Raye Freedman Arts Centre, Gillies Avenue (Cnr Silver Road) Epsom, Auckland

19/11/2015 - 22/11/2015

Production Details

Unitec Dance presents Crossings… celebrating beautiful journeys, lasting relationships, transcending borders and the growth of new roots. Featuring works by leading choreographers; Katie Burton, Michael Parmenter, Sarah Foster-Sproull, Tim Podesta, Ross McCormack & James Vu Anh Pham and Okareka Dance Company, and performed by Unitec’s contemporary dance students.

Thurs 19 November – Sunday 22 November

Time: 7:30pm

Venue: Raye Freedman Arts Centre, Epsom Girls Grammar School, cnr Silver Rd & Gillies Ave, Epsom, Auckland

Bookings: iTicket – (09) 361 1000

All media enquiries to Peter Rees

Dance , Contemporary dance ,

2 hours

Youthful exuberance fills theatre with joy

Review by Jenny Stevenson 20th Nov 2015

In celebration of the pending graduation of the 2015 class of Unitec dance students, Director Charene Griggs has assembled some of New Zealand’s leading choreographers to showcase the dancers’ achievements, alongside three aspiring young choreographers from within their ranks.  The graduands invariably rise to the challenges presented to them and demonstrate a serious commitment to their craft alongside a highly contagious, youthful exuberance which fills the packed theatre with joy.

Sarah Foster-Sproull has to date, created three works for Unitec students and this performance of Image Test 3: Entanglement made in conjunction with Rose Philpott to the music of Andrew Foster, represents the final section of the trilogy.  The supportive and integrated movement of the twenty-four dancers is interspersed by featured performers in various formations who are then seamlessly re-absorbed into the collective body mass, in waves of continuous movement.  Extraordinary images of elongated arms appear and re-appear as a central figure seems to reach out and enfold everyone else, closing them inwards into a protective circle.  It is a powerful manifestation of the obvious collaborative practice of these dancers.

Ross McCormack and James Vu Anh Pham have chosen to emphasise the grounded nature of dance in their quartet of dancers entitled Area, which features four rocks each weighing approximately 30 kilos.  Omea Geary gives an outstanding performance, stretched out backwards and pulsing in quick rhythmic bursts, or travelling in fast staccato movements close to the floor.  Performed to an original score by Jason Wright, the work is occasionally reminiscent of Michael Parmenter’s extraordinary 1990 solo Wilderness, as the four dancers perch on their rocks focussing inwards, while guarding their own territory.  The physical lifting of the rocks is a feat in itself, enabling the audience to observe the effects of weight on the body and the manner in which the movement is altered as they carry the rocks to another place.  The four dancers: Geary, Benjamin Mitchell, Georgia Elson and Rodney Tyrell are also credited for their input to the work.

Australian choreographer Tim Podesta has focussed on “movement with clarity” in his work Never better said made on five of the graduating male dancers to the music Driven by Kiasmos.  Taniora Motutere delivers on this score, demonstrating superb articulation, born of a hip-hop infused body.  This work gives the dancers: Motutere, Reece Adams, Rodney Tyrell, Sione Fataua and Shane Tofaeono a chance to show their strength and directed energy in the edgy movement vocabulary that Podesta employs.

Okareka Dance Company were invited to reprise sections of their work Mana Wahine on several female dancers – in this casting: Emily Jenkins, Alexandra Mead and a group of five 2nd Year students.  Co-choreographed by Taiaroa Royal, Taane Mete and Malia Johnston, this iteration of the work features a duet performed by Jenkins and Isabella Wilson, The Challenge and Kakano (seed) before building to a climax of whirring purerehua (bull roarers) wielded with strength and precision by the women.

Michael Parmenter working with seventeen 2nd year dancers has created a staged panoramic work exploring “the theme of the seeking of refuge”.  The choreography for the most part eschews accompanying sound, concentrating instead on rhythmic movement phrases and frozen tableaux.  Occasionally the dancers line up to frame the stage, then break away again to re-form or continue with their interrupted movement.

Katie Burton introduces a burst of joie-de-vivre in her work Ready? OK!, danced by the 1st Year students to the insistent rhythms of Oh Mickey by Tony Basil and Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani.

