Footnote Forte Series 2012
15/08/2012 - 21/08/2012
16/09/2012 - 16/09/2012
09/10/2012 - 09/10/2012
Footnote Dance Company presents a captivating new season of the successful Forte Series,with a great line-up of new thoughts and curious choreographies.
Each work in Forte Series 2012 responds to the individual ‘curiosity’ of choreographers while they explore space, site and movement in idiosyncratic ways. Michael Parmenter in Absence is delving deeper into his passion for Tango, with music by the astonishing Eden Mulholland. Lyne Pringle is looking at New Zealand as a Beautiful Prison using iconic music by Wayne Mason’s Nature. Kristian Larsen is working again with Sam Hamilton to further explore his methodology and ideas towards A Common Language. Company dancer Lucy Marinkovich presents her first work Vile Bodies on the company, with ideas derived from pop culture. Maria Dabrowska’s work Rabbit Brain Terrain is a duo for two men to Strike percussionist and composer Takumi Motokawa.
Directed by Deirdre Tarrant and performed by the wonderful Footnote dancers – Manu Reynaud, Emily Adams, Lucy Marinkovich, Olivia McGregor, Alice Macann and Levi Cameron.
Choreography by Lyne Pringle;
Kristian Larsen with music by Sam Hamilton; Michael Parmenter with music by Eden Mulholland;
Maria Dabrowska, plus Fleur de Thier with music by Campbell Platt, and Lucy Marinkovich with music by Eden Mulholland
Dancers: Lucy Marinkovich, Manu Reynaud, Emily Adams, Olivia McGregor, Levi Cameron and Alice Macann.
Two cultural traditions united in dance
Review by Raewyn Whyte 11th Oct 2012
This year’s Tempo Dance Festival opened with two programmes in very contrasting styles – Tuakana, featuring sparkling kapa haka and Maori contemporary dance from an almost entirely new generation of outstanding practitioners, and the Footnote Forte Season 2012, featuring works by largely mid-career choreographers who have a long association with Footnote Dance Company.
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Idiosyncratic and electric, with wide appeal
Review by Dr Linda Ashley 10th Oct 2012
The choreographic line up in the Forte Series 2012 captivated my attention, as well as that of the woman next to me watching her first ever contemporary dance performance.I love the fact that a programme of contemporary dance can appeal to such a range of viewers. As mentioned in the Footnote publicity, aspects of the dances feel new, idiosyncratic and curious, and the dancing is electric.
Starting in the theatre bar, Michael Parmenter’s duet Absence presents a suitably brooding, tangoesque entwinement for dancers Lucy Marinkovich and Levi Cameron as they shapeshift in and out of intimacy amongst the found sound of the theatregoers in the bar mixed with Eden Mulholland’s smoky jazz music hinting at downtown Buenos Aires. The choice of the bar as site works well in some ways. A public space lends to some inevitable wanderings of passers-by. I like that happenchance aspect – it keeps things real. The walk-ins also add to the sense of interruption, an anti-hegemonic, anti-establishment disruptive influence as Parmenter may see it. Site lines, however, can be an issue, and in this instance a problem for many ticket holders was being able to see the dance. I, on the other hand, had the opposite problem in that I assumed that the duet was in-the-round but suddenly found myself as part of the backdrop. At one point the dancers were standing close by me and I felt a bit too exposed for comfort. On the other hand, I enjoyed the privilege of watching the silky smooth, and intense relationship that the dancers evoked up close. The ebb and flow of presence and absence produces a very human dance with nuanced and diverse touches, glances and supports.
And so into the theatre we go to watch Kristian Larsen’s reworked A Common Language. It is so refreshing when choreographer’s revisit and reignite previous works, and in a way that is also what Parmenter has been doing for a while now. Larsen, via a collaborative approach with the dancers, draws out from them some extraordinary and striking vocabulary. I often feel a real edge in his work that others may not reach in quite the same way. As the Footnote dancers carve and struggle through what feels like the quicksands of human communication, the speaking in silent tongues accompanied by deafening choruses of intricate arm and hand gestures become more and more grotesque as shards of communication fragment the space. Alice Macann tortures the audience with her embodiment of relentless distortion, or is it a sheer refusal to listen? Sam Hamilton’s music is just a perfect foil, adding to the exhausting information overload. My husband really liked this piece, and he can be a difficult man to please when it comes to dance theatre.
