DRY SPELL

Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin

20/08/2022 - 20/08/2022

James Hay Theatre, Christchurch

13/08/2022 - 13/08/2022

Production Details


Choreographer: Rose Philpott
Composer: Eden Mulholland

Presented by Footnote New Zealand Dance


Fantasy and reality collude with one another in this spiralling ascension of desire and disgrace.

Dry Spell delves into a shuddering moment in time, blending nostalgia and futurism to create scenes of excitement, fear and pleasure. A mind can be very misleading, especially when we are in close proximity to it. Performed by Footnote New Zealand Dance’s team of electrifying dance artists, with choreography by trailblazing choreographer Rose Philpott and sound design by acclaimed composer Eden Mulholland, Dry Spell is a performance for thrill-seekers. Teetering on an edge of hallucination and reality, this full-length show taps into the collective and individual needs of the soul.

Dry Spell Touring Information, 2022:
Kāpiti Coast, 30th July Te Raukura ki Kāpiti
Nelson/Whakatū, 3rd August Theatre Royal Nelson
Blenheim/Te Waiharakeke, 10th August ASB Theatre Marlborough
Christchurch/Ōtauahi, 13th August James Hay Theatre
Dunedin/Ōtepoti, 20th August Regent Theatre


Footnote company dancers: Oliver Carruthers, Emma Cosgrave, Veronica ChengEn Lyu, Levi Siaosi, Cecilia Wilcox 


Choreographer & Set Designer: Rose Philpott
Composer: Eden Mulholland
Lighting designer: Lisa Maule
Costume Designer: Hannah Lee Jade Turne
Dramaturg: Melanie Hamilton 


Contemporary dance , Dance , Dance-theatre ,


60 minutes

Cohesive, generous, beautiful, interesting, considered – and fun

Review by Hannah Molloy 21st Aug 2022

Dry Spell, by Footnote Dance Company, is definitely not indicative of a dry spell for dance in Aotearoa. What a show. Costumes, sound, choreography, movement, staging, lighting, all of it was cohesive, generous, beautiful, interesting, considered – and FUN.

The stage is layered in shades of moody and arctic icy blues, a shifting blurring palette that gave an underwater feel, with the five dancers in jewel tones of red, sapphire, aquamarine, platinum (not a jewel but bear with me), and jet. The opening sequence, with only feet visible behind a puckered curtain of blue makes me think of a school of fish darting through a kelp forest, synchronous but individual.

The drapes, constructed by Anne de Geus, are a gentle susurration that smooths over and around the quicksilver dancers. They rise and fall with no drama but considerable effect and the dancers fling them around and hide in them and flirt with each other through their folds. The music (sound design by Eden Mulholland) is a heartbeat, both rhythmic and arrhythmic, its roundness complimenting the fullness of the movement.

The choreography, directed by Rose Philpott, describes a ‘moment before an ending’, ‘one night together, investigating the joyous, absurd and disconcerting crevices of being human’. It moves through my mind like a journey from somewhere under the ocean to a sex club, and back again, or maybe into a sex club under the ocean? There is a definite mood of sated orgy pile at one point.

The five dancers, Oliver Carruthers, Emma Cosgrave, Veronica ChengEn, Levi Siaosi and Cecilia Wilcox, carry an equal share of the choreography, filtering in and out of the limelight, with particularly exceptional moments provided by ChengEn and Siaosi. Siaosi moves his body in a way that makes it somehow seem non-existent inside his shirt – I’m not sure how to express that well, but the articulation of his muscles and joints and bones seems almost monstrous in its clarity, vampiric maybe. ChengEn is sultry and seductive, and so strong, both in her body and her will – flicking her collaborators off the top of the steps with a twitch of her foot and revelling in it.

Their footwork is outrageous – dramatic and immaculate and surprising. The ensemble sequences pop into the flow of dancers moving in ones and twos and threes with crisp timing and a lot of snap. There’s a lot to look at all over the stage, and these dancers fill it with a depth of understanding and overt pleasure in their own experience. It does feel joyous – there’s a rollercoaster of emotional experience for each dancer’s role but it’s all underlaid with fun, even when it’s fun flirting with a darker edge.

