2010 Made in New Zealand

SKY CITY Theatre, Auckland

17/05/2010 - 17/05/2010

Opera House, Wellington

26/05/2010 - 26/05/2010

Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch

26/04/2010 - 26/04/2010

Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

29/04/2010 - 01/05/2010

Production Details

2010 Made in New Zealand 

Footnote Dance 2010 Season 

Footnote Dance set to soar in 2010  
From Wellington to Waitaki to Shanghai, the year 2010 will be when the world sees the best of New Zealand contemporary dance courtesy of Footnote Dance Company’s 2010 programme. 
Fresh from its debut performance at the New Zealand International Arts Festival of the acclaimed MTYLAND, Footnote Dance returns with new seasons of Made in New Zealand, the art gallery performance fusion Watch This Space, and the highly successful revamped Footnote Forte Series. 
Undoubtedly the significant event of the year is Footnote Dance’s voyage to Shanghai, China on July 9 where they will perform Malia Johnston’s new work Purlieu on ‘New Zealand Day’ at the World Expo. The company plans to stay on in Shanghai for a residency at Tong Ji University.
2010 Made in New Zealand 
On the home front, Footnote Dance are excited to be performing in even more places in 2010. The Wellington-based company is set for an extensive tour of their perennial favourite Made in New Zealand, which has enthralled audiences all over New Zealand with its celebration of original homegrown contemporary dance set to New Zealand music – of course timed for NZ Music Month.
The 2010 Made in New Zealand tour will being in Nelson (April 20, 21) before travelling to Christchurch (April 26), Oamaru (April 28), Dunedin (April 29, 30 and May 1), Invercargill (May 8), Auckland (May 17), concluding in Wellington (May 26). Full tour details are included next page.
Dance lovers are in for an additional treat with encore performances of MTYLAND in Christchurch, Oamaru, Invercargill and Auckland. In Nelson, Dunedin and Wellington new works by Malia Johnston and Sarah Foster take the stage alongside solo works by Michael Parmenter and Ross McCormack.
Since its inaugural season in 2007, Made in New Zealand has emerged as a sparkling highlight on the country’s dance calendar. The brainchild of the fiercely devoted and passionate Director of Footnote Dance, Deirdre Tarrant, the series was initiated to celebrate New Zealand culture through matching original New Zealand dance works with homegrown music.
This year will be no different, with 2010 Made in New Zealand offering a captivating line-up of newly developed work and two works returning from the 2009 Footnote Forte series.
Leading New Zealand choreographer Malia Johnston presents a brand new work Purlieu, which progresses an earlier work Miniatures and explores the body’s relationship to small, precious and confined spaces. Sarah Foster choreographs the other new work, called i changed which is a must see – a sexy piece that expresses the emotions around touching, and sometimes inappropriate touching!
Returning to 2010 Made in New Zealand are two works that featured in last year’s well-received and sold out Footnote Forte Series. Celebrated choreographer Michael Parmenter, one of our most prominent dance figures has created Somebody’s Darling, a uniquely touching work featuring the music of Douglas Lilburn and inspired by historical headstones in Central Otago.
And Ross McCormack presents Stealth, inspired by urban street art and the graffiti of Aotearoa hip hop legend DLT. Both these works present a unique look at two historical ends of New Zealand dance and music culture.
2010 Made in New Zealand – National Tour
A crowd favourite and an established performance season, 2010 Made in New Zealand celebrates NZ Music Month with new works by New Zealand choreographers Sarah Foster and Malia Johnston to new music by Andrew Foster and Eden Mulholland and solos by Michael Parmenter and Ross McCormack to music by Douglas Lilburn and Jody Lloyd.
Nelson: Tues 20 & Wed 21 April 7.30pm at Suter Theatre
Christchurch: Mon 26 April 8.00pm at Isaac Theatre Royal (plus MTYLAND)
Oamaru: Wed 28 April 6.30pm at Opera House (plus MTYLAND)
Dunedin: Thu 29, Fri 30 April, Sat 1 May 7.30pm at Allen Hall Theatre
Invercargill: Sat 8 May 7.30pm at Civic Theatre (plus MTYLAND)
Auckland: Mon 17 May 8.00pm at SKYCITY Theatre (plus MTYLAND)
Wellington: Wed 26 May 8.00pm at Opera House
All tickets available from Ticketek www.ticketek.co.nz  except for World Expo: Shanghai
Invercargill and Oamaru shows available from TicketDirect www.ticketdirect.co.nz  
World Expo: Shanghai 
From a celebration of New Zealand in April / May to the world in July. One of the most exciting opportunities in Footnote’s rich history is the chance to perform in front of the world when they travel to Shanghai to participate in World Expo 2010. The Company has been to Expo before, both in Brisbane and Seville but Shanghai promises to top both experiences.
Footnote Dance performs as part of a production of leading New Zealand cultural ambassadors, including Moana and the Tribe, NZTrio, and Aivale Cole and incorporates Malia Johnston’s Purlieu.
“It is great to perform on such a significant stage and be a part of the presentation of our New Zealand identity which we are so passionate about at Footnote Dance,” said Deirdre Tarrant, Director of Footnote Dance.
The Footnote Dance Company travel to Shanghai on July 5 and will also take up the Tongji University Residency from July 12 to July 19.
Museum Hotel Watch This Space – Maatakitakihia Mai Tenei Waahi
Footnote Dance’s unique fusion of movement within the confines of art galleries and inspired by current exhibitions continues in 2010 with performances at Christchurch Art Gallery (April 25), Dunedin Art Gallery (May 1), and City Gallery Wellington (June 5) coinciding with the Company’s Made in New Zealand tour.
Museum Hotel Watch This Space – Maatakitakihia Mai Tenei Waahi
Christchurch: Sun 25 April 12pm at Christchurch City Art Gallery
Dunedin: Sat 1 May 3pm at Dunedin Art Gallery
Wellington: Sat 5 June 12.30 at City Gallery Wellington
Footnote Forte Series 2010
In 2009 the first Footnote Forte Series was a delightful site-specific dance experience that took the audience on a journey between multiple venues. It was a case where dance literally jumped out of the box. Scheduled for around September 2010, please stay tuned for an announcement about the next stage of this fresh and exciting dance event.


