Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

21/03/2014 - 22/03/2014

Suter Theatre, Nelson

14/04/2014 - 15/04/2014

Dunedin Fringe 2014

Production Details

Footnote New Zealand Dance – COLT 2014 

After a highly successful first season in Wellington, Auckland, Hamilton and New Plymouth in 2013, Footnote New Zealand Dance’s COLT is set to take it’s innovative and highly acclaimed performance to stages throughout New Zealand this autumn.

Sarah Foster-Sproull’s work COLT is influenced by the choreographer’s observations on being part of a community in the throes of creation. COLT explores what it means to be a part of something big or something small. Sproull explains, “COLT could be a gun. It could be a horse. It could be a gun pointed at a horse, held by a dancer in a blindfold”.

Described as an unsettling work in an unsettled world, this series is set to cause audiences to be challenged and exhilarated. To be watched in the safety of your seat, this season will be start in March at Dunedin’s Allen Hall
followed by shows in April and May in Nelson and Taupo.

New General Manager of Footnote, Richard Aindow, is excited to be bringing COLT to new audiences. “COLT was an incredible and memorable highlight last year: we are delighted to be presenting this work again in 2014.”

Receiving rave reviews during sold out Auckland performances, COLT by Footnote New Zealand Dance is returning to new venues this year. Don’t miss your chance to see this memorable show in Dunedin, Nelson and Taupo this autumn.

“a perfect and compelling performance” Bernadette Rae, New Zealand Herald

“Foster-Sproull’s best work in many years… Long live Footnote” Ann Hunt, Dominion Post

Don’t miss your last chance to see Colt.
 COLT premiered in Wellington in 2013  for the Footnote Made in New Zealand 2013 season and toured to Hamilton, Auckland (Tempo Festival) and New Plymouth. – Read reviews here.

 2014 TOUR:


Allen Hall, University of Otago, 90 Union Street East


Friday 21 March, 7.30pm

Saturday 22 March, 7.30pm


The Suter Theatre, 208 Bridge Street


Monday 14 April, 7.30pm

Tuesday 15 April, 7.30pm


Dance-theatre , Contemporary dance ,

75 mins

Phenomenal work

Review by Janet Whittington 15th Apr 2014

The Suter Theater in Nelson is a tiny theatre. Consequently walking in to take a seat is a surprise when FootnoteNZ are in charge of the setting. The stage floor is completely white and swirling ice-pale-blue from the subtle lighting fractured with fake smoke emanating from the stage. It swirls upward to the back of the auditorium entrances. We descend into a dry swimming pool the colour of the school pools of our youth. We sit, already one step removed from the external life in readiness for transportation to a different world of possibilities. Also seated in the front row, less than one metre from the stage is our own Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese.

The pace of the 75 minute work is perfect. Slowly building, through rhythmic syncopation and fragmenting out again, gelling and fracturing until the audience breathe in time to the fluidity of the emotions flowing out from the stage.

The degree of physical complexity builds into a series of stunning poses, romantic, tender, requiring great strength and skill from the performers. Sarah-Foster Sproull’s direction and choreography augmented by the dancers own input is acknowledged in the opening credits of the programme. Her thoughts about community are portrayed by the community spirit that went into this phenomenal piece. I think this combined choreography is what finally lifts this performance into a class of its own and validates Foster-Sproull’s concept.

Even the costumes flow. The fabric chosen has a soft sensual tactile appearance adding another lovely layer into the visual mix. [A little too visual at one point. Luigi Vescio’s’s brief trouser wardrobe malfunction at front of stage momentarily ‘mooned’ our mayor.]

This is a world-class choreography and performance. For those old enough to remember, or have seen You Tube clips, the entwining poses recall Torvill & Deane’s Olympic winning performance to the tune of Ravell’s Bolero, with a similar impact.

The music and lighting is also delivered in noticeably superior style. Full use of the smoke and lighting throughout the performance adds in a layer of sumptuous shadow and light shafts. Swinging a light around Olivia McGregor’s solo, utilising strobe lighting in the mouth of another feels fresh and alive. The music is original and wide ranging, covering harpsichord [my favourite piece] and cello through to electronic and percussive compositions.

