We open to beautiful singing and the lights slowly fading up from the sides of the stage. More voices join to make harmonies - it’s unfair, these are dancers who can also sing?! This is a new dance choreographed by Craig Bary. The dance is performed in rings, with the outer rings moving more often and as we get closer to the centre, the movement is slower each time. This is a common theme in nature, with trees or the way the planets orbit around the sun. Upon these rings were a series of movements which were repeated throughout, playing with “layering imperfect and random motifs in succession,” as mentioned in the programme. “This gave us the capability of having something cause itself to continue to exist, a state of perpetuation.” This piece explores causality and organic paces of movement, as my friend points out, with the music creating an atmosphere rather than creating specific beats for the dancers to hit. There is something graceful and slow about this piece, reflecting their inspiration.
A balanced duet between Persia Thor-Poet and Seth Ward. Often with duos like this, it is easy for the male dancer to start overpowering and controlling the female dancer – not so with these two. This dance choreographed by Christina Chan and Aymeric Bichon gives equal weight to both dancers. They both hold each other in difficult poses, carry each other in their arms or on their backs, meaning they twist around each other, drifting together and apart, climbing over each other – at one point they even become a boat! The way Thor-Poet and Ward dance together with this mutual respect, strength, and grace reminds me of swirling sand in the wind, their rust and beige coloured costumes help with this image as well. Delightful.
Contemporary, let’s get weird! The back curtain opens to reveal a textured white fabric as the backdrop, reminiscent of sandstone with blues and purples softly lit on it. This is juxtaposed with the clown-like movement of the dancers as they waddle and creeping onto the stage from the sides, women dancers in square shouldered suits. Their movements are funny, and my friend and I can’t hold back our laughter at the intentional silliness of it all. What happens next is more about the collective commenting on the repetitive nature of capitalism and hustle culture as we have a motivational (and male) voice over for much of the dance. The voiceover speaks to the ideas of getting up, getting on with it, pushing through the difficult moments, pushing yourself to the edge, which is reflective in the dance. We finish with different sized white boxes being brought on stage in various fashions by the dancers, and eventually being stacked in a tower, similar shape to a skyscraper in the city.
This feels like a fresh voice coming through the contemporary dance world with clever and clear social commentary; I will be keeping a lookout for more work choreographed by Holly Newsome!
A KIND TONE
This piece is simply beautiful. It’s powerfully femme – soft, fluid, rugged, sporadic, and communal. We open to various forms draped in pink silk, later to reveal the dancers in soft pink velvet long sleeved shirts and uniquely pleated pants. The image of these dancers cloaked from head to toe in this pink silk fabric like a burka, my mind instantly goes to the brave women in Iran who are fighting for freedom, and for whom, under the Islamic Republic, dancing is prohibited. There’s a kind of poetry in these women in Aotearoa dancing for all women, especially for those who are not free to dance in their own country.
This dance, choreographed by Tyler Carney-Faleatua, reveals layers within itself, it being set out for “this group of wāhine [to] ultimately [explore] what it means to be an individual with the support of a community” as the programme states. A KIND TONE does just that. The dancers are kind to one another, hugging one another, taking each other in, dancing along and with, joining together as a group, like shattered glass coming back to form one pane.
TO THE FOREST, TO THE ISLAND
A tear is shed during this dance! A rare occurrence that must be noted! Sarah Foster-Sproull in the programme states their aim in creating this piece “was to craft a dance that captures the energy of togetherness”, and it does. It touches on a similar theme to A KIND TONE but it articulates it quite differently. LED lights on little stands are used and placed at various parts around the stage and also change colours frequently throughout the piece. These are moved about by the dancers themselves, allowing each dancer to have their time in the limelight whilst also returning to the group. It is also a delight to see genuine joy on the dancers faces as they perform to us and with each other. Something to truly melt the heart. At one point, there were different vibrant colours displayed on the LEDs and the dancers were all dancing as one in front of them. This makes me feel the queer joy of dancing in a gay club. During a time when our community is so frequently persecuted and attacked, we return to dance, our universal home.
These contemporary pieces give us much to ponder! And reminds us to break from our daily confines and have a wee wiggle in our meat sacks. Each dancer is incredibly talented and can work together with such cohesion, I can’t see any egos surmounting any other person – there is truly a sense of community with this cohort, something truly wonderful to behold in an age of such vehement individualism.
The 2022 Performance Season has since finished, but I’d like to give a shout out to the dancers: Aleisha Brown, Isabella Jones, Miriam Joyce, Cate Leong, Amélie Logan, Sofija Milic, Caterina Moreno, Molly Robinson, Hannah Scholten, Haylee Stringer, Persia Thor-Poet, Rhiannon Thomas, Micah Tofilau, Deija Vulona, Lyndon Foley, and Seth Ward.