Lucy Marinkovich’s Vile Bodies is her first work for Footnote. Some ‘bright young things’ take their personal grooming very seriously in this playful parody of images from pop culture. The lighthearted fun is counterpointed by the amusing lyrics of the sound mix from James Dunlop. The moments that capture obsession with glamour and posin’ ‘til closin’ bring us into a world of boy bands, catwalk models and media madness. Classical music, it seems, is just a confusing irritation sent to torture and disorientate the young. The contemporary dance vocabulary of this piece could be further refined so that the whole carries a more continuous sense of ‘yoof’ and parody- perhaps a touch more ‘street’ could add greater impact.
Lyne Pringle, with over thirty years of experience in dance and theatre, touches at our heartstrings in her exploration of New Zealand as a Beautiful Prison. This was the favourite piece of the first time dance theatre goer next to me, and I can understand why. Using counterpoints of a fluffy clockwork kiwi and DIY with the sometimes self-absorbed somatic and lyrically captivating trio work, amongst other things, Pringle draws out layers of poignant meanings with the female dancers of the company. At one moment there are feelings of being in the soft arms of nature, and the next alarm bells ring. How we can preserve what we cherish? The mix of bird sound (Matu Booth), Nature (Wayne Mason) and the childlike song Tui (Hirini Melbourne) provide a score that is suitably profound, delightful and chilling. Yes, let’s count the tuis in our garden and weep for the privilege.
The programme ends with Maria Dabrowska’s work Rabbit Brain Terrain, a duo for Emmanuel Reynaud and Levi Cameron. This dance, for me, brings back a real sense of Mary Chase’s iconic play Harvey, in which a man’s best friend is a six foot tall rabbit, a pooka, which only he can see. Chase’s pooka, and the one in Dabrowska’s enchanting duet, can, it seems stop time and have many sorts of disruptive if also charming habits. In a comic strip style story, the two dancers engage in some shadow play, they can appear and disappear at will and the rabbit can torture its friend even when sleeping. Really – you do not want this tormenting, parasitic rabbit in your life- real or not! Dabrowka’s use of contact work is refreshingly inventive and used discerningly to add to the sense of crazy circus. Reynard and Cameron are just hilarious in the roles and work together as symbiotically as their characters.
Throughout the programme notes the thanks to Deirdre Tarrant are a constant. Yes, Tarrant has built an important legacy over the many years for New Zealand dance and this Forté season embodies some of the best of it.
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Footnote - a joy to watch
Review by Toby Behan 17th Sep 2012
With a respectabley-sized audience filling the foyer of the new Court Theatre in Christchurch, Footnote Dance Company took to performing works from their Forte Season (2012) in various pockets of the cavernous space.
Footnote is a company that champions all things Kiwi – and not merely with words. The repertoire is choreographed by New Zealanders, the music composed by New Zealanders, and the majority of the dancers are also from New Zealand (but of course we warmly welcome those dancers in the company from overseas). Artistic Director Deirdre Tarrant has manifested her strong belief, commitment, and passion for all things Kiwi into a strongly embedded culture that now permeates everything Footnote does. From the relaxed spoken introductions to the constant audience movement from place to place during the performance to witness the next piece, this Forte season is also constructed in such a way that would make a New Zealander who might be unfamiliar with contemporary dance feel completely at ease with the proceedings (case in point – my ten-year old daughter who accompanied me to the show last night). It is not lost on Christchurch audiences that Tarrant has paid special mind to selecting the pieces on display last night – with two of the choreographers originating from Christchurch, and the music for one of the works composed by Christchurch composer Campbell Platt.
For her years of thoughtful service to contemporary dance as an art-form, as well as her unquestioned achievements in growing an audience for contemporary dance, Tarrant is to be saluted. Do it quietly if you prefer, or talk to any of her collaborators over the years to hear their praise, or simply stand up and applaud – but with this her final Forte season with Footnote, it is the perfect opportunity to do so wholeheartedly.
One of the pleasures in watching a Footnote performance is the clearly strong understanding the dancers have of one another – which practically translates to smooth physical transitions, polished unison when required, and the courage and intuition required to improvise when demanded by choreographers. On the other hand, with such a small number of dancers, the danger is always the difficulty of differentiating each work sufficiently from the next in order to deliver the unique representations that the choreographers require.
The pieces themselves are danced with full commitment from the dancers and with well honed technique. There is some subtle theatrical artistry yet to be learned, one feels, from some of the younger members of the company – but there are in an ideal place for this learning and we will watch with interest as this occurs.
