This is the world premiere of this piece. We open to the pitter patter of ballet shoes as the dancers enter the stage and the sounds of waves start to crash. The dancers start softly undulating, rocking back and forth as though they were the ocean or vegetation within the ocean. It’s beautiful and it gives us an immediate sense of place.
It was a mix of four core dancers, plus four others. At different moments, we would have a solo, a duo, or a group of dancers all in the space together, creating this breathing motif through the piece. I find the work of Rilee Scott particularly captivating as he dances with his partners – earnest and elegant. The costumes for the female dancers, designed by Max de Roy, were divine. Simple and graceful. The male costumes could have been edited further: a sheer long sleeved top, with thick materialled pants and a skirt over them – could we have just had the skirt with some sheer leggings instead? The thicker material pants seems impractical for the dancers and forms that are otherwise obscured could have revealed something more.
A solo piece with Joshua Douglas. This piece makes Douglas vulnerable: not only because he is alone on stage and only in a pair of small shorts, but he must captivate our attention for the duration of the piece, and he does. The warm lighting hits his body from the sides, creating interesting shadows across his core. Great lighting design from Wendy Clease. The lines Douglas creates with his body are delightful.
This piece is a lot of fun. Ruby Ryburn, Hannah Thomson, Miguel Herrera, and Khaan Scrivens do a fantastic job of creating a sense of travel and play, working well with one another. Ryburn, in particular, has an expressive face which helps guide the audience into the story of the dance.
A duet piece with India Shackel and Adian Tully. From STORM SURGE, Tully has caught my eye as an impressively talented dancer. In a duo, he shines again, performing and supporting his stage partner in some impressive holds, and flowing from one movement to another effortlessly. Together, he and Shackel create some gorgeous shapes which, especially towards the end of the piece, look haggard and grotesque in the way only ballet can make look good. There is a particular swoop dive that Shackel undertakes with Tully as she essentially drops and swings frighteningly close to the floor which elicits a gasp from me. The trust these two share with each other is inspiring.
TIME WEAVER in particular has the strongest narrative of the season, exploring the way two bodies interact with one another over time, “curving, sculpting, playing ‘living’ inside an unending duet”, as the programme states.
Easily my favourite of all the pieces. We have many more bodies in the space for this one, and the dance takes on a more contemporary feel. De Roy’s design is at it’s best here: the dancers are all dressed the same, gender differentiation we have seen in all previous pieces through costuming here does not matter, and they become one organism in their magenta, high-neck, sleeveless tops and straight-cut pants and matching socks. COLORATURA involves opera. Scott returns to the stage in a Marie Antoinette-esque costume made from rustling plastic, and lip syncs to the operatic vocals heard throughout the piece. At many points throughout the lip sync, my ears and eyes believe Scott himself is singing. A performance to rival some drag performers, no doubt.
The use of cannon in COLORATURA is fantastic. As a friend pointed out to me, it is reminiscent of a deck of cards shuffling and cascading around their Queen of Hearts. Prior has thought about what it means to have so many bodies in the space and how this could be interesting rather than looking like a pink blob. The bodies all look natural, moving of their own choice, each doing something interesting, fun, and bizarre, and yet all still unified. Large plastic sheets arrive at various moments of the performance and the dancers play with this in fun and ridiculous ways.
Lighting is always a key element in dance shows. At times, there is lovely and interesting lighting, and other times the dancers are not well lit – especially when they dance at the edges of the stage.
The ballet talent is immense. I certainly have my favourites but you should check them out for yourself and see what I mean about the various pieces. Go to the New Zealand School of Dance website to secure your tickets.