Footnote Forte Season 2006
05/05/2006 - 05/05/2006
Choreographer: Raewyn Hill
After single shows in Christchurch (April 6) and Dunedin (April 12), the Footnote Forte Season plays Wellington’s Opera House on May 5. The programme includes the return of Hill’s 2003 work, In Time of Flight, performed with music by Nic McGowan – a firm Footnote favourite.
Hill’s new commission, Here Lies within, builds on themes from Hill’s 2005 piece for Footnote, How Ugly is that Duckling? by exploring people’s obsession with physical perfection, trumpeted in magazines, advertising and reality TV. Like much of Hill’s work, Here Lies within offers a commentary on the way we live – this time on the uneasy appeal, the horrors and the growing acceptability of extreme means for achieving the “perfect” look. Cosmetic surgery, body-building, eating disorders, full-body waxing, as well as helpful hints for “shaping-up” – all get the Hill treatment in a funny, insightful and questioning dance work performed to classic Kiwi tunes.
In researching her subject, Hill has cast a penetrating eye on the world around her and found plenty of all-too-real inspiration. She uncovered alarming Internet chat-room exchanges between cosmetic surgery patients, investigated the world of TV’s radical makeover shows, and sifted through the media hype that surrounds the horrific yet fascinating pursuit of bodily perfection.
“My interest in this topic was inspired in New York in 2003 when I noticed people caught up in the search for the ideal look and image – even down to their dog’s grooming!” says Hill. “Media interest has continued to focus more than ever on the extreme end of the beauty industry, with reality makeovers that horrified viewers yet also made it okay to do it. I asked myself, ‘Why do these people put themselves through it? How far do you go and where do you stop?’
“Much of the social stigma of body-perfecting has gone. Whether it’s Botox shots or body-building, a Brazilian or a package-holiday nose job – it’s a multimillion-dollar industry! This dance work is presenting an exaggerated world, but the message I’m keen for audiences to take away is: look on the inside first, before fixing the outside to make yourself feel good.”
Danced to well-known New Zealand tunes from performers such as Suzanne Prentice, Sir Howard Morrison, Patsy Riggir and Gareth Farr, Here Lies within will have audiences smiling and tapping their feet – while giving thought to some smart questions about body and soul.
Contemporary dance , Dance ,
1hr 3omins, incl. interval
Of flight and lies
Review by John Smythe 06th May 2006
Amid their full schedule of work in schools around the country, Footnote Dance Company has presented its Forte Season 2006, for adults, in single performances at large theatres in Christchurch, Dunedin and Wellington with two works choreographed by Raewyn Hill.
In Time of Flight, first created for Footnote’s 2003 season, captures selectively lit glimpses of movement in a hazy twilight zone. Inspired by poet Pablo Neruda’s To Sadness II, Hill takes her dancers to an ‘incredible lightness of being’ through Nic McGowan’s exquisite score. The question remains: are they arriving or departing?
At 12 minutes, Time of Flight gets away with simply depicting a state of being without outstaying its welcome. It is a bit strange, though, that it takes less time than the interval that follows.
Here Lies within develops the theme Hill first explored with Footnote last year in How Ugly is that Duckling. Indeed a detailed version on the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale is read aloud at length, by Anita Hunziker, as everyone walks very slowly forward, adding witting asides or strange little yelps.
Despite being about “the contemporary obsession with physical perfection” Here Lies within (which may also be heard as Hear Lies …) avoids any acknowledgement of precedents like Narcissus of Greek mythology and Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. It opts instead for a series of send-up sketches threaded on a through-line of inner beauty, depicted by two women dancers to Douglas Lilburn’s haunting ‘Canzona for Strings Nos 1 & 2’.
For me this contradicts the social critique because Halina Wolyncewicz and Sarah Knox are outwardly young, beautiful, fit, trim and healthy, and must be so to do their job. Also their dancing, lovely as it is in flimsy white slips, suggests a self-absorbed introspection that could be just as problematical as the obsession being satirised.
My companion says the point is that inner beauty remains pure and unadorned while inordinate efforts are being made – by the others at make-up table upstage – to achieve beauty by adding external features. Fair enough. I might have got that if there had been a clearer sense of conflict between the inner and outer dimensions. But there isn’t, and because nothing develops much with each return of the inner beauties, the repetition does become a bit tedious, through no fault of the dancers.
By contrast the ‘baddies’, mostly in black suits or mini frocks, apart from a doll-like white bride (Hannah Stannard), are more entertaining as they variously succumb to the pressures and attempt to keep up with the trends. Especially memorable is Lance Riley’s funky guy bopping to ‘Hops Scotch’ (by Miles Tilly, Audiosauce), disappearing behind the bride them popping out again.
A megaphone is used to spread propaganda, including asking why a woman bothers to keep looking good when she’s already married with children and therefore doesn’t have to do it – which elicits shocked laughter from the audience. As the dulcet tones of Ian Fraser introduce Mr Penis Augmentation, Miss Cheek Implant, Miss Vaginaplasty et al, the dancers merely progress from walking to running.
A super-lively sequence, to Patsy Riggir’s ‘Beautiful Lady’, has Hunziker adorned with balloon boobs and pursued by a black-suited Andrew Rusk. Not so much slapstick as slap everything, the point seems to be that true closeness only becomes possible, at last, when the boobs burst.
Later – to Pitch Black’s ‘Electric Earth’, I think – the same two play out a drunken, orgiastic non-relationship with her screaming for more and him, finally, walking away. (Apparently this is based on actual observations of binge-drinking teenagers in Courtenay Place).
Howard Morrison’s rendition of ‘How Great Thou Art’ gets an ironical twist as Knox is plied with pink lamingtons. Assuming the idea is to satirise peer group pressure, this image doesn’t quite hit the mark for me. (I don’t think her dry retching at the end was supposed to denote bulimia.)
And so the inner beauties reclaim the space in a lyrical sequence involving swooping lifts and sideways rolls through space. Except Stannard, as a catwalk model with lipstick-smeared mouth, is still walking like clockwork and her high-heeled footsteps are the last sounds to be heard.
A traditional rendition of ‘Po Atarau’ (‘Now is the Hour’) has lunched this dance which is otherwise book-ended by Conrad Wedde’s ‘Twilight’, recorded by Phoenix Foundation. Malvia-Major sings Schubert’s ‘Ave Maria’ and the impressive variety of homegrown music also includes ‘Haunted Takes’ (Sola Rosa), ‘How You Doing’ (The Front Lawn), ‘I’m in the Mood for Dancing’ (Finden Myers-Puzey) and ‘I Wonder’ (Gareth Farr).
Once or twice, especially during In Time of Flight, I felt some dancers were just working at remembering their moves, which is not surprising given their work-load and the weeks that elapse between each one-off performance. But when they engage with an idea that makes their work a means to some greater end – as they do most often in Here Lies within – they really take off to a whole new level of excellence.
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