Emerging choreographers Reece Adams and Rodney Tyrell use suspended lights at different levels to illuminate their moody work, aptly entitled Seethe.  The complex groupings and patterning together with a quirky movement vocabulary create a powerful statement that contains an underlying element of unease.  Former student Shalom Leilua’s Zee Finale sends the audience away smiling in a feel-good finish to the evening, featuring innovative hip-hop moves performed by the Class of 2015.  All power to them!


Make a comment

Worthy of showcasing

Review by Bernadette Rae 20th Nov 2015

Alex Lee, head of Unitec’s PASA department, is certain, he says,  in his brief valedictory speech at the opening of this graduation performance, that the departing students will all go on to fine international dance careers.

As excerpts from Okareka Dance Company’s beautiful Mana Wahine open the programme, doubts that that may be at all possible arise. The young dancers are beautiful in their enthusiasm, and there are moments when the original spirit of the work flashes into life. But the brief beige leotards are unflattering: some thigh cover would have given a better line and a good sports bra or two would seem in order. It is a cruel fact of professional dance life that the instrument must be right. These are, however just Year one, maybe Year two, students with a fair way to go.

The whole Year One troupe of 20 dancers does much better in Ready? OK! Katie Burton’s choreography is bright and breezy with a cheerleader theme and this time youthful enthusiasm is better dressed in sporty red, white, blue and black costumes with a liberal shake of gold pompom. The work focuses on vigorous arm movements and the crisp execution of spinning circles and other group formations.  Rosie Tapsell and Leah Carrell spice up proceedings with some “insightful” humour and a pretty sung duet. With pompoms ablaze overhead Ready? OK! goes off like a gorgeous Catherine Wheel on Guy Fawkes.

Year Two dancers have worked with Michael Parmenter to create The Trouble with Water, a heartfelt study on migrationand they perform it with aplomb. The work begins and ends in bursts of gorgeous music. But the whole middle section of complex flowing and intertwined movement is performed in silence, to its own internal rhythm, with the dancers exhibiting an impressive sense of unity versus personal expression.

The graduating year three students feature in the remaining works. In Area, choreographed by Ross McCormack and  James Vu Anh Pham, Benjamin Mitchell, Omea Geary, Georgia Elson and Rodney Tyrell commune with four distinctly heavy rocks. Their electric energy comes in sharp spasms both crackling and sinuous, and in sophisticated conversation with their lithic partners. This is cutting edge choreography performed by a distinctly talented and skilled quartet, their controlled explosion of energy culminating in a deeply contained and peaceful union as they squat atop their rocks.

The guys have it all in Tim Podesta’s Never better said. Reece Adams, Rodney Tyrell, Taniora Motutere, Sione Fataua and Shane Tofaeono are a tight and hot combo with all the moves and style.

Image Test 3: Entanglement, with choreography led by Sarah Foster-Sproull, is perhaps the most significant work in the programme, in that it showcases all 24 graduates and is the third and final work in a series made with Foster-Sproull, for Unitec graduations.   It works through a formal series of solos, duets, trios, quartets and more, but with an equally strong emphasis on the ensemble – what Foster-Sproull refers to as the “cell.”  The result is a definite bee-hive vibe, complete with the emergence of and challenges to a queen bee, her ruthless journey through and literally over the bodies –and head – of her community to ultimately be held aloft in smiling triumph. 

The dancers are all worthy of this showcasing and as a corps create a veritable buzz.

But another work that comes earlier in the line up speaks just as strongly of the promise of this Class of 2015. Reece Adams and  Rodney Tyrell exhibit a burgeoning choreographic skill in their Seethe for seven dancers. The work begins darkly, lit by suspended lanterns. Elson, Geary, Lydia Connolly-Hiatt, Cushla Roughan, Sione Fataua, Reghis Malonzo and Taniora Motutere smoulder in the etched gloom, then from that subterranean place erupt into a passionate creation that would grace any of the city’s main stages – and beyond. It is skilful, sophisticated and a totally honest and heartfelt statement from a group of emergent talent.

The programme notes say it all: “We are charged. We will charge. With each advance we grow stronger. We are ready. We are waiting.”

Perhaps Mr Alex Lee was correct, and those puppies in their first year will also  progress through this Unitec system to achieve similar instrumental status and success.


Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council