DANCERS SHOWN OFF TO ADVANTAGE
Touch. Pause. Engage - UNITEC Dance Showcase 2011
Choreographers: Tim Podesta, Malia Johnston, Kelly Nash, Katie Burton, Sarah Foster
at Raye Freedman ARTS CENTRE, Gillies Avenue (Cnr Silver Road) Epsom, Auckland
From 1 Dec 2011 to 4 Dec 2011
Reviewed by Jenny Stevenson, 2 Dec 2011
Not a single scrum to be seen in this high energy show – but the rugby referee's mantra of touch... pause... engage... could easily parallel a choreographer's instructions to a group of dancers, and has a pleasing synergy in this context, as the name of Unitec's Graduation dance performance. Under the current direction of Dance Curriculum Leader, Charene Griggs, the Unitec Dance Course would appear to be thriving. The sixteen graduands being showcased have achieved a recognisable stylistic uniformity that is enhanced by some of the dancers' innate technical and performance abilities.
Ms Griggs has commissioned and selected works from five choreographers, including three graduates of the school, to create a programme which shows off the dancers to advantage, as well as challenging them as performers. It includes works choreographed for the first and second year students, in addition to those who are graduating.
Unequal, which opens the programme and is created by Tim Podesta, is the perfect vehicle to get to know the individual third-year dancers. The choreographer teams up dancers of similar energy and movement styles to create a work that builds from a gentle almost hypnotic pace to a compelling and vigorous conclusion.
A diverse range of dynamics reflects or counters the music of Arvo Part and Max Richter to deliver Podesta's theme of “confidence v. arrogance” as the intensity of the movement phrases builds. Starting from a gestural-based choreography which includes clapping and body-slapping the vocabulary enlarges to a style that is altogether more fluid with some lovely airborne sections. The dancers work with a strong commitment and focus throughout.
To close the programme, Choreographer, Sarah Foster-Sproull uses Israeli folk and gypsy music to create the charming Never Again in conjunction with the students - who have all received choreographic training and who recently presented a season of their own works. Vinyl record-covers feature, and some rhythmic folk- dance steps. In between there is a lovely duet for Lucy Lynch and Mark Bonnington and some fast moving ensemble work in which the cast seems to revel.
In contrast, Malia Johnston chooses three sections from a 2006 work dark matter to show, by the conclusion of the work, the students performing interesting partnering sequences and lifts to the music of Eden Mulholland. Setting up this section, is the singular choreographed ebb and flow that features in much of Johnston's work, with groupings that dissolve and reform in an organic manner. Not all the students perform in this work, but those that do, rise to the challenge of Johnston's choreography and move with seamless interaction in the groupings.
Almost stealing the show, is the exuberant Forevernever created on the twenty-two Year 1 students by Kelly Nash and set to joyous music by Eden Mulholland. Giving all and sundry the chance to show-off and have fun, the work sees the students traversing the stage in various formations and wrangling with each other as they covet various objects of desire – including sparkly ruby red shoes and a school satchel. A delicious sense of mischief underpins the work which has grown out of choreographic tasks given to the students, which were developed by Nash with the assistance of Sweaty Heart Productions dance and choreographic collective.
Katie Burton's work for the fifteen Year 2 students, A Heroic Bunch, starts with three distinct formations comprising five dancers moving in unison - that eventually break apart as the performers re-group and work in different clusters. Set to music by Josh Tilsley, M.I.A and Arctic Monkeys, the work reflects the students' depictions of their own personal and public heroes. The material explores a number of different stylistic themes that see some strong dancers emerge.
Although much of the choreographic material in the programme is similar, it is a style that sits comfortably on this group of dancers and would seem to reflect a particularly New Zealand aesthetic. This centres on a highly-charged physicality that is a feature of dance in Aotearoa, and towards which many of these dancers are moving.
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