En-tour-age / Enhanced Formula

Repertory Theatre, Christchurch

22/09/2007 - 22/09/2007

The Auckland Performing Arts Centre: TAPAC, Auckland

01/10/2007 - 05/10/2007

Production Details

Unitec presents 12 progressive and innovative dancer choreographers from the senior year of New Zealand’s leading contemporary dance and choreography degree.

Comprised of bright and distinctive individuals with fresh new perspectives on art, life and performance…tonight we present a programme of choreographic works for stage and screen.

Cost $15 & $12 (concession) from Ticket Direct 0800 224 224

Dance , Contemporary dance ,

Crisp, pared, yet purposeful actions

Review by Dr Mark James Hamilton 24th Sep 2007

Unitec’s work is fresh, considered and reflective. At its best moments the show has naked honesty and a quiet confidence. En-tour-age (soon to be Enhanced Formula) is a collection of short pieces by twelve graduating choreographers. The discrete items reveal the company’s distinct artistic signatures, while shared vocabulary and choreographic devices link the works to create a coherent whole.

This show gives us women dancing: not a man on stage! This allows the dancers to be all things – lifters and lifted, bold leads and united choruses. On one level the show unfolds as a portrait of mana wahine (that which is uniquely female) without a whiff of forced proselytizing: the men aren’t barred, you see, they’re just not there!

A number of pieces in the programme appear born from a common commission: it seems the dancers were asked to work with objects, and their many responses are intriguing.

In Kate Bartlett’s Folded, Sara Bleasdale precisely performs with a large black box and a sheaf of papers. The item is endlessly inventive, inter cutting grand linear movements with tiny mimetic vignettes.

Greer Howat’s Manic in Manican might have fared better by ejecting the mannequin that undoubtedly inspired the work’s compellingly gawky postures and bumptious strutting. Until her dancers dismember the shop-dummy, the static figure distracts from Howat’s dense and witty choreography.

I must mention Katie Just’s Bungy Cording Without a Fall. As a boy I watched the girls at school play "twangie" – trapping and releasing a long elastic rope with their limbs in an ever increasingly complex fashion. Katie Just takes this pastime to a new height. She and Nancy Wijohn execute a giant game of cat’s cradle whose sharp moves and weird resonances may see the work stolen by the likes of Cirque du Soleil!

Unitec embrace abstraction and largely pull it off. They create pure dance with actions that are crisp, pared, yet purposeful – they remain people. The company have escaped contemporary dance’s curse of the po-face and emotional frigidity and express both humanity and humour.

The show has moments of brilliant elegance. I spotted one striking pose several times: arms wide and linear, the dancer tilts her torso towards her leg extended in a frozen stride, like a great crane stooping. The company’s eloquent hands are pleasing proof that ‘Nesian culture is slowly infiltrating the still essentially Eurocentric world of contemporary dance.

My top vote goes to those youthful moments when Unitec touch on pop. These little overlaps mingle the edgy mainstream with highbrow precision. One wee dance movie-ette does this so well when saturated colour floods into the frames, and the sardonic floosies in Perrie Exeter’s Female Fortune are slyly glam-cum-grotesque – like Sweet Charity 2007.

As an ensemble Unitec work well, but the cast do of course reveal their differing prowess. I say one excels, and I challenge you to correct me: keep your eye on the Amazonian with the bob – and let me know what you see.  
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