While a review of a show isn’t about me, it is about my experience of the show, and where it leads my imagination and mood – what is a review if not the musings of someone who may or may not be entitled to an opinion and may or may not know what they’re talking about. Dry Spell poked at my imagination, confused it, sent it on wild goose chases, and drew it out of its winter hibernation. The best shows take you on a journey in your own mind and leave you thoughtful and energised.

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Mincing, Lurking and Dreary Smirking

Review by Virginia Kennard 14th Aug 2022

As someone who has not reviewed on a regular basis for a number of years, i find myself evaluating the helpfulness of my reviewing style before the show even begins, in terms of what is the ultimate goal of writing this particular review. The lens with which this review needs to be read has a number of factors to consider: i am a dancer who has in the past auditioned for Footnote, plus i one day hope to choreograph a work for the company. I have a level of professionalism to maintain as an active arts administrator in the contemporary dance industry and producer of experimental performance, plus i am a maker myself, with ongoing work to build my own audience.

What i can offer as a reviewer in this scenario therefore becomes: What does a reading public considering attending this show need? What is of assistance to Footnote Dance Company? What kind of critical reading can be helpful for the choreographer? What discussions of the dancers can support them developing as movement artists and dance technicians?

Don’t know mate, i’m giving it a go.

Dry Spell, performed by Footnote Dance Company and choreographed by Rose Philpott, is at the tail end of its Te Waipounamu tour as it graces the stage of the James Hay Theatre. Drapes hang on the stage, a dreary blue, creating most of the scenography along with wedding cake-shaped set of stairs and lampshade-type hanging. The feet of dancers Oliver Carruthers, Emma Cosgrave, Veronica ChengEn Lyu, and Cecilia Wilcox appear under one drape; and yes dancers’ feet do look nice.

The final company dancer, Levi Siaosi, enters and joins them after mooching about in a rubbery way, which does little to reveal his range as a performer. At one point his character comes across as the creeper at a party who tries to make you feel sorry for him and even ‘pity f**k’ him. Was this intentional – in the spirit, perhaps, of art being allowed to make us uncomfortable?

Dry Spell is a party. I think. A party dream experience? Also, a reflection of dark times and futility. It has dark undertones: the music really wants me to know that. Each of the dancers throws themself off the wedding cake stairs at some point; i wonder at some point if this needs a trigger warning.

“Some of us have a drink, some of us dance” say Rose’s programme notes. I’ve been at house parties like this, where i encounter people making out and doing drugs in various spaces and making me just want to leave. More often than not i would end up getting drunk in a corner instead, and then yes i would have a dance.

A series of well-executed and vaguely interesting movement phrases ensues, but the crafting of these sequences as a whole work, the pairings and trios, the entrances and exits, the use of the drapes as wings and for dramatic flounces, needs much more focus and development. It is an attempt at structure but…dance needs some cohesive chaos if the choreographer chooses for the work to not have a clearly mapped out narrative arc. However, you could say there are sections that constitute a clear beginning [lots of mincing and sexual innuendo], middle [the dancers each got solos to show off their skills, plus a selection of duets around the space with lurking and predatory behaviour], and end [complete with a predictable collection of unison ensemble movement phrases as a climax]. There is a moment before the climactic unison dancing that could have been an ending, though probably would have made the rest of the performance feel unsatisfying. I do wonder at the choice to have Oliver hanging from the wedding cake lampshade thing BDSM style at the end.

Would someone tell these gentlemen to smile? I say this unironically. All the dancers, bar Levi’s character, go through a series of sexy personas, smirking and mincing, but only the dancers presenting as women actually smile. For a work with a number of gay moments [yay! More please!] the movement and roles are still heavily gendered – Oliver did a lot of tossing and throwing of the women around and around. Stop with the having women falling at men’s feet too please.

The music feels familiar, and not in a good way. Eden Mulholland is an ongoing popular choice to compose for dance, which means i am definitely ready for something new. There is no respite from the drum-guitar whiny-boy-rock aesthetic, to which the dancers always move in time.