This performance is a great introduction for the uninitiated in modern dance and NZ talent. A first time viewer of modern dance seated beside me suppresses the impulse to stand and clap only because others aren’t standing. Awesome is a word he uses repeatedly and genuinely covers the lasting impression we gain from viewing this work. As my companion said: “I could see that again anytime.”
– – – – – – – –
Reviews of COLT’s 2013 season can be found here


Make a comment

Multifocal choreography

Review by Jonathan W. Marshall 24th Mar 2014

Colt is the last nationally toured production in the Made in New Zealand  program in which the company commissioned novel musical compositions and choreography from New Zealand artists. Footnote artistic director Deirdre Tarrant is also moving on, and there is a suggestion that a name change may be in the wings for the company.

Whilst the Made in New Zealand program was a fantastic initiative, it has suffered from a one-sided approach to these collaborations. The musicians have only very rarely toured with the dancers, and this has only been when the musicians play an acoustic or semi-acoustic instrument—presumably reflecting a retrograde belief that DJs and laptop composers are not worth paying to perform live.

Sadly, this otherwise excellent swansong continued to suffer from a lack of attention to the supposedly crucial music, with the speaker placement high in the roof and above the first row, thereby sounding absolutely appalling and badly distorted for anyone like me who sat in those seats. This was a particularly glaring error since very nearly the same thing happened last time Footnote came to Dunedin. The company obviously have not learned from their mistakes, and in the end then one cannot help feeling that the demise of Made in New Zealand comes from a lack of commitment to the very concept.

Having said that, Eden Mulholland’s music was of its usual high standard, moving from strings, to piano, rippling electronics and drum’n’bass, by and large keeping to a minimalist, repetitive format in the mode of Steve Reich and others. This selection of material, of hard off-beats, with pulses which pull you in, or ecstatically rising reiterations, suited the general mode of the piece, which seemed to promise something close to an altered state of mind, but you were never sure of this was a dream or nightmare.

Colt continues to reflect the high standard of Footnote’s dancers. Perhaps unsurprisingly, three of the longest serving company members particularly shine. Emily Adams and Olivia McGregor are both wonderful in partnering, as well as in key sections such as where they perform a duet, or when McGregor largely leadsproceedings as a figure apart from the group whose actions stimulated responses in the others. Emmanuel Reynaud though was especially strong, his movement into the rest of the group, and then out to serve as a leader or pariah, providing much of the central drama of the piece.

These sort of exchanges makes up much of the content. Like Sarah Foster-Sproull’s previous Footnote work Trancelike Happiness, 2012, and Footnote’s Hullapolloi, 2011, from Kate McIntosh and Jo Randerson, the principal focus of Colt is the nature of society and social relations between individuals and the group.

Previous reviewers have tended to fixate on the quote from Foster-Sproull that appears in the publicity, which suggests that the work started with exercises around alliterative games and meanings of the word “colt,” such as a gun (the colt revolver), dancers as horses, or indeed cults.

A revolver does appear twice, once in photo form on a board and once as a prop towards the finale, whilst a voice of authority is played over the sound system several times to offer advice regarding spiritual enlightenment. Only rarely, and mostly towards the end, does this voice take on a darker hue such as one typically associates with a cult (as opposed to a religion, or a more general spiritual community), and personally I find relatively little specifically animalistic in the movement of the dancers.

At times they move on pointe (but without pointe shoes, thus standing on their toes), and throw their legs before their torsos before moving forward. But otherwise, they do not recall horses in any significant manner, and the final sequence of five dancers holding hands, each wearing rubber horse masks and processing from side to side in a line like some kind of demented Zorba the Greek parody, seems more dictated by the work flipping its lid and moving into a truly bizarre space, than by any specific reference to horses.

More important to the dramaturgical logic of the piece seems to be what Foster-Sproull describes in her full program note (which follows after the famous quote) as “observations on being part of a community in the throes of creation.” Indeed, if one is to read Colt as a series of cultic activities, then is a pretty damning critique of the process of dance-making, which Foster-Sproull says that she used as one of her major sources of inspiration.