Choreographer: Malia Johnston

Dancers: Anita Hunziker, Sarah Knox, Jeremy Poi, Francis Christeller, Lucy Marinkovich, Robbie Curtis

Music: Eden Mulholland

Costume: Letty MacPhedran


i changed

Choreographer: Sarah Foster

Dancers: Anita Hunziker, Sarah Knox, Jeremy Poi, Francis Christeller, Lucy Marinkovich, Robbie Curtis

Music: Andrew Foster

Somebody’s Darling
Choreographer: Michael Parmenter
Dancer : Francis Christeller

Music: Douglas Lilburn Elegy (1951)         

Songs 1-5 & 7,8 (Paul Whelan/ David Harper) 6 (played by Bruce Greenfield)

Poems by Alistair Te Ariki Campbell



Choreographer: Ross McCormack

Dancer: Jeremy Poi

Music:   Jody Lloyd



Choreography: Claire O’Neil

Sound Design:Herman Martin, featuring music from Battles

Dancers: Anita Hunziker, Sarah Knox, Jeremy Poi, Jesse Wikiriwhi, Francis Christeller, Lucy Marinkovich

Original Lighting Design: Maia Whittet

Quote from Walt Whitman ‘Leaves of Grass’

Lyrics ‘Seasons’ by Anonymous

Original Texts by the performers

Guest trumpeters in each centre

Footnote’s triumph lies with Purlieu

Review by Jennifer Shennan 30th May 2010

Somebody’s Darling chor. Michael Parmenter, comp. Douglas Lilburn
Stealth  Ross McCormack, Jody Lloyd
I Changed Sarah Foster, Andrew Foster
Purlieu Malia Johnston, Eden Mulholland

An appreciative audience saw Footnote’s Made in New Zealand programme end its national tour in Wellington.

In Somebody’s Darling, reflection is shared as a man progressively sheds his clothing. Albeit a solo, the dance implies relationships – of body and thought, movement and song, self and other, composer and poet, choreographer and dancer. Francis Christeller gives an assured performance, although his live song met with some challenge in this venue. 

In Stealth, a powerful presence is established through motifs of body, strength, paint, energy, canvas, tattoo, identity. This dance is wonderfully cast on Jeremy Poi, and he brings real mana to it. A number of works by Footnote have found success in art galleries, and Stealth harnesses dance to visual art in an unusually interesting way.  

I Changed had a curious exploration of dancers offering glimpses into the daily reality of bodies in the studio and the dressing rooms. It did not quite settle to its comfort zone, as themes of distraction and frustration chased each other through the work.

But it was in Purlieu that the evening’s triumph lay. From the first assured square of light, one dancer, then soon an expanded cast, transformed the stage into both the microcosm and macrocosm of city life. In tight and faultless sequencing of movement, sets of blocks were danced on and carried cross the stage suggesting by turns a platform, a perch, a building, a cityscape, demolition, restoration, habitat for humanity, and for bird life.

The stunning design of costume and lighting, and wonderfully driving music, gave real coherence to the theme, and the company transformed itself. This is Footnote’s most mature and striking work to date, with new recruits merging into a strong team. Purlieu will do them and the country proud in Shanghai in July.
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. 


Make a comment

Physically robust ensemble in tight performance mode

Review by Jenny Stevenson 27th May 2010

In these times of increasing global conformity, when they are even threatening to take the “Kiwi” out of KiwiBank who can you count on to wave the flag for Godzone? Footnote Dance would have to be one of the front-runners, with their proud proclamation of Made in New Zealand works and a superb poster featuring the North and South Islands composed entirely of bodies in motion.

Historically, Footnote’s culture, under the long-standing direction of Deirdre Tarrant, has been solely focussed on developing New Zealand choreographers and using New Zealand music when creating repertoire. So it is entirely fitting that this fine young Company will be representing our country at Expo 2010 in Shanghai with a superb new choreography by Malia Johnston, intriguingly entitled, Purlieu.

This work is a polished gem – the atmosphere that it creates is highly charged, establishing defined but constantly shifting locations that are texturally enhanced by diagonally placed squares of light, solid wooden boxes and flowing swathes of material. The bodies of the dancers weave themselves through this design in unison groupings of continuous movement that play with levels, direction and tempi aided by the evocative music of Eden Mulholland.

Notions of balance are explored, as the three women rise and fall while perched on the tiny boxes facing the back of the stage – so that their backs become eloquent conveyers of a strange emotive language, utilising a staccato vocabulary of hand movements, in close proximity to their bodies. The dancers’ long draping skirts anchor them to the ground so that they appear like sentinels, elongated in form and gazing out into the distance.

Partnering lifts allow the women to soar, touching down briefly on the boxes only to rise up again in a different direction, their bodies wrapping around their partners, while folding and unfolding in multiple variations. The final image sees the boxes reconfigured into a tiny city, gradually fading in the light.

The other new work, I Changed choreographed by Sarah Foster, shows the Company in an entirely different mode – combative and competitive, while investigating the dynamics of social interchange and group ethos. One man (Robbie Curtis) is excluded from the ‘in crowd’, by various modes of rejection, sometimes flippantly, but mostly in a manner that is deliberately intimidating.

