Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Ballet meets brute power at Rugby Park
By TONY SMITH - The Press

There was no shortage of lineout-lifting volunteers when the Royal New Zealand Ballet (RNZB) dancers shared centre stage with the Crusaders rugby squad yesterday.

An eager band of Crusaders forwards had Clytie Campbell and Katie Hurst-Saxton reaching for the sky at Christchurch's Rugby Park – and the sprightly pair even managed to nab some clean lineout ball.

"It's a nice change lifting them in a lineout to some of the big lumps I normally have to hoist," Crusaders prop Wyatt Crockett said.

Eight dancers watched the Crusaders train and then joined them in speed and gym sessions.
A casual onlooker could have been forgiven for thinking the ballet corps were auditioning extras for Beauty and the Beast.

However, the cast is in Christchurch to stage a season of From Here to There at the Isaac Theatre Royal after opening their tour to rave reviews in Dunedin.

All Blacks pivot Daniel Carter generally saves his best pas de deux plays for the footy field in tandem with halfback partner Andy Ellis.

However, Dancing Dan seemed happy to pick up some stretching tips from Christchurch ballerina Lucy Balfour.

The dancers were put through their paces by Crusaders trainer Ashley Jones and then challenged a bevy of backs and forwards, including All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, to some sprinting duels.

RNZB artistic director Gary Harris said his cast members trained up to eight hours a day before each new production and "rehearse for around two hours every day as well as performing each night".

Crockett said the dancers were "certainly fine athletes".

It will be the Crusaders' turn to watch tomorrow, with several players attending the ballet's opening night.

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