As I hadn’t attended any Dunedin Fringe Festival events before I was excited to see the Dance Lab’s Chocolate Zucchini Cookies, held at the Otago University on the 26th March.
The audience met at the Physical Education School for a quick overview of the performance, and we were introduced to our usher who was to guide us around following the dancers. We were told half of the production would be outside through the University, and then the other half would be indoors at the studio inside the Physical Education School. Our usher explained this performance had been formed over the past year, and featured dancers from the community and the University. Chocolate Zucchini Cookies was inspired by why the performers dance.
As we ventured outdoors we stopped before crossing the road to watch the first dancer who appeared across the road from us, ambling down the footpath on hands and feet similar to a gorilla. She then proceeded to climb over the top of a car like Spiderman – it was obvious at this point we were in for something special! We followed her into the University grounds, where we were greeted by a group of screaming students covered in coloured powder who had been participating in what seemed like a Holi celebration. They were ushered to the background by the organisers and watched from the side lines as the first dancer continued in front of them, at this point I wished I had my DSLR camera as the composition of the dancer’s movement in front of the Grandstand of colour-splattered students would have made a striking picture.
As the first dancer finished her piece and exited again on her hands and feet, we were guided by the usher to a large wooden archway where a second dancer waited. This piece was one of my favourite of the performance. Accompanied by A J Hicklings on a wooden pipe-like instrument, the dancer’s movements seemed to be inspired by nature with delicate bird-like movements and striking arched poses. Overall it was a beautifully choreographed piece carefully matched to the haunting music of the pipe, and set off with the sun shining down over the large free-standing archway.
We moved further into the University where a trio of dancers waited pressed up against a building slightly hidden in the green foliage which climbed up the side of it. As they began to move and dance a story came through, with one of the dancers controlling the other two. They eventually broke free and escaped to a large area of grass stretching along the banks of the Leith stream in front of the clock tower.
As our usher directed us to sit on the stairs to watch, the two dancers in front of us stopped moving and suddenly gazed across the bank to the other side where three other dances had gathered. This piece was really well done as there was no music, but the dance alternated between the two banks of the stream, and occasionally the dancers would mirror those on the other bank. It was so refreshing to watch as we observed the dance between the duo in front of us and then shifted our gaze to the other bank to watch the dance continue over there.
From here we were ushered to a spot nearby where another dancer performed on crutches, on a grassy mound shaded by trees. By this point it was definitely evident these were carefully selected locations, providing the audience with a new appreciation of what used to seem like boring, everyday outdoor areas, as they became part of the story being told by the dancers. We followed the dancers back the way we had come as Hicklings beat on a drum and the dancers clapped, whooped and shimmied along the path. It was a struggle not to join in, the beat and energy was almost contagious.
We were treated to one more beautiful solo dance between a group of trees along the edge of the busy one-way road system, before we returned to the studio to see the second half of the performance.
Here the drums and pipes were replaced with a piano for a change. I was impressed with the range of the musician. The dancers performed in duos, against projected images of nature as a background. Gradually the performance morphed from a more classical style, finally ending with African singing and dancing: quite a change from the start of the performance.
Overall I was in awe of the completed performance. I remember thinking throughout the outdoor piece “this is beautiful” as I took in the dancers movements and the shapes they created, the landscape backgrounds they chose and the gorgeous sunny day. This wasn’t just a dance performance but a carefully thought-out and planned artistic showpiece. The dancers did a wonderful job of showcasing the variety of dance taught at the Dance Lab and the music from Hicklings was beautiful. It was the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon.
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