Choreographer makes a lasting impression

Royal New Zealand Ballet dancers perform choreographer Corey Baker's The Last Dance. Photo: Stephen A'Court

AFTER taking on the vast expanse of Antarctica earlier this year, choreographer Corey Baker has brought the white landscape back to New Zealand.

Baker, who is originally from Canterbury, is one of three choreographers featured in the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s (RNZB) latest production Dancing with Mozart, which will be performed in Invercargill next week.

The programme features four ballets set to the music of Mozart – George Balanchine’s Divertimento No 15, Petite Mort (Little Death)and Sechs Tanze (Six Dances) by Jiri Kylian, and Baker’s The Last Dance

This is the first time Baker has created a work for the RNZB, as his career took him overseas at a young age. He left New Zealand as a teenager to pursue dance, first in Australia and then in Switzerland and England.

Baker said he spent the first half of his career dancing, then moved on to choreography.

Dancing with Mozart features the world premiere of his “ambitious piece”, which was inspired by a life-changing experience Baker had earlier this year.

Corey Baker

Baker travelled to Antarctica with RNZB dancer Madeleine Graham in February to create a dance film to highlight climate change, commissioned by United Kingdom television network Channel 4 and digital development organisation The Space, supported by the BBC and Arts Council, England.

Baker said he went to the International Antarctic Centre as a boy growing up in Christchurch and always had a fascination with the region.

“I always thought it was a real-life fairytale.”

He was also interested in creating dance outdoors and was conscientious about the environment and concerned about climate change.

“These three things, econess, interest in Antarctica since being a boy and the desire to create dance outdoors, all sort of aligned into the birth of this project.”

Baker said the experience of creating the “first dance” in Antarctica also inspired The Last Dance.

“I realised while creating the first dance unfortunately due to the fact Antarctica is melting quickly, I’m potentially creating the last dance in Antarctica as well. And so that was a daunting fact.”

He said in the first dance they wanted to celebrate Antarctica and capture its beauty, while making Antarctica look hot, because that was one of the issues it was facing.

The Last Dancewas completely different from the film, he said, and began in an abstract Antarctic world. The white landscape gets deconstructed and descends into darkness.

He said he chose Mozart’s Requiemto accompany the work because it was a “stunning piece of music” and because the ballet “feels like a requiem for Antarctica”.

Baker said they had a lot of fun creating the ballet and he hoped it connected with people.

“I’m not trying to make the prettiest, the most beautiful ballet. I’m just trying to make something that hopefully inspires a conversation in people.”

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