Screaming Rooster, Basement, 6 Stafford Street, Dunedin Central, Dunedin

27/03/2021 - 28/03/2021

Dunedin Fringe 2021

Production Details

With one performer on-screen and one live, this skillfully crafted composition bridges the virtual/physical divide and weaves two bodies together with Johan Halvorsen’s hypnotically beautiful Passacaglia into one exquisitely watchable whole.

Separated by oceans, existing on either side of a screen two dancers are united through cascading notes, spiralling phrases and a choreography that disregards distance.

Created and performed in England and Aotearoa, Duo is an experiment in combining the virtual with the physical. Informed by the combined skills of two internationally experienced performers, and off the back of a sold-out Prague season of their first exploration in this area, this show is both exquisitely watchable and a much needed reminder that distance does not need to lead to disconnection.

With London-based Amy Mauvan projected into the space and Jess Quaid physically present, this skillfully crafted choreography uses the common structures and motifs of the duet form to bridge the virtual/physical divide and create a tangible connection between the two performers. The sounds of Halvorsen’s Passacaglia for Violin and Cello provide a structural map, while a new composition merging Handel’s original movement with the sounds of the ocean echoes the shifting energy of the dance.

Amy Mauvan and Jess Quaid have been artistic collaborators for over ten years. Their shared skills in image-based contemporary dance techniques enable them to build the clear musical base into a richly abstract, emotive landscape of inventive variations.

At times virtuosic, at times as calm as deep waters, combining tested methodology with the limitless possibilities of the virtual, Duo shifts the traditional duet into the altered spaces that have become our normal.

Choreography and performance - Amy Mauvan and Jess Quaid
Technical manager - Stuart Phillips

Digital presentation , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

45 mins

The Exquisite Dance of Distance Relationships

Review by Angela Trolove 29th Mar 2021

A projection screen unrolls in the dark, hushed stage of a basement bar. An apparent roar of an ocean turns out to be the murmurs of our fellow audience in the northern hemisphere. London-based dancer Amy Mauvan, in a white top and loose blue skirt, walks freely into and out of shot. A lone white chair on her floor corresponds with an actual white chair on the stage before us. Amy’s dance partner, Jess Quaid, walks through the audience and takes the stage. In a comforting complement of costume, she wears loose white pants and a turquoise top. Already we know, these two will be in harmony.                                                                                                                  

Johan Halvorsen’s Passacaglia for Violin and Viola is an achingly beautiful piece of classical music, and it is breathtakingly interpreted in this duo. In fact, the duo chose Passacaglia for several reasons. Firstly, they had to have classical music. Secondly, the dancers themselves have an affinity for strings, both of them, outside of dance, playing a string instrument. And thirdly, among several versions of Passacaglia, they found one titled—irresistibly—“Impossible Duet”.                                                        

The dancers alternate synchrony with a delay to their synchrony, wherein the choreography echoes, resembling a musical ‘round’ song. With pizzicato finger-work they outline their bodies, which leads on to legato, lyrical movements, scooping, swirling and reaching. Jess’s warrior pose supports Amy’s swan-like draping on the chair.            

The footage cuts to Amy on an empty Bristol beach. The sand beneath her chair becomes increasingly scrambled with the graceful and organic twirls of her legs, with seawater pools in the furrows, but because we have Jess here before us on stage, running her hands on the carpet as though it were sand, the solidity between the floors is questioned. Are surfaces simply a thin membrane between two souls who wish to be present to one another? Two dancers, tracing their respective ground with their feet 20,000km apart, suggest so. In the absence of verbal clues, any touch to the ground brings to mind communication by vibration through the ground. At will, distance is easily reduced.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

The two dancers play with the impossibility of eye contact. At one stage, in synchrony they look back over their shoulders toward one another, and the audience laughs at this first breach of here-there. In other instances, when Jess steps up onto the chair, she is raised into the light line of the projector. She becomes the screen, and the texture of Amy’s beach setting is described on her skin. Again, she turns to face Amy, and her hard shadow intercepts the moving footage before us. During lockdowns, we can look but we cannot touch. We miss each other.                                                                                                                                                                               

The dancers undermine stability. Amy stands on one leg on her chair, but on the stage Jess teeters, despite having her two feet planted on solid ground: she makes ordinary balance look difficult, and this is a great gift, completely in touch with the seasickness of prolonged and ongoing isolation. (Inversely, she makes falling in slow motion look easy.)                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

A principal motif in the choreography is sap rising within the dancers. They hold one palm aloft at their middle, drawing the other palm up close to their body, up the sternum—they breathe in—and always leading with the butt of their hand, it rises up their neck, over their backward-tilting face, and out of the crown of their head. This is the move that renews them, that gives them the capacity to endure, to dance on, it is their mana.


Repeating whole movements, the dancers allow the audience a fuller grasp of the work as it progresses. Its theme is the unhurried melancholy in being separate, bitter-sweet. The dancers’ expressions are wonderfully nuanced, they smile freely, but then they gaze into the distance, troubled. Both dancers are so present in their dancing, and this is not reduced by technology. I had expected the footage to be less compelling than the live dancing. It is not.                                                                             

Duo is timely, original, and stunningly executed. A dance immediately relatable for audiences worldwide—and internationally versatile—while so unique to the two bodies who have created it. A sincere, powerful, and beautiful collaboration.


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