EDWA 2020: Rebecca Jensen and val smith

Herald Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

03/12/2020 - 03/12/2020

Experimental Dance Week Aotearoa 2020

Production Details

Rebecca Jensen, The Effect

The Effect looks at the last man standing narrative and the process of making, and performing a ‘solo,’ drawing from two references in which solo’s become trios – The Quiet Earth (1985) – a New Zealand post-apocalyptic science-fiction film – and Yvonne Rainer’s Trio A (1966) – originally created for a solo dancer but performed by three.

A scientist wakes to find he is the last person on earth as a consequence of ‘Project Flashlight’ – a disastrous experiment on the global energy grid. A lone dancer navigates an assemblage of ghostly traces in and beyond the body. The Effect navigates the remnants of these two situations, mapping an echo palette of influences, memories and slippages.

Choreography Rebecca Jensen
Collaborating Dancers Jessie McCall, Presley Ziogas and Faasu Afoa-purcell
Videography Zoe Scoglio
Thank you to Thomas Muratore

val smith, I’ll grow back

I’ll grow back is a critically poetic adaptation of This is a Trans-World, a performance created in 2011. Trans-forming sections entitled “Real Battle”; “Gay Shame”; “Straight Relatives”; “Kinky Body”; and “Make Out Corner”; I approach this performance again, nine years later, to reconsider the anthropocentrism of this work and to performance-making in general. Experimenting in new ways with gender, sexualities and performance methods, I’ll grow back thinks through my current interests in human-nonhuman intimacies and modes of communication from a position of queer*trans-unknowing.

Note: The title of this work is from a lyric in Cripple and the Starfish, written by Anohni and performed by Antony & The Johnsons. This song is discussed by scholar Eva Hayward in the 2008 article More Lessons from a Starfish: Prefixial Flesh and Transspeciated Selves, a piece of trans theory that inspired and informed the development of This is a Trans-World.


Herald Theatre 9pm

Performance installation , Multi-discipline , Experimental dance , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

1 hour

Some fragmented thoughts and notes on The Effect

Review by Rebecca Jensen 07th Dec 2020

The Effect: An “effect” can be lighting, sound, or scenery used in a stage show or a film. It’s a change which is a result or consequence of an action and it’s the consequence of the disastrous “Project Flashlight” – an experiment to create a global energy grid in the 1985 NZ film production, The Quiet Earth. Rebecca plays with all of these things in a sentimental low-fi sci-fi dance film filmed by and collaboratively edited with Zoe Scoglio. This associative, semi-narrative piece attempts to bring together the post-apocalyptic last man standing narrative from The Quiet Earth film in relation to Yvonne Rainers Trio A, the common thread between these being that they both start as solos and become trios. Alongside this, Rebecca is considering how she thinks when she is dancing- how dancerly logics form and undo.

Apocalypse:This project was filmed on the unceded lands of the Wurrundjeri and Boon wurrung people of the Kulin Nation. We must also acknowledge that many Indigenous cultures have already experienced an apocalypse.It is not a huge one-off event where everyone simply vanishes like what happens in The Quiet Earth. It is slow and we are in it right now.The apocalypse is not explicitly referenced in The Effect, instead like IRL, its unfolding is embedded in so many of the ways we live. Many of Rebecca’s previous works, including collaborations with Sarah Aiken, deal with dystopian apocalyptic themes – primarily the ongoing climate crisis. Heavily influenced by the shlocky, b-grade Australian eco-horror film genre and as a NZ’er she thought presenting work in EDWA was a great reason to look into NZ’s film archives for similar genres

Rosemary: (The memory herb) transports Rebecca to different locations including a dystopian Mobil Exxon site in which she sings in an auto tuned voice about her experience of having a body at this time. The creator of autotune developed pitch correction technology from the same technology he used to find drilling sites for oil giant Mobil Exxon in 1989. She begins the song with an Annie Dillard quote, from the text Teaching a Stone to Talk – “You feel the world’s word as a tension, a hum, a single chorused note everywhere the same.”

Ocean: Rosemary’s latin root ‘Rosmarinus’ translates to dew of the sea, another location in which Rebecca spends time in The Effect. The sea, which has been used as a disposal site in order to erase memories and material remains, also holds memories and traces – from evidence of other times, evolutions, plastics to “future fossils” plastiglomerates made up of organic and inorganic materials. Bubbles trapped in ancient ice are records of different climates, atmospheres and epochs.

Nostalgia: Investigating memory, recollection and nostalgia, Rebecca is dressed as though she is in the 80s wearing a teal jumper that says “Homeburger, New Lynn” – her dad’s old takeaway shop. These sentimental clues are scattered throughout the work in objects and physical motifs, even in the dancers she chose to work with – Jessie Mccall was one of Rebecca’s best friends throughout her highschool years. Choreographer Sarah Michelson says you only make work for 3 people, Rebecca wondered if she was making this particular work for her Mum, Dad and Brother. The Effect was developed in Melbourne’s harsh lockdown restrictions and presented without Rebecca physically there.

