Beautiful City

Galatos/MIC, Auckland

11/10/2006 - 14/10/2006

Burns Hall, Dunedin

04/10/2006 - 07/10/2006

BATS Theatre, Wellington

06/09/2006 - 09/09/2006

Dance Your Socks Off

Production Details

Concept/visuals: Robert Appierdo
Movement: Justine Cooper, Rhys Latton, Nathan Meister
Music:: Eden Mulholland
Double Bass: Isaac Smith
Lighting: Glen Ashworth/Rob Larsen

“Mind takes form in the city, and in turn, urban forms condition the mind”
Lewis Mumford, ‘The Culture of Cities’, 1938

Incorporating improvised dance, music and video performance, ‘Beautiful City’ explores the clash between urban and rural Aotearoa. It compares the energy of the city and the anxiety of suburban life with the open and idyllic beauty of New Zealand landscape.

Originally created as an experimental short film involving dancers in a car park, the live performance is an extension on themes of public space. Live dance is performed in front of multi-screen projection work, to an original soundtrack by Eden Mullholland.

Premiered in May 2006 at Interdigitate Festival, Galatos/MIC, Auckland, featuring Kristian Larsen, Kelly Nash and Paul Young. Comes to BATS for Dance Your Socks Off featuring Justine Cooper, Rhys Latton and Nathan Meister.

Justine Cooper
Rhys Latton
Nathan Meister

Stage Production Management" Te Itiwara Nelia
Graphic design: Francis Cheetham
Publicity: Cass Hesom-Williams

Dance , Contemporary dance ,

35 mins

Exploratory experience

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 20th Sep 2006

Beautiful City sought to explore the energy of urban living and the concepts of solitude and space that arise with the reality of crowding and living at close proximity. Film images zoomed in towards a sprawl of buildings and fragmented images often provided the reference point for the three dancers.

What a treat to see these three onstage together! Justine Cooper, Rys Latton and Nathan Meister were together and apart, random and specific and used improvisation techniques to connect the film and musical score.

Composer Eden Mulholland used electronic sound with some lovely bass interpolated live and the whole was an exploratory experience that meandered and never quite realised the potential promised?

The actual movement vocabulary needed to find a way to develop or to exhaust itself and to dig a little deeper to get into the challenges we all face by choosing to live too close to each other.


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Prosaic abstractions

Review by John Smythe 08th Sep 2006

The idea of a sound and movement work based on the dynamics of city life is a fairly basic dance and drama class exercise, so when talents who have graduated from that stage explore such territory it’s reasonable to expect something different and exceptional.

“Beautiful City emerged as an idea six years ago when I was living in London,” explains Robert Appierdo on his website: . “I became fascinated with how the city had magnetically drawn in 13 million people. Later, living in Wellington, I began to see how the organic shape of a city can affect the people living there. I am still amazed at how alive and yet lonely a city can feel. Where we live has a huge effect on how we perceive the world and ourselves.”

Last year Appierdo made a short film featuring eight dancers in an inner city car park. The live performance version involving three dancers – provoking and responding to a VJ, guitarist and electronica sampler musician, double bassist and dynamic lighting – premiered in Auckland last May and now plays a brief season at Bats with three different dancers. (It goes on to play the Dunedin Fringe then Auckland again – click on the show title above for dates and venues.)

With all that development and with Justine Cooper, Rhys Latton and Nathan Meister performing, the expectation of something exceptional increases. Maybe that’s why I feel short-changed at watching what seems like an early stage of physical exploration of the basic idea.

Of course they all move very well. Meister especially fascinates with his ability to rise, from kneeling and sitting back on his heels, on to the top of his curled-under toes. And apart from watching competent movement that verges on dance – and becomes dance in brief moments – there is pleasure to be gained from discerning meaning in what appears to be abstract.

They share the space in almost intimate proximity and yet they are separate. Alone. The move through space, suddenly changing direction; they engage with the floor, with the back wall … One partnership forms, briefly, all three entwine in ways that could denote group intimacy or the loss of individuality …

In a sensuous solo a supine Cooper, face aglow in a golden patch of light, engages in minimalist actions that are all the more fascinating for being hard to discern. Small coloured objects – jelly sweets? – appear on her throat. Meisner joins her, picks them from her, places, replaces more of the same … Is he adding or subtracting from her experience? Take your pick.

A judicious device to get the scattered sweets cleared from the floor finds Latton evoking the derelict scavenger …

VJ Appierdo’s video images likewise range from the prosaic to the abstract, offering aerial shots of a built up area as the city is approached … A natural tendency to identify landmarks is subverted by an American voice (distorted of course in the amorphous convergence of electronica) telling us there are no actors in this story but there are a lot of people, and what could happen to them seems to be located in Portland Oregon. Why?

I can’t recall any images relating to what I would distinguish as a city – commerce, public transport, café culture … Almost imperceptibly moving strips of colour abstracted from tome-lapsed night time traffic are effective. Suburbia makes an appearance …

At 35 minutes I suppose the work is allowed to just capture incidental elements without accumulating coherence or meaning beyond its component parts.


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