Middleton Grange School Performing Arts Centre, Christchurch

09/10/2015 - 10/10/2015

The Body Festival 2015

Production Details

BeginAgain (USA) 

zoe | juniper return to Christchurch after their commissioned work ‘A Crack In Everything’ for Southern Lights Dance Company in 2009 with this remarkable full length work.

BeginAgain questions the multiplicity of self, memory and perspective through two parallel solos weaving in and out of each other. Juniper Shuey’s futuristic design explores new technological methods juxtaposed against Zoe Scofield’s intense, primal choreography, featuring Ms. Scofield and duet partner Ariel Freedman (Batsheva Dance Company, Kidd Pivot), triggers a raw tableaux of movement and stage designs. BeginAgain reveals an intrinsic truth about oneself and the aspects of humanity that unite us all.

“The blending of their talents has produced some of the most impressive dance/visual spectacles to come out of Seattle in recent years.” – The Seattle Times


Company zoe | juniper
Venue Middleton Grange School Theatre, 27 Arthur St.
Date/Time Fri 9th – Sat 10th October at 7.30pm
Duration 65 mins
Tickets $20, $15 concession from Dash Tickets or ph 0800 327 484, booking fees apply

Multi-discipline , Contemporary dance ,

65 mins

A living construct

Review by Sheree Bright 12th Oct 2015

BeginAgain is brought to the Body Festival by choreographer Zoe Scofield and visual/media artist Juniper Shuey from Seattle, Washington, USA. This quality piece is  choreographed and performed primarily by Zoe Scofield (recipient of the prestigious 2015 Guggenheim Fellowship for Choreography) with Ariel Freedman (Batsheva Dance Company, Kidd Pivot), occurring within a designed space by Juniper Shuey.

Upon entering, the audience discovers a dimly-lit yet clearly designed stage with hints of a forest. There is a gentle ripple in the two large scrims (floor to ceiling) on either side of the stage, leaving a central passageway between them. Like a thin veil, the scrims also create a division between the upstage and downstage areas and when taut, serve as screens for the many projections. Dirt covers some sections of the floor. A figure mostly covered in white plaster lays on her side in the dirt with only her head and one arm partially exposed. Enchanting choral music adds to the mood of this intriguing environment.

BeginAgain also features paper artist Celeste Cooning’s elaborate paper cut-out (sheets of Tyvec) covering the entire backstage wall, and the effect this has on the created world transforms according to how it is lit by lighting designer Amiya Brown. Julian Martlew is the sound designer with additional music from Morgan Henderson and Erin Jorgensen.

When the dancing begins, a strong and unique movement vocabulary is revealed. Ariel and Zoe weave in and out of each other with compelling effect, often moving in unison or with split-second echoing. There are frequent, rapid directional changes including ballet moves which can become partially distorted. A movement will start going in one direction, and then, as if suddenly and mysteriously compelled, another change in direction or momentum. As if a bolt of lightning is shooting through her, the amazing Ariel Freedman is jolted into an arabesque.

Carrying the bulk of the performance, Zoe and Ariel are talented and captivating performers. They have a high level of virtuosity, showing exceptional control, superb balance, and precision, including some stunning side-by-side slow motion deep lunges. As they demonstrate their incredible strength, and clarity, there is more tension than ease.  For the viewer, there is often a sense of weighted density or oppression. The characters are often being controlled or manipulated by one another or by some unseen force. Zoe and Ariel are successfully complemented by dancer and rehearsal director Kim Lusk and New Zealand dancer Josie Archer.

At times the movement quality reminds me of the slightly stilted action of shadow puppets. The unexpected timing is interesting as the dancers fall in and out of movements. The dancer in the plaster emerges and walks around the scrim and lies down again. Here a man in a suit, John Pyburn, comes out and begins to re-plaster her.

Projections of dancers on the scrims morph into strange shapes, like the distorting mirrors at a fairground. There is a clear reference through images of young girls and the use of repetition to remembering the sound of children in a playground. At one point, movements, like a cumulative song, begin simply then repeat and grow with a series of progressive additional movements, each repetition getting longer. At times, fast swirling moves stir up the dirt on stage and I can smell it in the air.

There seems to be a tortuous yearning to be known and to find connectivity and indeed the dancers manage to find moments of sensual tenderness. However, they are short lived, as an abrupt change of music rips the moment apart as the dancers seem bound by either habituated, heavy relationships or melancholic isolation.  In one segment, hundreds of black shapes are projected onto the scrims and move as a giant, mesmerising flock of birds, perhaps a representation of someone having a small degree of individual choice but ultimately being compelled to move as the others.

At the conclusion, the man in the suit, John Pyburn, walks alone into clear view centre front, and with plaster still clinging to his fingers, he gestures and sings a hauntingly and beautifully performed song in countertenor. (I later discover from a friend in the audience that  it is the French children’s song Vois Sur Ton Chemin, or Look Upon Your Path.)It is incredibly moving, however I am also left slightly frustrated, wishing I understood more French or had a programme with a translation so I could benefit from the additional meaning.

According to Juniper Shuey, the piece is a living construct; it changes and grows with time, different venues or with evolving concepts. BeginAgain is richly layered. All of the high calibre elements in BeginAgain have a strong sense of cohesiveness and sophistication.  Interestingly, however, like a contemporary painting, the intended meaning of the juxtaposition of these various elements sometimes remains elusive or obscured.

I believe this is, at least in part, the creators’ intention. Visual artist, Juniper Shuey explains, “Our work tries to create worlds where we ask the viewer to come in and watch and experience, so that the story that the viewer sees is the story they bring into it.”


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