11/05/2022 - 11/05/2022
Toitoi - Hawke’s Bay Arts and Events Centre 101 Hastings Street South, Hastings
06/05/2022 - 06/05/2022
Clarence Street Theatre, Hamilton
02/05/2022 - 02/05/2022
ASB Waterfront Theatre, 138 Halsey St, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland
30/04/2022 - 30/04/2022
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.
Footnote company dancers:
Oliver Carruthers, Emma Cosgrave, Veronica ChengEn Lyu, Levi Siaosi, Cecilia Wilcox
Experimental dance , Dance-theatre , Dance , Contemporary dance ,
The ego excesses of a Freddy Mercury.
Review by Tania Kopytko 23rd May 2022
It was a pleasure to see the final night of Footnote New Zealand Dance’s six city North Island tour of Dry Spell in the gorgeous Royal Whanganui Opera House. Dry Spell provides a superb way for Footnote to re-enter live performance – after such a Covid-drought of performing arts.
Footnote New Zealand Dance were in great form, the five dancers filled the stage with their energy and beautiful movement. It was fascinating to see Rose Philpott’s work expanded and developed from its first incarnation in 2020 in the Undercurrent tour. Still set in the hedonistic party world, Dry Spell touches on a high society, celebrity, “in-crowd” party, rave or may be nightclub. The performers give us snippets or vignettes of social interaction, in just the same way we can observe people at a party through glimpses of drama. Dry Spell is like a performance of ego’s. But beneath every giant ego there might be a scared, scarred or insecure person.
The set itself (also designed by Rose Philpott) provides excellent opportunity for the drama. A Hollywood style staircase allows the characters to parade themselves, deep blue drapes can be folded creating chambers for intrigues. Lighting (Lisa Maule), costumes (Hannah Lee Jade) and Eden Mulholland’s wonderful soundscape strongly complement and augment the dance work.
The performance unfolds as parties or raves do, starting with all that expectation but never knowing how it might end. Here is the veneer of social life – dramatic greetings and preening, the pairings off, the gossip and intrigue, displays of peacock-ness, the host/hostess of the party, the misfit. Maybe its mind altering substances or just the deep of the night, which enables the guts of the drama to play out. Ecstasy, intimacy, honesty. How will this end? As the work unfolded, my curiosity grew.
The dance drama is strong. Beautiful passages of movement, all with assured fluidity, interactions, swoops, lifts and fascinating movement motifs. As the piece unfolds some motifs develop and strengthen the narrative. I enjoyed the use of arms and hands. It sometimes it reminded me of Bob Fosse’s famous “The Rich Man’s Frug”. A group unified, as their arms are strongly linked, but one member drags them one way or another, only to be swiftly whisked back into the group. The gawky guy, brilliantly performed by Levi Siaosi, is somewhat of a misfit in his duet with Cecilia Wilcox. The hands won’t/can’t touch. But later, deep into the party night when the defences are down, he can touch. Here unfolds a beautiful tender duet with Oliver Carruthers, and we understand at least some of his “outsider-ness”.
The dancers give us glimpses of characters, of us. Maybe Marilyn Monroe at her starlight loneliness lies behind the strong staircase performance by Veronica Chengen Lyu. Oliver Carruthers gives us the ego excesses of a Freddy Mercury playing a sort of “Lord of the Party.” Emma Cosgrave is the excessively giggly girl, but she has sensual depth. Cecilia Wilcox could be a free spirit. Levi Siaosi loiters at the edges, disturbing, troubled. We have seen all these people during our party lives.
How will this end? We return to the social veneer that is accomplished so well by the clever and well executed ensemble work. Perhaps some people have learned something or others have done something they regret. Who knows? But it all happens somewhere, at some place close to you, week after week, year after year, in our tarnished western world.
It was not only I who enjoyed the work. A good sized audience buzzed afterwards and words of praise and amazement could be heard in the air as we left the beautiful setting. I took a non-dance friend who had last been to a contemporary dance performance years ago and she loved it – it all made sense to her.
I hope this work is able to mature further and that it will have a long life – perhaps a tour of the South Island and maybe further. But yes, Footnote is now back on its feet delivering great performance and supporting New Zealand dance development through its schools work. Bravo!
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Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Playground for the audience.
Review by Helen Balfour 12th May 2022
Excited murmurs filter through the audience as we anticipate the rise of the curtain at the Opera House. The audience is united in the novelty of witnessing a live performance surrounded by strangers, even if the majority of us are masked. I wonder if Dry Spell performed by Footnote Dance, among other intentions, is also a nod to the scarcity of performances in recent times? Perhaps the performance will be an acknowledgement of the outcome of the time we’ve spent in our bubbles and how the human spirit will continue to rally with resilience and resistance.
