Shed 6, Queens Wharf, Wellington

14/03/2015 - 14/03/2015

Pacific Crystal Palace, Masonic Park, Tauranga

29/10/2015 - 30/10/2015

The Famous Spiegeltent, Havelock North Domain, Havelock North

08/11/2015 - 08/11/2015

Hamilton Gardens, Chinoiserie Garden, Hamilton

28/02/2016 - 28/02/2016

Athenaeum Building, The Octagon, Dunedin

05/10/2016 - 09/10/2016

Theatre Royal, TSB Showplace, New Plymouth

26/08/2017 - 26/08/2017

Bruce Mason Centre, Auckland

11/10/2017 - 14/10/2017

Tauranga Arts Festival 2015

Dunedin Arts Festival 2016

Taranaki Arts Festival 2017

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2016



Production Details

Designed for ages 3-8 years

Dirt and Other Delicious Ingredients – Java Dance Company

A squishy, wild and playful dance!

Follow stubborn Rupert as he attempts to resist the percussive beat of Raf and Lorietta’s drumming, the chocolate tones of Gustavo’s cello and the charms of the heroine Korra.

These delightful characters use music and dance to dig deep in the dirt, finding stringed instruments, spices and bountiful harvests. A feast for all the family.

Dirt and other Delicious Ingredients is a dance theatre work with live music set in a land of smelly spice. There’s magic hidden in every crevice, you just need to dig deep!

Arts Festival of Dunedin 

Wed 5 – Sat 8 Oct11am

General Admission $10

Bookings: http://www.ticketdirect.co.nz/Event/Details/154098 


This show begins in the delicious dirt and ends in the sky.

To the point: Dance for children/playful and squishy/magical feast/music and rhythm/pure joy/barrels of fun/simply delicious.

Theatre Royal, TSB Showplace
Sat, 26 Aug 2017, 10am
Suitable for ages 6+ 


Wed 11 – Sat 14 Oct
11.00am & 1.00pm
$18.00 – 22.00*

Java Dance Company -  Emma Coppersmith Michael Gudgeon and Sarah Gatzonis 

Physical , Dance-theatre , Dance , Children’s ,

40 mins

Dynamic, fresh and totally engaging

Review by Lisa Simpson 26th Aug 2017

“That person’s alive” is the first comment a young theatre goer in front of me makes. She is referring to a performer balancing on her haunches with her back to us at the edge of the stage. And the comment says it all: this is live performance, not framed by a screen, and it engages and delights all of our senses in a way that recorded performance cannot; we see it, hear it, smell it and feel it.

The moment we enter the theatre we are surrounded by a delicious cinnamon and spice scent. The stage is fully lit and is set with wine barrels, cajons (a box-like drum) and heaped piles of leaves and spices including plies of cinnamon, star anise and coffee, both ground and in their natural states. The performer on stage smiles and plays a little peek-a-boo with children in the audience as they take their seats.

Indeed, the whole performance is a like series of games and adventures that ebb and flow seamlessly like a long summer’s afternoon of play. We see snatches of Grandma’s Footsteps, with performers moving and freezing, and Catch and Kiss, to gasps and giggles from the audience. 

The five performers enter onto the space and almost immediately begin doing what we have all been told not to do as children: pushing, wriggling, balancing, throwing, wrestling, making noise and making mess. There are moments of boys versus girls and power struggles over objects. Children in the audience respond gleefully when periodically the fun is shut down with a repeated shushing sound and gesture that is delightfully, anarchically overcome every time. Children one, adults none.

We are surprised as a cello, a violin and mandolins are unearthed and used to create the varied texture of the performance that prevents it from becoming that dread word, ‘boring’. We are taken on a journey of music and dance from around the world without any attempt to tell us what is good for us. We hear strains of Middle Eastern, Classical, Flamenco and Greek melodies; see hints of Sasa, Square Dance and a bit of Ballet for good measure. The musicians are fully part of the action. Bows are playfully used in sword fights and a violin and a cello engage in a one-upmanship battle that begins with ‘Happy Birthday’.

