Royal New Zealand Ballet

The Royal New Zealand Ballet’s production Salute finally made its way to Auckland on Saturday and it did not disappoint.

Salute is a programme of four dance works which commemorate World War One and bring the emotions of courage, fear and comradeship to life.

Each piece had a different tone, however the grace and strength in which each was portrayed by the dancers was set high from the get-go and did not waver.

The music was arranged by the New Zealand Army Band. They played beautifully, as well as adding further context to the messages portrayed about our servicemen and women.

There were no major characters or narratives running throughout the entire four pieces. Each dance work had small main roles and the whole cast seemed to enjoy equal time on stage.

Passchendaele - RNZB dancers credit Evan Li -

Photo: Evan Li

The show opened with Dear Horizon, choreographed by Andrew Simmons especially for this commemorative program. The accompaniment of Rolf Gjelsten on the cello and the dark lighting created a haunting atmosphere as the dancers began to appear.

Simmons’ purpose with this piece was not to celebrate war, but to convey the universal human emotions of war, such as “loss, fear and hopelessness.”

Dear Horizon is not specific to any one war. As Simmons said in the programme notes: “I hope that in whatever small way possible it may serve as a reminder and reflection upon all that war takes away.”

Jiři Kylián’s Soldier’s Mass was next. While the choreography was aggressive and sharp, the dancers were so light on their feet and seemed to whirl around the stage.

Soldier’s Mass is a work originally created for 12 male dancers, however on the night Laura Saxon Jones took one for the girls and displayed her feminine strength alongside her 11 male colleagues.

The third dance work, Salute, provided the audience with some light-heartedness and smiles.

Choreographed by Johan Kobborg from Denmark, Salute is Kobborg’s vision of what a prom would look like, as his homeland doesn’t have them.

“It’s basically about soldiers and their girlfriends,” explains Kobborg.

Dancers Damir Emric and Lucy Green in RNZB's Salute credit Evan Li

Photo: Evan Li

I particularly liked this piece, as it produced a few laughs and the costumes were beautiful and fitting to the theme.

The last dance work of the four was probably the most emotional for me. The First Battle of Passchendaele was the worst conflict for New Zealand, in terms of the number of our soldiers who died there.

Neil Ieremia choreographed his work Passchendaele to pay homage to the 845 New Zealanders were died there.

The percussion section of the New Zealand Army Band was instrumental in creating the sound of gunfire, and the cast mirrored the musical emotion, dancing with ferocity.

I don’t want to give anything away, but towards the end of this work, there was definitely a Hunger Games moment, in which the female dancers raised one hand in salute to the males. I could almost imagine a mockingjay popping out the four-note whistle.

Salute is a thrilling yet solemn two-hour performance which will leave the audience reflective of the sacrifices made in war. I would have liked to have seen a piece specific to Gallipoli landings or the attack on Chunuk Bair, however I would definitely recommend the show as it is to anyone.


Salute by the Royal New Zealand Ballet plays at Auckland’s ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre on 17-20 June, and Napier’s Municipal Theatre on 24-25 June. For full details click here.