The dancers who all contributed to this choreography, quickly establish a pack mentality with a great deal of humour that nevertheless masks a restless and adversarial attitude, with everyone trying to outdo each other in acts that feature inappropriate touching, showing off and aggression. Very few connections are made within the group and when they occur they are only fleeting.

This society is not one to conform to convention, but instead puts a brave face on what appears to be inner turmoil. It is hard not to view it as a metaphor or commentary on the world in its present state of informational overload.

Curtis, after his final exclusion, dances a strong solo of acrobatic balances and flips that seems to celebrate his individuality while Sarah Knox appears to have ongoing internal dialogues with herself, in her two beautifully judged solos. Anita Hunziker’s untamed effervescence comes to the fore, as she presents as ‘one of the boys’ in many of the groupings.

Jeremy Poi, a dancer of strong presence, has often been used as an instigator of humour in Footnote works – a role that he plays to the hilt and seems to relish. In Stealth, however, choreographed by Ross McCormack, he appears in a different light – connected to his inner self and enacting a tumultuous dialogue in a vocabulary of controlled dissonance.

This is an excellent work that aims to represent hip-hop graffiti – itself a visual manifestation of rapping – into a highly original and visceral dance-form, where the body literally becomes the canvas for expression.

Michael Parmenter’s minimalist work, Somebody’s Darling, is strongly performed by Francis Christeller, but nevertheless appears strangely austere and bleak in its intent. The deliberate, ritualistic nature of the choreography speaks of a return to the themes of repression and denial, addressed by Parmenter earlier in The Dark Forest and Les Noces. Christeller is not afraid to plumb these depths, however, and takes on the challenge of singing Alistair Campbell’s poetry, set to music by Douglas Lilburn.

The Company, fresh from a South Island and Auckland tour, is in tight performance mode. The two newcomers, Lucy Marinkovich and Robbie Curtis, together with guest dancer Yanhao Du contribute to a physically robust ensemble that will represent New Zealand strongly in Shanghai.
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. 


Make a comment

From small spaces emerge grand ideas

Review by Bernadette Rae 19th May 2010

Four very different works conclude sterling season by this company 

In the first moments of Purlieu, Malia Johnston’s new work opening this programme and soon bound for exhibition at the World Expo in Shanghai, small and precious performance spaces are first defined by light, as one neat little square, then two, three, four.

Four male dancers variously inhabiting these illuminated pens push against their boundaries with athletically expansive movements, while three female figures, hunched and draped and shadowy, quietly set the stage with small black boxes.

Expo’s theme is "better cities – better living" and the boxes momentarily suggest a city skyline before the three women step up and elegantly release their wrappings to appear as elongated goddesses, backs to the audience, in evening dress. [More]
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. 


Make a comment

Expressing and questioning our society and generation

Review by Jack Gray 19th May 2010

Purlieu (Malia Johnston) begins with cascades of piano (Eden Mulholland) and a square of light. Spinning legs and muscular arms of guest dancer Yanhou Du, lofting, shifting from corner to corner with fast, supple arms and release.

Jeremy Poi enters another square of light, his unison with Du teetering in the milliseconds. Francis Christeller and Robbie Curtis join them to sweep and arc as well. Transparent black-clad torsos highlight their different physiques and performative interpretations, like black glass shards refracting angles of light. Converging, shifting and assembling the space, the music comes back to an insistent bass line reflected in constant recovery of form.

Three hunched women [Anita Hunziker, Sarah Knox, Lucy Marinkovich] carry and leave boxes. Standing atop them like Pou figures reaching to the sky, their angular, elbow and wrist movements cut the space like unusual clocks. The men scuttle across the floor removing fabric, following a disrobing of layers of black, white and sheer fabric by the women.
Echoes of Miniatures – a previous work of Johnston (2005) – see replicating images of birds. The men flit the women daintily from box to box. An array of lifts, spirals, slow arches and spins ensue with pas de deux partnering perched on the boxes. The centre couple (Hunziker and Curtis) create a synergy between yielding and groundedness, the women being spun, twirled and flipped with pinpoint accuracy.
The birds reassemble separately on the boxes, their gestures preening, touching, pricking, opening and contracting. Falling off and shaking, this is followed by dropping, lying and releasing in couplets of musical rhythm.
The dance builds up to a head-banging sequence, running, removing the boxes, the women throwing themselves at the men. This dynamic contrasts with a slow gorgeous backbend (Knox on Poi’s shoulders) and ensemble flapping arms in silence as the final and inevitable image.

The work has a bit more content to be considered a ‘short’ work, yet feels perhaps it could become a full-length piece. It is great for Auckland supporters to see this glimpse of Johnston’s offering to New Zealand Day at the World Expo 2010, Shanghai in July.

I Changed (Sarah Foster) has three women [Anita Hunziker, Sarah Knox, Lucy Marinkovich] with T-shirts over their heads. Fun ponytails and quick little walks, smiling, giggling and shifting, they are joined by two men [Jeremy Poi, Francis Christeller] who challenge them to duels of playground banter, sexist mockery (“You dick”/ “Weiner”/ “Hey Fishlips”/ “Smelly-bum”). This is emphasised by episodes of lightning fast movement, lifting, jumping and spinning in displays of overt and subliminal sexual bravado.

The music changes and ‘the other guy’ (Robbie Curtis) walks on and attempts to touch Christeller’s privates while the girls pick wedgies out of their backsides. Knox plays with perfect technique and contrasts this with fun trashiness to create a playful atmosphere. The guys do a repetitive alternating sequence of lying on top of each other intimately then throwing the other off, as Poi and Hunziker reappear (in op shop jerseys and socks) to mooch in the background as if dancing lackadaisically in a private lounge.

