BELONGING: 50 years of DANCE!!!

This year the Val Deakin Dance Theatre is celebrating its 50th year –
50 years of bringing dance to the Taranaki and wider New Zealand community
50 years of dance education in public schools with performances and workshops
50 years of providing a performance outlet for many dance students from all dance schools in Taranaki (and beyond)
50 years of presenting a huge variety of works choregraphed by acclaimed international choreographer Val Deakin.
50 years of entertaining and enriching the community with Dance Theatre productions
50 years of providing dance for many occasions in the Taranaki area – and of belonging to Taranaki

The programme for the 50th anniversary entitled Belonging was presented on July 7,8 and 9 at the Dance Centre.

It included part of Steps in Time which is one of choreographer Val Deakin’s most memorable works. The work was created to celebrate the centennial of New Zealand Women’s Suffrage and is a celebration of women and the many roles they can take in life. Val was awarded a Suffrage Centennial Medal for her work for women and for this work in particular. This work is a favourite of the dancers for whom it was created and all who get to dance it.

A new work on the programme entitled Twilight was created for the Dance Theatre at the end of 2022 by Israeli dancer/choreographer Evgenia Plotkin Mihailov (who lived in New Plymouth until recently). This work explores the idea of identity and belonging – to a country, a place or an idea. This programme was the premiere of this work. The dancers have had input into the creation of the work – so it speaks strongly to them – and the theme also strongly resonated with the audience.

Other works on the programme included a dance based on the myth of Narcissus set to the exciting music of Astor Piazzola and two comedy dance duets. (Roadrunner and Tricks for Two), all with choreography by Val Deakin.

A new work, Devon Street, with music being specially composed by New Plymouth musician Larry Henry featured scenes and themes from New Plymouth’s main street. This dance was a collaboration between dancer/choreographers Jane Roseman, Shelley Prestney and Davina Moffat and the composer Larry Henry who played live for the performances.

The Dance Theatre is fortunate to also have had the musical talents of Dominique Blatti and Julian Raphael who played a selection of classical guitar duets which took listeners on a journey through time and musical styles.

Dancers in the programme included some of the Dance Theatre’s most experienced and expressive performers as well as some younger dancers. The cast was Jane Roseman, Shelley Prestney, Davina Moffat, Inge Vink, Donna Kelly, Catherine Donlon, Laura Sommerville, Rosanne Taylor, Christine Coppell and Josie Pepperell.

The Dance Theatre is extremely grateful to the Toi Foundation and the Creative Communities Scheme New Plymouth District for their support for this anniversary programme.
The programme was a great success, with full houses and enthusiastic audiences. Many were delighted to stay after the programme to talk with the performers.

What has it meant for the Dance Theatre to be part of the arts scene in Taranaki for the last 50 years?

Schools performances have been taken into all primary, most intermediate and some secondary schools in Taranaki providing children here with perhaps their first (and maybe only) exposure to live dance and dance education and participation.

Many Taranaki musicians and musical groups have collaborated with the Dance Theatre to present exciting events including Ars Nova, the New Plymouth Orchestra, the New Plymouth Band, the Taranaki Youth Orchestra and several different solo and duet musical groups. Several new music compositions have been written by Hugh Dixon and Lucy Mulgan for Val Deakin and then successfully choreographed.

In addition to live music, an extended range of adventurous and unusual music has been part of the recorded music for many Dance Theatre performances including to bird song, (from the USA and New Zealand), to a marimba concerto, to electronic scores by New Zealand and overseas composers as well as to the great classics of the ballet repertoire including The Nutcracker, Coppelia and Cinderella.