SIT Centrestage Theatre, Invercargill

13/05/2017 - 13/05/2017

Macs Function Centre, 4 Taranaki Street, Wellington

18/03/2017 - 18/03/2017

Nelson Musical Theatre, 95 Atawhai Dr, The Wood, Nelson

17/10/2017 - 17/10/2017

Baycourt X-Space, Tauranga

25/10/2017 - 25/10/2017

Capital E National Arts Festival


Southland Festival of the Arts 2017

Production Details

Java Dance Theatre gets cheesy with world premiere of new show 

Wellington’s Java Dance Theatre is premiering a delicious fusion of dance, theatre, music and cheese-making at Capital E’s National Arts Festival in March. 

Java Dance Theatre, founded in 2003, is known for their visceral dance theatre that delights the audience’s every sense. Their productions are known for their playful physicality, live music and full audience immersion, and the world premiere of Cheese will enchant audiences at 11.30am and 1pm on Saturday 18 March at Mac’s Function Centre. 

Cheese is an exploration of amazing animals, squirting milk jets and flying hay bales. Dancing milkmaids and yodelling goatherds will lead the delighted audiences on a farmyard frolic as they attempt to make cheese for the first time ever. This is a show for anyone who has ever wondered where cheese comes from, taking audiences on a cheesy odyssey from grass to milk to the stringy, chewy, stretchy, rubbery, crumbly cheese we all know and love. Java Dance Theatre have developed a synthetic milk for this performance, so even those with dairy allergies can enjoy the cheesy fun.

Artistic director Sacha Copland has worked with cheese makers in France, England and the Wairarapa to gain a deeper understanding of the concepts, processes and language used to make cheese. This hands-on experience helps create a detailed sensory world for characters and audiences to inhabit. 

Festival producer Melanie Hamilton says “Java Dance Theatre premiered Dirt and Other Delicious Ingredients in our 2015 National Arts Festival, and we are excited to watch this year’s audiences experience their signature brand of immersive and imaginative theatre.”

Sacha Copland says she is excited to be involved in another Capital E National Arts Festival, having also been involved in the 2007, 2009, 2013 and 2015 Festivals. “The festival is the chance to bring magical worlds to life. We love making new work and performing it to young people from our hometown before taking it to the world.”

This world premiere is the third part of Java’s Civilisation Series. The first show in the series, Rise, had dancers covered in flour, making dough, baking loaves and breaking bread with audience members. The second, The Wine Project, had Sacha Copland meeting with winemakers in France to tell the story of wine, complete with crushing grapes, live on stage in a Dionysian spectacular. 

Each show in the Civilisation Series has also had a complementary version aimed at young audiences, and Cheese will be reimagined as The Creamery for adult audiences. 

Public performances:
Sat 18 March 2017
11.30am & 1pm

To find out more or to book tickets to Cheese, visit 

Southland Festival of the Arts 2017 

SIT Centrestage Theatre 
33 Don St, Invercargill
Sat 13 May 2017
6pm (50 mins)
All ages 

Nelson Arts Festival 2017 (Schools Programme)
Nelson Musical Theatre
Tuesday 17 October

Tauranga Arts Festival 2017
X Space, Baycourt
Wednesday 25th October
Adult $21, Children $16
(TECT $17, $13)

Emma Coppersmith
Laura Beanland-Stephens

Sacha Copland – artistic director 
Megan Rollandi – designer
Charley Davenport – musician and composer 
Tristan Carter – musician and composer

Theatre , Family , Dance-theatre , Children’s ,

50 mins

Intelligent creation, direction and delivery captivates for every second of its life

Review by Emily Mowbray-Marks 25th Oct 2017

Good grief! What a show!  Get those tamariki to the theatre and share this literally sensational show with their wee spirits.

Three-and-a-half year old and I enter Baycourt’s X-Space set in the round, or the square I should say. I am hesitant to take him, when reviewing particularly, but more specifically due to his rise in testosterone this Spring. I am armed with a banana. 