The opening image of a cocoon-shaped drop of fabric inspires curiosity as we observe bodies huddled within. Our focus shifts as we watch and listen to the light, syncopated rhythms of their feet. The initial interconnectedness of the dancers, which is evident throughout the performance, is immediate. The intimate, often dark, yet sometimes hopeful, conversational nature of the choreography, driven by Eden Mulholland’s dynamic music and sound, binds the work.
Rose Philpott’s stage design is thoroughly integrated into the work. A set of white, curved steps in the top left hand corner of the stage and a futuristic looking candelabra at the front, are dominant features and focuses for the movement. We see abundant sections of royal blue fabric intricately maneuvered through and around, creating symmetry with some of the ideas presented and cleverly shaping ‘chambers of events’.
The shapes and patterns of Philpott’s choreography mingles between solos, duos and ensemble work, developing interrelationships between the dancers and the choreographic intentions presented. I enjoy the mingling party meetups, the almost circus-like show girl sections, and the dreamlike bizarre alternative realities that appear on stage. The abstract relationships we observe are intricately woven together through hand gestures, supported movement and lifts. The audience witnesses moments of joy and laughter, juxtaposed with sections of dark, passionate undertones. Liquid moving bodies are then distorted into shapes that are interconnected within flowy legs of fabric, creating a futuristic, distorted version of reality.
Each dancer performs a solo, highlighting their unique talents, control and strength. A solo on the stairs starts as lighthearted then becomes hysterical, panicked, a distorted dive into fragility. Another solo drives through the space with whirling, jumping fervour and desire.
Dry Spell creates a playground for the audience, taking us in and out of sequences, relationships and events, leaving us exhausted, yet exhilarated.
A performer speaks “It’s my party and I’ll die if I want to”, an amended, darker version of lyrics most of us recognize. Here and there we see examples of vocals used, letting us in a little deeper as the dancers move at times with demon-like control, acting out marionette power plays. Mulholland’s music, with its intense, pulsing rhythms and vibrancy, amplifies the choreography on stage.
Costuming by Hannah Lee Jade has a harlequin feel and compliments the overall concept.
Undoubtedly, the energy of the superb unison sections in Dry Spell captivates us with yelps of applause and encouragement from some audience members. The focused, rhythmic, personal and often quirky choreography highlights the strong skills and talents of the performers.
Congratulations to all Footnote dancers and company, a most worthy and engaging evening of dance. A thought-provoking work that delves deeply into the subconscious and encourages us to perhaps make a trip into our inner selves and seek out what may lie within.
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Muscular calves in a tangoed murmuration.
Review by Kim Buckley 07th May 2022
Physical murmurings in the dark of the lone male dancer as he emerges from behind the single wide and long piece of fabric like a long-forgotten memory into an empty space. Opposite him, pointed and spot lit feet, curvy ankles and muscular calves in a tangoed murmuration visible from underneath a ballooned piece of fabric. I am already transported in my own mind as these two ideas become visible in my consciousness.
Rose Philpott’s choreographic notes say “…a peephole through which we see ourselves…” Indeed. I believe an artist’s work is not fully realised until it is experienced by its audience. The completion of the creative journey belongs to that part of the work, where the work itself becomes a reflection and not the artist that creates it. In this case, the dancers are the vessel through which the work can make itself known in its final state. And even then, as each viewer takes away their own piece of work, the echos that ripple out from them, create even more of what started with only a seed of thought from the original choreographer. The journey continues.
Eden Mulholland has given this work an extraordinary loudspeaker. The sound design is sexy, loud, ballistic, quiet, demonstrative, and demanding, among other things. The design invites me to ride the emotional wave of what I am viewing and not just the kinaesthetic one.
The dancers are committed to Phillpott’s vision and give us all they’ve got. At times, I feel personally awkward watching the intimacy they are offering me. I feel like I should close my eyes but I just can’t. Fantastic. Each of the five performers all have their solo moments which, unquestionably, are a sight to behold given the intensity behind each piece. The standouts for me are Oliver Carruthers and Veronica Chengen Lyu.
This piece is an “…intersection of textile and spatial design…” and I can see the experiment in this. It is an interesting idea and more can be made of this. The set pieces, the hanging lamp and the staircase, both in the same smooth white art deco inspired design reflected in them, balance the darkened performance space.
I think Philpott missed the natural finale and the actual ending leaves me feeling like I haven’t seen a conclusion. But again, food for thought. These are my musings. Overall, it was a breath of fresh air to sit in a theatre with a live audience and watch a live performance. Thank you Footnote for persevering and I look forward to seeing what your next offering is.