The focus of the piece on community relations, ostracism, group binding, and moments of ecstasy also relates to something I have (controversially) commented upon in Theatreview about Footnote and New Zealand dance before, namely a certain tendency towards Expressionism. Whilst little of the actual movement vocabulary here has much relation to key Expressionist forms such as those of Graham technique, the interaction of a charismatic or rejected leader or individual with a chorus representing the larger society was absolutely central to most German Expressionist dance of the 1920s and 1930s, most notably that of Mary Wigman.

Colt thus is perhaps better seen both as a celebration of those ways of communing with another individual, and with ecstatic experiments in doing so, juxtaposed with moments where the group seems more homogenous and potentially repressive, a machine for generating powerful unison but also loss of control.

The dancers bounce in groups to the exhortation of Reynaud and Adams, as they stutteringly managed to yell out all together “We … are … love!” Adams and McGregor later pull each other apart for a duet where Adams, looking almost possessed, rubs her chin across the head and chest of her partner in an obscure and possibly crazed gesture of intensely intimate bonding.

Even when a towering figure (one dancer on the shoulders of another, beneath a sheet), surmounted by a rubber unicorn mask, first arrives to inform us of a philosophy with which we should comply if we wish to be happy (and of course “special”), the ambience of what is proposed teeters on the edge of what could be truly inspiring and something akin to brain-washing. The unicorn pulls its hand down in a fist, punctuating its truths in a way which cannot help seeming strangely convincing.

In short, to see this simply as an exploration of the cultic seem to provide altogether too negative a reading of this intensely ambivalent choreography. Similarly, to see much animality at play here is to let us off the hook somehow; the work ceases to be about society, and becomes really little more than a slightly silly game in reverse anthropomorphism. Either reading seems to do a disservice to this fascinating and complex work.

Choreographically, the unlikely use of non-preferred body parts, or unusual, tangled configurations and pairings, certainly provides the most striking images within the piece. Head forward, balanced crazily on one leg, McGregor at one point looks like a cubist spider, her other leg folded awkwardly but somehow elegantly beneath and through the standing leg, before a sudden low drop pushes the feet apart as she sidles away. Adams sits cross-legged on the raised legs of another dancer lying prone beneath her on his back, in what could be a gesture of violent repression, or alternatively intensely pleasurable and liberating sadomasochistic play. Adams too is literally thrown by her partner just prior to this, a stiff rod to manipulate as he pleases. Also memorable is Reynaud’s opening section, focussed on the closed palms of his hands as he sinuously moves them in ripples against each other and about his body.

The choreography is typically multi-focal, and dancers tend to perform as though focussed exclusively on their own actions, before suddenly looking up and overtly interacting with their nearby fellows, suggesting previous actions too are part of some larger, hidden plan. The dancers are twitchy, and regularly shake or shudder between their larger gestures.

Despite all this, Colt does rather out-stay its welcome. Having established and then commented upon these kind of social tensions and joys, Foster-Sproull seems to have little more to add, and moves into increasingly disjointed scenarios. Whilst something of a fan of surreal jumps in logic myself, sequences such as the production of a gun out of Reynaud’s mouth and the subsequent fight over who wields it seem not only too much of a departure from earlier themes and material, but also not all that well executed. If one is going to pretend to fire a pistol, you probably need to know how to hold it, and the tokenistic, limp-wristed clasp with which it is handled is singularly unconvincing. It was also painfully apparent that during the subsequent horse-headed line dance that closes the piece that the dancers could not see a damn thing, and had great difficulty linking up hands each time they moved apart. Not only was it silly, it was also clumsy—to say nothing of dangerous, as one watched the cast edge their way off desperately hoping they would not collide with the lighting bars in the wings.

In short, whilst there was much to recommend Colt, it felt over-extended, and needed more serious dramaturgical consideration by either its choreographer Foster-Sproull or the external dramaturg Andrew Foster. Either way, the consistently high quality of Footnote’s work means that one can presume that an impressive phoenix will rise from the ashes of past configurations such as this one.



Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council