Michael Parmenter, in the opening work Absence, simply displays once again that he is a master of the duet form of dance. The programme notes make special mention of the fact that Deirdre Tarrant’s presence will always remain with Footnote, and I do not doubt that with their longstanding collaborative history, this duet is (amongst other things) a tip of the hat to her. The duet, danced with real elegance by Levi Cameron and Alice Macann, is beautiful. It is like watching a sculptor begin with something wonderful (a fully realized, flowing duet) – and then carefully take away key elements and moments. The effect is quite startling as audience members begin to fill in the blanks themselves, when confronted with moments of stillness, gestures that are incomplete, stances that are not supportable. By filling in these blanks, we prove Parmenter’s assertion in the programme notes that ‘absence is a form of presence’.
For the next work (Sex, by Ross McCormack) – the audience moves to focus on a small stage, upon which four of the dancers perform. McCormack has used the word ‘sex’ as a starting point, conceiving a sequence of movements and images that stem from related words – flesh, skin, urge, trance, beauty, cruelty – plus others noted in the programme. The dancers visibly pour themselves into the work which has moments of striking creativity, but ultimately does not come together as a cohesive whole.
It is wonderful to see Fleur de Thier invited to Wellington for her first work with Footnote, and to see her work being as successful on another group of dancers as it is with her own regular collaborators who serve her work so faithfully in Christchurch. De Thier’s work is constantly pleasurable to watch – movement seems to flow with no effort, and long sequences of dance allow the audience to be carried along with little pause. Feet Firmly Planted has as its seed the idea of choices and commitment to decisions. Nowhere in the piece is this more clearly to the fore than in a wonderfully realized section where one of the dancers is completely at the mercy and control of the others – lifted, tossed, thrown and bounced around. The extended dance sequences and well-rehearsed unity of the dancers are a joy to watch here.
With the audience turning around once again, company dancer Lucy Marinkovich brings us her first work for Footnote – Vile Bodies. This is a solid beginning from Marinkovich, who takes the undeniably wonderful figures of the dancers (in total contrast to the title of the work) and has them perform movements that would be very familiar to anyone involved in a late-night sojourn into the local club. This is a theme which has been explored before however, and the work would perhaps need to go further in order to be more successful in communicating the intended concept. The physical groupings of dancers onstage could be used to greater effect, with more of a clearly defined beginning / middle / end. These are only refinements however; the work is clearly enjoyed by the audience.
The final piece on the programme (Rabbit Brain Terrain – by Maria Dabrowska) is the most distinctive of the evening, clearly separating itself from all others in terms of style and intention. It is also the best use of the two male dancers in the company – and a joy to watch Manu Renaud and Levi Cameron push their own performance limits. There is a certain (delicious) aspect of darkness to the duet, with Cameron an ever-present shadow (in pajamas) behind the real-life figure represented by Reynaud. Questions over whether Cameron’s presence is real or imagined are central to the work, and the overall effect underlines the impression that Dabrowska is ready for a larger and more extended commission.
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Style, verve and pedigree: Footnote on the move
Review by Sam Trubridge 17th Aug 2012
Footnote’s Forte programme is a selection of works customarily presented in Wellington through various venues around town, creating a ‘peripatetic’ evening of performance. Later in the year the work tours to Q Theatre in Auckland and The Court in Christchurch. In Wellington the programme starts at The Boatshed with four works by Michael Parmenter, Kristian Larsen, Fleur de Their, and Footnote dancer Lucy Marinkovich.
In The Boatshed hall lined with glass windows, mirrors and warm wooden floors we watch as Marinkovich and Levi Cameron meet for Parmenter’s duet Absence. Red light illuminates them as they wrap around one another. But this is not an embrace. They look out beyond each other, beyond us, gripping each other the way that birds cling to branches. They shift through a series of ‘holding’ tableaus, always distant, clinical and brittle in their movements, twisting around one another in shapes reminiscent of Giambologna’s sculpture The Rape of the Sabine Women. Behind them, their reflection floats in the glass, spectres in the city’s backdrop. Simple string sounds saw mercilessly in the space, almost Astor Piazzola meets musique-concrete.
There is a sense of tango in this piece through the tight interdependent movement, the occasional stride and lunge, Marinkovich’s red dress, Cameron’s black shirt and trousers, and these stilted string sounds. But, unlike tango dancers this duo never catch one another’s eyes. Instead they almost mime each other’s presence, intertwined but out of touch.
