March 31, 2012

A Great Night at the Ballet! (NYC)

Last Friday night, my wife and I, (yes I’m a bloke) went to the ballet to see the Royal NZ Ballet perform NYC, three short ballets based on as the publicity tells us, The Big Apple, that’s New York for those who don’t know.

They started with “28 variations on a theme” a more traditional ballet on a bare stage with piano accompaniment which to my tender ears was too harsh.  That aside, the dancing was excellent and the dancers received good applause at the conclusion of their performance.

The second was “Final dress” with the dancers in a range of costumes, mainly black - shorts and tops for the girls and longs for the guys -  but occasionally the lead dancers would appear in colourful dresses.  The set was quite different with a whole lot of what appeared to be large aluminium cases stacked across the back creating a backdrop and light / sound standards up each side.  Dancers when not on the floor sat on the cases or stood waiting their turn behind the light / sound standards.

The piece itself was all go from the first beat with some dancers, both male and female running across the stage at speed.  Occasionally a “baddie” in black would appear at pace from one side of the stage and carry off one of the female dancers to the other side, much to the surprise of the audience.  As the piece continued, dancers performed individually and in groups.  The females all had their hair loose and a number used their long locks as part of their dance.  Quite spectacular.

Towards the conclusion of this ballet, there was a number of superbly timed moves with a ballerina running from the back of the stage, being met at the front of the stage by two male performers who had entered from opposite sides, catching the ballerina before too late and towing her off stage.  I’m sure I was not the only one wondering if something went wrong and someone missed their timings!

The audience really enjoyed this item and the dancers received generous applause at the end before the second interval.

The final piece was “Who Cares” with a backdrop image of the New York sky line with much softer music based on the works of George Gershwin, a number of tunes of which I and others, I am sure, would have recognised.   Once again, timing was important because as one piece ended, dancers for the next one had to move on stage and be ready for their particular item.  These were danced in groups, and by individuals.  Different members of the audience had their own favourites.

When this was over, the dancers again received generous applause from a very appreciative audience as it was “a great night at the ballet!”

For more information see the show page on the Royal New Zealand Ballet's website

The Wellington Pheonix move onto the next round of the Finals series for the 2011/12 season

It was quite unusual going to the cake tin for a Friday night kick off at 8.00 pm when most of our matches during the year had been late afternoon kick offs over the weekend.  But then, we were in the playoff series for the third season in a row; not bad for a team that was considered to be the cellar dwellers at the start of the season after all the upheavals over ownership and a limited playing roster etc.   The game was potentially Tim Brown’s last home match having announced during the week that he was off to the UK to study, so he came out leading the team as captain for the day.

The first half was end to end stuff with Sydney FC having slightly better chances than the Phoenix but neither team managed to convert any of their limited opportunities before goal so the two teams went into the shed at half time nil all.

The second half started a bit the same with end to end action.  The Phoenix gradually got on top, and scored twice through Tim Brown, a goal mouth scramble, then Ben Sigmund with one of his customary headers from a corner.  Then they went to sleep and conceded what this reviewer would consider two soft goals.  So with less than ten minutes to go, it was two all and the ten thousand plus crowd was getting nervous and even more vocal!

During the match, I had a series of exchanges with the brother-in-law in Brisbane who was watching the game in his living room after a hard day at the office.  I suggested to him that once again the Phoenix were not getting the support of the referee.  I, and a number of the crowd, thought he and his officials missed a number of offences committed by the Sydney FC players.  But the brother-in-law didn’t think that was the case.  Anyway, with only four minutes of ordinary time to go, Paul Ifill took on two defenders and weaved his way in to the box and was brought down on the penalty spot.  This had happened a couple of times in previous matches and nothing happened other than Paul getting booked for diving!

But on this occasion, the ref was up with the play and awarded a penalty which Ifill duly converted making the score three: two to the Phoenix.  The players and crowd had to endure four minutes of time added on but in the end the Phoenix were triumphant and now await the outcome of the Perth Glory: Melbourne Heart match to be played on Sunday.