The action is not confined to the stage. In good Children’s Theatre tradition, performers leave the stage and bring us samples to smell and touch. Children are invited to engage in some of the mischief. The set is constantly re-arranged and props such as circlets of cheesecloth are incorporated into the action like Christmas presents being unwrapped.  

The performance is clever and the performers skilful. Moments of circus like acrobatics mesh seamlessly with satisfying choreography. And all of this is achieved without a princess or superhero in sight. Dynamic, fresh and totally engaging. More please.


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A heady whirlwind of flavour and laughter

Review by Hannah Molloy 05th Oct 2016

A roomful of excited children and their adults is always a good start to a show. Coming into the fragrant, tucked away Athenaeum basement, to seats closely packed around a square stage and interesting piles of rose petals, wood shavings and spices offered an impression of what was to come – a heady whirlwind of flavour and laughter.

Dirt and Other Delicious Ingredients, by Java Dance Company, is a fantastic example of that slightly different creature, dance theatre. It’s not pure dance and it’s not theatre in its traditional form either but it incorporates the best elements of both and opens both up to a new audience.

The whole show felt full of the richness of a harvest festival, and managed to combine a feeling of comfort (although perhaps that’s just me with the smell of cinnamon). The dancers invited the audience to surrender itself to the heady scents and sounds and to their joyous verve. They laughed with each other and stamped and beat their way around the tiny square, heaving wine barrels and boxes, discovering treasure – musical instruments, capsicums and tomatoes, scarves and napkins – hidden in the scented piles.

They were like a family of squabbly children with not a lot of adult supervision – squishing tomatoes on each other with a look of “sorry not sorry” brought gales of giggles from the audience. They provided the soundtrack with various stringed instruments pulled from the spice heaps and percussion provided by the boxes, their bodies and their voices. At times it was frenetic and almost too much but each time it was reined back in with a gentler melody and movement so even the tiny children in the audience weren’t overwhelmed.

This was definitely a show aimed at pleasing adventurous children. It’s fun watching children’s expressions range from bemused to laughter, from wondering if these people are actually going to get away with being that naughty to wondering if maybe they could try it out at home (I definitely saw that on a couple of wee faces). On the other hand, I watched one woman who looked determined to be unimpressed all the way through, and her children who kept sneaking glances at her to gauge how they should be responding and consequently seeming to have a much muted experience of this show. I kept wishing they would look at the man at the other end of their row who was utterly delighted with the experience, laughing infectiously and clapping exuberantly.

Dirt and Other Delicious Ingredients is about vivacity and fun and enticing people in the world of performing arts – I say get them while they’re young and it can only be good for everyone.


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Audience engagement a rich experience

Review by Dr Debbie Bright 29th Feb 2016

I find it an interesting experience to attend 2 performances by the same company, one for adults and the other for children and their families, all in the space of about 9 hours. Many people have written great reviews about the performances of this exciting, innovative and risk-taking company. Therefore, in this review, I focus on the similarities and contrasts between The Wine Project and Dirt and Other Delicious Ingredients or Java Dance Company as it performs for adults and for children, in the context of the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.  

My first impressions concern the challenges of finding the venues for these two performances. On Saturday evening it is raining and we discover through website and telephone that the performance has been moved into the Pavilion. There are no signs up at entrances to outdoor or (replacement) indoor venue but friendly Arts Festival staff direct all to the Pavilion. I find it definitely worth overcoming our venue uncertainties! On the Sunday morning, it had been raining and could yet rain again, but, at the time leading up to and including the performance, it is fine. Not having checked Facebook or website, I go first to the Chinoiserie Garden where the performance has been advertised to take place, and, finding this garden deserted, head back to the Pavilion. Across the grass, I spot the same dancers from the previous evening’s performance. Ah, I think, the venue has been changed… but this is a good choice; many potential audience members constantly pass through and past this area. Again, I can find no signs up, but some families have obviously found out about the new, free-of-charge, venue, and the management assures me that all those who previously bought tickets are now being reimbursed. Again, the changes are certainly a good decision!