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A team of talented creatives.
Review by Sue Cheesman 05th May 2022
Dry Spell choreographed by Rose Philpott is billed as a moment before an ending with all five dancers on a one-night hedonistic romp. Supporting her vision is a team of talented creatives. A standout is composer Eden Mulholland whose stunning sound score towers over the dance at times and at others providing the driving beat and powerful repetitive rhythms, for the strong unison sections near the beginning and end.
On one side of the stage only the feet pulsing punctuated with the strike of the leg pointed and straight are visible as the party begins. All dancers from Footnote Dance Company embody the contemporised movement vocabulary extremely well. The liquid fluidity of the moves into, out of and over the floor and one another is seamless as they change levels, roll and play. At several points in a sexualised, somewhat seedy manner reminiscent of late-night scenes in clubs or parties.
This piece is episodic. Relationships between these different characters constantly change as the dancers perform in one group, as a trio, in varying pairs- male/male, male/ female and female/female depicting the fluidity of the situation. The out stretched arm joined to a clump of dancers propelling them across the stage only to reform the relationships in a different configuration caught my eye several times.
Each dancer has a solo within the piece suited to their individual dance traits. Levi Siaosi oddball awkward, disjointed movement vocabulary meant he was often portrayed as an outsider. Veronica Chengen Lyu performs a steamy manic solo, up and down the tiered steps with only a skimpy shiny silver leotard and arm length bright red gloves. Was this the paranoia of the end of an indulgent night seeping through?
These tiered white steps reminiscent of a layer cake stand in the back far corner giving a vehicle for the dancers to strut up and down on, fall off the top into the abyss and cascade downwards forming a tableau. This point along with several others seem to signal the dance had finished. Three quarters of the way into the piece my attention wanes and I am more interested in the music score however I am jolted back to the dance through a change in mood and dynamic with the dancers performing the unison material from the beginning to a driving beat. Dry Spell concludes like it began with threading feet and I am left wondering “Where am I now”.
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And so, we dance.
Review by Jesse Quaid 01st May 2022
Living during a pandemic is hard. Making live performance during a pandemic is even harder, and Rose Philpott, along with her cast and creative crew, deserve to be acknowledged for the effort and determination it must have taken to get Dry Spell from conception to stage. Developed from a shorter original this is Philpott’s debut full length work and, despite the limitations she faced, is a competent and watchable effort.
Supported by the excellence and familiarity of Eden Mullholland’s sound design and performed with enthusiasm and youthful skill by the Footnote New Zealand Dance company dancers, this work takes us on a semi-narrative ride through an apparently final night of enforced fun. The structure is conventional, with tableau, showcase solos, group unison phrases, and interwoven duets and trios all repeatedly used. Combined with the restricted emotional range and the fanciful set and costumes, the familiarity and predictability of the choreography adds to the sense of futility that underpins this work.
The performers dance, laugh, play at sexuality. Their backs are permanently arched, faces wide open. Nothing really changes. They tumble, one by one, from Ziegfeld-esque stairs into the void at the back of the stage. Nothing really changes. Oliver Carruthers stalks across the stage, hinting at a power that is never fully realised. Veronica ChengEn Lyu shifts her body up and down the stairs with precise and beautiful awkwardness.
Nothing really changes.
The movement is similarly conventional, with two-dimensional characterisation and vocabulary which seems to lean heavily on a combination of common techniques and the preferences and strengths of the individual dancers. It is a shame that individual idiosyncrasies such as Levi Siaosi’s gangly and articulate physicality are not better integrated into the choreography; unanchored to the rest of the work they become unnecessary diversions.
It is probable that this choreographic shallowness is a result of the limitations inherent in researching and rehearsing while keeping the cast safe; something that also explains the clunkiness of the transitions between sections and the muddiness of the spatial patterns. It is also possible that the choreographic concepts that Philpott is seeking to explore in this work would better suit an older, more diverse, and experienced cast.
However, despite its structural flaws and the odd choices in costume and stage design, Dry Spell is a welcome introduction to the new Footnote company, a promising foray into full-length production for Philpott, and an undemanding, enjoyable night out.
Performed as part of Footnote’s 2020 double bill Undercurrent
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Younger Audience Member May 5th, 2022
Did we see the same show? I attended Dry Spell with a friend and we both enjoyed it greatly, as did the rest of the audience from what we heard afterwards. I have been an active supporter of the dance community for the last decade and found the piece to be refreshing and innovative. I'm excited to see what Philpott produces next.
Old Dancer May 2nd, 2022
Thank you Jesse for your thoughtful and perceptive review.
carlos randall May 1st, 2022