Black Grace Xmas Verses

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, The Edge, Auckland

27/11/2013 - 01/12/2013

Production Details

Black Grace and THE EDGE Present

Black Grace Xmas Verses

27-30 November, 7.00pm; 1 December, 2.00pm and 7.00pm
Tix: $45.00
Dances by Neil Ieremia

Not content to follow the crowd, Black Grace and THE EDGE proudly present – Xmas Verses.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas in true Black Grace style, Xmas Verses is a collection of original dance works laced with humour, full of invention and choreographed by one of our most celebrated artists, Neil Ieremia.

So take a break from the gift-wrapping, iron your favourite t-shirt, put on your best jandals, and come laugh along to some Xmas Verses.

Join us for our only home game this year.

Choreographer and company founder Neil Ieremia expresses ideas all his own, offering insights on the human condition that are both individual and universal.”
Pioneer Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, 2013

Running Time
60 minutes with no interval

Additional Activity
School Matinees are available; please phone Groups at ticketmaster (09) 970 9745 or email for more information.
Post-Show Talk with Choreographer Neil Ieremia; Thursday 28th November
Post-Show Meet the Dancers; Friday 29th November, and Sunday 1st December (matinee)

Dancers: Black Grace

Dance ,

1 hour

A light hearted end to the working year

Review by Dr Tia Reihana-Morunga 28th Nov 2013

I am already in the swing of things waiting in the foyer of the Herald Theatre, sitting on ‘funked’ out furnishings, sweet tunes playing in the background. As I enter the theatre I am swept up in the lyrics of ‘Hercules’ by Aaron Neville which sets a mood of memories associated to good times with friends, somewhat fitting for the nights collective.

A light hearted Black Grace performance of xmas verses moves from the backyard BBQ, lounge room antics and gift-giving to embrace audience  in a storyline that speaks of family, memories, good times, drunk times and everything else in between.

I could write about the technical agility of ‘xmas verses’ or the vigour and precision of gesture and action. We know this, and love this about Black Grace; however, it seems that the company’s most recent work with artistic director Neil Ieremia is concerned with something more or less than the perfection of craft.

It’s nearly Christmas after all, and for many it’s a time of gift giving. And ‘xmas verses’ is a gift to be unwrapped and enjoyed.

It begins with Mother Mother a work that appears in the video clip for acclaimed musical creative ‘Fat Freddy’s Drop’ directed by Mark Williams. Here we are reminded of the diverse domains in which the work of Ieremia appears.  It is from this point of departure and through the projection design of Tom Bogdanowicz that we are transported to the lounge room and the Christmas antics of company members. We seated in theatre, witness the projected backdrop of company on lounge chairs that are in odd interaction with action on stage. And what we see on stage is a maze of playful, well-spoken movement motifs that are somewhat transcendent of the everyday. The interplay of screen and dancer, dancers and chair, the hint of Sunday afternoon at the races, watching sports at home and a noisy house full of people,  all explored uniquely within space.

‘A backyard somewhere in Auckland’ provides ongoing stimuli as Ieremia lightly unpacks a kiwiana narrative of the summer time BBQ. It is complete with drinks with friends, too many drinks with friends, potential others and significant others. A picnic/bar table is a focus of Sasa shaped sequences that exert togetherness. We have the before and after in a day in the life of the festive season gathering, that melts into sweet beer goggled, summer evening attempts at romance and courtship. It’s funny because maybe you have been there yourself or seen those you know also negotiate a full stomach with beer in hand. Dancers manage to merge what should be in reality the unmanageable within a clear, direct fluidity of choreography. As the crooning lyrics of Otis Redding’s ‘I’ve been loving you too long’ extend throughout the theatre I hear gentle laughter from surrounding audience and I see a smile on my husband’s face.  

From the backyard to our Auckland city horizons ‘xmas verses’ is also reflective of the hustling, groove of urban environments. Projections subtly extend what we experience within the choreography. Music seems like a duke box played out to memories. We have characters of ‘blokes’ and the women each in negotiation with the other. There is a sometimes slow coming together that is abruptly diverted with strong explosions of dance that are so characteristic of the company and the creativity of Ieremia.  These are filtered with cultural adventures… urban culture; pacific culture, Christmas culture, kiwi culture, yet all are not necessarily in need for serious analysis. This is not a serious performance.  It does however take us to church, to spirituality perhaps an underlying guide to all that comes with festive frolics and ‘real meanings of Christmas’. A backdrop projection of place, a church that is surrounded by palm trees is complemented by revived set formations, the dancers arching arms, and ongoing body percussion.  The waiata of Jimmy Cliff singing ‘Many Rivers to Cross’ is engraved by the movements of solo dancer Zoe Visvanathan, behind her floats the projected names of those passed, whose stories are somehow engrained within the choreographic reflections of  Ieremia.

The dancer’s stories are also played and projected during ‘xmas verses’. The self-narrative is employed with backdrops of a flashing Rudolph Reindeer nose, offbeat gift giving that is filtered amongst past portrait photos and memories.   It’s a collage of company. Each visual is brought to body by dancers on stage. There is a trampoline (how many of you have your backyard trampoline stories?) that provides the setting of fun escapades that somehow seem banked in recollections of our youth.

Throughout, there is an ongoing moving visual, tactile and kinaesthetic memory that tells a story perhaps unknown by many of the audience.  It offers another side to the company, an almost ‘behind the scenes’ look at their sense of self and sense of humour. Ieremia is not excluded and throughout ‘xmas verses’ we are met with his projection on screen, parting gifts to dancers… and a final silhouette of him grooving to music…

It all feels like summer is on the way. With the festive season comes the completion of the working year. People get together, drink, remember, create new memories and recap the old. Christmas comes with its own traditions and Black Grace have found a niche to exclusively celebrate another successful year with family, friends, supporters and audience. There are new emerging dancers within the fold of the company, and their talents are well supported by the accomplished presence of Sean MacDonald and Zoe Visvanathan. The duo’s understanding of motive and motif are rich and a worthy representation of everything we have loved about Black Grace for so many years now.

As the night draws to an end Neil enters on stage to thank and acknowledge all those involved in support of the company.  It’s a warm ending to the evening. Black Grace’s ‘xmas versus’ is a nicely wrapped ‘gift’ to us the audience and we are celebrating. Thank you Black Grace and a Merry Christmas to you too!


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