There is a beautiful solo by Sarah Knox that is all legs, arms and cute little gestures that show her ‘marking’ ballet movements (hands beating her wrist to imitate the feet). We see Foster’s penchant for exaggerating the beautiful into extremities of deformity or ugliness that makes for an interesting choreographic comment about femininity and expectations.

Angry screamers jump in singlets and shorts, in a sequence of fighting, grunts and wrestling holds and throws. This unique vocabulary shifts around the space in different formations. The performers are machines, well trained and committed to their dancing, their bodies strong as they attack the space again and again.

There is so much movement in this piece with the vocabulary constantly changing and creatively explorative.

Seeing all the girls in their bras and undies, I realise the choreographers are mostly women in this programme (with the exception of Ross McCormack). It makes me ponder what this thread of female angst might be about and how it could be reflective of the state of the NZ women’s psyche (if ‘Made in New Zealand’ could be considered a portrayal of some type of deeper national subconscious).

Stealth (Ross McCormack) is a solo with Jeremy Poi that starts with him pushing a canvas across the stage. With downbeat electronica by Jody Lloyd, it makes me think this piece would be better suited to an ‘underground’ club or gallery where the audience could feel less restrained and more interactive. Smudging blue paint on the wall and making outlines of his arms (we notice someone else manipulates the canvas) as his hypnotic hands spin and blur.

Themes of isolation and sparks of creativity are seen in postures of hunching, protection, retreating and challenge. Whether a statement of intent, perhaps this work reflects the faraway-ness of the choreographer living, working and surviving in Europe and maybe the burdens of being a New Zealand artist.

The work also showcases the dancer’s journey: as Poi demonstrates his intense commitment and dominating physicality we see insights of his performative growth and maturing development as an artist over the past few years of national touring (with Footnote and other productions).

Poi is cast as an angry, intense man at times throughout the show; he pulls his pants down and screams, which seem to be a recurring theme – echoed also in Foster’s and O’Neil’s work. This stripping down, exposing, taking control of vulnerability, starts to form threads that tug away at the thought of what makes our society and generation tick, questioning where we are at individually, collectively and nationally. 

Mytland (Claire O’Neil)

Preppy guy (Jeremy Poi) comes in falling and twirling; Geek Guy (Francis Christeller) enters with glasses and corduroy pants, followed by Sporty Chick (Anita Hunziker) in tracksuit and cargo pants. Next come Arty Girl (Lucy Marinkovich) with her black vest and open gaze and Sleepy Guy (Jesse Wikiriwhi) in his green pyjamas as if he has just woken up.

“I’m the real one,” says Wikiriwhi, before he jumps, backbends and turns. Desperate Housewife (Knox) falls across the stage as if she is on a slope. Marinkovich tells her story while Wikiriwhi talks over her. “I’m the most beautiful person in the world,” announces the Geek to the back cyc. They echo Wikiriwhi’s solo, falling and rocking under blue lights to the sound of slow screeches.

The group against the individual narrative is again used as a device, similar to Foster’s work. Thunder, throat singing and clashy sounds make them move like they are doing a contemporary Krump. Knox’s verbal diatribe is made up of commonly heard sayings and proverbs: “When the shit hits the fan, bite the bullet and wing it.”

Strange toings and froings. Wikiriwhi states, “No choir, or church or philosophy” – while behind him Hunziker moans, grunts, sobs and flops. She continues her little internal temper tantrum /tirade struggling like a grumpy little girl. Everyone comes onstage to soothe her, till she realises this and starts to play on the tribe’s good intentions.

The next section makes the viewer wonder how the dancers, as fit and agile and adaptable as they are, are able to cope with the demands of such an energetically hard-core programme.

“Seasons come and go,” they each sing, speak, screech out of tune. Christeller lets loose and tells every one of all the devices of mass destruction he has on him and for everyone to “get back”. His desperation, hostility and vulnerability show the mixed messages inherent within the work and the juxtaposition of self to community, to country, allegiance and coping mechanisms.

“That’s fantastic honey,” says Marinkovich absentmindedly to the Geek, as they stand eating chocolates by a backstage microphone. Poi decides he has had enough of the others onstage and tries to remove them one by one. When he turns on the audience and swears at them, he internalises his rage and climbs atop a ladder to wait it out.

The final dance shows a recapitulation of various moments of the piece, with dancers exchanging roles and ideas in an assemblage of ideas that continue to hack away at the core of the work.

The evenings programme seems to almost wash into one piece (with the exception of Johnston’s). My final questions leave me to ponder: Were the choreographers influenced by the same themes, concepts or concerns? Do their viewpoints portray a New Zealand society and generation in turmoil? Is there a distinct Euro dance-theatre sensibility present and what is it representative of? Do the dancers’ interpretations draw this essence of rawness, troubled internal /external realities into a distilled whole themselves?

[Reviews of the NZ International Arts Festival season of MTYLAND may be found here.] 
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.


Make a comment

Engaging with diversity

Review by Jonathan W. Marshall 05th May 2010

Readers of TheatreView have at times challenged the suggestion that the 22 year old Wellington-based dance company, Footnote, truly represents New Zealand identity in its productions (see here).

Without wishing to stir the coals of a dead fire, it is clear from the Made in New Zealand programs that director Deirdre Tarrant takes an ecumenical approach, situating the identity of the company itself at the nexus of modern international dance practice—notably Expressionism and hip-hop—and the particularities of those who dwell in Aotearoa.

Cultural and racial difference is not a principal focus of performance (as is the case with Black Grace). Rather, the diversity of membership, stylistic devices, and musical references provides the main way in which the company engages with anything which might be considered to be specifically national or bicultural.