The Phoenix players worked together as a team as is normally the case.  One player who stood out for me other than the usual suspects, Ifill, Sigmund, Muscat and Durante etc was Vince Lia who I thought had his best game since returning from injury a couple of weeks ago.  He popped up in all sorts of places to put in the saving clearance on a number of occasions.

Overall another good night at the football.  Let’s hope the Melbourne Heart beat the Perth Glory and we have another home game next week otherwise it’s off to Perth next weekend.

March 26, 2012

Kaos (pole dancing class)

Let me preface this review by telling you that I am not fit, I am not thin and I am not elegant. Pole dancing did not make me feel any of the things I am not though I think that if I stuck with it then I just might.

The truth is that pole dancing is hard. I don’t mean kind of hard. You know that one Pilates class you went to (the one serious one where they didn’t just ask you to breathe and image your spine growing)? The one where you wished you would die because it was so hard and you hurt for a week afterwards. Yeah, that one. That is kind of what pole dancing is like, only fun.

Kaos is way, way up in the top of the James Smith building which used to house the James Smith markets (which I still miss). I wandered around a couple of floors before I found it as the signage is minimal but I think that must be a building policy as there aren't many signs for any of the businesses. No one will ever know you are going in there to a pole dancing class or if they see you enter in gym clothes they'll think you are going to the gym conveniently located in the same building.

The studio is nothing like I imagined, large and airy with wooden floors. The poles (both spinning and stationery) are screwed into brackets on the ceiling. The instructor I imagined would be a statuesque blonde but I was wrong here too, she was short, dark and muscly. She impressed us all by climbing up a pole backwards by which I mean using her legs to pull herself up. The class itself was excellent, we were shown several different moves and given time to try each of them (enough time to make some progress but not enough to get bored or disheartened). We all got to try the moves on a stationery and spinning pole, the latter making some moves much easier.

One thing I liked about this studio is it has no links to the sex industry. Instead, the owners have chosen to focus on pole dancing as more of a performance art, like circus. This is shown in the title of the studio as well as the other class run there; aerial yoga (and I understand they are hoping to offer more options in the future).

I left the class feeling inspired which I managed to maintain the next day even with bruises and aches - I think I could maybe do this.

You can find out more about about Kaos Pole and Circus Arts Academy on their Facebook page

Price: $25 (casual)

March 19, 2012

The Beauty Room

The Beauty Room is tucked away in Doreen Doolan mall next to the Petone Public Library. Like most of Petone it suffers from limited parking. The interior; not too girly, not too clinical; smells pleasantly of artificial strawberry. A strange glass box for manicures takes up most of the waiting area. The bathrooms are shared, inconveniently outside and up a set of stairs, but clean. The website is cluttered and does not include the ability to easily book online.

I had to try The Beauty Room for the great wax combination half leg/underams/bikini for under $60! The waxing itself was what you would expect; roller wax for legs, hot wax for bikini and underarms. Being used to having Brazilians I was impressed at how thorough and painless a bikini wax was...I think I've been convinced to change my waxing routine. The treatment  including tweazing and advice about ingrown hairs. The therapist recommended a product for exfoliation but didn't push the sale. I was impressed by this as I know beauty therapists are paid partly by commission.

The service was friendly and the price was right, I would use them again.

You can find the Beauty Room on the web and on Facebook

March 11, 2012

A Play About Love

My final helping of the Wellington Fringe festival was charming, disarming and struck so close to home I could have sworn one or two conversations had been stolen from my own University romance. This show is touted as one "for all the cynical romantics out there." An ill fated romance between the girl who makes snow globes and the boy who writes notes unfolds on stage, played out by each actor in turn from the first person perspective of our unnamed host.