But I need not have been concerned for my little tyke who is currently enjoying thumping and scrumming things, for he is currently sitting as a cherub transfixed, as are the other young people whose ages range from 3 years all the way up to 70+.

The audience is very much a part of the show, rather than sitting in darkness. The aforementioned more mature ticket-holder sits opposite us and is agape for the full 50 minutes. She looks like a child. Full of wonder and joy, she may just stand up, join in and run off with the … cheese makers of this all-encompassing show.

What’s not to love about this show? It begins with a young man, who later plays the banjo and animates and flings live mozzarella with a ‘co – host’, handing young Solomon a sprig of fresh Italian parsley and inquiring as to his name. Solomon continues to twirl the soft branch of aroma between his chubby fingertips as the show unravels.

I am amazed at the skill of all 5 of these performers.* They sing; they play the cello, violin, a terracotta jug, a collection of upturned kitchen bowls; they dance and share intelligent, varied and tender facial expressions.

I’m curious. Are they musicians trained as dancers, dancers trained as musicians, or just a cast of multi-talented abundant creatives, as the world seems to be producing these days, like a multi-tool from Bunnings or Briscoes.

There are so many refreshing aspects to this dance/ music/ theatre/ visual art/ culinary show. I love that all parts are integrated. The dance stems from the narrative. The music is born from the drama. The costumes become props. The props get eaten. Everything relates to everything. Such desperately intelligent creation, direction and delivery.

My favourite creative moments are the costume/choreography combo of the mother cow and her calf. I want those black and white multi-pleated culottes, which make the playful calf all the more naive. The symbolism of the two tied together in cheesecloth as some sort of baby-wearing backpack builds the maternal picture more acutely. The sentimental conjoined-dance-duet is possibly the most wow-moment of dance. We are left feeling envious – if only we could do that with our body, with those muscles, that strength, that grace.

The scariest moment of the show – that surprises me as mama-bear and terrifies Solomon as baby-bear – is when calf strays from her mother and is taken. The terracotta drum and shaker (given to a young audience member to use and add to the tragedy) are played eerily as a live soundtrack, as mother and baby mourn, cry and struggle for each other.

I start to wonder if this is a show promoting veganism. It is a truly disturbing scene, full of sophistication. This show, great for kids, is great for adults too. A show which doesn’t undermine children’s intelligence and sensitivity and one which tackles life’s complexity head on.

Solomon can’t take his eyes off the cello/cellist, and I remind myself how important it is to take our children to live performance, introduce them to the variety of music, dance, puppetry, visual art, for they may find their ‘sound’. How validating it can be for our children to see adults valuing imagination and creativity, which is so inherent within a child’s day-to-day-living.

Another moment of appreciation is the frenetic kitchen bowl playing. This reminds me of a show from an Arts Festival in Wellington thousands of moons ago, when the artisans in an Italian community did their work and made music together on stage. There was a pasta maker and a builder among other creatives; builder and baker making their sounds which were literally scored and conducted. But back to our show, Cheese. 2017. Tauranga Arts Festival. Each bowl holds a different tone. Kettle drums eat your heart out.

I haven’t touched on the gastronomic tricks, I want to save some surprises for the real deal. Expect to meet smells, textures and flying fluids of the culinary world.

Congratulations to choreographer Sacha Copland and Designer Meggan Rollandi for a show that captivates for every second of its life under the spotlight.

*[Dancers: Emma Coppersmith, Lauren Carr, Natalie Hona. Musician/ composers: Charley Davenport and Tristan Carter. Artisitic director Sacha Copland.] 


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A little day magic

Review by Gail Tresidder 17th Oct 2017

We arrive to the perfume of lemons and herbs and the excited rustling of small children.  Their faces are a delight as they meet a dancing cow duo, mother and calf, and a loudly baa-ing sheep. They giggle and wriggle and clap their hands at the capering antics, so amazingly athletic, of the cheese-makers.  (Great cow costumes, viva the Friesian, by Meggan Rolande.) 

