BELLE - a performance of air.

Te Whaea - The Garage, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

21/02/2022 - 21/02/2022

St James Theatre, Courtenay Place, Wellington

14/03/2024 - 17/03/2024

Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2022

Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2024

Production Details

Malia Johnston collaborates with fellow artists Rowan Pierce, Jenny Ritchie, Eden Mulholland and others
Malia Johnston: Director,
Rowan Pierce: Production Designer (includes set design, light design, AV design and spatial design),
Jenny Ritchie Aerial performance director, apparatus designer and costume designer,
Eden Mulholland: Composer alongside his brother Jol Mulholland

Presented by Movement of the Human Company

BELLE – a performance of air.

Enter a space mesmerisingly transformed by light and sound. Above and all around you a performance of air is created by internationally renowned aerialists, a live musician and dance artists.  Known for her innovative projects and direction on the World of Wearable Art (WOW), Malia Johnston collaborates with fellow artists Rowan Pierce, Jenny Ritchie, Eden Mulholland and an exceptional all female cast to bring this Festival spectacle exclusively to Wellington.  

BELLE takes its name from the French word libellule (dragonfly) and is also the name of the show’s unique purpose-built piece of circus apparatus.  In some cultures, the dragonfly is symbolic for transformation. In BELLE, transformation is created with sculptural light portals where the performers appear and reappear as if by magic.  BELLE invites you into a truly transformative experience.  Enjoy solo or with friends, you will be guided to various locations in the space to observe the work from multiple perspectives.

Support has been through Aotearoa New Zealand Arts festival ( they have been truely fabulous) Ministry for Culture and Heritage, Wellington city Council and Creative New Zealand. 

Anita Clarke live vocals and live violin
Robert Larsen Operator and systems designer
Tom Hoyle head Rigger and rigging design
Rose McGrannaghan Producer
Gina Heidekruger Production manager
Michael Lyell-O'Reilly

Performers and movement collaborators:
Aerial specialists Imogen Stone, Ariel Cronin, Rosita Hendry, Katelyn Reed
Dance specialists Brydie Colquhoun, Kia Jewell, Anya Khapung, Tiana Lung,

Aerial specialists Imogen Stone, Ellyce Bisson, Rosita Hendry, Katelyn Reed
Dance specialists Brydie Colquhoun, Jemima Smith, Anu Khapung, Nadiyah Akbar, Aleeya McFadyen-Rew
Lighting operation and collaboration Elekis Poblete Teirney
Rigging Antony Goodin and Nic Balkum - YOOCREW

Music , Multi-discipline , Dance-theatre , Dance , Contemporary dance , Cirque-aerial-theatre ,


Stunning lighting design offers many a trompe l’oeil 

Review by Jennifer Shennan 17th Mar 2024

Belle—A Performance of Air is a theatrical event of monumental proportions. 

The stage is mostly a launching pad for take-off from gravity, with high-flying spinning aerialists and moving sculptures that evoke time past and time future in a range of astonishing ways.

There’s a striking opening image—backlit figures wired into a ground control centre, they’re there then they’re not—what’s real and what’s virtual? what’s human and what’s AI? who are you and who are you sitting next to?

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Must see performance!

Review by Lyne Pringle 16th Mar 2024

The first season of Belle – a performance of air was thwarted by Covid. Thankfully the work returns to the Aotearoa NZ Festival in 2024. It was initially presented to an invited audience in an immersive warehouse setting. This iteration occurs in the opulent St James Theatre. It is a different experience for the audience but equally engaging.The work is aptly named, the air does indeed ‘perform’. 

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Left marinating on the epicness

Review by CHLOE JAQUES 15th Mar 2024

The St James Theatre is buzzing on opening night of BELLE – a performance of air by powerhouse company Movement of the Human. A complete spectacle, BELLE encapsulates the magical essence only a theatre can evoke, but on a blockbuster movie scale.

The curtain slowly lifts manifesting a solo beam of light. Director Malia Johnston creates a mighty strong opening image with the likes of design director Rowan Pierce and collaborator Elekis Poblete Teirney. Sound, lights and movers intertwine technical skills seamlessly to create this epic world I’ve only ever really experienced on a screen before. I appreciate never being able to pinpoint a performer’s face as I don’t require this intimacy. My senses are already being completely stimulated. I particularly enjoy the sound composition from Eden Mulholland in collaboration with Jol Mulholland and Anita Clark. Live voice and bassy undertones delivered proudly within a wider soundscape pulse my heart deeply. I feel alive.

Figures evolve in and out of light beams and hazy walls, emphasizing the futuristic world more. Jenny Ritchie’s construction of aerial artistry is technically faultless. It does make me wonder what it’s like to spin in circles hanging from an object that’s already hanging from the ceiling. I don’t understand it, nor do I want to. It’s a radical treat, playing constant tricks on the eyes. This magical and daring multimedia performance meditates on circular themes and connections, probing escapism with significance.

The muscular strength required to uphold this production is mesmerizing and I begin to question reality as shadows continue to warp my perception, entertaining depth of space whilst performers fold through constant thick layers of technical obstacles. The powerful wahine cast emits breath. They are: Aerial specialists Imogen Stone, Ellyce Bisson, Rosita Hendry, Katelyn Reed and dance specialists Brydie Colquhoun, Jemima Smith, Anu Khapung, Nadiyah Akbar, Aleeya McFadyen-Rew.

I’m left marinating on the epicness as I walk back into reality feeling inspired.


