Finders Keepers

Clyde War Memorial Hall, Clyde, Central Otago

30/04/2009 - 30/04/2009

Great Hall, The Arts Centre, Christchurch

23/07/2009 - 26/07/2009

Lake Wanaka Centre, Wanaka

28/04/2009 - 28/04/2009

Production Details

Raewyn Hill has stunned festival audiences with two previous dance works and now she brings a premiere dance performance from Hong Kong.

Finders Keepers started at the Yuen Po bird market in Hong Kong, where dozens of men take their caged songbirds to socialise them, for the birds to learn each other’s song and to sing for their supper. The men sit watching and listening with adoration. The dance starts from here but goes on to explore that delicate and intimate balance in our lives between being the keeper or the kept, the lover or the loved.

Raewyn Hill writes:
When I first arrived in Hong Kong I was told there was a park where men took their caged birds to socialise them. So, one rather muggy Sunday in August 2007, Richard and I travelled to the park and were met with a gathering like we’d never seen before.

There were rows of caged birds, each positioned strategically by their owner so they were near those that would encourage them to sing their best. And the men; sitting, watching, listening.

Men, positioned equally as strategically, mesmerised by the beauty they had inside their cage, gleefully understanding that, in nature, their songbirds would try to outperform one another in an attempt to attract the opposite sex. I knew that there was a dance piece in this Sunday morning scene at the park. So Finders Keepers was born.

Finders Keepers looks at the intricacies of family relationships and explores how love can ultimately clip the wings of personal freedom. Conceptually Finders Keepers considers the ideas of physical and emotional possession and the social demands to ‘sing our best songs’ for others.

Using the songbirds as a reference and inspiration, choreographically Finders Keepers will display material and creative concepts that capture both the beauty and vulnerability of the caged songbirds, expressing the intimate balance between the keeper and the kept, the lover and the loved.

My heartfelt thanks to the cast, the creative team and Philip Tremewan for supporting me in the two years it has taken to create Finders Keepers.

"… powerful, pure and evocative dance. More than this, it is utterly beautiful, in the way we all want life and ourselves to be, and in the way we demand that dance delivers fabulous shape and sinew."
Capital Times – of her earlier Festival work White

When / Where: 
28 April,  7pm – Lake Wanaka Centre
30 April,  7pm – Clyde War Memorial Hall 

Duration:  60 minutes no interval
Price:  $32 (including booking fee)

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Lake Wanaka i-SITE Visitor Centre
(from 23 Feb to 3 May, 9am to 5pm daily)
Lake Wanaka Centre
(from 27 Apr to 3 May, 10am to 7pm)    



Trisha Dunn - Mother
*Jessica Jefferies - Bird
*Hugh, Cho Tak Po - Son
Adam Gardiner - Father

REHEARSAL DIRECTOR: Richard Longbottom
DRAMATURGY: Duncan Sarkies
MUSIC: Lachrimae Caravaggio: Jordi Savall (a selection)


PRODUCERS: Raewyn Hill and Dancers

RAEWYN HILL AND DANCERS: Raewyn Hill and Richard Longbottom

Creative New Zealand: New work funding
Adrienne Lady Stewart Scholarship: Hugh Cho Tak Po



1 hr, no interval

Caged by desire and rage

Review by Francesca Horsley 13th Aug 2009

Ankle-deep duck feathers coated the stage, their filaments catching the light as dancers shifted and slid through the drifts. But there was little warmth and scarce soft landings in Finders Keepers, Raewyn Hill’s fiercely uncompromising dance theatre at the Christchurch Arts Festival.

Inspired by a visit to a Hong Kong park, where men took their caged birds to socialise them and encourage their song, Hill’s impressive work expanded the theme, locating it in the disturbed substrata of family life, the human capacity for pathological love and the desire to own and then despoil captured beauty. The work featured four characters – mother, father, son and bird – all of whom were victims of unrestrained passion and obsession. [More]

The full text of this article appeared in the NZ Listener (August 14-20 2009).
The full text will be available online on 28-Aug-2009.
Subscribe online to the NZ Listener. 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


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Love’s flutter suffocated

Review by Kerri Fitzgerald 25th Jul 2009

[Christchurch Arts Festival]

Flurries of feathers drift languidly in pools covering the stage to be shaken and stirred intermittently by the four dancers’ frenetic movements. The anguish of love, of pain and yearning, is played out for us amidst the white down, beautifully side-lit and accented with red.

Originally created in New Zealand over December 2008 to January ’09 [to premiere at the Southern Lakes Festival of Colour – see links to reviews below], this contemporary dance theatre piece has many hallmarks of Hill’s style: a dynamic and intense exploration of human relationships, the use of the spoken voice and sound to accompany movement, theatre dance elements, a minimal set, intriguing props, stylish costumes and strikingly physical dancers.

Hill has recently been the Artist in Residence for the School of Dance at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, and some of the inspiration for Finders Keepers comes from her observations and reflection on the men who take their caged songbirds to the Yuen Po Street Bird Park (Hong Kong) to socialise them. The intimacies and difficulties of relationships and family life are explored when a bird is taken as a pet into the home and hearts of a husband, his wife and their son … "Would you like to come home with me?"

Amidst the growing drift of suffocating downy feathers floating on the stage floor, the four dancers engage in a series of duets, trios and solos focusing on the power play between people: those who seek to manipulate, to adore, to control and to meld with their loved ones.

