New Zealand theatre reviews, performace reviews and performing arts directory

Follow Theatreview
Follow Theatreview on Twitter


Print Version

Choreographer/filmmaker: Sue Healey
NZ dance artists: Mark Baldwin, Craig Bary, Lisa Densem, Raewyn Hill, Sarah-Jayne Howard, Jeremy Nelson, Ross McCormack, Claire O'Neil
Composer: Mike Nock

at Reading Cinemas, Wellington
From 16 May 2013 to 17 May 2013
[1hr 20mins]

Reviewed by Virginia Kennard, 19 May 2013

Virtuosi is less a documentary or dance film than a visual collage of filmed portraiture. It features eight Kiwi dancers and choreographers who have made their way to success on the international scene. Virtuosi is an exploration of what it means to dance, be New Zealanders and of home.

Sue Healey spent two days filming each dancer, household names to the dance industry in New Zealand, in their various international bases. Inviting them to dance for screen, either improvised or choreographed, we watch them talk and move and dance in places of personal importance. A sense of place, whether that be a reference to connection to the land or simply a place they enjoy being, is a central theme to this work: they climb trees, dance on (forbidden) rocks, traverse sandy beaches, dance-loiter on couches on the side of the road, shift objects in their homes. The viewer is a guest in their lives as they talk about dance or themselves or themselves as dance, with simply their face filling the frame.  When else could we get to inspect a dancer's face this intently?

Interviews ranged from Mark's lengthy outline of his background and history and Claire laughing at her entry into the Brussels scene via Wim Vandekeybus, to Lisa remembering her bewilderment of the friendliness of New Zealanders upon her return from Berlin, and Ross discovering his talent for playing the fool alongside the precision learnt at ADT.

The screen time of each was variable, and for the most part this was appropriate: clearly a choice based on the filmed material and revealing the shifting process of filming and interviews based on who and where. However the viewer was often left wondering whether one would see more of Mark Baldwin, or why Lisa Densem had extra moments of whimsy. Maybe a more refined interview method, or rigorous editing could have  prevented personalities overshadowing others.

This imblance of person vs dance, however, would onbvioulsy be redressed in the format originally intended, and still waiting ti be mounted --  a multi-screen installation of the various portraits. The varied screen time would not be a problem in such a presentation but does make it a little difficult to watch as a continued narrative.

The cinematography and musical choices were distinct and perfect for each dancer. Having access to the entire catalogue of music from composer Mike Nock, Healey made inspired selections well-synched with the dancer in question: the quirky fool of Ross, the introspective quiet of Lisa. The eloquence and reined-energy of Mark, the intrepid, malleable Raewyn. The discipline and clarity of Sarah Jane, the energy of Craig. The clear, considered and playful Jeremy, the buzz and eagerness of Claire.  In particular that the camera angles for Ross were off-kilter and the music for Lisa more ethereal.

The real pleasure in this film was watching dancers I know, have met, admire, done class with, discussed the nature of dance with, in their elements: discussing their art, their background, the future of dance, simply dancing. Healey's impeccable skill as a dance film-maker really comes to the fore in the closing sequence of edited dance sequences from all dancers. Her burgeoning skills as a documentary film-maker are revealed in the insight we gain of each of the dancers' foci and perspective, cementing this work as a visual collage destined for a gallery space.

A place to re-appraise one's own practice and enjoy the impact of Kiwis on the dance world at large. 

For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.

 Jennifer Nikolai
 Raewyn Whyte (NZ Herald);


New Zealand School of Dance posted 23 May 2013, 02:34 PM

We loved seeing 'Virtuosi' here in Wellington, and having Sue Healey as guest teacher at the New Zealand School of Dance was a real treat. thank you Sue.