The music is by Eden Mulholland, a stunning sparse composition that really shows his amazing versatility and sophistication as a composer. As the pace lifts in the work, he brings in the guitar to give the dance a more vicious edge. The classicism of the dance frays with this new texture, taking on a contemporary feel as the dancers separate, pace the space, but always return for disembodied contact and unrecognised support. It is a beautiful, tense, terse piece to start the evening with.
Passionate but loveless, connected but remote, the pairing between Marinkovich and Cameron shows great control and sympathy with Parmenter’s excellent choreography.
Next, the full Footnote ensemble take the stage for Kristian Larsen’s (An Ironic Dream Of) A Common Language. They line up in front of us: unevenly spread and self conscious. From the outset of this work, the face is used as a site for dance, with dancers grimacing, lip synching, and inflating their expressions into pukana, masks, and self-portraits. Manu Reynaud breaks the formation with a sequence that resembles a taiaha dance or a ‘wero’ (challenge) while Alice Macann upends her torso, leaning far back to look at us upside-down with her arms weaving an intricate serpentine kowhaiwhai across the stage. These references lie on the edge of recognition however, almost imperceptible, so that they form a montage with other elements in the work: such as a trudging descent to the floor, a slightly clumsy trio, Olivia Macgregor’s trembling salute, and the line of dancers that collapses behind her. The piece is fractured, episodic, but also fluid with a wonderfully crystalline soundtrack from Sam Hamilton.
There are some familiar dance motifs in the work with the sinuous arms, disintegrating movement, and a couple of collapses. But it is the use of words that I found most striking about this work, where the dancers’ lips continued to flicker throughout, in constant silent monologue, whispering to themselves as Hamilton’s soundtrack screeches to a slow halt. Text and spoken word can so often be an awkward addition to dance, so it was lovely to have this verbal world opened up in the piece, while still maintaining the ambiguous languages of choreography: this is speaking as movement, speaking as a dance of ‘the teeth the tongue and the lips’, speaking that is denied its oratorial power and singularity.
In Feet Firmly Planted, choreographer Fleur de Thier describes her personal reflections on living in Christchurch after two earthquakes. Reynaud, McGregor, Macann and Emily Adams dance this piece, which is rounder and more earthy than the previous two. Long limbs, athletic sweeps and lifts lend it an aerial quality as well, with bodies swinging on one another as they are held or elevated.
Perhaps it is the boatshed site, but several of these pieces seem to have semaphoring movements, using movement as a signalling device or alphabet. Something else that these first three works prove is how wonderfully sound and music can dance in the acoustics of this site and the excellent sound system. There is a crystal clear, almost ‘live’ sound to the evening’s performance that enlivens the space and creates a sparkling, acoustic interaction with the choreography. Campbell Platt’s soundtrack to Feet Firmly Planted is wonderfully ambiguous, moving between the sound of the sea and the sound of breath into the musical, lyrical phrasing as the dance begins.
De Thier plays with several motifs in the work. One that returns a couple of times is Reynaud being held by the three female dancers in a pieta: suspended mid-fall, on his way to the ground, halfway between heaven and earth, halfway between agony and rest. Elsewhere he lifts Adams above his head: treelike, Atlas-like in an apposite show of strength. Legs that are lifted, swing like pendulums as the work returns to its strong theme: that moment that the foot leaves the ground. Perhaps given the choreographer’s intentions, it may have been possible to examine the foot’s return a little more. But the work is nonetheless a potent contemplation of one Cantabrian’s experience of trying to walk confidently within a shifting terrain.
The first half concludes with a piece by Footnote dancer Lucy Marinkovich: Vile Bodies is a fast, energetic work that kicks off with Eden Mulholland’s instantly catchy Shanty Town. The beat and unison dancing instantly sets up a different world from the previous works, with dancers clad in smart, sexy party clothes. The glittering black sequins on Macann and Adams’ costumes echo the city lights and reflections in the lagoon outside the windows of the space, making them one with the view behind them. This beautiful synchronicity is emphasised by their ghostly reflections in the glass, always doubled, always in unison with their movements.
The work employs sexual posturing, partnering and dance-floor grooving as the soundtrack searches between tracks; from an ironic Lawrence Arabia track, to the youthful optimism of The Naked and the Famous, and a suddenly classical burst of Delibes Flower Duet. It is a precocious, playful piece that speaks of the 30-second attention span of television commercials, music videos and dance-floor DJing.