The eternal angst of the keeper and the kept is exposed and the mutual dependencies that can evolve are laid bare. The dance explores the compulsion of attraction and then the ensuing rejection, again the attraction, the pull and the retreat: an echoing of an ancient dance.

One riveting solo by Cho Tak Po Son neatly utilises his popping and locking skills and fuses them effectively with contemporary movement to create original bird images emphasizing arm and head movements. This memorable solo is superbly crafted and executed with technical precision and emotive maturity. Another joyful duet by this young man and Jessica Jefferies is particularly memorable with movements evoking the light flutters and innocent flirtations in the tangling mating of birds.

Lyrical and tender duets were a highlight for this reviewer. Much of this perspective of the lighter side of relationships disappears beside the gloom of repetitive stormy and angst-ridden connections. The beauty and vulnerability of each of the characters remains to be more fully realised in this complex mire of human relationships.

Hill’s choreographic voice continues to develop and her creative team combines well to present a significant and reflective piece of dance theatre. As the feathers can smother and suffocate, the overall impression is left of the loss of personal freedom that relationships can impose.
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Soaring dance a keeper

Review by Nigel Zega 04th May 2009

Raewyn Hill made a welcome return to the Southern Lakes Festival of Colour last night with the premiere of her latest dance theatre, Finders Keepers, at a packed Lake Wanaka Centre.

Since her appearance at the last Festival of Colour Hill has had residencies in France and in Hong Kong, where she saw men taking their much-loved caged birds to a park to socialise.

Hill found the concept strange, beautiful, and utterly disturbing – which is reflected in Finders Keepers, following the reactions of a wife and son when a domineering father brings home a bird that usurps his affection.

Feathers fly as Hill’s exquisite dancers portray the vulnerable beauty of caged songbirds and explore the social demands of family relationships.

Who loves whom the most? Must we all sing for our supper? Who is the keeper and who is the kept? What sacrifices will we make for love?

Tense scenes of rejection and acceptance are wound to breaking point with extremely physical performances.

Jessica Jefferies’ bird is delicate and complying. Adam Gardiner’s father disintegrates before us, and Cho Tak Po’s son is an explosive and versatile find.

But it is Trisha Dunn as the mother who channels Hill in a standout fluid performance of longing, loss, and sacrifice.

Set to excerpts from Jordi Savall’s Lachrimae Caravaggio, relationships shift, stances strengthen, and pleasure and pain contort both torturers and tortured.

Once again Hill delivers breath-taking images, beauty and joy, passion and power, and strong, thought-provoking social issues to ponder long after the performance. Brava.


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Anomaly and satire in paradoxical work

Review by Felicity Molloy 29th Apr 2009

While watching the rawly-etched premiere performance of Finders Keepers by populist choreographer Raewyn Hill and her quartet company, I found myself having to reach down deeply, past an immediate sense of revulsion, to find ways to articulate the experience of watching.

Hill, currently Artist in Residence for the School of Dance at The Hong Kong Academy for Performing Arts, has taken on a very difficult work and a difficult occasion to perform in. She is a courageous artist that is for sure, and a medley of successful moments last night in faraway Wanaka produced in me a deep and complex sense of urgency to bring her home.

Finders Keepers is inspired by the caged birds owned by men who take them to a park in Hong Kong to "socialise them". Using this as a metaphor, Hill "looks at the intricacies of family relationships and explores how love can ultimately clip the wings of personal freedom."

The stretchy, beauty-lifted vocabularies of this dance artist are caught, like her thematic bird, in often turgid music (excerpts from Jordi Savall’s Lachrimae Caravaggio) and mixed post colonial themes.  The title leads me to ponder the "losers weepers" anti line. This is not however what the dance work is about (clumsily introduced by a benefactor, on opening night, as a "ballet").

Many of the theatrical devices used to establish set and light produce an odd heaviness – feathers lie and stick like clumsy, less developed aspects of the dancers’ forms and the familiarly stark but distinctive lighting of Marty(n) Roberts reveals more of the work’s paradoxes.

In the Mother role, ugly grovelling gives way so often to marvellous beauty, danced most delicately by Tasdance performer Trisha Dunn. Her articulate poise and precision is not yet matched by an embryonic sensuality in younger dancer Jessica Jefferies, as the Bird.

Dunn’s voluminous black dress falls away in one movement and reveals more of the dance in that moment-bared than in any of the collection of partnered fights. The red blood threads, claws and elaborate chest costuming move with their bodies like pain unsutured.

The script is heavy – not so much because it was largely improvised as that it was bitter and bare – sad fragments of memories of who knows who. The clearly articulated concept of Hong Kong caged birds is somewhat reflected in a scratchy verbal harshness, mostly carried by actor Adam Gardiner in the father role.

Once again paradoxically, this is lightened considerably by perhaps the best dance section of the evening. Muscularity and a lot of hair does not conceal the volatile and subtle training of the male dancer, Cho Tak Po as the son. His lightness and expressivity shifts mood.

Hill’s forte is then perhaps anomaly and satire; less so the expected virtuosity of her own vocabulary?

Hill is a prestigious artist in this country, a fine choreographer and with mettle. Her work forms a window into the heaving underbelly of the issues and problems of contemporary dance in New Zealand. It is dark certainly, but clever. Those who miss her in this country, and missed her in Wanaka, can see this brave dancer’s pathway once more at the Clyde Memorial Hall – Hmmm once again the venue speaks a theme.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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