blackOut: Part 2 of a choreographic trilogy on darkness

Kenneth Myers Centre, Shortland Street, Auckland

15/02/2018 - 16/02/2018

Production Details

blackOut is an experimental dance work that brings attention to choreographic darkness. Notions of
horror, black space, anonymity, and the unhuman are encountered in the blackening choreosphere.

Tru Paraha (Ngāti Hine, Ngāti Kahu o Torongare) is an independent choreographer based in Auckland.
Her experimental dance works engage speculative philosophies of darkness and concept horror
generating intense, compelling live-­‐art events. Recent choreographies that have received critical
acclaim include HINE-­‐ (St James Theatre, 2011) commissioned Kowhiti Dance Festival, HINE-­‐2012
(Maidment Theatre, 2012) sponsored by Creative NZ, and KARE; kind artificial real experience
(Kenneth Myers Centre, 2016) produced for the Undisciplining Dance Symposium.

A graduate of The New Zealand School of Dance, Tru is a former company member of MAU, and has
extensive experienc as an international performer. Her locally commissioned performance
collaborations extend across live art, music, video, theatre, and visual arts. Tru is a dance
writer and published poet with new texts appearing in forthcoming publications Tātai Whetū (Seraph
Press, 2018), Performance Research Journal (2018), and the book Undisciplining Dance (2018). Her
current choreography blackOut will premiere in February 2018, toward a PhD with Creative Practice
in Dance Studies.

Performance: Anja Packham, Jesse Quaid, Vicky Kapo

Performance installation , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

1 hour

Memories of a blackout (a dance from the inside)

Review by Jesse Quaid 21st Feb 2018

I lie, curled at the edges of this fabric station. Mouth pressed against the floor and eyes closed against the flashes of bright, bright, fading lights. The murmur of people entering is my last tie to normal, to the everyday world before the blackout enfolds us all.

Blue is meant to be a peaceful colour and it is. Mostly. The soft crackle, the inner orbit spiraling out through my shoulders, the feel of my breath caught behind fabric, behind plastic, behind the watery reflection of the light I am carrying. Phone a familiar weight, joy rising within my throat. (don’t fall. don’t let that arm get stuck again, is that fast enough? long enough? fuck, where is the edge now? don’t lose it)

We create islands, worlds, moving through portals, becoming portals. It feels like some moments I can inhale the dark.

We become. Animals. Aliens. The dread of what this feels like mixed with the exaltation of what it feels like. The fullness of image-sensation balanced by the constant fear that the damn thing will not stay on. The slap of flesh, the fire of breath that can’t keep up.

Do you feel this, all you shadowy faces at the edge of this darkness?

Most of my images have stars in them. I lie again, not sure if I can move. Knowing I will move soon and break this bubble for a moment. Right before I stuff a kumera in my face.

It’s absurd the things we do, but right now it feels like the most beautiful thing. Spinning, looking at the ceiling as if my lover had dissolved into stars and hoping like hell I won’t fall over when the black rainbow dips me back. Waiting to lie and stare at a small flame that feels like hope. (like calcifer… how long before my thumb burns? ouch. that long. is that Anja tumbling yet? fuck it, it’s been long enough). Somehow I’ve managed to catch the right timing, my sister-deadgirl rolling away from me in the dark.

Trying to hold loss, yearning, the feel of a dead body rolled by hands. (shit, where am I?) The darkness is a comfort, and a hindrance, the music as solid as the floor; just another thing to push in to. (oh, that one hurt. another bruise for tomorrow) I can feel the space being tussled by our bodies. I can feel the energy thrown into space when my sisterbody breaks from the floor. Hold the tumble. Keep my eyes dead. Find my mark. I worry that I will set some flying thread of hair alight.

Sitting, I eat energy. I float my spine up and feel the pull of Anja’s movement. For brief moments I ride along with her before we are left panting in the dark.