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Assured, complex, original and beautiful work

Review by Deborah Pope 18th Mar 2022

Once again Covid has decimated our arts and culture with the cancellation of so many festivals and show.

Waiting outside a large gymnasium (not the TSB Arena) in a socially distanced audience (30 not 500) for a showing (not international premiere) of Belle, a NZ Circus Dance work, part of the NZ Arts Festival (Cancelled).

I commend the bravery of the cast and production and creative crew of Belle, the continued support of the festivals and the funders to complete and produce such a major piece of New Zealand work in such difficult times.

We need it,  a unique, mesmerising, exhilarating live performance, as audience, as artists and as an industry.

Difficult to describe, Belle is an immersive aerial dance performance. It is a deeply layered visual work which blends circus, dance, sound, light, space and audience. As an audience, it felt like floating in a galaxy with strange and beautiful celestial images and experiences.

On opening the doors, the audience is invited into a dark space bisected by strong angles of light and invited to sit on the perimeter of a large white circle. In the centre is a Perspex disc on an oblique angle with a projection of a circle gently changing.

The AV and Lighting design of Rowan Piece completely changes the space and the experience for the audience. With the richly atmospheric and layered soundtrack of Eden Mulholland and brother Jol Mulholland and the shimmering addition of Anita Clarke on vocals and violin, Belle is a strange and beautiful world.

Circles and bodies float and spin, ropes and lighting and innovative aerial design and equipment of Jenny Ritchie create a spectacular work. Disembodied, androgynous, futuristic, the ensemble cast of 4 female dancers and 4 female circus artists reference the work of Margaret Atwood.

Belle is a highly assured and collaborative project. Malia Johnston and her key creatives have created an assured, complex, original and beautiful work with national and international appeal. 


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Mature artistry at the highest level.

Review by Lyne Pringle 24th Feb 2022

Note: The public performances of BELLE were cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions. A small invited audience was able to attend a performance. This allowed the Movement of the Human Company to hone the performance in preparation for a season in the future.

BELLE – a performance of air, the brain child of dance/theatre auteur Malia Johnston and Movement of the Human company, explodes with audacity.

Aspects of space and time are bent and morphed, the laws of physics are torn up: air becomes thinly solid, figures miraculously appear and disappear defying gravity or spinning with such ferocious intensity that the human form blurs, sound is enormously gravitational. The affect is dizzying and kinaesthetic to a cell altering degree.  Expectations are constantly disrupted by the visual and auditory field. The experience is like being on the set of an EPIC sci-fi movie.

Johnston works on a massive canvas with absolute control and is a leader in collaborative practice, creating mind altering, soul altering events.  It cannot be over-stated how cleverly she mixes and integrates her elements to conjure magic:  light, sound, projection aerialists and dancers.

The work traverses realms with the superb crew – performing artists and technical artists – cajoled into sublime brilliance by a powerful shaman. A generosity of spirit courses through every element. This work reinforces why theatre exists – a balm in these troubled times.

Like high priestesses, the performers ceremonially enact a ritual that could affect orbits and destinies. Their figures command the space, whether moving slowly with clear purpose or flitting through complex choreographic sequences with great speed. They are exquisitely elegant, every movement etched with sublime intention, deliberate and formidable.

Aerial elements are beautifully integrated and performed. A skilled performer in a cyr wheel reinforces the work’s circular motif as well as the aforementioned whirling figure. Aerial specialists: are Imogen Stone Ariel Cronin Rosita Hendry and Katelyn Reed. Dance specialists are: Brydie Colquhoun Kia Jewell Anu Khapung and Tiana Lung.

Colqhoun, a long-time member of the company, is electric with her muscular intensity and expansive presence.
In an exhilarating scene all the performers counter balance in pairs on bungees as they swoon and leap. This is reminiscent of a scene from Miniatures, an early work by Johnston but developed and extended, like her capacity as a maker, over time.
Libellule is also the name of the show’s unique purpose-built piece of circus apparatus, (gifted by Maedir Rigolo from RIGOLO Circus) Jenny Ritchie is responsible for the aerial performance direction she collaborated with Rigolo to design the unique and specific movements for this apparatus. For this production she designed the Orb which is bespoke for BELLE and the hand loop system and process as well as the costumes.
Discretely, yet essentially behind the scenes is Tom Hoyle, head rigger and rigging designer.

Production manager, Gina Heidekruger wrangles the whole show and producer Rose McGrannaghan brings it to the audience.

Johnston’s longest creative partnership is with composer Eden Mulholland.

He has been instrumental in the fabric of her work since the beginning, resulting in a rich scores that are completely integrated. What sound!  In this iteration he works alongside his brother Jol Mulholland and singer/violinist Anita Clarke who wrote the lyrics and music for her live performance.

Rowan Pierce production designer (set design, light design, AV design and spatial design) transforms the space.  There is just the right amount of reveal of bodies and concurrent visual stimulation on multiple fronts.  Rob Larson has his nimble fingers on the mixing desk.

Covid 19 has brought some fortuitous impacts, it has meant that a work of this scale by local artists has been well resourced to enable its full flourishing. Investment by many agencies has paid off: Aotearoa New Zealand Arts Festival; Ministry for Culture and Heritage; Wellington city Council and Creative New Zealand.

Such a pity that the work could not have a public season, but it is essential that it does in the near future.
Bravo Movement of the Human Company, it is a privilege to attend your work.


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