The first and most obvious similarities, for me, are that the same dancers perform in both works and that their costumes are, for the most part, the same for both performances. Part of me likes the linking of the two performances in this way; part of me would like to see brightly coloured, more zany costumes for Dirt and Delicious, that would appeal more to children. But these are small details. The muted-ness of costumes is soon forgotten in the noise and dynamism of the performers – dancers and musicians.

Secondly, while some of the spice/barrels and boxes props are the same and used in the same way in each performance, others are appropriately different. Where in The Wine Project, the audience are involved in various forms of spices, grapes, wine, and physical movement and greetings embraces, in Dirt and Other Delicious Ingredients, there are also bright red capsicums and tomatoes, a brief tomato fight, and water. I note how these well-fed children leave the laid out food props until invited to be involved; I cannot help thinking of the children I work with, or indeed of this company taking their work back to Europe and the very different reaction that children might have were this company to perform in the context of the current tsunami of hungry refugees. Definitely food for thought.

Having said all the above, this company certainly knows how to engage with audiences, whoever they are (Sasha’s training?)! In The Wine Project, the audience seating is laid out in a square with open corners, very close to the performance space. The performers quickly make eye contact with the audience, begin interacting with them and involving them in the action. Similarly with Dirt and Other Delicious Ingredients, dancers shake hands with individual children, sit with the audience and ‘train’ the children to wave and respond before the show even starts. Thus, in both cases, the audience is primed, either through proximity or through personal interaction, to expect to be involved. This level of involvement is a surprise to many in the evening performance, but the audience comments that I overhear at the end are enthusiastically positive. For children, the interaction of performers with audience, and audience participation, are usually essential. As Dirt and Delicious continues, I see more and more families arrive, and the early ‘training’ of the small audience members up the front is an added attraction to the new arrivals. I surmise that, even if a group of people only stay for 5 minutes before moving on again towards their planned destination, they will still have gained some rich experiences from their contact with this show.

Fourthly, Sasha Copland’s work is not for performers who are not prepared to mix it with dirt, squishiness, loudness, drumming, shouting and singing, messiness, getting wet and dirty, performance extrovert-ness, or mayhem! In both performances, the dancers and musicians interweave in movement and drumming and then separate out into musicians with classical stringed instruments and well-trained contemporary dancers, both of high skill and power. Yet, pervading both are the dynamic drumming, swift movement changes, loud vocalisations, and general revelry and fun, and, of course, the abundance of spices, etcetera, to be thrown, rolled in, smeared on each other and shared with audience members.

Fifthly, while Dirt and Other Delicious Ingredients focuses only on the lively, the celebratory, the noisy and messy (and appropriately so), The Wine Project includes these elements but also darker themes of rivalry, control and manipulation. As the Gardens Arts Festival Programme suggests: The Wine Project “invites you into a world of intrigue and aroma, of ritual and revelry, of sex and power”. During Wine Project, I am reminded of a Greek tragedy I once performed in;  while during Dirt and Other Delicious Ingredients, I am reminded of performing outdoors as part of the Wellington Summer City Programme many years ago, two very different events.

Finally, I see sections of choreography from The Wine Project repeated in Dirt and Delicious with a similar level of energy, vivaciousness and ‘hoopla’. Both shows, but particularly The Wine Project, encourage audiences in a full sensory experience of sights, sounds, smells, tastes, touches and physical movement. After the evening performance of The Wine Project, I find that the spicy smells stay in my hair for hours and I need to wash crushed spices off my face before bed. I am told that the Pavilion still smells strongly of spices the morning following this performance. I imagine that musical phrases, rhythms, movements and vivid visual images will also stay with the audiences of both performances. 


