Footnote Forte Series 2013 - We Have Been There

Opera House, Wellington

06/03/2013 - 07/03/2013

Allen Hall Theatre, University of Otago, Dunedin

19/03/2013 - 20/03/2013

Q Theatre, 305 Queen St, Auckland

27/03/2013 - 28/03/2013

Suter Theatre, Nelson

15/04/2013 - 16/04/2013

NZ Fringe Festival 2013

Dunedin Fringe 2013

Production Details

Footnote Dance presents Footnote Forte 2013 – We have been there (Cloud In Hand) – a newly commissioned work by Lisa Densem, with music by Andrew Thomas.

“This particular homecoming has been some years in the planning, and it is wonderful to bring Lisa home. She is a very special New Zealander and has made her name so far away.” – Deirdre Tarrant

Footnote Forte is an initiative to bring outstanding Kiwi dance artists home to make work here in New Zealand and to bring their artistic voice to our stages and dances.

In keeping with this tradition, Footnote Dance is commissioning Berlin based choreographer and past Footnote dancer, Lisa Densem. Footnote joined Densem in October at the Ufer Studios in Berlin to develop a new Forte work to tour early 2013.

Densem has worked extensively with Sasha Waltz & Guests, one of Germany’s most successful companies, touring the globe with up to 80 performances a year! Her new work for Footnote is a choreography of discovery. Densem is using techniques that explore the body in context with the surrounding space and searching for moments that emerge from this exploration. 

“Sometimes it seems as if a dance is already there, inscribed into the air of a room or a space. We need only do what is there, and what is done has to be done in exactly that way and in that particular place.” – Lisa Densem


FOOTNOTE FORTE 2013 – We have been there (Cloud in Hand) – Wellington – The Opera House – 06 – 07/03/2013

FOOTNOTE FORTE 2013 – We have been there (Cloud in Hand) – Dunedin Fringe Festival – Allen Hall – 8pm – 19 – 20/03/2013

FOOTNOTE FORTE 2013 – We have been there (Cloud in Hand) – AUCKLAND – Q theatre – 27 – 28/03/2013

FOOTNOTE FORTE 2013 – We have been there (Cloud in Hand) – NELSON – The Suter Theatre – 15 – 16/04/2013




Review: We Have been There

Review by Bernadette Rae 27th May 2013

Lisa Densem’s work on Footnote Dance is an exploration – of movement, of identity, of the concept of universal consciousness, perhaps – rather more than a “performance.” The audience sits like a posse of voyeurs as the six dancers set about deconstructing their art and themselves.

Densem is, after all, now settled in Berlin, steeped in Europe’s uncompromising intellectualism and Footnote spent time with her there in the early development of this project, in the Footnote Forte series.

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Fresh and fascinating

Review by Janet Whittington 16th Apr 2013

To the average audience, contemporary dance can be anything. Even so. tonight’s performance is anything but what I expect.

It is interesting immediately. It starts before the audience is ready. One lone dancer wanders out on stage and looks around, the way a baby does in its first few minutes of life, if not wide-eyed and then silent. He is followed in stages by 5 others. Like new life, movements are short jerky, unformed and not fluid. This could been boring for the viewer, but the dancers are all following their own rhythms, so my eye wanders around the stage, taking each new movement in with each dancer’s performance as they rise and rest in turn.

This pleasant equilibrium isn’t stable, however. It builds imperceptibly over time, combining movements into short stories, and dancers into ever-larger moving units. I haven’t seen such poetic, involved limb combinations since Torvil & Dean won the Olympic gold for their ice skating choreography of Ravel’s Bolero. [I must get out more].

The increasing tension and movement matched the music, seemingly especially written for this dance piece by Andrew Thomas. This did not adhere to traditional timing but also evolved and subsided, not with instrumental sound but electronic and machinery based rhythms, again reminiscent to me of a decades old album. This time of Brian Eno’s only album Fripp & Eno.

To me, this is why the performance is so successful in imprinting on me that I am still thinking about it the next day. I felt it to be deeply true and timeless somehow. Life is like the dance, all things are born, grow, develop, crescendo [we hope] and subside.

To get that timeless point across subtly, without a word, or familiar sound is impressive to me. The core of the choreography is fundamental to our world. Densem could be commenting on the earth, the tides, the moon, relationships, people, her life … Her choice of dance performance to say this is, to me, fresh and fascinating.


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Curiously sombre, yet utterly compelling

Review by Jenny Stevenson 28th Mar 2013

Berlin-based, New Zealand choreographer Lisa Densem ‘s new work We Have Been There, made in conjunction with the Footnote dancers, traverses unfamiliar ground – one where scholarly enquiry meets unfettered dance.  Using the investigation of the highly-charged and heightened state of being that can be achieved when dancing as her point of departure, Lisa has worked with the six Footnote dancers to find ways in which to achieve this state during performance. 