Navigation: Rebecca Solnit speaks about the blue of distance, however for children distance holds little interest: instead they are looking at the shells on the sand. The adults stare out, maybe longingly, to the undefinable blue shapes on the horizon. We used to measure space using parts of the body. We could keep things at arm’s length, apply the rule of thumb – everything was local. In the eighteenth century, scientists were literally looking for nostalgia within the body, they thought it was a bone.

In virtual reality (VR) it’s common to navigate via these orbs that kind of look like bubbles – you just click on them and they take you somewhere else. You arrive in the centre of a scene, but your body is missing (“It’s only your head, maybe your hands” Rebecca sings). Hito Steyerl describes this as rehearsing how to be your own ghost.  

Solos: “Dance ancestors never die. They are never limited to one human body ” – friend posted this on Facebook about a dancer who passed recently. A dancer’s body is entangled in influences and experiences, citing many others simultaneously. Footnotes, handnotes, headnotes. In her essay Solos solos solos, Rebecca Schneider talks about the myth of creating solo work. Yvonne Rainer echoed this sentiment, she was a part of a movement at the Judson Church in New York 1960s, work of that time was born out of a collective energy. She was frustrated that the world felt the need to single out one person from a group of peers as the ‘star’ or ‘genius.’ She made the infamous Trio A for a solo performer and then turned it into a trio. Schneider describes this work as a solo working against its own singular status. 

Assemblage: The film ends with a final image of Rebecca turning into a mercurial, water like material, shaking herself into many particles. Three dancers, McCall alongside Faasu Afoa-Purcell and Presley Ziogas, enter the stage from the audience. They walk toward each other like they all thought they were the last people alive and hold an embrace, an action that until recently has been banned in Melbourne. They begin dancing in cannon, some of their movement we have just seen on film. Rebecca is interested in the body’s porosity, how it accumulates and pools information, which is dormant until enacted. People are the archives. The body records and remembers differently from person to person, resulting in slippages, plot holes, wormholes and leaks. In one body many bodies are partially present in an assemblage of echoing, non-citable references.

Rebecca Jensen is a dancer, choreographer and teacher based in Naarm (Melbourne.) She graduated from the VCA, Melbourne University 2009. Her projects work to embody the specificity and liveness of dancerly thinking; complex, change-oriented, contradictory and non-linear, unfolding in theatres, galleries and unconventional spaces. The Effect was presented alongside Val Smith’s I’ll grow back, December 3rd, Experimental Dance Week Auckland.


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[collated audience responses]

Review by val smith 07th Dec 2020

Thank you to those audience members who contributed one sentence reviews (collated via Facebook by val smith):

In an attempt to do very little much was achieved. The unpacking of class race nature n nurture left this crushy ole dyke more interested in poking their eyes out.

This is a time travelling comment with its own temporality to boundary cross across friendship and leaves across memories and the sound of forests voice tuning with a passion fruit plant it hasn’t any boundaries and yet the loss is hopeful and beautiful- of touch, of the reflection from the lens- and here we are right now, the sound unfolding, the leaves composing us

Really interesting — bored panda

 Carrying, unpacking and connecting. Everyday practices. Waiting and waiting. Voices from the near past and the presenting of leafy potted musings. Music grooves between plants, diffractions of green synthetic sunlight play across the dark walls. Arms and a shadowed body play behind a white flower in another projected time zone. Our relations are brought into the room, complexities, identities, new old groundings in botanies xy xx yy xxy yxy… Hidden desires.. desiring shelter… Comfort behind the screen under the cloak.. talking to people who breathe our breath, finding kin. I’m reminded of a text by a prominent Māori academic. She speaks to the tree sitting outside a courthouse. A mihi to her cousin.

Re- view.I’ll grow back.

A review invites retrospection, acknowledges an event/work/book has been made, seen, shared.

I’ll grow back.
searches  the gender questions peeling back the wrapper, through uses of tarot through plant body performers  through  and with digital prosceniums for the  answers.

Using the paths untrodden  to move through these egocentric complexities humans make, for other humans.
Preparing the space, became so important because buried deep, are the roots that have surrendered themselves up. Curling wistfully.
Always the alien in a room, the non binary relationships for connection yawns often.
Admitting  queer failure often
Perseverance is key.
So with soft paws we dig gently down for more.

It moves through the theatre,  through time to a lounge room in another country and weaves a mesh of enquires together. It had a lot of technology, that needed to be updated. so that the a conversation could be seen past the  4th wall. I and my plant performers, invited strangers into my living room, because they were with val smith.
We sometimes danced, we sometimes reflected, we sometimes hid behind each other. The plants are spectacular at holding space. But upon reflection we non and human agree this piece needed more time.
Archaeologists always do.


Also with warm thanks to Tempo Dance Festival for your support and resource sharing, and to the Experimental Dance Week Aotearoa team, Alexa, Zane, Paul and Rosa for your care and kindness.


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