Are you still with us everyone? This is where you breathe. This is where we all breathe each other.

Silver. Time to muster my limbs again. I inhale the scattering stars, watching, waiting for the right time. Just one more step…. one more…

And we sink together. Deceptively soft this movement, hanging myself into the air with a sense of satisfaction every time. Small movements, soft energy as my neck screams, the bruises on my shoulders flare and my back starts to cramp. Floating. Catching glimpses and sounds from across the room. (are we together still? how long can I hold this? is Vicky out yet? crap, that hand was a bit manky, soft remember… soft)

Sleepwalking. Lava walking. Body like a tesla coil in water… (ah shit. again? why the hell did the damn thing stay on in rehearsal and not now?) Heat. Light. Tight muscles trying to shake. There is a black sun in my mind, but it sits over a clinical, physical attempt to create a nicely graduated shake, from calves to thighs, to hips, to chest, ricocheting through the arms and head before it builds into a bounce, into a wild surge that threatens to shift me off my feet. The gasp. The repeat. Revelling in the image I am creating.

The ripping off of clothing like I want to free myself from my skin.

Finally a break. A purely practical application of blood and a chance for a quick shoulder stretch. I have become far too attached to this puppet; he waits with me patiently, absently gnawing on my leg.

This is all timing and applied physicality. All of my performance, the characters and images and feelings, are concentrated in my hands and in the puppets. I just get dragged along for the ride and a cameo or two. (pretty sure this looks like I’m kissing him. too slow? was that gasp a bit weird? was it loud enough? I swear this girl gets slipperier every time…)

Do his death-throes amuse you, my shadowy friends? They certainly amuse me.

And then… (how are these things so heavy?) I leave. Feeling a room of slight confusion. Yes, that was the end. I have other worlds to be in now.

This strewn floor, these memories of small worlds, this air saturated with energies… we have left them for you. This is all yours now.


Alexa Wilson February 23rd, 2018

Love this x

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Illuminating the limits

Review by Lisa Samuels 20th Feb 2018

Describing a multi-dimensional kinetic work that unfolds over a set time invariably runs up against the limits of description. The answer to “the meaning of the work” is, arguably, the work. So a response like this one is not the work but seeks to be in descriptive relation to some of its chances.

For two nights, a work in preparation for two and half months was displayed, performed, demonstrated. For those fortunate to be there, and the theatre was full both nights, blackOut went something like this: you arrived into a darkened black box theatre and looked around, adjusting to the darkness after the light of the foyer. Near the door and near the production station, with its two sound and light managers, a pull cord was bathed in a spotlight. As the audience entered, several people pulled the cord at various times in order to illuminate the large black-draped space. Not just to light it helpfully, but to flood it with floodlights, to amaze-light the space.

Black chairs lined most of the walls in single irregular rows and everyone took seats after walking across the entirely available floor. On the floor were four stations: one featuring plastic blue, one fur and clothing, one in the corner with a fringe of lights hanging over a stack of brown exercise mats, clothes nearby, and one a mound of silveration, shiny crackly mound large enough to hold a person.

Two evident dancers lay on the floor, still, while the audience settled in. Music began: low yet insistent thump-whirrs, and Dancer 1 rose and approached the plastic blue station. Dancer 1 inserted their body into a long open opaque blue plastic sleeve, holding a mobile phone that illuminated their movements and the crinkling body-length envelope.

The other dancer stood up behind and moved in moderate gestures only partly perceivable in the darkness. Dancer 1 shone the phone light on Dancer 2’s sparkling shirt, illuminating also the blue wig obscuring the entire head of Dancer 2, showing the blue plastic glove on their right hand. Dancer 1 served as the obscurantist and apparently motiveless blue plastic building of dark-light, while Dancer 2 jerked in restraint behind. The shadows of Dancer 2 reached high on the black wall behind.

