Forward and Beneath

Hagley Open Stage, Christchurch

23/09/2014 - 26/09/2014

The Body Festival 2014

Production Details

Students tell parolee stories through dance

Students from Hagley College will use contemporary dance to tell the stories of parolees in Christchurch’s upcoming Body Festival, which starts this Friday.

Hagley Dance Company students developed choreography based on interviews with parolees from Salisbury St Foundation, New Zealand’s unique provider of residential re-integrative services for paroled prisoners.

Parolees were asked how they got to this point in their lives, whether they had regrets, and where they saw themselves in the future.

‘The aim was not to sympathise, emphasise, or judge,’ says Hagley Dance Company Director Candice Egan, ‘it was rather to learn about how and why certain choices are made, and how those choices influence both the chooser and those affected’.

Dance pieces focus on the challenges of re-integration, re-learning societal values, the social and environmental contexts for offending, surveillance, and the variety of ways in which humans meet their individual needs.

Ms Egan says the process has given the students more insight into the complexities of offending, and also the challenges of changing old behaviors.

‘We tackled the challenging task of capturing personal narratives that were sad, frightening and uplifting using contemporary dance. In this way I feel the show is quite unique, sometimes abstract, and occasionally confronting.’

Hagley Dance Company will perform Forward and Beneath from Tuesday September 23 to Friday September 26 from 7:30 pm at the Open Stage in Christchurch.



Candice Egan
Director of Dance
Hagley College
Christchurch, New Zealand

Mobile: 0212033577


With support from                            

Tues 23rd – Fri 26th September at 7.30pm, Thurs 25th September at 1.00pm & 7.30pm


$15, $10 concessions or groups of 10+ from Dash Tickets  or ph 0800 327 484, booking fees apply.

Hagley Dance Company 2014

1 hour

Uncomfortable realities bring key questions to the fore

Review by Emily Napolitano 24th Sep 2014


One of the things I love about the Hagley Dance Company is that every year the company is made up of an entirely new group of dancers with vastly different skills and talents, yet each year they create stunning, polished, and deeply intellectual shows. This year is no exception. Under the masterful guidance of Director Candice Egan, Forward and Beneath is a dark and challenging, yet ultimately uplifting, experience.

The misfortunes of prisoners are not topics upon which we regularly meditate as we go about our daily lives, secure in the easy freedom we absolutely take for granted. Forward and Beneath challenges us to journey with five brave young people who explore the difficult questions facing prison parolees – How did you get to this point in your life? Do you have any regrets? How do you see yourself in the future? The dancers interviewed five parolees currently living at the Salisbury St. Foundation, and used their stories to explore the intersection between responsibility and choice, and the issues that we deal with when we face our past and plan for our future. 

The show begins the moment you step inside The Open Stage at Hagley Community College. What you notice immediately is that the seating is in the round – chairs ring the dance floor and as you take a seat you realize that the dance company members are sitting there too, stone faced and waiting, tense and silent and very present. There is no finding a chair at the back, no pretending the dancers are comfortably away from you on stage, they are intimately present and there is no going back. A Parliamentary debate around releasing criminal offenders into society is our soundtrack, illustrating the deep ramifications surrounding the issue of parolees.

There are no props; the stage is clean, bleak and starkly lit, the costumes minimalistic. As the dancers rise out of their chairs and begin to move, you realize that they are also utterly vulnerable, we can see them from all sides. They cannot avoid our gaze. There is no hiding in the wings for them, no costume changes backstage. They are face to face with us and neither we nor they can escape. Everything happens in front of us, and we gain a tiny insight into the lives of those in prison, constantly surrounded by watchers. 

The show begins with Falling Through The Cracks, choreographed by Fleur de Thier. The mental torment of those who make bad choices in life is danced through twisted, angular motions and sudden, jarring leaps. The strangled breathing and violent manipulation of costumes in Speak; Don’t Move, choreographed by Fleur de Thier and Megan Platt, illustrate the constant battle we fight with ourselves. The dancers slap, throw, knot, and ultimately become entangled in their clothing as their choices define their actions. 

Culture Shock, choreographed by Tayla Coulbeck, explores the difficulty parolees face in their transition back to freedom. The harsh and relentless judgement they face forever follows them. Jess Probert’s intensely intimate Being Watched evokes a deep sense of loss as the dancers are constantly being watched and followed, not only by their prison guards but also by their own tormented thoughts and regrets. 

The dancers wrestle with dark and heavy concepts – are some people just born bad? What causes people to make bad decisions? From where does a lack of empathy come? Will a detrimental environment always result in destructive people? The stark, side lighting throws dancers into sharp relief, highlighting their angles and subtle body movements. White noise, percussive soundscapes, and non-melodic instrumentation contribute to our experience of the uncomfortable reality of life for prison inmates and parolees.

All five company dancers remain on stage throughout the entire performance. On the rare occasions when a dancer takes a seat, they remain with us. The energy and dedication of these dancers truly shines. There is no holding back, every move is performed with utter commitment and their absolute presence on stage is breath taking. Standouts include Holly Thompson’s strong yet delicate clarity of movement, and Jhawan Raika-Morgan’s moving solo depiction of the parolee’s journey to escape his past and begin a new life. 

This show is about a difficult and dark subject matter, which it unapologetically confronts head on, relentlessly sweeping us along. Yet the show ends on a positive note, with Forward and Beneath, choreographed by Candice Egan, in which the dancers explore the ultimate goal that humanity shares, to live a life of peace and freedom.

The evening left me wondering how I would answer those same three big questions. Whether we make good or bad decisions, we have to face the consequences and in the end it is up to each of us as individuals to learn from our mistakes and look forward to a new life.

Go see Forward and Beneath, the passion of these young dancers as they explore this challenging material is deeply inspirational.


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