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The Beaten Track 2012
Choreographers: Sam Wood-Rawnsley,Kelly Nash, Grace Woolett & Mikayla Thomas, Shani Dickins & Jahra Rager, Serene Lorimer

at Musgrove Studio, Maidment Theatre, Auckland
From 28 Nov 2012 to 29 Nov 2012
[1 hour]

Reviewed by Raewyn Whyte, 29 Nov 2012

Six new dance works under development feature in The Beaten Track 2013, comprising the second in an annual series curated by Serene Lorimer . A relatively recent graduate herself, Lorimer is motivated by the ongoing need for independent dance  artists to have a platform for their work – a creative space in which they can share projects and get input towards further development , as well as a shared opportunity for formal presentation of works in progress.  

The programme opens with Sam Woods-Rawnsley's  Baby On Latch Long Be Strong , the scene set by her young daughter and very recent baby seated on stage inside  a circle of mum's underwear, and behind them a couple of piles of papers and brochures – which turn out to all be birth, baby , and benefit related. Mid-stage is a foetally-curled/uncurling/upturning/subsiding/looping cycles  dancer Jess Quaid. Behind her is a screen which subsequently presents still and moving images of the baby, domestic life, the dancers in various guises (AV and film by Amy Mauvan, Emma Kemp, and Lennox Rawnsley); and in the back corner, Sam Woods-Rawnsley expressing milk  with the assistance of an electric pump. When she has enough milk in the baby's bottle, the two children are handed over to their father, seated in the audience, and they all settle in to watch the show.

The logic is simple and it the dance has its own very delightfully eccentric charms:  creating a dance is like gestating a baby, and for both you need two creative contributors who provide a support team, patience to complete the process, tolerance and the ability to handle the unexpected moments, discoveries and upheavals that come along the way, and a willingness to go with whatever comes and make something of it.

Next is Bundle , a fascinating flow of movement and spatial arrangements choreographed by Grace Wollett and Mikayla Thomas for Seekers Dance Collective and set to music by Liam Kiely. This looks like it might possibly  be a tribute to several well known Judson Group rule dances. Performed by Becca Oram, Jahra Rager, Larissa Hunter, Livvi Lloyd, Phoebe Heyhoe, Sarah Mills and Stacey Ross) this is a lovely movement study with six dancers asprawl on the floor yet balanced precariously upon some parts of their bodies. As the seventh dancer joins them, the balances collapse, and they wriggle onto their sides to curve around one another . Successive  changes of position achived by weriggles ang wiggles and shuffles and rolling over see the clusters re-formed before they rise to their feet and begin new variations of circular coalescence  and tensile linkages , eventually ending as individual items you might see under a microscope. A fascinating flow of movement and spatial arrangements, very satisfying to follow.

Kelly Nash darts out in a red sequinned dress and dark woollen tights in very low lighting and twirls a little to Billie Holiday's Embraceable you, quickly joined by the casts from each dance til everyone is warmly embracing everyone else.  They share the love with us, then vanish back into the darkness, more a momentary  provocation  rather than a dance, though perhaps something that could quickly become a ritual prelude or postlude to performance.

Shani Dickins & Jahra Rager join forces in Demi God Half Human, dancing somewhat apologetically/angrily/antagonistically/disconnectedly/ distractedly – mostly simultaneous solos yet with moments when the two dancer are in synch. They move in front of a large male religious icon/portrait (African? Caribbean?) projected onto the screen, often with their backs to it,  to Amazing (black) by The Wyld. The mood is communicated clearly and this fragment seems to carry a sense of where it might go next.

Lorimer's own contribution to the programme is a playful quartet, Presentable Self, danced by Annabel Harrison, Nicole Rowland, Samantha Wood-Rawnsley and Shannon Mutu to excerpts from several music tracks (Quiet Village by The Surfmen, Frankie Valli's Can't Take My Eyes Off You,  Tessellate by Alt-J  and Get Free by Major Lazer, plus some of Emily Post's advice about Etiquette in Society, in Business, in Politics and at Home.) There's a shared core of clean, confident swirling movements and direct pathways in space, and some lusciously full-bodied sequences, and also some individual sequenes which are not shared at all. There is a judicious  use of solos and duets and floor work, a surreptitious canon sequence which really makes its mark as a highpoint. There's some flirtation with the audience and some abject refusal to make any audience connection at all , perhaps obeying Emily Post's paradoxical injunction not to draw attention to oneself in public  

And finally, a second version of Kelly Nash's downright wacky and somehow utterly absorbing Meme (Skin) which premiered during Tempo's Prime Cuts programme in October.  This has a sound score of montaged, edited excerpts from wildly divergent sources – ranging from Eartha Kitt's I want to be evil, and Dudley Benson's Kiwi,  to Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata and  No More I love Yous  from Annie Lennox. The action swings about unpredictably, with a loose structure of sequential solos interspersed by group interactions.

One dancer has been lost from the original five – Lydia Bittner-Baird has returned to Miami – and here it is danced by Georgie Goater in lavender blue, Zahra Killeen-Chance in white , Tallulah Holly Massey in powder blue, and Jessie McCall in red with a giant moon mask (made by Magdalena O'Connor).  Each has a distinct persona which morphs somewhat during the course of dance—most have feral properties at times, all engage in absurd movement and intense interchanges with one another, and the magic thing is that they are very endearing despite the eccentricity of the whole.

Development is the keynote for The Beaten Track, and each of the choreographers intends to take these works further. Nash is aiming for a full length version of Meme (Skin) in due course

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