”…a suspended, surreal condition.”
New York Times, 2015.

“…the best drunk ballet I’ve ever seen…”
Dance Tabs, 2015.


A New Work Alive With Suspense and Surrealism

New York Times review: BalletX, choreographed by Penny Saunders, music by Rosie Langabeer, Tara Middleton and Gregg Mervine, reviewed By Alastair Macaulay July 13, 2018

PHILADELPHIA — Five years ago, very few female choreographers were getting work in ballet. That’s been changing. Just see the closing sentence of BalletX’s program note for Penny Saunders, choreographer-in-residence at Grand Rapids Ballet: “In the 2017-18 season, Saunders is excited to be collaborating with Cincinnati Ballet, BalletX, Missouri Contemporary Ballet, Royal New Zealand Ballet, SFDanceworks, and Tulsa Ballet 2, as well as making her first full-length for Grand Rapids Ballet.”

This would not matter if Ms. Saunders were a cliché maker. But her “Rock-a-Bye,” one of three world premieres on the BalletX’s Summer Series program, suggests that she is a remarkably fresh mind, with talents for suspense and surrealism. In this, she has found an ideal composer in Rosie Langabeer whose original music for this work — Ms. Langabeer also sings and performs, with two other musicians — casts one spell after another.

The stage world here keeps changing, as do the dramas within it. The music alters too. Some sound is taped (you hear crickets in one passage), but the live musicians often change instruments. Above all, Ms. Langabeer and Tara Middleton sing (sometimes a cappella), combining lyricism and rhythm in ways that make each vocal line eventful.

As “Rock-a-Bye” begins, one woman dances alone before a red curtain, behind which emerge nine pairs of hands, with their own choreography — rhythmic, even orchestral. Then that curtain rises, revealing musicians and dancers in what might be a studio apartment. People sit, stand, walk: The stage area often looks like a play. Lighting, by Michael Korsch, continually transforms the space.

Twelfth Night Or What You Will

 “…the whole production is pretty dazzling. The musicians — trombone, violin, accordion, tuba and more are in the instrument mix — play the audience into the theater and set a festive tone that somehow also bends time.

Neil Genzlinger, New York Times, 2012

Pig Iron Theatre Company: Twelfth Night, or What You Will
NYT Critic’s Pick
By Neil Genzlinger Feb. 16, 2014

“The performance pushes three hours but seems half that long as the gung-ho actors and resourceful band serve up a string of surprises. Compared with the Mark Rylance Broadway production of the same play that just closed over the weekend, think of this as the poor man’s “Twelfth Night,” not just in ticket price but also in look and attitude. Pig Iron goes for slapdash — expertly planned and executed slapdash — and hits the mark.”

“the show is buoyed along by a manic undercurrent even in its sharpest, most exquisitely clear-eyed moments, of which there are many. Like composer Rosie Langabeer’s music, its highs spin wildly and its lows are mournful and bottomless.”

New York Theater Review

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…her wonderfully honest voice will make you want to cry and then sprinkle in some robot-bird-monsters.
Neil Feather


New York Times Article: The Choreographer Matthew Neenan of BalletX Nears the Stratosphere. 

“Ms. Langabeer’s contribution is crucial to the work’s evocation of period, place and dream. She and three other musicians play onstage, sometimes on eccentric electronic instruments invented by Neil Feather. It all supports Mr. Neenan’s choreographic fantasy: dancers as plane parts and passengers, crewmen and islanders, birds and letter writers, the missing and those who miss them.”

Karangahape Cowboy – from Sunset, o639 Hours

 New York Times Review: ‘Sunset, o639 Hours’ by BalletX at the Joyce Theater. 

“Mr. Neenan and Ms. Langabeer shrewdly integrate the 10 dancers with a band of four multi-instrumentalists. The music ranges from ’30s swing for a New Year’s Eve scene in Auckland (“This one goes out to the Captain,” Ms. Langabeer croons) to a woozy soundscape during an Act II layover in Pago Pago. Letters, read aloud, thread through the score, a reminder of the Captain’s cargo. The stage bristles with the energy of a busy transit hub, and Maiko Matsushima’s décor — four warped, suspended panels ascending on a diagonal — suggest both a steady takeoff and scattered debris.”

I Was A Diamond – from Sunset, o639 Hours

“Rosie Langabeer can play outside one minute and the next you hear a deep subtle swing, a rare kind of pulse that you can feel in your bones. A gifted composer and leader in her own right, an extraordinary side-women when required. Moving from percussive, richly dissonant voicings to heart-stopping arpeggiated runs…Her iconoclastic playing delighted the audience.”

John Fenton, Jazz Local 32

Twelve Bells

Philadephia Inquirer review: BalletX, choreographed by Matthew Neenan, music by Rosie Langabeer and Tara Middleton, reviewed By ELlen dunkel dec 6, 2019

Twelve Bells reunites Neenan with New Zealand composer and musician Rosie Langabeer, who has made magic several times with BalletX, most notably composing Neenan’s 2014 ballet Sunset, o639 Hours — and playing it onstage. That work has become a showpiece for the company, and the two are becoming a team whose work is something to look forward to.

This time they add another musician, Tara Middleton, to the mix as a composer and co-creator.

The dance is lovely, clearly Neenan, with pointe shoes used as percussion and a lot of movements leaning off balance, but the music is what really made the piece happen Wednesday. Langabeer, Middleton, and musician Joshua Machiz (who was also involved in Sunset) sang and played multiple instruments onstage during the action.

Twelve Bells is a bit like Philadanco’s old favorite Xmas Philes, which is coming back to the Annenberg Center next week, in that it includes vignettes about a variety of holiday events set to Christmas music. But while Xmas Philes is mostly merry and bright, Twelve Bells has a somber undertone, even when the sections are about parties and shopping.