The costumes feel unfamiliar, but remind me of social media memes where a mock fashion show is staged using home objects. The trousers several of the dancers wear look like musical theatre costumes my jazz students wear whilst performing ‘Barbara Ann’, adding to Levi’s clowning about, and intensifying the femme fatale-ish persona of Veronica.  Veronica manages this quite well enough on their own, though being dressed in fire engine red is another neon sign.

A subset of scenester cool-kid artists would like this work, maybe because this is who it feels like it is trying to depict? I on the other hand am neither cool nor a kid, so i am fidgeting in my seat, feeling too old and not cool enough to get it. I don’t think i want to be cool enough to get it. What i do want is to feel something, or to be challenged and have something to have my brain unpack; this instead feels like a shallow attempt at something i don’t care enough about.

[More review links from from earlier in 2022 here – ed]

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After a long dry spell for dance - audience’s attention is held throughout

Review by Dr Ian Lochhead 14th Aug 2022

Footnote New Zealand Dance’s return to Christchurch after a long absence is a welcome sign that live dance performance is finally returning to New Zealand stages after the long, Covid-induced, drought.  The title of Footnote’s latest programme must surely refer to what has certainly been a long dry spell for dance although it equally refers to the wider desolation of the global landscape of the twenty-first century in which pandemics, climate change, environmental depredation and armed conflict have created an environment of existential uncertainty that is impossible to ignore.  Rose Philpott describes Dry Spell as ‘a moment before an ending’ and it seems hard to avoid the conclusion that she is referring to humanity teetering on the edge of the abyss.  Addressing such a momentous theme through the medium of dance takes some courage and she, in collaboration with Footnote’s team of five dancers, has not shirked the attempt.

Dry Spell opens with four of the five dancers enveloped in a hanging curtain, illuminated from above, their feet and lower legs alone in view.  They are soon joined within this secure cocoon by the fifth member of the group.  Emerging onto the open stage the pure pleasure of dance takes over; can we escape from the pressures of the crises that confront us by simply ignoring them and indulging in hedonistic pleasures?  The appearance of a tiered rostrum from behind the blue drapes that frame the stage suggests that the answer may lie in the challenge to gain ascendancy over others.  ‘I belong here’ declaims one of the five from the apex but no one remains for long and the rostrum soon disappears.  When the drapes part again the rostrum has doubled in size; is it a mountain to be climbed or a stairway to the unknown?  Audience members, as with much that occurs in Dry Spell, must make their own decision.

Philpott’s fluid choreography is by turns lyrical and frenetic, sensuous and disjointed.  The dancers ably reflect the moods and emotions of the piece, performing as a group, singly and in pairs in a continually evolving sequence of combinations.  Eden Mulholland’s soundscape reflects these changing moods, from propulsive rhythms to underlying heat-beats. The costumes, by Hannah Lee Jade Turner, have a patchwork appearance that evokes a rather ragged Commedia del Arte look, suggesting that the dancers are not so much individuals but representations of archetypes.

As the work develops four of the five performers ascend to the top of the flight of steps and in turn leap, fall and collapse into the void beyond.  The fifth cannot bring herself to the brink and she descends into hysteria; the glamour and glitter of a known world is too strong an attraction to overcome fear of the unknown.  Rather than being left alone her fellows return from the beyond.  Once again, the cocoon of drapery descends to envelop the dancers but it then rises to reveal a figure hanging by the wrists in space.  It is a visceral image that reinforces the sense that we are engaged here in a life and death struggle.  The work climaxes with the fifth of the group taking the fateful plunge into the void, suggesting that we must all venture into the unknown if we are to survive.

Throughout the sixty minutes of the work’s duration Footnote’s team of five dancers, Oliver Carruthers, Emma Cosgrove, Veronica ChengEn Lyu, Levi Siaosi and Cecilia Wilcox, never flag.  The abstract and enigmatic nature of Dry Spell presents a significant challenge for the dancers but it is testament to their skill and commitment that the audience’s attention is held throughout.  Regrettably the James Hay Theatre was barely a quarter full, suggesting that audiences also remain hesitant about venturing into the unknown.  Footnote is providing us with a challenge to confront our own demons and it will be a pity if audiences do not respond to it in greater numbers than this.

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