The music of New Zealand’s most famous post-classical orchestral composer, Douglas Lilburn, features, as does the deep electronic bass thuds of NZ old skool hip-hopper Jody Lloyd (of Darktower), as well as interesting mixed collages by Eden Mulholland (crossing from neo-Romantic strings, to Minimalism, to glitch, and other materials) and Andrew Foster.

Together with the New Zealand Ballet, Footnote is one of the few companies to regularly tour the South Island, in this instance going as far as Invercargill. Footnote thereby promotes both NZ dance and music, although it is a great shame that live musicians were only ever present for one of the four pieces—choreographer Claire O’Neil’s ‘MTYLAND’, performed to music by Herman Martin of the avant-hop / electro-rock-crossover band, Battles—and this piece was not even offered to Dunedin audiences, despite the wealth of local brass players who could have been co-opted to play along with Martin’s samples.

Dunedin was however treated to choreography from Michael Parmenter, Ross McCormack, Sarah Foster and Malia Johnston.

It is not, in fact, all that expensive to pay for one multi-instrumentalist with a laptop to join the tour, and one hopes Tarrant and her colleagues might consider such an option in the future. This somewhat ambivalent profiling of the music is also sadly reflected in the program offered to audiences, in which no details of the considerable experience of the musical artists co-opted for Made in New Zealand are provided alongside the lengthy biographies of each choreographer and each dancer (complete with color photos!). It would be nice if Footnote more explicitly acknowledged that music serves as so much more than mere accompaniment to dance, and that it too has live properties, even in its contemporary electronic or electro-acoustic forms (pace Lilburn).

Parmenter’s ‘Somebody’s Darling’ began proceedings in Dunedin: a delicate, melancholy solo for the light, long-limbed dancer Francis Christeller (although unfortunately the sound was run so high that Lilburn’s otherwise elusive music often distorted through the PA). Lilburn’s ‘Elegy’ provides a sparse, slowly climbing neo-Romantic piano setting for the poetry of Alistair Te Airiki Campbell. Together with the device of having Christeller appear in a full dress suit, and carefully undress and then re-dress in stages between the stanzas, this provides the main dramaturgical structure of the work.

Like much NZ dance, Parmenter’s movement is built from a broadly Expressionistic palette, derived in large part from mid-20th century American dance (Martha Graham and the Denishawn). Expansion through the chest, and the rise and fall of bodily tensions with breath, or the major arching of the body along the full length of the spine, energizes much of the action. Parmenter also produces a restrained lyricism, with Christeller’s arms curving about him to create a complex set of interweaving arcs before caressing himself about the waist, or unfolding fingers into and out of each other in exquisite detailing of the hands.

In a particularly striking section, Christeller coils near-naked on the floor in a state approaching ecstasy, whilst also maintaining a vulnerability and tenderness in poise.

In short, ‘Somebody’s Darling’ is an exemplum of the particular formal properties and stylistic approaches Parmenter draws upon. Nor is the work entirely familiar. At the beginning, and then once more toward the conclusion, Christeller stops dancing and mimes singing the words (in this case, actually provided on CD by NZ baritone Paul Whelan, who is at least credited in the program notes). Christeller and Parmenter again handle this delicately, avoiding the potential for comedy, and instead producing a curious see-sawing between intimate affectivity and an almost Brechtian sense of distance from the emotions and text being referred to. Whilst I would have liked these more unusual elements drawn out more, ‘Somebody’s Darling’ more than succeeds on its own merits.

Rather more innovative, at least in terms of form, is McCormack’s ‘Stealth’, another solo, this time performed by Jeremy Poi. The dancer enters, crawling, his head obscured by a canvas which he pushes with his shoulder. Featuring a splash of paint carelessly strewn across its surface, this site of artistry serves at once as an urban space, a wall or a train on which graffiti might emerge, but also as a body, an extension of Poi’s own form.

Hip-hop has, by and large, been about the forcible reclamation and re-colonisation of urban space; a vociferous, electronic, vocal and painterly statement that its authors were and are here, in the midst of urban decay and scattered about the periphery of the cities. 20th century painting has itself often been theorised as a search for the final, irreducible trace of the painter or the author in the form of the gesture, the brushstroke, or the body. Jackson Pollock’s canvases are as much planes across which we register where his arm has travelled, and how his own bodily stature structured these drips and blobs, as they are more overtly formalistic or arranged works.

‘Stealth’ operates according to a similar logic. Poi’s movement takes the high acrobaticism of much break-dancing and renders it even more fluid, smooth, effortless and liquid in its execution than it is when performed on cardboard at a street corner. Whilst rhythmically simple, both in the movement and in the music — Lloyd’s relentlessly abstracted thuds themselves sound like some kind of abstraction and distillation of hip-hop itself into some kind of near irreducible and profoundly bassy essence — the choreography nevertheless often takes on a complexity and immediacy that makes one wonder if portions are improvised according to beat-based structures.

In either case, McCormack’s main achievement is to strip back hip-hop into a highly readable physical vocabulary, which then provides a platform for thematic exploration. Poi’s own focus as a dancer is at times startling, imparting a warrior-like militancy and forcefulness to the dense throws of weight and effort he negotiates. 

Poi daubs his hands in blue, inscribes the canvas with some of this, before engaging in a set of multi-direction hand curls and inter-weavings, even more complex than those of Parmenter’s earlier work. He then lowers his sweat pants to cover his already brown thighs with black paint.