BalletX dancers in Matthew Neenan’s “Twelve Bells.”Vikki Sloviter

A few solos represent the burden of the holidays. Chloe Perkes was especially touching, set apart from the opening Victorian Christmas scene. Perkes sits downstage in a bright yellow costume — as if trying to will herself to be happy. But she can barely move.

Andrea Yorita, who is usually very energetic, also played a low-energy character this time, trying to decorate a Christmas tree but not getting very far. It is a good out-of-character role for her, although I missed her usual vigor and powerful dancing.

The three musicians made the most of their small ensemble by playing many instruments: Tibetan singing bowls, bass, organ, piano. The dancers rang handheld bells that doubled as wine glasses when turned upside down.

Some of the Christmas music is familiar, but the score is primarily made up of new songs — seven of them — with cheerful tunes set against less chipper lyrics like, “It’s a very special day for someone else” and “If I can just get through December.” I might’ve bought the soundtrack on the way out the door if they had sold it like they did with Sunset.



I approach the Common Room bar, quietly perturbed that this gig may be a little esoteric for my mildly mainstream-leaning self. I needn’t have worried.

I receive a cheery welcome from one of the amiable bar staff, which sets the tone for the rest of the night: familiar, intimate, joyful.

A small crowd of revellers mill, and the chatter indicates the people here have seen Rosie Langabeer perform before and know they’re in for a good show. The artist herself, New Zealand-born but Philadelphia-based Rosie, mingles with the group while clutching a bowl of her mum’s vegetarian soup. She gives me a cookbook tip and wears hiking boots with her dress.

On stage, Rosie alternates between accordion and keyboard. Drums are played by Robbie Beamer from Tennessee, whose other job is making funny skits. The songs cover an incredibly broad range, especially considering there are only three instruments involved.

French love songs evoke a feeling of 1930s Paris. Pirate songs are bracketed with the throwing of doubloons (aka foil-covered chocolate coins) to the audience. An original and supremely creative medley samples an eclectic mix including Destiny’s Child’s Say my Name, Simon & Garfunkel’s Cecilia, The Exponent’s Victoria and Mellencamp’s Jack & Diane (you may notice a theme there). A cover of Some Velvet Morninghas a touch of The Door’s This is the End about it, whereas a rollicking rock beat – described as surfy pirate music – wouldn’t sound out of place on a Tarantino soundtrack.

It’s not the last time I’m reminded of Tarantino – the set includes a cover of Captain Kangaroo.

The performance is almost a revue. Rosie chats away between songs, easy and comical, with both the audience and her co-performer. Her energy is entirely infectious and she emanates pure joy while indulging her creativity on stage.

Other tracks include renditions of Sia’s Chandelier; Tom Waits’ Diamonds & Gold – decidedly less grim than the original; a toe-tapping Gutter Black; and a very fun Shame and Scandal in the Family with its calypso beat and themes of incest and infidelity.

Rosie’s voice is clear and strong, her proud Kiwi accent juxtaposing pleasingly with Robbie’s American-accented harmonies. Robbie’s drum skills are better demonstrated in the second half of the show when he gets to let loose on tracks like Being Alive (aka the Bee Gee’s Stayin’ Alive) and an on-the-spot adaptation, Wipe Me (aka The Surfaris’ Wipe Out). The pair’s rapport and concord are obvious, and their creative and occasionally improvised lyrics are hilarious.

By the end of the night, several men have shed their self-consciousness to perform some experimental dance moves. The audience has laughed, toe-tapped and been transported variously to the high seas, Italian osterie and fair old Auckland-town. I leave with a sense that I’ve spent the night in the company of good friends, despite having arrived alone.



Reviewed by 

I’m just a little bit in love with Rosie Langabeer. From the first time that I saw her onstage in lab coat and protective glasses, playing the musical saw to the accompaniment of an electric drill, I knew she was the girl for me.

In comparison, tonight in the Spiegeltent, she walks the line between Pierrot and Weimar-era music hall performer. With Rosie you never know what you’re going to get. The atmosphere is more suited to a group of friends around somebody’s kitchen table at 2am than a formal event as part of a prestigious arts festival, as is alluded to by her every sideways glance and offhand quip. She promises a collection of musical treasures that run the gamut from sanguine to melancholy, and she delivers by the bucket load.

Whether she’s covering Tom Waits or Tom Petty, reimagining Dent May or Sia, she makes the stage and the music her own. Self-confessed guilty pleasures are subverted by a change in pace and key that forces the audience to confront the passive aggressive nature of familiar lyrics that we would otherwise chant mindlessly into the abyss. There’s a wicked glint in her eye as she holds up a mirror to the best and worst of us with a nameless (no spoilers!) ‘European’ song that quickly reveals itself to be a rendition of Swedish 80s rock band, Europe’s The Final Countdown, delivered in what I can only deduce by process of elimination to be Esperanto.

Further thrills are elicited by the emergence, halfway through the set, of darling of the local music scene, Anton Wuts. Attired in dazzling white, as though ‘dressed by his autistic pet cockatoo’, with gleaming sax in one hand and a robust glass of red in the other, he firmly puts the bomp in the bomp bomp bomp. Fuelled by the power of rhythmic onomatopoeia, he communes with Rosie’s accordion and Neil Watson’s guitar, building to a musically dense crescendo, punctuated by giggles at the absurdity of it all. It’s a joke to which we’re all party, made no clearer than in the encore, the half-century-old classic Batman, with Rosie’s imaginings substituting variously ‘tentman’, ‘earringsman’, and ‘womanman’, among others. Adored by her audience, Rosie Langabeer is a force to be reckoned with, funny, fierce and fearless.