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The allure of cinnamon

Review by Kim Buckley 09th Nov 2015

Sarah Gatzonis sits with her back to us as we enter the performance space fifteen minutes before Java Dance Company’s Dirt and other Delicious Ingredients begins. She is quite still and seemingly relaxed even though her arms are outstretched, upward turned and laden with stacked rows of whole cinnamon sticks. She casually watches the audience take their seats, while those entering the space are in turn watching her with looks of interest and intrigue. Every now and then her eyes close and she slowly moves her head and neck. I suspect she is releasing the tension of sitting completely still for a period of time. The power in her small movements is immense and I expect her to spring upward and pounce at any moment.

I and my seven year old companion sit next to a tall box that is covered in crunchy brown autumn leaves, coffee beans, cinnamon sticks and star anise. The aroma is extremely alluring and we immediately sniff large intakes of its spiciness. The leaves  also prove alluring to young hands and the production person guarding the box has fun with some other little people ‘needing’ to hold some of these leaves. This is a family show and half of the full house is under ten. 

Cow bells chime and a whistling Charlie Davenport nonchalantly enters to clumsily trip over a sideways wine barrel. The children laugh and catch his attention inviting him to bow and wave his way around the central performance space. With all eyes on him, he guides our attention to a luscious and large pile of dirt, wood chips, and broken cinnamon where he then ‘finds’ his cello and begins to play. Again, the children respond with glee as do some of the adults. 

The other Java performers Emma Coppersmith, Michael Gudgeon and Tristan Carter enter in similar circumstances. Sarah slowly and languidly rises and without dropping even one cinnamon stick, she moves like a cat to the top of a wine barrel. Carter leaps off the ground to snaffle a hand full of cinnamon sticks and immediately crushes them. He brings them to his nose sniffing tremendously loudly. Taking his aromatic ecstasy to various children, he asks them what they are reminded of. Sarah throws her arms above her head and the cinnamon sticks rain down on us. The story has begun. 

As I watch, I realise the bones of this performance are from choreographer Sacha Copland’s The Wine Project. She has cleverly recycled this extremely tasty structure to extract every available drop of creativity from those ideas to make this family-oriented show. I read that this show would be a ‘squishy, wild, playful dance’ and we are not disappointed. Games of throw and catch, hide and seek, tag and freeze, a play fight, a food fight, even a musical duel of Happy Birthday were all in this mix. The boys show us their muscles and the girls egg them on. 

Fascinatingly, out of all this wildness comes a very real and modern tendency between children – that of gender not being an issue between friends. I also see friends forgiving each other. My young companion has not taken his eyes off the action for one second except to look at me to make sure I am seeing what he is seeing. There are lots of smiles and sparkling eyes everywhere I look. Java delivers a wonderful journey that is immediately and completely engaging throughout the performance. So much so, that after the show, the seven-year-old gathers all the cinnamon he can find, puts it in my bag and asks me if we can spread it around our house when we get home. 



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Aromatic and perfectly paced

Review by Dr Linda Ashley 30th Oct 2015

OK here’s the thing – part way through this delectable delight of an aromatic performance my reviewer’s pen becomes a percussion instrument and prevents me from writing as, encouraged by the five joyous and captivating performers, I have no hesitation from being in the moment. As an interactive audience member, tapping along with abandon to the infectious music is just one of a cascade of many such moments.

From the start we feel welcome, walking by fragrant, bountiful mounds of spices. In the relaxed ambience of the Pacific Crystal Palace, daylight bounces off the stained glass windows around dividing into a spectrum of colour. This venue provides just the right setting, mixing relaxed indulgence with colour and a sense of far away kazbahs. Set in the round, dancers make surprise entrances perpetuating our sense of welcome with friendly waves and smiles to each section of the audience. Everyone waves back.