A more eloquent statement of the complexities of hip-hop’s politics would be difficult to imagine. Widely adopted by former colonial peoples and diasporic classes, hip-hop emerged out of social marginalisation and oppression. It took these forces and inverted them, effectively painting ‘the black’ black again. Poi inscribes curlicues and zigzags into the oily texture across his thighs, their forms echoing his own impressive upper-body tatau, in a serious of gestures somewhere between lyric artistry and scarification. The piece ends with Poi vigorously and repetitively rubbing this material across his thighs in a manner which, like hip-hop, seems to reclaim pain and ambivalence back into social power and self-identification.

Foster’s ‘I Changed’ is the first ensemble work in the program. Foster appears to be aiming at the careening, highly abstract, and often deliberately disjointed dramatic ambience of much contemporary European dance-theatre since Pina Bausch (Ballets C. de la B., Need Company, Didier Théron, etc), moving from mime, snatches of spoken words, game-play, play with props and costumes (extended passages involve the re-arrangement of stretchable clothing into various unlikely configurations), and so on.

The emotional and dramatic content revolves around the desire for social acceptance, and at times the work feels like the TV series Skins transposed into dance. A particularly strong section involves Poi beating and being beaten up, moving between fierce self-control and restraint, to being lost in anguish. Another impressive solo is danced to music crafted by Foster from samples of baby noises.

Overall though, the piece has a studio feel, and the larger dramaturgy — abstract though it may be — has not been fully worked out. The reason one moves from one section to another is rarely clear, and the movement is neither sufficiently cacophonous for a total dissolution of structure to be effected, nor are there enough repeated motifs or phrases to create an effective through line. 

One suspects however the piece would not read like this if a well put-together lighting design helped move one from foci to foci. But unfortunately whomever designed the lighting rig (I can find no credit in the program or on the website) has opted to blow out the space most of the time with blue tinged floodlights. The dancers and the choreography therefore battle to provide an adequate context for the actions one sees on stage. 

Ensemble work is far better managed (though still not always as well lit as one would hope) in Johnston’s ‘Purlieu’. The piece owes much to Jíøí Kylián’s ‘Bella Figura’, opening with a tableau presenting the backs of the three female dancers (Anita Hunziker, Sarah Knox and Lucy Marinkovich) sculpturally spot-lit from above, shoulders crisply framed by the lines of their semi-translucent black dresses (strongly indebted to Joke Visser’s designs for ‘Bella Figura’, which has since become an all but ubiquitous styling in contemporary ballet).

The movement begins as measured, at times bent, extended, or using acute angles, but tending overall towards the lyrical. Nevertheless, if Kylián’s company, NDT, provides a reference point for this work, Johnston’s choreography should be described as NDT with the cracks showing. There is an urgency and teetering roughness to the movement, which Kylián himself eschews. 

Similarly, it soon becomes clear that the small black boxes upon which our trio stand are to act as important, mobile sculptural and choreographic elements within the work. Dancers carry on and carry off cubes in a complex interplay of construction and deconstruction. In one particularly striking moment, the male dancers gently bear the women through space as the latter attempt to soar from one box to another.

The careful poising between transcendence and failure, precise action and chaos, runs throughout these and other actions such that the sense of effortless perfection typically alluded to in ballet proper is deliberately vexed and shown to be part of a far less perfect but no less beautiful process of striving and of reaching the edge of one’s limits.

Mulholland’s music matches and brings out these qualities, moving from the initial, gentle string samples, through to a more layered juxtaposition of musical lines, before traditional instrumentation itself is abandoned and the aesthetics of glitch — sounds created when CDs and other digital technologies fail, slip, click and cut — informs the dance. ‘Purlieu’ thereby engages with a serious of extant traditions and practices, whilst infusing them with new meanings and implications.

For this audience member anyway, ‘Purlieu’ and ‘Stealth’ were therefore the most innovative works in the program, with Parmenter’s slightly more conventional piece providing an excellent fillip. Even if Foster’s piece is less successful, this would seem to be more due to its installation than its initial conceptualisation per se.

Touring works is always difficult, and with more attention to providing due care to lighting, sound design and the company’s commissioned musicians, Footnote is sure to continue to profile some of NZ’s finest work for some time to come.
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. 


Jonathan Marshall May 9th, 2010

Thanks for the gloss on NZ dance and history

I would challenge your claim that US "modern" dance was "expression"" rather than Expressionist. All of the US dancers you discuss were extremely familiar with the German-language practitioners, images from German body-culture and dance were widely distributed and were esp. important for the Denishawn (which of course set the template for Graham and Holm), etc. The books by Toepfer and Isobelle Crombie's fantastic catalogue on Australian photography and body culture are great sources here.

As for earlier US-continental crossers, Duncan's work was nothing if not Expressionist, even if she herself preferred the term "free dance". Moreover her styling of much of her work as a re-creation or re-inventional of ancient styles, including Pagan, non-Western supposedly pre-modern colonial, and esp. Greek dancing became a foundational idea for international Expressionism, in the German speaking countries, as well as the US, Australasia, and so on (other than Crombie and Toepfer, if you're interested in more work which makes these claims from the historical record, I might immodestly recommend my own writings on these topics).

And Shona Dunlop-McTavish, as you astutely note, links NZ dance in an absolutely driect lineage to this, as she is a former Bodenweiser dancer.

Still, I of course absolutely accept and concur that any statement about "NZ dance" is by definition a generalisation. I would still stand by my generalisation, not least as one of the trends you identify as distinct from Expressionism is, I would suggest, also a direct outgrowth of Expressionist modalities: the so-called issue based work. The models of this typically derive from Euro-American dance theatre and precedents as varied as Kurt Jooss' "Green Table" and Holm's superb "Fall River Legend" (and plenty of other things between and since, of course). Dance theatre itself comes from a dramatic and hence expressive way of choreographing bodily action and interaction.