We explore the relationship and see the highs and lows, the little moments worth commemorating and the big fights you wish you could forget. We explore exactly what it means to love someone. Is it just a chemical signal in the brain telling you to fulfil that instinctive need to protect the species? Or is it something more?

I really enjoyed the dialogue because it was written in a simple way that enabled us to really look for those deeper meanings the cast were pointing us too but without the need for overly dramatic or emotive language. The tone flowed really well from humour to sadness and back again with the occasional side trip to awkward and angry. I really felt I could easily meet this person in real life and they would speak exactly the same way, this made it really easy to connect to and believe this character.

The set is a jumble of apparently home-made snow globes, with a variety of oddities inside, which are moved about on stage to separate the setting for each scene. It’s simple and clever and works brilliantly to connect the whole thing together. The lighting is simple and draws our focus from person to person as the story progresses. The whole show is really unassuming and brutally yet beautifully honest.

I advise you to keep an eye out for future work from “my accomplice” especially if this show is to make a reappearance.

A Play About Love was on at BATS from13-17th March.

Starring: Hannah Banks, Kate Clarkin, Uther Dean, William O'Neil and Paul Waggott.

March 5, 2012

Another good day at the Cake Tin

Yesterday, my wife and I went to the Westpac Stadium to see the Phoenix play Gold Coast United in their second to last home game in the regular season.  Hopefully there will be home games during the play-offs. The weather had improved a little from earlier in the day when it rained off and on all morning in Wellington. At least it didn’t rain during the game, but there was a moderate southerly which kept the temperature cool even though we are only in the first week of autumn.

The Phoenix had the upper hand most of the match. They had a number of chances to score but Jerrad Tyson, the Gold Coast keeper, pulled off a number of spectacular saves which ensured that the final score was not a walk over. The Phoenix converted only two chances, one on the half hour to captain Andrew Durrante; the other in injury time just before the final whistle was scored by Nick Ward who come on as a replacement into the second half.

It was one of those days when the ball did not bounce the Phoenix way which happens from time to time. To make matters worse, a number of the Phoenix endeavoured to blast the ball through the goalie and not around him or just push the simple pass to another member of the team to tap in.

In a review of an earlier match, I questioned a number of the decisions of the referee.  To be fair, I should also report that the officials of this match all had good “games” with no glaring errors or injustices and no unwarranted yellow cards - from memory, only one name went into the book all match.

Over all, a win is a win and a two nil score line makes for “Another good day at the Cake Tin.”

March 3, 2012

Chairman of the Beard (Adam Page)

As far as one man shows go, this one was pretty bloody good.

Adam Page, of Adelaide, is a one man band who uses loop pedals to make entire songs with layers
of instruments live on stage. He uses a wide mix of instruments as well as his voice to create all sorts
of tracks from weird and kooky just-for-the-hell-of-it to improv medleys of opera and reggae, even a
tip of the hat to dub step. He picks out an unsuspecting audience member and makes a song out of
nothing but the man’s name, truly a skill worth having.

As you may guess by the title, this show is dedicated to Adam’s beard. He certainly has quite the
chin warmer going. He even makes a song using his beard; this is something you really have to see
to appreciate. Adam comes across really down to earth and interacts well with the audience making
jokes at our and his own expense; it brings a really nice personal feel to the show so everyone is free
to enjoy themselves more. He also invites the audience to come have a drink with him after the
show and have a chat to him.

The lighting changes worked well to reflect the tone and mood of each song which is quite a feat
considering they were mostly spur of the moment. I wish I could have gotten a copy of the last song
because it was really quite lovely. Adam did have CDs on sale (a bargain at only $10) which one
audience member was smart enough to snap up right then and there as there was a stack sitting on
the keyboard.

This is a hilarious show which you will kick yourself for missing.

BATS Theatre 3rd-10th March (no show Sun/Mon)

Full: $18

Concession: $14

March 1, 2012

Flights of Fancy - The Hummingbirds

Following in the footsteps of Monster Burlesque, this show by trio The Hummingbirds makes its home at Paramount Cinemas in the smaller theatre and is one for the night owls starting at 10:30pm.

