Friday night, Footnote takes the stage at Baycourt’s Addison Theatre, with their 2017 show CONTRAST.
This show comprises of two creations, one by choreographer Emma Murray, a New Zealander who has been living and working in Bern, Switzerland. The second piece is by Sarah Foster-Sproull, Creative New Zealand’s Choreographic Fellow for 2017-2019.
There are many dancers in the crowd, young people sporting their local dance school’s jerseys, come to find inspiration from these pros, it’s lovely to see.
Emma Murray’s piece, Participation is described in the program: “a partially improvised structure and simple movement strategy demand the performers to interact with one another through accumulative pattern, formation, tempo and rhythm. It is through these conditions that they experience themselves, and each other, as being simultaneously entwined and separate.” Simultaneously entwined and separate. These words stay with me long after I have read them before the show starts, as they are strongly and beautifully apparent throughout the piece. Entwined and separate – sounds like the title of all of our life stories if we were to boil them down to the essence.
I like how Participation plays on the audience’s (or mine, at least) sense of impatience, anticipation, and the anxiety that comes with both. The piece starts with repeated movement that lasts a long time with only very subtle changes. At first, I feel the panic of what’s going to “happen”, when will it “change” – this piece is already reflecting the inner workings of life as we deal with the passing of time alone and in relation to others. Not that I want it to change, it’s mesmerizing, in fact. But at the same time, it does awaken that anxious thing inside that says “what’s happening next and what will it do to me?”.
There’s a moment when the dancers finally touch, they hold hands and link up. I am surprised at the sense of relief this brings me, as though seeing them for so long in such close vicinity but without embracing or touching is sad, but why is it sad? Perhaps their touch is a signal that they are okay, that they see each other, and that they accept each other. The dancers smile as they touch flesh, which makes the moment even more soothing. Speaking of smiling, Tyler Carney suppresses a giggle here and there, teeth glinting as she grins…I wonder what she’s thinking about? It adds to the presence of “separation” – they’re dancing together in unison, but each and every mind is ticking over in a different way as they see and experience the motion as a solo being.
The dancers lead and follow, offer and accept, and the tiny changes they make as individuals turn into a transformation of the group as a whole. They are all powerful and at the mercy of each other’s power at the same time.
When a lone dancer enters the stage, she watches the other four bodies. She moves among them, between them. She grabs them, holds them. I wonder if she is trying to stop them, change them, or join them. Eventually she becomes part of the unison. I love the way they eventually break off into little alliances, little groups where they move together with one or two other dancers, on the same wavelength, and letting each other influence their movements as they too, influence.
The sound is very effective and at times, satisfyingly invasive (sound by Till Hillbrecht who has done an awesome job). There are a few moments when I notice the sound, only to realize I wasn’t noticing it before, as it has been floating with and against the movement beautifully.
These dancers are something else. All five of them are electrifying to watch, and they show a freedom and spontaneity that makes the experience even more special. The pure skill and strength is something to behold (and be envious of! To dance like that…oh if only).
The second piece is called Super Ornate Construct, by Sarah Foster-Sproull. “The work seeks to consider how our reality might be a series of facades, a super ornate construct if you will, that stands between people and our true feelings…”. This piece is accompanied by a man’s voice, introducing us to the “man alone”, the dancers, and his unnamed lover, or “you”. I really like the way the narration uses “you” because it nudges the audience to put themselves in the situation being described. “You think of the rain…”, we think of the rain, as well as knowing the man on stage is being narrated and even ordered, to think of the rain. “He yelled at you…”, we feel yelled at, while we see the dancer react to being yelled at herself. This draws a thread between us, the dancers, and the story they are telling.
The choreography in this piece is really breathtaking. I keep thinking of the words “peeling away” as I watch. The dancers either peel themselves away from each other, or they are peeled away by the hands of other dancers. The use of simple cardboard cutouts in the shapes of arrows and clouds punctuate the piece extremely well, and it almost makes it look like stark cartoon figures hovering in and around the dancers. The movement is sharp and fluid, large and minute, flowing and jarring.
Sarah lets us know in her foreword that she has been working on incorporating narrative and character in her choreography, and I think she’s really succeeded with this. The narrative of a couple who have fought but both have different feelings and interpretations of the what, why, and how is a brilliant way to deliver the theme of facades and constructed reality. “…stands between people and our true feelings”, yes – even in the most intimate of relationships, are we ever truly there as ourselves, free of all those particles of dust that coat us and stop us from really uniting? The dancers shed their clothes and come together, head on top of head, body on body, but I know (or, I think I know) they’re still alone. What does it take to shed the facades and truly expose what’s underneath? Is it even possible? I like that this show has led me to these questions.
These five dancers are dynamite. I could rave about each one individually but I would spin off into even more of a ramble! I’ll just say: they are all very special, they’ve found where they’re truly meant to be, and I can’t wait to watch them again.
I hope my words have adequately communicated the thoughtfulness and incredible quality of this show. Not sure if my interpretations and observations are what were intended by the creators, but I feel very enriched after the experience.
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