Bugs and Worms and Desire

TAPAC - The Auckland Performing Arts Centre, Auckland

25/11/2017 - 26/11/2017

Production Details

A new dance work about What It Takes
Doesn’t look like much, does it?
Hardly a couple of ounces of bones and feathers.
But this little bird can fly to Africa.
Powered by only bugs – and worms – and desire
(Doerr, 2014).
Do we ever ‘get there’? Where is ‘there’?
BUGS and WORMS and DESIRE is an intimate look into a journey. Determination, grace, grit.
Jennifer De Leon, choreographer/performer is “a dance artiste who pushes her boundaries
continually. She tests herself and her body with new forms of movement and choreography,
searching for and discovering the dance that is truly her/and hers”. (MaryJane O’Reilly)
In this new work Jennifer confronts a question that, sooner or later, confronts us all – what
does it take?
Whether it be to get there, go forward, go anywhere, simply GO – what does it take?
Yes – endurance but there is more, a kind of divine grace. Undergirding not just the
movement but perhaps the essence of why this happens at all.
“De Leon is one of our most radical performers” (Raewyn Whyte).
This work is radical to the point where either you will scream, or you will be enfolded into
something that you too, know and walk.
BUGS and WORMS and DESIRE is preceded by
about Being There
Jennifer makes work that is not quite human:
“bird like movements, darting beady eyes and coy smile hide a tiger or panther that lies
beneath her downward glare. Jennifer’s beauty is inherent in her bone structure and mana,
these are her anchor.”(Merenia Gray).
“When she left the stage it seemed for a few seconds as if she was still dancing in the empty
space.” (Ann Hunt).
These two works are a story that contains questions: Do we get there? Where is ‘there’?
Does it matter? Do we care?
Seeming to “address internal struggles, the challenges of creation and performance, taking
new directions which challenge everything that has gone before” (Raewyn Whyte) –
Flow, endurance, bloody-mindedness, grace.
Directed by Kerry Wallis, costuming by Olga Khimitch, poetry by Anthony Doerr, performed
by Jennifer and Dhruv Moday (for Swimmer), and Karen Plimmer, harp.
Presented back-to- back with no interval. Come prepared to feel.
100 Motions Road
Western Springs
November 25th and 26th at 6.30pm
Venue: TAPAC
Tickets: $19.50 – $14.50conc.
Bookings:   info@tapac.org.nz
For more information contact:
Jennifer De Leon 09 376 1671, jennydeleondancer@gmail.com

Solo , Dance ,

90 minutes

A journey excruciating yet triumphant

Review by Susi Hadassah 28th Nov 2017

Ahhhh… Jenny has done it again… moved me beyond myself and taken me to a place, a plane, that only exists outside of the natural realm. As I leave the theatre, albeit reluctantly, I am in one sense exhausted and in another invigorated. I feel as if I have borne witness to something extraordinary and I am wrung out emotionally, but left with a tangible sense of divine peace. Something sacred has occurred here, in this intimate and welcoming space and I cannot but leave there, changed.

Since April, a mere seven months, both works; Swimmer and Bugs and Worms and Desire, have evolved most exquisitely.

For Swimmer, Jenny has found a dance partner, Dhruv Mody, who despite his complete lack of formal dance training, moves, lifts and partners her with a ‘knowingness’ that is both rare and profound. His flawless musicality and almost panther-like grace honours Jenny and her choreography with a kind of effortless and entrancing sensitivity. In Dhruv’s arms, Jenny is secure, fully confident and she dances with a new surety that is delightful to watch. I see a rare glimpse of an often hidden joie de vivre – that inexplicable joy of dance that is so evident in Jenny’s being. Under the lovely simplicity of a lighting design by Calvin Hudson, moments of pure magic are captured beautifully. The space that is so considerately designed for dance affords the accompanying backdrop of Jenny’s screen-self; the work of Vernon Rive, to add a dynamic of synchronicity that contributes without subtracting from the scene played out in the foreground. Similarly, the music of Oliver Tank and James Blake brings another quality to the work that enhances its mesmerising atmosphere. However, it is Jenny, dressed in the ethereal costuming of Olga Khimitch in brilliant contrast to Dhruv’s stark blue simplicity; these two dancers themselves, that stand out for me. The beauty of their connectedness and the way that they communicate with each other and with us, the viewers, has brought this piece to a new height and depth.

In the paradoxical way that often defines Jenny’s work, Swimmer both prepares you and leaves you completely under-prepared for the deeply emotional and spiritual journey she takes you on in Bugs and Worms and Desire. Implicit in every intricate movement, every tiny gesture is the unfolding of the miraculous fragility and vulnerability of ‘life’ in the diminutive form of “… a couple of ounces of bones and feathers…” (Anthony Doerr, 2014). This work and its remarkable evolution deftly expose the very essence of Jenny’s enduring characteristics and reveal her unique style and breathtaking technical mastery.

The journey, just as excruciating as it is triumphant, captivates and transfixes the audience. There is nothing rushed about this piece. The control and timing are impeccable and there is discernable intention in every tiny bird-like movement. At times, I would find myself holding my breath and times where I nodded in assent – pivotal epiphanies, as this solitary bird endures the infinite dangers it must overcome on the way to its destiny. This is indeed a theatrical work; as much a dance as it is an incredible feat of acting.

Accompanied by the musical sounds of Walter Carlos, it has been newly enhanced by the unimaginably sensitive playing of Karen Plimmer on her Celtic harp, with uncanny timing for a blind musician. As Jenny’s bird-self cries out for sustenance, the eerie vocals of Karen echo her pleas in a stunning primal symphony. In one magical moment, Calvin transforms the stage into a womb-like nest as we witness the bird’s humble gratitude for its feast of bugs and worms. Personally, this marks a metamorphosis in the work. Suddenly, all trace of fragility disappears as Jenny’s dancing takes on strength, exuding an almost supernatural power. Barely leaving the ground, she soars into the sun and as she reaches her destination, Calvin’s lighting captures and holds the ‘still-point’ Jenny is renowned for.

As I leave the auditorium, my eye catches again, a quote by the late Pina Bausch that hangs in the foyer which aptly sums up the night’s performance: “Dance, dance, otherwise we are lost.”       


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