Danse Macabre

Channel One, (not a specified venue)

08/11/2008 - 08/11/2008

Production Details

Election 08

Democracy by Television

Review by Shennifer Jennan 12th Nov 2008

I watched a televised dance performance on Saturday evening, 8 November, fairly late on Channel One. The work was offered without a title but I think of it as a danse macabre. It made a powerful impression, although the choreographer was also unidentified. A huge budget had clearly gone in to the production.

A ring of six very strong, thickset males, each of them with little in the way of what you’d call a neck, were roped together into a widdershins ( outwardly facing) circle, with strong linked-akimbo arm positions. Their port-de-bras cadenced in impressively expressive tight-clenched fists, surreal shades of the familiar quartet of cygnets in other ballets we have known. 

Their torsos remained staunchly vertical while the step pattern adroitly moved their circular formation cautiously en avant. The focussed performers conveyed a realistic pugnacity, and one can only wonder how many hours of studio training were required to achieve this co-ordination and concentration. Their powerful imaginations were clearly at work, as they continually conveyed the expectation of an attack at any moment – from the foreground, the sides or the rear – even though there was no evidence of any hovering corps de ballet actually likely to launch such an attack. Shades of other ballets we have known – der Groene Tisch, by Kurt Jooss, for example.

Furthermore, the performers were able to convey the impression that they were completely unaware of the camera’s presence, a hallmark of the challenging school of theatrical neo-realism.  This impression was the more tellingly conveyed as the male lead performer, centred within their circle, was effectively ushered past these imagined potential dangers as he made his way down through the midst of a very long corridor of spectators.

In striking contrast to the group’s von Rothbart-like demeanours, the soloist appeared to be in jubilant mood – and had a female and two juvenile cast members, dressed in blue, closely accompanying him. They all managed to sustain this sequence for an extended period of time but they may have been helped in this by some music (I just can’t remember the tune). The wider stage set was generously filled with blue balloons and the convincing crowd of spectators applauded with an energy that did not seem at all forced. Shades of the celebrated ballets of Trudi Schoop, for example.

This is apparently the first act of a full-length work, even a series. We might hope that the camera crew for future episodes could be trained to present a more sympathetic, flattering and less threatening view of the circle dance, since it is likely to recur as a motif. Shades of Jerome Robbins’ The Cage, for example. It is of course possible that the director’s choice to edit the production’s camera focus in this way was a deliberate, though subtle, communication that might yet earn a nomination in the triennial Democracy by Television awards. 


Michael Smythe November 14th, 2008

Last Saturday night's 'danse macabre' has nothing on the pas de quatre taking place now.

It's astounding. The great Kiwi soothsayer Richard O’Brien foresaw it all when he envisaged a Riff Raff attempting synchronicity. And it has come to pass that, under Dr Johnkeyfurtive’s leadership “it’s just a jump to the left” followed by minor ACTors pushing for “a step to the right” while a concerned Phil-officer warns of the long-term dangers of the “pelvic thrust”.

And are these Columbiana’s dulcet tones we hear? “Well, I was walking down the street /Just having a think /When a snake of a guy /Gave me an evil wink /Well it shook me up /It took me by surprise /He had a pick-up truck /And the devil's eyes /He stared at me /And I felt a change /Time meant nothing /Never would again.”

Time will tell.

Welly Watch November 12th, 2008

I think you will find she is very much alive, flapping her wings and ready to fly to less salubrious climes in order to continue her selfless work for the greater good. But then vampire films are always riddled with ambiguity.

Dane Giraud November 12th, 2008

The Vampire film that was on the same night was pretty cool also. I most liked the scene when the countess returned to her coffin

David Geary November 12th, 2008

Jennifer - I'm so sorry I'm missed the premiere of this wondrous dance. But believe it will be repeated ad nauseum so feel sure I will catch it again. But your commentary is a beaut verbal dance in itself. I must say I went to bed early - it was a long day and I succumbed to a bath (which most of my picks also took!). But not before catching my own dance highlight with the Kowhiri on Maori TV, when they cut to Parekura Horomia's marae. Julian Wilcox pointed out a very willing game of "bullrush/scrag" was being performed behind the presenter, using a shoe as a ball. His money was "on the big guy". Seems a lot of people's money was on the big guy on the night.  

maryjane oreilly November 12th, 2008

yes i had a giggle and appreciated this strange little dance ritual as well - very odd

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