A single dangling, dimly glowing orange lightbulb provides continuity through the five short works by developing choreographers which comprise FRESH 2015, holding different significance in each work, and being replaced by an array of other lighting options associated with the diverse themes explored. It’s a bare bulb, transparent — the apparent colour comes from the glowing orange filament – and it is raised and lowered and repositioned as the hour of performance continues. It “shines a light” on these new works, draws attention to them in a simple way, without stealing their thunder as a scenographic device.
For the opening work Highbrid, a duet choreographed and performed by Kat Bolstad and Jess Quaid, the orange light emerges though an initial soundscore of softly chirping NZ native birds, suggesting daybreak in some natural environment. Involving aerial work on tissu, partnered by slithering floorwork, the movement is beautifully underlit by additional lighting which gleams and glints on gorgeously detailed bodysuits which suggest both fish and fowl, and perhaps iguanas.
Moving slowly and at a pace designed to show off both the aerial work and the floorwork, the two performer-creatures discover one another, observe/approach/withdraw/entice and hesitantly join forces to explore the two realms before the denouement. Charmingly offbeat music from Imogen Heap and Eels provides a backdrop for these interactions.
The orange light returns several times during Sophie Follett’s Licht, alternating with lambent top and side lighting, and pair of glowing white translucent light balls suspended from strings, all of which are magnets for the black-clad performers (Molly Berquist, Nathalie Claus, Katie Lavan, Anna Rogerson). To the repeating, pulsing, tinking and chordal bursts of Son Lux which whispers “easy, easy” and “lift me up…show me what you’re hiding,” the dancers advance and retreat towards the light sources, stare transfixed into the orange light, cradle, carry and manipulate and swing the white balls as they move through space – up and down and sliding and rolling and turning, moving surely across the floor. They appear to crave the light — it offers reassurance, peace, grounding – and where the light goes, the body follows, gaining motivation, energy, direction.
The orange light comes back again at the start of Throat, co-developed by Rosa Strati and black-clad dancers Shani Dickens, Molly McDowall and Sofia McIntyre. Initially it looks as if the previous dance is continuing, but the energy of the rhythmically pulsing score by Conner Strati quickly infuses their movements with an emphatic drive directed into the performance space, providing a strong contrast to the more constrained focus of Licht. The soundscore also has a slightly ominous feel which gives an edge to their movement as two perform in a spotlit area while the third surveils them from the dark. When the pair collapse to the ground, the third woman tries to revive them, and eventually drags one across the floor and does her best to bring her back to life.
The orange light cycles through an array of other lighting states during Company of Another, choreographed by Katie Rudd (NZ Dance Company) and performed by her with fellow company member Chris Ofonoa. It’s not so much what they do in this very abstract work that makes it so very satisfying to watch – rise and fall and drop and roll and pace and spin and balance, and all the usual kinds of material such dances explore, it’s the wonderfully flowing, attentive quality of the movement which draws you in and carries you with them, riding on quietly repetitive rhythms of Brandon Wolcott & Emil Abrayam, and spacy, multilayered tones of Gustavo Santaolalla.
The orange light is steadily replaced by glowing room lighting at the start of Katerina Fatupaito’s Burnt Skin, as three loin-cloth clad performers (Antonio Malachi, Riki Nofo’akifolau and Metsuela Toso with a patterned top rather than bare chest like the men) mark the boundaries of their performance space in flour and salt, and then within it petal like pathways which follow the diagonals.
The programme notes says the work was inspired by a family story about a cannibal spirit that was chased by the enemy, and as additional patterns are marked inside the boundary lines, it starts to feel as if they are creating a safe space for themselves, which antagonistic forces may not enter. As the dancers move within the space – vigorously and quietly, in unison and solo, form clusters and mounds, sleep momentarily, whirl in suspicion, create a united front with backs together, pace and roll and stamp and spin, the floor becomes covered with the imprints of their passage.
At the end, they remain, unscathed, as the orange light again returns.
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