I perceived in this motion, in its mostly obscured light, that lit aspects of bodies became the most important focus. Not necessarily human bodies, though these were causing the action, but chunks of lit awareness and colored movement above the level of the floor. The music tracked with the motions which were held, the dancers moving simultaneously restrained and contained and yet also irregular. The music now, as throughout the work, was electronic, often thumping, whirring, often tense, holding up tense wave-struck lines of sound.

The dancers moved from this action to another set of actions, detaching from their postures according to separated bodily motivation. Dancer 1 extricated from the crinkling breath-challenging plastic and lay on the floor flapping both arms with intense air brushing sound, again and again, scissoring their body as though moving-not-moving on the floor. Dancer 2 removed their spangle shirt and wig and moved – always the dancers had different time signatures in their moves – to the station with fur and clothing. Dancer 2 assumed – in obscure light, so they were transformed before I had realized what they were donning – a fur skin, like the fur from a soft sheep-wolf, and after pausing in being then started moving around the floor on the balls of their feet and on the fingers of their hands. Their haunches were up high in the air and they moved, and Dancer 1 assumed the other skin and began also to move. Their actions were not in relation to each other and yet were of the same type. The vision was of humanimals startled in moving deliberately and carefully, with pace and inquisitive middle speed. As though the floor area had become an outdoor space where animals could be pacing. The music/sound was of medium tension.

The furred dancers then, in the last part of the humanimal pace, brushed against each other, like information brushing against information, and the startle of that finally encountered shared action brought the furred moves to a different place. Ended that part.

The dancers moved to different positions, they were shunted apart and into something less determinate. Dancer 2 jerked with their energy and moved to one side of the floor. They twirled their legs around and began to quieten and invert. On an alternate pacing, Dancer 1 began to assume positions on the other side of the floor. They were then both brought to separate places and focused in those places. Dancer 2 by now inverted, slowly entirely on the neck, head, and shoulders while the torso and legs and arms floated in the dark air. The feeling was of pod persons, of floating as in dark liquid air.

They floated there. It was quieter. I cannot remember if the silverated burqa moved before or after the entirely silent time when Dancer 1 and Dancer 2 were sitting, now, entirely quietly. The sound and light space was in quietude, as though everything had paused in an indefinite eternity. But was this just before, or just after, the silverated burqa moved? I think the burqa moved first: began to stir from the long stillness. Rose slowly and expanded in threatening bodily enlargement. Very slowly, so the threat was not a threat but the expansion of unknowing manifestation, pure movement and expansion. Larger than a solo body, silver floated out. And then, very slowly, the silverated burqa came to a stillness, turned into a different shape, slowly assumed a rounded-flattened shaped mass in the middle side of the floor-space.

Then was the stillness for a time.

I noticed that sides and floor of the theatre were the activated zones. Not the high upper part nor industrial ceiling. The sides kept giving out light from different points: a flicker once as of someone taking an illicit camera photo. A light from the end-side. A blown curtain light, later on. A mid-floor blaring spotlight. The sidelights were active. The floor was dark but for the two mobile phone lights.

Dancers 1 and 2 began to move again. They put on soft flimsy clothing first and found a kumara and a mobile phone – always in different time signatures – and put themselves in positions of dancing, very slowly, with absent others or partners, the kumara in their mouth and the mobile phone held up in one hand filming downward to the moving space in which they danced with no-one, mouth in kumara.

Now they were going to roll. The dancing shifted into higher energy and concern. They began to move into the frenetic. They rolled at speed on the hard floor and panted, panting with performed effort, and illuminated the tight crescendo of each roll sequence with a flung arm and a cigarette lighter flicked on. So flame became a new light, unique to the roll effort. Roll, hard roll, fast, fling out arm, flick lighter. This kept happening.

Then a new shift. Dancer 1 moved to the far end of the floor-space towards a large spotlight on the floor. They moved toward it as though something was happening though we couldn’t know what it was, and nothing was happening except the subsequence of the movement. Dancer 1 gradually came into relation with the light by trembling with increasing violence until their body was shaking the dust through the light, shaking and trembling in place.

