do, if there’s wonderful music though it.
I: What should the audience expect coming into Venus Rising?
There is such a general energy of appreciation being back in the studio working on something together – feeling and knowing that we’re in such a fortunate position being in one of the only companies working together and working on something at the moment. Each piece is quite different – all of them are an entirely different mindset going into them.
One of the pieces is an example of the work of one of the greatest living choreographers of our time. Each one of these choreographers is very connected to the company, and it’s always fun to see new work by choreographers you like.
We have a lot of enthusiasm to be on stage again in front of an audience. This is the first time we’re performing to an audience since February. We’re really excited to be on stage and we’ve been working really hard to get the pieces where they should be.
It feels very precious to get to perform this programme.
Venus Rising is being performed across New Zealand by the Royal New Zealand Ballet from the 20th of August to the 19th of September. The shows will take place in Wellington, Auckland, Palmerston North, Christchurch, Napier and Dunedin. Tickets are available here.