The third modality you mention, which I would concur is nowadays rather assimiliated into a postmodernist (or maybe even post-postmodernist --- we really need a better term; super-modernism has been suggested by some architects) aesthetic, namely multi-arts and interarts performance, is the one closest to my own heart. I have indeed interviewed Dan Belton, for what it's worth. Perhaps it is something of a slack period in this style (or grouping of styles), not least as it needs considerable infrastrcuture and financial support. Nevertheless, I still get the distinct impression that such work, while far from absent in the NZ scene, is neither dominant nor characteristic. It rather represents an important, fascinating, but still slightly marginalised counter trend. You may disagree. Fair enough. If I am proven wrong in this, given my own personal tastes, I would be very pleased.

Perhaps though the issue ultimately revolves less around the NZ scene itself, but more those NZ cos that tour the most and which are most commonly proffered on the international (and hence, in development, on the national) scenes as somehow representative of NZ --- were such a thing even possible.

"Made in NZ" as a program did according to my own reading of the stylistic devices on display suggest that Expressionism continues to play a key role in defining NZ dance styles. Moreover the fact that at least one of these pieces will tour, Parmenter himself tends to tour quite a bit of work, and that before that Black Grace have often been toured internationally as representatives of NZ dance, all gives a distinct impression that NZ has a strong Expressionist bent or core or whatever term you prefer. Belton's international prominence is an interesting couter-ballance, though he noted in my recent interview (and has before with others) that he now works more in dance film not only because of his aesthetic interests, but because it is easier to tour. NZ DANCE FILM then comes across as rather different from NZ DANCE in the international arena.

The same would of course be true of my former national abode Australia if the early work of Chunky Move, Meryl Tankard, Murphy's Sydney Dance Co, and Banagara were the most prominent cos in the international realm. Certainly for a while Meryl and Graeme were pretty much the international definition of Australian dance. However, after yrs of plugging away, while Russell Dumas himself did not exactly go on to become an international superstar, dancers and choreographers broadly of the generation after him and many if not most of whom either had some direct influence from him and his other promient peers (who I wont list here to avoid going on forever) or his company or other previously marginal and/or resistant versions of postmodernism and/or New Dance (the preferred use of this term in the UK does muddy the water a bit about the styles represented). Id hesitate myself now to characterise Australia's international reputation in this respect, since here I recongise that it would reflect my own personal loves and preferences. Still, I think it's fair to say that with people like Lucy Guerin choreographing on Baryshinkov [sp?] and his company, any defintion of the Australian reputation as defined by (rather than perhaps still influenced by, esp. with Bangara and many indigenous-fusion companies) Expressionism would seem perhaps inadequate.

As Ive said, I look forward to being disillusioned on this, but to suggest that Expressionism possibly has a higher cultural position within NZ dance than in many other contexts is by no means to say that all NZ dance is inherently or inescapably Expressionist. And as I hope my review reflected, with the rise of what I mentioned above in the context of architecture as super-modernism --- that is, after postmodernism, a return to and new questioning of modernist aesthetic principles and practices such that the need to react against modernism is perhaps no longer such a strong desire, but rather a desire to fully investigate and extend aspect of cultural modernity --- then, again, Expressionism may prove to have quite a bit more to offer than we sometimes thought during the heady days of postmodernism's near cultural ascendancy. Here and in other respects we may again be in a situation of the most important and prescient developments in cultural and aesthetic politics occuring not in the so-called centres of geopolitics and culture, but here, in NZ, on the apparent so-called "periphery".

Or so Id like to suggest...

Raewyn Whyte May 6th, 2010

Oh dear!
When it comes to "expressionisim" in New Zealand dance it's fair enough to claim the New Dance Group, Shona Dunlop/Dunedin Dance Theatre  and Michael Parmenter as paddling in those waters,  but leave everyone out of it, please.

Expressionism was a dominant style in early 20th century German modern dance just as it was across the arts at that period in Germany -- mutating into tanztheatre of a style whose development was continued by Pina Bausch into the 21st  century. In American modern dance, the dominant early 20th century focus was "expression" [not Expressionism], primarily seen as  what we would now label lyricism -- ie a concern that danced movement should parallel the structure of its accompanying music and express the emotion of that music - pace "early modernists" Isadora Duncan , Doris Humphrey, Martha Graham et al.

New Zealand contemporary dance has several broad tendencies, most of which fall under the rubric of post modermisn (or some the post-post- variations.s0

Our dominant genre in contemporary dance has since the mid-1980s been issues-based dance theatre -- a concern with social commentary and/or positional discourse, and/or narrativity; communicated primarily through dance movement  and extended by scenographic elements -- music/soundscores, film/projections, costumes, symbolic objects, design - pace Susan Jordan, Douglas Wright, Neil Ieremia, a number of works by Michael Parmenter,Shona McCullagh, BackLit Productions, Malia Johnson/Rifelman Productions/Outlaw Creative;  Alyx Duncan, Alexa Wilson  -- and with an intercultural focus to this - Stephen Bradshaw, Lemi Ponifasio, Moss Patterson, Louise Potiki Bryant, Maaka Pepene. 

A parallel  area of focus has been on the actual movement per se [you might claim this as late modernist] (the body's lexicon and internal processes, functional anatomy, cellular experience, embodied intelligence) - pace Sean Curham, Megan Adams, Anna Bate; and the eloquence of the body moving through space - Raewyn Hill, Ann Dewey, Melanie Turner, Jack Gray   -- and the particular eloquence of real-tiime composition:  Kristian Larsen, Julia Milsom....