What was Dancer 2 doing when Dancer 1 was violently trembling? Was it then that Dancer 2 was crumping elsewhere on the dark field of the floor-space? Dancer 2 jerked and held-tense energy flailed in the dark. The separation of the dancers now was in type of movement and inhabitation of the floor-space; their kinetic concern and energy commitment was, though differentiated, parallel.

Matter-of-factly, neutrally, they stripped themselves of that motion, of their clothes, and then more desperately, pulling them off, of their bodysuits, Dancer 1 heading straight for the pile of brown exercise mats at the other end of the floor-space and disappearing behind it, Dancer 2 picking up an object with rope attached and prinking with dark attitude in their arms and legs and torso. The dancer posed, tensed, stretched the object rope. Slowly Dancer 2 started moving the object then you could see it is a pūrerehua (a wind instrument used in Māori music and sound-making). Dancer 2 whirled the pūrerehua slowly and then higher and tighter over and around their head and the pūrerehua whoosh-roared over and over. Now the electronic sound clashed with the rhythmic sound of the pūrerehua. The whole room was breathing that darkness.

Then neutrally, Dancer 2 set down the instrument and walked out of the room.

Now once again the silveration mound became on the move. It shifted slowly, patiently, the crinkly sound and sparkling reflection, until a person emerged, Dancer 3 now visible as human. Dancer 3 also with a mostly bare body announcing and performing the availability of the darkness: that it’s entirely naked and entirely inhabitable in the sequences of its action, I mean darkness action that co-happens in relation to the actions of the moving elements of blackOut: the moving air, moving soundwaves, moving black curtains, moving dancer bodies.

Dancer 3 moved over to the final station of the work: the piled-up brown exercise mats with a fringe of lights hanging over them, depending down from no visible support, the lights now illuminated, one became aware of their illumination. Dancer 3 put on the clothes arrayed on the floor at that station: forest-camouflage with a cut-out at the chest so that the chest remained bare. The dancer moved in slow resistance, with a moderate objection in their limbs, something was happening or going to happen, they leaned down and beat their upper back with a twig of leaves that had been waiting on the floor. They wrapped in a thin mat as though it were a sleeping bag, as though shifting to a pose of sleep but with the whole body tense, foot taut against the floor holding up the body. The impossible of sleep in that darkness. Shifted in that motivation several times. Held.

The mat stack became a puppet show, Dancer 1 bringing out, one by one, a soft hand puppet with a blanked-out set of eyes. This puppet became the dealer of death to two plastic female doll bodies brought out by the other hand. Slowly this transpired. My attention split between Dancer 3 and the puppet show. Why did Dancer 3 leave the room? Was the puppet show replicating in completely differentiated action the prior moves of the work? One doll taken apart by the mouth of soft death. Another doll taken apart, its head or legs spat out. This happened slowly. Then a fourth apparition, a brown model head as from a hairdresser window, rose up and fell upon the soft hand puppet of mouth-death, dealing in turn a blow of stillness. Hand puppet and model head go down. The last movement of the puppet show is the bare hand of the dancer pausing, like the humanimal activation earlier, as though become a limbed motive, and slowly pulling back until one finger only pointed and was vanished.

Then, neutrally, with casual but structured strength and effort, Dancer 1 pushed over the pile of brown exercise mats, stood up, and left the room.

Nothing happened, while the audience became slowly aware of the non-ending that had been effected. This gave them a chance to re-assume their social positions and eventually offer applause and smiles. On the second night, I had been sitting next to a restless pair of persons who needed to continually extrude their bodies in small details, to never forget they were there. One of them had a face like illuminated darkness chiseled against my line of sight as I watched the final movement of the work.

After the second night, I couldn’t sleep. I took that to be an acknowledgment of the inside work that blackOut continues to do in my mind. 


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