Marinkovich’s dancers commit to each schizophrenic thrust of the music and its split-second impulses with great energy and committment. The work finishes with Coco Solid’s Architecture, an austere Europop-styled beat that evokes the deepest, darkest and earliest-in-the-morning playlists. The dancers conform to a mechanistic, structural routine that they cannot escape, with the music intoning the same instruction as their long sweeps and turns are reduced to the status of “architecture. architecture. architecture”. This ironic use of popular music is reminiscent of Pina Bausch, and while the work does wear its heart on its sleeve, it speaks boldly about the cultural tempos that propel us in our increasingly mediatised lives. In doing so it examines another of Bausch’s key concerns – not how people move, but what moves them.
In the break that follows this fizzing finale to Part 1, we move to the Tambourine Room in The Museum Hotel. This is a wonderful way to experience mixed-bill dance programmes, where commitment to one venue is not necessary. Instead the interval becomes a movement between spaces, creating a perpatetic and mobile experience of an equally mobile artform. By contrast with The Boatshed, the Tambourine Room is completely enclosed from the city in the heart of the building with densely patterned carpet and intricately panelled walls.
It is a fitting place for the fifth work in the evening: Lyne Pringle’s Beautiful Prison, performed by the female dancers in the company. The work starts with a wind-up kiwi toy hopping desperately across a tattered piece of MDF. A wry contemplation of our New Zealand homeland, this work finds its place comfortably in this subterranean, earthy room. The ornate carpet becomes at times a field or the natural landscape, clearly conversant with the flowery prints and patterns of the dancers’ dresses.
Three twirl in pastoral abandon and harmony, while Macann constructs a small fence on one side of the space. She alone is dressed different, in black jeans, white singlet and a hoody. The crudity of her labour next to the nostalgic, whimsical world of the other women makes Macann seem almost masculine, a sense aided by an almost-builder’s-crack as she leans into her work. Macann attempts to join in with the routines of the others, but it is clear that she is out of place in this birdlike feminine world, loses interest, and inevitably returns to her DIY and her noisy drill. At other times she circles them in an almost predatory fashion: like a sheepdog in her black and white. It is a poignant piece about New Zealand femininity, defined so much by our culture’s pioneering background, by the hard lifestyle of living and working in the land, and the masculinisation of our culture through its defining interests. The nostalgia expressed in the old-fashioned prints and the soundscape helps complexify this idea, creating a tension with the supposedly emancipated and androgynous contemporary character played by Macann. The work ends with Macann being sealed into the small box that she has built for herself. The kiwi is placed on the lid and as the lights fade, it hops inevitably towards to edge…
The evening concludes with Maria Dabrowska’s Rabbit Brain Terrain, a duet for the male dancers. It is humorous piece, with all of Dabrowska’s trademark gesticulations and quirky parody. Reynaud enters in casual wear, followed by Cameron in an absurd pink-polka dot onesy and a shock of uncombed bed-hair. There are some of the usual self-conscious dance gags, but there is also some great physical comedy in this Donnie Darko duet.
Reynaud is followed on stage by Cameron as his rabbit alter-ego or side-kick. He alternately seeks encouragement from and pesters Reynaud, who seems determined to throw off his ‘familiar’. They grapple with one another variously, knotting wrists and trying to either destroy one another or become one. This is when the work is at its funniest and most interesting, when such tense tangles are constructed between their limbs that one has to wonder how they will escape from one another.
Finally Manu desperately wrestles with his own body in an attempt to exorcise his demon. With a wonderfully idiosyncratic slapping, choking and punching sequence he almost seems to succeed in being free. These two dancers are well suited to this role, and Reynaud’s constant confusion is nicely framed by Levi’s earnest and dogged attempt to endear himself.
In this final 2012 Wellington season for Footnote director Deirdre Tarrant, this is a wonderful programme to celebrate the significant impact she has made on NZ dance. Here in one evening we can experience the pedigree of experienced choreographers Parmenter and Pringle next to new generations that Tarrant has helped support and foster over the years. In this spirit it is also fantastic to see new choreographers like Marinkovich finding their place in this programme with such style and energy. Over many years the tradition of the Forte season has also explored an odyssey of spaces around Wellington, from the venues seen in this season to private homes, various nightclubs, galleries, and other sites. Dance is made to move.
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