St James Theatre 2, Wellington

11/03/2016 - 13/03/2016

New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2016

Production Details

Lauren feels weird about feeling lonely. Jimi feels weird he isn’t a woman. Tara feels weird she is a woman. Josh never really feels Australian enough. From two of dance and theatre’s most unflinching makers comes a daring and darkly humorous exploration of identity in the age of social media.

Complexity of Belonging peers into the lives of nine interconnected people as they grapple with the question: how and where do I belong? Nationality, gender, sexuality and history collide and fragment on stage in this audacious theatrical expose of the daily trials of surviving in a hyper-connected, hyper-sensitive, globalised society.

It’s “boundary-pushing choreographic theatre that displays the highest level of artistry” (The Age). It’s an outsider take on Australia. It’s also an insider take on the 21st century.

Co-produced by Chunky Move, Melbourne Theatre Company, Melbourne Festival, Brisbane Festival and Théâtre National de Chaillot.


Anouk van Dijk interviewed on RNZ Concert’s Upbeat and in the New Zealand Herald.

For cast and creatives’ biographies, click here.

Set Design:
Robert Cousins
Costume Design:
Mel Page
Lighting Design:
Niklas Pajanti
Malte Beckenbach
Nils Haarmann and Daniel Schlusser
Assistant Director:
Gary Abrahams
Choreographic Secondment:
Niharika Senapati

Joel BrayLauren LangloisAlya ManzartEloise Mignon,  Laura Jane Turner (New Zealand Festival season), James Vu Anh Pham, Stephen PhillipsJosh PriceKaren Sibbing and  Tara Jade Samaya

Dance-theatre , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

1 hour 40 mins

Stomping, adulatory reception

Review by Ann Hunt 15th Mar 2016

The concept, direction and choreography for Complexity of Belonging is a collaboration between director/writer Falk Richter and Chunky Move’s Artistic Director Anouk van Dijk.  Together they have created a dynamically theatrical production that explores the nature of identity and belonging in the age of social media.

They credit their cast of five dancers and four actors for their creative input and personal stories. 

Robert Cousins’ sparse set against a beautiful cyclorama of the Australian outback with exposed lights above it, works exceptionally well. Multiple screens focus audience attention on the faces of the actors/dancers, who use microphones, skype and mobile phones throughout.  Accompanying lighting design by Niklas Pajanti and composition Malte Beckenbach are both excellent. 

In a series of spoken dialogues and solo dances, the cast of interconnected individuals describe their efforts to belong in Australia and to connect with others.

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Over-powering force and incredible beauty

Review by Sam Trubridge 12th Mar 2016

A vast photographic panorama of the outback stretches the entire width of the St James stage. This curved backdrop swells away from us and exceeds the walls, to capture the limitless space of the Australian landscape – an expanse that we may get lost in, that we may fly to, but never reach.


It starts in an airport, with an assembly of departure-lounge furniture items, and with the eavesdropping on the lives of fellow travellers that we are all guilty of. A traveller narrates this experience and expresses her anxiety about flying after the missing and crashed MH17 and MH370 flights. It is the first of many beautifully written and extensive monologues in the work, set to a layered melee of stage activity and choreography. The characters fly often in the work, drifting through lobbies and across causeways of airports, or looking out from atop high-rises – always off or about to leave the ground.


Flight might be the ultimate dream of dance – to leap, to leave the ground and never come back. But this new work by Chunky Move is really about a sense of ground, of where we come from, and of where we stand. It is refreshing to hear Australian artists talk about being Australian. We don’t get enough of our neighbours’ work coming to New Zealand. We may talk a lot about what our national dance or theatre culture is, but what about this region? It is nice to hear someone talk about a cultural experience that is so similar and close to our own in many ways, but which has its differences.  In one scene the camera pores over nostalgic Australian images (board-shorts, Aboriginals, thylacines) as the performers try and work out where they belong and what their identity is. With a cast of characters that includes a European immigrant, a ‘White’ Aboriginal, an Asian Australian, and a travelling businessman, the difference between identity and belonging seems a fraught and unstable place.


Cameras, projections, light-boxes, and mobile screens fill the work with many intersecting layers of imagery. Sometimes the characters seem to disappear within this montage, struggling through their long distance video calls, searching for connection through technology, and moving in and out of multiple frames of reference. There is a kind of ‘Skype existentialism’ that we can all relate to, but that is not unfamiliar to works of this kind. The use of technology is seamless, beautifully disorientating, and wonderfully inventive with its play between body and image.


It is full of language: dense, textural, spilling-from-the-tongue language that rolls out with amazing speed and dexterity. This is language without punctuation or breath; an emotional, unedited cascade that the speaker’s thoughts cannot edit only follow breathlessly behind. In one stunning monologue, Lauren Langlois unravels a list of the perfect attributes she looks for in a man. Among 175 other criteria, he must also look good on a horse. She doesn’t miss a beat, and doesn’t pause for a second to remember a single item, but charges on with unstoppable force as she is flung about the stage by another dancer. We can’t help but applaud when she reaches the end of this scene of incredible performance.


The Complexity of Belonging is a collaboration between writer/director Falk Richter and choreographer Anouk Van Dijk that these joint authors call “an integrated form of physical and text performance languages – choreographic theatre”. How is it different from dancetheater? If you see Pina Bausch later this week at the NZ Festival maybe you will find out. I would suggest that the key difference is how Chunky Move make choreography of language and literature. I am reminded often of William Forsythe’s 2000 work for Ballet Frankfurt Kammer/Kammer, which explored a similar relationship between language and dance using texts by Douglas A Martin and Anne Carson. In this work screens are also used as layers and active surfaces in the work, providing thresholds for other views into the performance while text spills out in an unchecked an emotional cascade. At this speed, words rush us by – they become textural, expressive, and choreographic.


The transition between language and movement is sometimes awkward though, with dancers abruptly dropping the text at the end of monologues to start dancing for scenes. This proximity between speech and dance sometimes makes the choreography seem ineffectual, following so quickly after the direct and meaningful text. It doesn’t have the grace and ease with which Bausch may move from spoken or theatrical routines into expressive movement. I want more from Chunky Move in this regard. I want to find out where the movement starts, and where it comes from to become dance. Much of the time it also seems rather rudimentary: a choreographic embroidery of scenes within the more profound dramaturgical and theatrical patterns of the work. James Vu Anh Pham works well on long circular sweeps of the limbs in his solo, with his characteristic suppleness and loose wrists. The dancers all display some great athleticism climbing over one another during lengthy monologues. But at times it doesn’t feel like the creators know quite what to do with the dance, like they would have preferred much less of it. At other times (such as Langlois’ scene or the crescendo at the end) the dance is absolutely vital to the amazing energy of this work.


The work is full throughout with an over-powering force and incredible beauty, with great credit to the fantastic set by Michael Cousins and lighting by Niklas Pajanti. The dance builds momentum towards the end, with more coherence than before, gathering to Malte Beckenbach’s titanic throbbing score that shakes the theatre. With some beautifully tight synchronised dancing on and with the lounge furniture, we are transported to a space of foreboding, threat, and anticipation that I could have sat in forever. The performers sit in lines, queues, or aisles: about to embark into the uncertainty and trepidation of contemporary air travel that is haunted by recent events. The passengers tilt back on their chair legs in unison, and teeter; a flight of bodies about to crash to earth, or about to disappear off the maps and radars to never be seen again. 


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