Although for them the music is simply part of the whole, for the older children (me included) it is the musicality of Tristan Carter that is wonderful.  Not only can he dance and mime with the best of them he plays violin, banjo, ukulele and ghatam, and by commandeering an array of metal bowls, also demonstrates fine drumming technique.

The Eastern European dance gets us jigging – the quirky udders make us laugh-the stage business with water, cheese goo et al is a winner – we love it all.

Together a little day magic from these multi-talented Wellington performers.


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Joy, movement and laughter

Review by Sarah McCarthy 14th May 2017

I go into Invercargill’s Centrestage Theatre to see Java Dance Theatre’s Cheese with my eyes open, and I want you to absorb this review in the same way. I am neither a dancer nor a ‘Dance Mum’. I’m not even the kind of person who goes to the ballet when it trips into town. That being said, I am a huge fan of Java Dance Theatre and the great work they do, which is bringing the tenets of modern dance to people like me. Because it’s not just dance – it’s theatre and music and dance all rolled into one deliciously stretchy ball of fun. 

Cheese is no exception. With a storyline, original live music and a cast of clearly defined characters, Cheese is an easy watch, allowing a plebian such as myself to enjoy the technical mastery onstage without worrying whether or not I understand what’s going on. 

It is obvious that this company is immensely talented – they sing and play musical instruments as well as dance. Movements are strong and beautiful, with pieces suited to each character; a blissfully content mother cow (founder and artistic director Sacha Copeland) and her wide-eyed, naughty baby (Natalie Hona), two competitive and slightly crazed cheese makers (composer and musician Tristan Carter and Lauren Carr) and a mischievous goat (composer and musician Charley Davenport). At least, I think he was a goat.

It’s the story of cheese and where it comes from, of artisan cheese makers who are seriously passionate about their mozzarella, of the way we think about and treat the animals who provide us with milk in the first place.  

My son, 5, is entranced, and rightfully so – this is a show for the whole family, and the children in the modest audience are delighted by the antics of the animals, and especially love the audience interaction. He laughs out loud, asked lots of questions and grins the entire time. The older members of the audience are quieter – perhaps they are unused to dance being such a joyous, interactive celebration.

Short and sweet at just 45mins, it is the perfect length for a wriggly boy. Afterwards, the dancers are swarmed like rock stars in the lobby as children have posters signed, and I watch as Carter sits and listens so attentively to my son that it makes my eyes prickle.

I may have missed the nuances but the broad strokes are obvious: joy, movement and laughter. I can’t wait to see them again.


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A fabulous interactive farmland extravaganza

Review by Donna Banicevich Gera 17th Mar 2017

Say “Cheese’” then say it again, then race down to Mac’s Entertainment Centre to see the show. This week Java Dance Theatre Company premiered their new work Cheese in the Capital E National Arts Festival for schools and this weekend there’ll be two public performances.  It really will put a smile on your face.

Yum, yum, yum, yummy, yum – the chant echoes through the theatre, voiced by performers and audience alike. We’re privy to live music, singing, and dancing. There is the smell of fresh cut grass in the air, and pieces of cheese to taste if you’re up for it. Everything spells energy and pure entertainment that fully captures the attention of every audience member (average age around seven). 

Yellow is the predominant colour. Soft golden light streams across the farmland. Milkmaids in yellow aprons, and goatherds in yellow-soled gumboots weave their way through the hay bales. Along the way we discover the joys of the cheese making process, following the progression from grass, to squirting milk from animals’ udders, to producing stretchy cheese.

What an achievement. Choreographer Sacha Copland really does excel with her vision for developing this fabulous interactive farmland extravaganza. It is compelling for adults and children alike.

When the cheesemakers cry there are shrieks of laughter from the audience. When the animals dance the children are mesmerised.  When the characters mix with the audience hunting for something in the grass every child in the place is looking too. How magical is that?

Copland is well supported. The performance of Emma Coppersmith, Lauren Carr, Natalie Hone, Tristan Carter and Charley Davenport is equally superb. This group ultimately presents a show that shouldn’t be missed. It’s a great team collaboration.

Say “cheese” one more time.  


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