The result is a curiously sombre, yet utterly compelling dance work, not tempered by a recognisable dynamic and focussed on the interior world of the performer.  The audience is witness to the struggle of each individual, which often manifests itself in an awkward movement vocabulary, as their body battles to counteract the intuitive flow that is inherent in all highly-trained dancers.

Andrew Thomas’s music establishes a subtle mood for each section in a spare, understated manner, underlining and building the tension of the work as it progresses.  The stripped stage provides a barren and vacant space in which to capture the complexities and definition of the dance.

The dancers’ concentration and commitment is outstanding throughout.  Lucy Marinkovich fully embodies the heightened state of performance, in complete surrender to the compulsive movement – her face at times a blank mask or a quizzical study in uncertainty.  Manu Reynaud looks in wonder at his hands as though questioning their place in the universe.  Emily Adams, Alice Macann, Olivia McGregor and Levi Cameron each invests their movement studies with a singular quality born of countless hours of exploration.

The structure of the work establishes firstly the individuality of each dancer and then follows their gravitational connection through groupings and partnering.   Manu and Levi perform a duet of interweaving arms in which the complex folding of their bodies creates multiple patterns of tangled limbs so that neither body is distinguishable.  The dancers cluster together and then disperse to reform anew, their bodies joining to flail and toss in uneasy groupings that speak of disquiet and discomfort.  The work ends as each dancer resumes their individual quest with a sense of inevitability and an infinite, continuing momentum.

Lisa’s initiation of the tasking processes that enable each dancer to contribute large chunks of bold movement, regardless of their perceived capabilities, has empowered the Footnote performers in a manner that is quite unique.  They have been brave in their searching and the result will undoubtedly inform their bodies in every future endeavour as they move into the new era of the company – hinted at by Footnote founder and Artistic Director, Deirdre Tarrant in her written programme welcome.



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Intense... acts of moving

Review by Hannah Molloy 20th Mar 2013

What is dance? Watching Footnote Forte’s We have been there, I found myself asking myself this question over and over, unconsciously and with no sense of repetition.

According to the Oxford Online Dictionary, when ‘dance’ is a verb, it means ‘move rhythmically to music, typically following a set sequence of steps’ and when it is a noun, it means ‘a series of steps and movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music’. We have been there demonstrated both of these – there was rhythmic movement and the steps and movements matched the speed and rhythm of the music.

Then I wondered, what is movement? Again, the Oxford defines it as a noun simply meaning ‘an act of moving’. Perhaps this was more what this performance was about.

I write; words are the medium I love and where I can experiment and find expression, and I can’t help looking for the storyline. I couldn’t find it here and it made me anxious. I felt challenged and insecure. When I stopped looking for it and started matching words, adjectives mostly (a breath of relief, familiar ground), to the movements I was watching, I felt more present and calmer.

During the performance, I pondered the how the current experience of the watcher, whoever she or he may be, colours perception of performance.  A theory about this developed as I watched, largely from the adjectives forming in my own brain– disarticulated, primeval, watchful, offering, frenzied, graceful – but I felt I should discard it… 

The dancers were disarticulate and disparate. There were moments of frenzy and moments of grace and sometimes at the same time. They watched and they offered each other their experience with gentleness and generosity. They experimented with flexibility and range of motion, inverting each other’s motion and their experience was unique, even when reflecting others.

They moved the way humans might have had they commenced evolution formed as they are now, fully articulated but without knowing what to do with their joints. The range of movement of the human body is truly incredible – Emily Adams’ contortions looked as though, should she choose to do so, she could turn her bones inside out. It’s beautiful to watch someone so sure of their physical capability and yet still marvelling at and testing it.

The increased tempo of the second half brought more sense of emotion to the performance, perhaps because it felt more familiar. The dancers appeared to be moving through their evolutionary process and, as my friend suggested, seemed to find comfort in and from their community. The more fluid movements drew them together, colliding and unwinding as they became more dishevelled and human.

It became mesmerising, watching them hand each other into the care of another, a chain of human beings finding their way into expression. Their interwoven hands looked like a mat of tangled flax and I felt immersed in the expression of this movement practice.

I left feeling exhausted, drained but sort of pleased and thoughtful as well. I’ll think about this performance and talk about it in the days to come. I’ll look for its story and I’ll look for its connection to my own experience. I too can say I’ve been there – we all have, I think.



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Dance, but not as we know it

Review by Ann Hunt 12th Mar 2013

Footnote’s initiative for their Forte programmes is to bring back New Zealanders who have excelled overseas to create work here.