As you enter the theatre you are greeted by flights attendants and directed personally to a seat, a nice personal touch and a chance to meet our hostesses. The show is set as in flight entertainment on a return trip to Auckland, complete with voice over from the pilot, Stu Pendous. The atmosphere is really well set up, there were even ‘emergency lights’running along the ‘runway’and the ladies look very stewardess-esque with their little blue hats.

Along the way we get up close and personal with our three hostesses and their various relationship woes. Each emotional crisis has a song to accompany it and the ladies have a great harmony which really shines in the rag time songs, Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy and Bei Mir Bist Du Shoen. The music is a great mix of classic and recent hits and even features some acapella numbers and a medley. There was a fun little moment where “you pay Fringe prices, you get Fringe special effects” and the audience enjoyed being part of the show for a moment.

The lighting and sound are well adjusted for such a small space, including a clever little thunder and lightning flash. Each song has its own lighting setting which sets it apart from the narrative well.

This is a short show, it ran just under an hour, and I found I was disappointed when it came time to ‘land’ wishing the show weren’t over. The ladies, having settled their boy problems, sing their way out of the theatre (sorry, should that be plane?) and wait for us to ‘disembark’ complete with boiled sweets, just like a real airline.

I highly recommend this fun show, and that you stick around for a drink to meet the cabin crew as their post-show selves.

1-3 March 10:30pm
Paramount Cinemas
Adult: $16.00
Concession: $13.00
Fringe artist card: $10.00
You can find out more about the show here and about The Hummingbirds here

lselde de Boam Massage Therapy

Welcome to our first massage review of 2012. Each post I will be giving you a tip for how to find a good massage, here's your first one: look for (or ask about) therapist qualifications. The therapist I visited lists her qualifications on her website and hangs them in her treatment room. Ideally the therapist should have at least a diploma.

In January I visited Iselde de Boam Massage Therapy on Tory street.If powers of deduction have concluded that my massage therapist was Iselde, you are correct! But she also has two staff members (so if you want the boss you need to book her specifically).

The website needs updating and paring down to essentials but it does have all the information you need including profiles on the therapists and the ability to book online (allowing you to chose therapist, treatment and time).

I Google-mapped the location, as I didn't want to end up at the wrong end of Tory street, but still had difficulty finding it due to lack of signage. My advice is to look for a set of stairs at a doorway across from Wholly Bagels. The secret is that Iselde works from the rooms of Absolute Therapy but (bonus!) she charges less than their therapists. The rooms themselves are very nice though the reception area has a few too many pamphlets and could do with a good dusting.

The service is very client focused; you chose from several varieties of scented or unscented oil as well as music. The assessment and follow up advice don't come out of table time which is great as a thorough assessment for a new client can take half an hour and although it is necessary I don't think anyone likes to get only half the massage they pay for. I did feel that the assessment prior to the massage was a little rushed but everything was covered that needed to be. The follow up to the massage was brief but again covered all the necessary information. Iselde is professional but the service is not clinical; the overall feel is slightly bohemian (which will suit some people but not others).

The treatment was therapeutic, focusing on large muscle groups balancing one set of muscles with the opposing set (eg. if you curl your shoulders forward you are shortening your chest muscles so it makes sense to massage these as well). Chat during the massage was kept to a minimum so I needed to request more pressure but this was attended to. The amount of oil used was sufficient and it was wiped away at the end by warmed towels.

What I liked:
- Iselde is well qualified
- choice of music and oils personalise the experience
- dark towels are accented by brightly coloured towels

Iselde gets two thumbs up from me. I would go back to see her again and I would recommend her to others.

Location: Level 3, 5 Tory Street, Wellington
Price: $80 (60 minutes)
You can find out more on Facebook and the Web