Hamilton Gardens, Italian Renaissance Garden, Hamilton

22/02/2014 - 24/02/2014

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2014

Production Details

‘Anew’ Dance for Renaissance Garden

Waikato Contemporary Dance Projects Trust has invited local choreographer Marie Hermo Jensen to create ‘Anew’, a site-specific dance work for the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival. This choreography is developed specifically for the Italian Renaissance Garden with local contemporary dancers Karen Barbour, Patti Mitchley, Catarina Laschke, Helene Burgstaller, Eve Veglio-White and Marie Hermo Jensen.  Marie’s previous work ‘Unravel’, was described as ‘beautifully poetic’ by Theatreview.

“The Italian Renaissance Garden is an amazing and challenging space to work in”, says choreographer Marie Hermo Jensen.  “We are creating a moving installation where the audience has an opportunity engage closely with the dancers. They will be guided through the garden as the performance unfolds.”  

Waikato Contemporary Dance Projects have performed site-specific work for the festival over the past 10 years, with audiences growing each year.  They are continuing the artistic collaboration with local costume artist Kartika Leng as well as incorporating imported costume pieces from Stellaris DansTeater in Norway. 

The outdoor festival setting allows a more accessible dance theatre experience.   Past festival performancesby Karen Barbour have been described in Theatreveiw as ‘a visual feast’. ‘Placing dance work in the garden allows the viewer to experience the magic of both the dance and the garden simultaneously’

Saturday 22 February 11 am & 6 pm
Sunday 23 February 11 am & 6 pm
Monday 24 February 6 pm

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival
Italian Renaissance Garden, Hamilton Gardens

More info contact:

Marie Hermo Jensen, Mobile: 021465359, 

Supported by:

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival, Gallagher Academy of Performing Arts, Creative Waikato – Hamilton City Creative Communities, WEL Energy Trust, Stellaris DansTeater, stellaris dance nz.

 Photo taken by Karen Barbour. Dancer: Marie Hermo Jensen


Dancers: Karen Barbour, Patti Mitchley, Helene Burgstaller, Caterina Laschke, Eve Veglio-White, Marie Hermo Jensen (a multi-ethnic group of women).

Costumes: Katika Leng

Music: Various, mostly Italian in Origin.

Site-specific/site-sympathetic , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

Intensely atmospheric - the world transformed - anew

Review by Dr Debbie Bright 24th Feb 2014

The wonderful and frustrating thing about this work is that it fits in this particular garden as if it is meant to be here and nowhere else. But that’s the nature of site-specific dance work; site-specific dance work is not choreographed with a view to taking the work on tour. That’s a pity in this case because the work is strong, interesting, full of intense atmosphere, and presented with a great skill in all areas of design, choreography and performance.

The Italian Renaissance Garden at Hamilton Gardens: pathways, pools, terraces, porticos, tiny piazzas, balconies, pergolas, stairways, pavilions, formal gardens, perspective, order. The audience members are led through and into a series of spaces in the garden to pause and watch segments of dance from a series of vantage points. I find myself peering through trees and garden features, and glimpsing, observing, witnessing, women living and focused in the world of an Italian Renaissance Garden. Yet, these women are not static visions of acceptance and contentment with what is, in an ancient yet timeless space. They reach out and explore the beauty of what might be, what they know to be true; they consider anew.  

The work is a glorious yet harmonious interaction and blending of dance, costume, and architectural features (pathways, still pools, fountains, trees, shrubs, flowers, walls, pergolas, pavilion), and the weather. The day begins very warm, yet overcast with a threat of rain. We, the audience, are led into and around the outside path of a vine-covered pergola. We pass a bronze statue of the famous wolf feeding the two young Romulus and Remus, traditional founders of Rome. As soon as we enter the space we see Marie, in floating ruched rose-covered pink, dancing with her in-utero child. We walk around the garden observing her from different angles through vines, trees and pergola posts. Music – subdued, contemplative, calming – floats across the space. I am reminded of the beauty and sacredness of woman, childbirth and child rearing, of earlier times and women’s birthing sequestering, and the new private world of a woman and her unborn child.

All audience members are given time to absorb the atmosphere and the dance in the first space. We are then invited to move, gently and calmly, to a raised area of steps from where we see Karen – a distant figure in flowing red dress – moving with slow grace and stateliness on the portico of the pavilion. The mistress of the household, a beautiful woman, who reaches beyond the duties, responsibilities and confining elements of her life, into creativity and self-renewing strength, in a world within and without.  

Our gaze is shifted. The other four dancers (who I shall call ‘The Four’) move into our line of vision from different directions. Their costumes are multilayered white, colour and bell-shaped white-striped overdresses. Their costumes speak to me of fantasy and quirkiness, creativity and practicality, humour and stateliness, energy and calm, groundedness and otherworldliness. The music swells to gently fill this larger space. The Four move with articulateness, accuracy, strength, and greater complexity and speed than we have seen before.

They progress through individual, small and large group formations, interacting with harmony and complementarity. Their bell-shaped dresses are stately robes that morph into pliable costume-props… and church bells. They discard the bells and enter a series of more energetic and extended dance segments, balancing and interacting with each other and with the steps, balustrades, walls and paths of the garden.

While The Four move, interact and interweave on the pavilion portico, a very light sprinkling rain begins (if the rain had arrived any earlier, the performance may have had to be cancelled). An animated and disjointed interweaving of lively conversations, arguments, exclamations, disagreements, dramatic statements… to the sound of fragmented and disjointed voices and languages. We see facial expression, gesture and forceful touch improvisation.

Standing in the gentle rain, I am invited to share more fully as The Four dance in four knee-deep pools; I no longer care if I am splashed through their vigorous movement of legs and body – I share with them the element of water. I enjoy Patti’s serenity and strength, Helene’s energy and virtuosity, Eve’s relaxed flexibility and articulation, and Caterina’s vibrancy and control. I also enjoy the flow, rapport, warmth and trust of their attention and interaction in solos, duets, trios and quartets. The ordinary is transformed – anew.  

Our attention is drawn, up high and to the side, to the solitary figure of Marie, in vine-covered pergola, reaching, turning, unhurried, at peace, alone, longing, the ambivalence of expectation, need, desire, optimism, serenity. The Four move again, pausing in dance in the pool of the central fountain. Karen guides them back towards the area of the dance’s beginning. While we are still in this garden, something important yet needs to be considered anew.

As we arrive back where we started, The Four are lying or moving slowly on squares of grass at the four corners of this now familiar pergola, while Karen guides Marie back to the centre point once again. I sense resolution, an embracing, loving and cherishing of the ‘alone’ ones. As these women dance the different roles and ‘being-nesses’ of women, so perspectives and expectations are revisited, and something new is born. And during this final section, the sun breaks through as if choreographed to appear exactly then. I feel affirmed, as a woman, and wish to linger in this place of calm, beauty and nurturing. Perhaps many among the audience feel likewise, as they remain to interact with the dancers and drink cups of iced tea.

Once again, I wonder how this work could be taken to more people. Could it be reset in another context? Perhaps film? As an audience member I peer through branches, discover framed views of dancers and learn to accept the partial obscuring of dancers; this often feels like creative, dreamy moments of film. Yes, much would be lost of the atmosphere of the lived experience, but much could be captured and added too. Not surprising perhaps that the choreographer, Marie, is also a dance film-maker in Norway.   


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