A square of glitter outlines the stage space and provides a boundary for the dance a use of space that will become a constant motif throughout the show. As the lights dim, my first glimpse of what will comes by way of a projected film. Kaleidoscopic effects and superimposed imagery of Emma Martin and Lauren Byrne, the stars of tonight’s piece, illuminate the wall as electronic music plays. There is a lot of interconnected choreography in the film, Martin and Byrne using each other’s bodies to create intricate and alluring movements that I hope will continue for the next hour.
After the film fades, I hear a minimalistic ticking, and Martin and Byrne enter the stage. They walk conflictingly with the music, their steps becoming more elaborate and dance-like with added leaps and arm movements, until finally the ticking ends, giving way to a hip-hop/electronic track.
The dance is contemporary in style, transitioning from soft, ballet-like movements to harsher separation techniques, like jerky body-popping, which gives off a broken marionette vibe. Where the two dancers perform together, Highlights feels carefully arranged and rehearsed, but their individual performances are improvised. This felt quite fresh and new, but the technique tends to lack the distinctiveness and preciseness of the rehearsed parts.
I especially enjoyed the brief element of the co-mingling choreography as I had experienced in the film at the beginning, arms linking and bodies swerving in and around each other. This was short-lived , however, and I did not see it again for the rest of the piece. I was disappointed since this technique showed off the skill of Martin and Byrne and created a harmonic unity between them.
The dancers create new stage spaces with more glitter, making shapes that they then designate to be either in or out of bounds. There didn’t seem to be any rules or reason for this, which did make me keep watch more avidly looking for a pattern. However, the gradual increased usage of glitter was fascinating. The last twenty or so minutes enraptured me in visual splendour and was stunning to watch.
A large part of creating this effect was the lighting, the credit for which I have sadly not been able to verify, though it must be said they did a marvellous job. Ranging from stark whites and blues to funkier, more uplifting reds and yellows, the lighting complemented the dance and the music very well. This was achieved by rapid changes between different types of music, jarring between the white of the ticking at the start to glaringly bright with the more fiery hues for the change to the hip-hop track.. Particularly later when glitter became a central part of the dance and not just as a stage piece, the lighting captured this change brilliantly, which enthralled me. The way the white lights hit the performers as they swirled and moved whilst sprinkling glitter around themselves was truly lovely. It twinkled the glitter, making the stage look like Martin and Byrne were being hit with a mystical rain and had the magical effect of almost appearing to be in slow-motion.
However, I kept looking to find meaning in the piece. Was it about the over-consumption of social media? Was it about drug addiction? Was it about what are supposed to be the highlights of a person’s life and finding them wanting? I still don’t really know. I don’t know if I’m supposed to know. Perhaps I wasn’t supposed to be looking for anything other than at something beautiful, and that is a goal Highlights achieves effortlessly.
If you are interested in contemporary dance, and above all else, glitter, Highlights is a show worth seeing. I may not have come away with a clear sense of where the show wanted me to go, but the journey was stunning and I enjoyed myself regardless. It runs at BATS theatre from Monday 13th – Wednesday 15th of February. Tickets are available at BATS theatre or www.fringe.co.nz