Paradox is choreographed, lit, directed, and danced by Beth Alexandra Sammons. She’s joined by over a dozen other dancers on a bare stage. Together, they move their way through a series of distinct feeling sections - to a variety of different pieces of music - that culminate in a cohesive and somewhat frightening whole. The show feels somewhat episodic but never in a disjointed way. Motifs are repeated, often subtly, between the sections, giving you the feeling that while disparate, they’re all connected. Sammons also has the confidence to vary the rhythm of each episode, violently cutting you out of some dances before I was ready, and holding on others longer than I instinctually thought I wanted. I’m not totally sold on the ending, and wonder if the pacing of the last five/ten minutes could be played around with a bit, but it’s not a glaring issue. The show doesn’t end on a bang, but it certainly doesn’t peter out on whimper.
To get this out of the way, I think Te Auaha needs to up their game when it comes to content warnings. Paradox uses a lot of flashing/strobe lighting and it’s not communicated anywhere that this is the case. They currently have a catch all sign outside the theatre saying that Fringe shows can contain a variety of different types of difficult content and to ask for details. I’m fine with this for problematic or difficult subject matters, but as my plus one pointed out, epilepsy is a high consequence health issue This isn’t really good enough.
Paradox also slightly overuses strobe lighting, but that’s neither here nor there. The bulk of the lighting design is spectacular. While rarely feeling showy, or distracting from the performances, Sammons is comfortable lighting very selectively, and often hiding her dancers in shadow. She puts agency on the audience to look deeper, to spot things. She lets performers linger almost out of sight for long enough that I almost begin to doubt if I’ve seen them. She compliments the shapes she builds on stage with light, often seemingly building around it, making the lighting design feel like anything but an afterthought.
The dancing is spectacular. With a cast of over a dozen, I notice no weak links. Everyone is perfectly on-form, able to both blend in with the massive constructs of writhing limbs or hold your attention solo. These are performers capable of awe inspiring feats of spectacle, but also restraint. Everything they do is fully in service of Sammons broader vision for the show.
I saw this show on Tuesday night, and the audience was frustratingly bare. I get it. Dance can be a hard ask, for those of us (myself included) who primarily engage with art via narrative. But this show is really good and I want to put my finger on the scale and say that you should go see this! The sheer talent and craft on display from each of the dancers, and Beth herself, is overwhelming. It’s on till Saturday 4th. Break the mould, rebel, go see this show.