Thus dancer/choreographer Lisa Densem returns from Berlin to create We Have Been There (Cloud in Hand) in collaboration with her choreographic assistant Melanie Hamilton and the Footnote dancers.

The dance style is fairly new to New Zealand, although increasingly common in Europe and Australia. It is minimalist, deconstructed and uses non-virtuosic movement.

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Altogether a different “speed of seeing”

Review by Sam Trubridge 07th Mar 2013

Lisa Densem is a kiwi born choreographer and dancer who lives in Berlin, where she has worked regularly on her own works as well as with acclaimed German choreographer Sasha Waltz and guests. She last made work in New Zealand with No Such Place in 2005. It is a treat to have artists of this calibre return to make work in New Zealand with local artists: to bring some of our international talent home, and to share their unique experience and interests with our audiences and artists. Certainly a lot of work that is made in Europe does not make it to our biannual arts festivals in Auckland and Wellington, given the great expense and high expectations that come with taking a work around the planet to be shared with our audiences.  With these burdens on a programme, works that are more experimental, contemplative, risky or sophisticated in their construction often get left out of programmes for fear of reprisal or attrition from indignant audiences, uninformed reviewers, or people just expecting ‘a good night out at the theatre’.

Let me start this review by saying that We Have Been There is a great night out at the theatre. It is a gentle sussuruss of movement that slowly builds its textures to a point of almost overwhelming tension, before it subsides again to the place that it came from. It is not always an easy piece for its audience, because it does take a little patience to engage with the work, but the rewards are great, and we are left with a feeling of having stepped out of familiar time for a while.

In the 2002 Dance Umbrella in London I saw Dutch company Rosas dance Rain by choreographer Anna Theresa De Keersmaker, based on the novel by NZ author Kirsty Gunn. We Have Been There is of a similar style to this work: one that slowly gathers its energy in an inexplicable, tightly woven build-up of energy and feeling. As with Rain, I am left trying to articulate something that is so native to its own art-form that literature and words are rendered inadequate.

The Opera House is emptied, stripped away from wall to wall:  right to the rear of the large stage, creating an empty black field or void within which the figures of dancers in various contemporary garments sit, warming up. When the auditorium hushes it is more in response to the drop in house lighting rather than any distinct shift of  energy on stage. The dancers continue to roll, wander, stretch, squat, crawl, and occasionally sample a posture or movement from some predetermined vocabulary. The soundscape by Andrew Thomas pans the space with a rustling static activity and off-stage industry.

To say that this continues for a long time might seem off-putting. But we are too-often used to being served sensational or gratuitous drama, imagery, action and event when we frequent such darkened rooms of spectation. Dance, theatre and opera try to keep up with the caffeinated, hyperactive babble of the cinematic moving image, but often forget the quiet contemplation that can be found in sharing time with a painting, a piece of music, or some other art work of profound simplicity.

This is altogether a different “speed of seeing”, to steal a concept from American director, designer and painter Robert Wilson. It is an approach that requires intense discipline from the Footnote dancers as well, who are probably used to faster, more rewarding processes. Instead Densem entrains uncertainty into her dancers, deconstructing movements in their bodies and only allowing them to build the energy on stage in slow meticulous increments. The uncertainty this creates allows us the audience to see each movement coming before the dancer does. The stage takes on the character of a lobby or waiting room, where figures shift through attitudes and positions trying to find comfort, interest, and diversion in a space of great emptiness. At first contact is almost incidental, a winding of actions around one another, then more deliberate. Sometimes they seem to copy one another, trying to find a common movement, which usually breaks down at the very point of coalescence.

No one dancer is singled out from the others. Instead there is a constant weave of action on stage, an assemblage or ‘choreo-scape’ of slowly building energy. All the same each of the Footnote dancers are immaculate in their patience with the work, almost seeming to haunt their own movements as their bodies start to move faster, gathering in a tight social flurry of movement that circles the unornamented stage. Throbbing sound-scores and tight knots of arms, fingers and hands create a density of action in this vast space. Bodies come apart and recombine in a tangle of purposes and different directions. It is dramatic and meaningful in a way that bypasses language, evoking the many ways that bodies communicate and interact through physical and emotional proximity.

At its peak of turbulence the dancers’ individual natures intertwine within a group nature, where no single act is identified above the others but succeed in creating a up-welling of emotion or feeling.  After the show some audience members spoke of a sudden desire to shout or yell at this moment, while others experienced a brimming up of feeling and anticipation. Then, just as the work reaches this catharsis, it subsides. The work melts away in a slow exhalation as the dancers slowly retreat back into atomized patterns of movement, still sculpting the air around them, but slowing, slowing, slowing until we return.


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