Thirdly, a transdisciplinary and/or interdisciplinary focus developed through  practice-based resarch -- examples include site specific works [ in which particular  issues  specific to the piece of space identified as the site are examined and communicated] ;  durational performances; performance-installations and dancetech projects -- pace Carol Brown, Charles Koroneho,  Mark Harvey, Kerryn McMurdo, Min Lee; Sean Curham, Brent Harris, Becca Wood, Shona McCullagh's Mondo Nuovo series....

And then videodance/dance film -- Daniel Belton and Shona McCullagh, Alyx Duncan ...

Jonathan Marshall May 6th, 2010

Dear K

Thanks for your correction re. Martin. As Ive said, the program doesnt include bios of the musical composers, so I had to scratch this material together myself. The media release was however fairly specific re. the Made in NZ season profiling NZ dance and NZ music. Still, Im always happy to hear more diverse stuff.

I am of course aware of postmodern dance. I re-iterate that NZ dance seems to have retained more elements of Expressionist or Modernist dance than is often the case elsewhere. This comment should not however be viewed as a negative. The widespread, and often militant, take up of postmodern pedestrianism and Cunningham-esque formalism often creates a rather artificial divide between the so-called "Modern" (better to my mind called Expressionist, Bauhaus, or other more precise descriptor) and "Post-Modernism" (not least since there still remains considerable disagreement as to whether either Bausch or Cunningham are, properly speaking, postmodernism, or rather neo-Expressionist and neo-formalist, respectively).

As to the influence of Kylian, I respectfully disagree. Indeed, I would suggest given Kylian's immense international reputation, the presence of his work within subjects on dance internationally, the fact that his works are regularly toured internationally, as well as being perhaps more widely distributed in filmic and televisual form than any other choreographer other than DV8's artistic director, it would be niave to suggest that any choreographer with an exposure to international work produced after the 1980s would not be influenced --- positively or negatively --- by Kylian.

In either case, my observation is based on a formal comparison, namely: similarities in costuming; similarities in the use of props (here however, as I note, actually extended; Kylian's own work only intermitently has props or design elements become quite as prominent as was the case here); similarities in movement (a modern dance vocabulary with a strong debt to balletic formalism and lyricism); similarities in pairing (the highly gendered allocation of movement here, and the use of gender difference as a major structural feature of the entire work).

You could, quite rightly, argue that Kylian is not alone in producing work with these features, and so one could use another choreographer as the main rhetorical contrast (the work of Taiwan Ballet, for example, also springs to mind; though again, that company also is influenced by NDT). I would still contend and conclude that it is hard to describe these kind of qualities without reference to such an internationally prominent leader and proponent of such ideas as Kylian, just as it would be dfiicult to talk about the use of "silence" or simple "co-habitation" of sound/music with dance without discussing Cage/Cunningham --- although again, C/C are by no means any more unique in this.

Principally though, my hope was to make useful points through the comparision, which I hope I have done.

Kristian Larsen May 5th, 2010

Herman Martin is a British born Brussels based composer. He is not actually a member of Battles but he has been collaborating with O'Neil for a number of years. 

Expressionism being at he nexus of international dance practice and being something that much of NZ dance is built on eh. Really Jonathan? I have two words for you;




Please actually watch more New Zealand dance, and write about what you see rather than imposing an academically styled flash flood of barely relevant historical references.Stick to the point.  

Johnstone owes Kylian nothing by the way, not a dime. 

Make a comment

Delivers on promise with remarkable vigour

Review by Kerri Fitzgerald 27th Apr 2010

Footnote continue to challenge and engage New Zealand audiences with their latest show, truly embodying their call to inspire ‘dance lovers and movers and shakers’.
We are treated to three substantial pieces that show off the dancers’ technical virtuosity and demonstrate the artistic flair of the choreographers who are creating and exploring new zones in dance.  
The first, Purlieu by Malia Johnston is set to stunning new music by Eden Mulholland that on its own intrigues and captivates the ears.
Dancers creep across the stage clutching their precious boxes and then the spaces these boxes mark are carefully explored during the dance. Their bodies whirl, balance, arc and undulate in a beautifully constructed choreography. A breath-taking section for this reviewer was the down-lit undressing of three women in long skirts as they explored the body’s relationship to confined spaces using sometimes jerky, tiny, frenetic movements.
I am reminded of the old radio children’s programme song: “Little Boxes” (made of ticky tacky…)! The human desire to escape and head for more freedom is communicated in the last magical image of captive birds fluttering and flapping their wings. How we interact with our big city (mostly box – like) environments will be of great interest in Shanghai at the World Expo where this visually and aurally satisfying treat will be performed. 
Stealth, set to music by Jody Lloyd, is another surprise treat. It is a solo work choreographed by Ross McCormack and winsomely danced by the athletic Jeremy Poi.
The idea of urban street art is introduced as he enters interacting with a large canvas and then, using a fusion of hip hop and contemporary dance moves inspired by the shape of letters and the graffiti of Aotearoa hip hop legend DLT, he executes a blast of rapid and dazzling moves. The frenzied repeated patterns are conveyed with dynamic energy and danced with alacrity. The body becomes a place for art as in the stunning final sequence the blue – fingered hands mark out a tattoo.
MTYLAND [not included in the Nelson, Dunedin or Wellington seasons] comes fresh from the NZ International Arts Festival, and is Claire O’Neil’s thoughtful exploration of human emptiness. In a series of almost random pieces, ideas are presented and delved into. The mood weaves from sorrowful and lonely to playful and mischievous, punctuated by the odd scream and guffaw. This piece pushes the parameters of contemporary dance and leaves the audience much to ponder over.
Footnote’s selection of works demonstrates the remarkable vigour in our contemporary dance world and delivers what it promises to do: “to engage, excite, challenge, question and inspire”.
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.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council
Waiematā Local Board logo