The piles of spices, rustling leaves and rice, however, are not just there for the aroma and as with everything on the set Copland exploits them to the full. They become hiding places for musical instruments, costumes, fruit and vegetables. The earth is burgeoning. It is dug into the whole production in the costumes and set  (Meggan Rollandi), as seamlessly as the transitions in this work. A nonstop, perfectly paced piece.

Not forgetting the two musicians who dance equally as well as they play (Tristan Carter, Charley Davenport). They also created the original score for the show, using violin, cello, mandolin, percussion (on anything available) and voice. A clever and highly appropriate blend of folk, social dance and recognisable tunes evokes the spice trail from the East, Gypsy traders, wild hoedown celebrations, tangos and more. Did I mention how much fun the whole thing is? These performers make it so. The WOW factor is happy performers. Did I mention how amusing they are?

This was arohanui and joy wrapped up in a cinnamon quill. How refreshing to see dancers connecting directly with the audience and with each other. Sacha Copland, in collaboration with the performers, has created a heady mixture of spiciness; a welcoming oasis of the warmth and joy that dance can express so very, very well.

Tastefully blending the heady aromas with spice-related human events such as harvest celebrations, exotic eastern delights and innumerable hidden treasures, this Aladdin’s Cave of a performance is billed as suitable for three years and above. The children here today thoroughly enjoyed it but so did the adults. It’s a show for children of all ages. Sadie is three years old. She is sitting next to me. Her favourite part was “the dancing”.



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Inspired by dirt... and superbly crafted

Review by Lyne Pringle 15th Mar 2015

Taking dirt as her source of inspiration choreographer Sacha Copland says ‘everything that we consume and create comes from ingredients found in the earth. We may transform the shape, form, colour and chemistry of what we find, but everything begins in the dirt.’  She has found a rich source of inspiration. Dirt and Other Delicious Ingredients is a superbly crafted show that utterly connects with its audience – aimed at 3 – 8 year olds – but equally enthralling for all ages. Take note international festivals this work deserves to be seen on the world stage.  It is charming with perfectly pitched performances that allow young and old to enter a world of magic.

One of the stars of the show is the production design of Meggan Rollandi. She creates a world with wine barrels which the performers manipulate to dance over and around.  This provides a good challenge choreographically and there is much invention as the dancers perch, balance, roll and cavort.

Objects and images are conjured from the piles of spices, leaves and dirt and the theatre is rich with the smell of these ingredients when we enter.

The dancers, Emma Coppersmith Michael Gudgeon and Sarah Gatzonis are in great form and embrace the challenges, thrown at them, with relish.  Each of them brings a believable character to the stage which develops over the course of the work. From their first waves to the audience, to their crazy antics in the auditorium, to their smooth embodied dancing, to their final interactions with the children as they wait to leave the auditorium, they are totally beguiling. At the matinee, that I attended, some children rushed to hug them before they left – this says it all.

Musicians and composers Charley Davenport (cellist) Tristan Carter (violinist) are completely mixed into the work, there is no distinction for them as performers, they are asked to play, dance, act and interact. This refreshing integration really works and is one of the defining highlights of the show.

Underpinning the whole is the marvellous score created from percussion, voice and stringed instruments; it is the skeleton which has arisenfrom the opportunity to work with the musicians throughout the process of creation; consequently the rhythm of the work is flawless in its nuances, duration and shifts of dynamic.

This fabulous new offering from Java Dance is testament to the commitment that Capital E has made to nurture their creative development. Bravo!

Sacha Copland acknowledges her collaborators; it is obvious that all creative voices in this ensemble have been heard, valued and integrated. But this work marks a real maturing for this artist, who is one of our most hardworking and prolific choreographers.

She states Dirt and Other Secret Ingredients ‘is an exploration of how people interact with and use the natural world to create communities, rituals, customs and art.’ Which is what she does.


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