Girl with a Movie Camera

TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland

02/03/2011 - 05/03/2011

Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

07/10/2011 - 08/10/2011

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

24/03/2012 - 25/03/2012

Dunedin Fringe 2012

Tempo Dance Festival 2011

Production Details

This is an energetic dance and video piece that caters to a wide range of audiences. Forty minutes of high impact dance and imagery will capture audiences of all ages. Using multiple forms of contemporary recording devices, dancers will interact with video images shot in and around Auckland.
Vertov’s application of film montage, his theories on “kino-pravda” and his seminal film Man with a Movie Camera, provide a platform for dancers to develop themes into performance, in a live and recorded format.   Video images and performances contrast or compliment each other in an exchange of media and mediums. It is a conversation between ideas, images, and performance in search of new meaning.
High impact dance and video with a twist!

Dancers from the AUT Dance Company – Erin Bowerman, Jane Carter, Aya Nakamura, Grace Crawford, Kezia Kramer (2011) Xinia Alderson (2011);  Natalie Dowd (2010), Jennifer Nikolai (2010)
Rehearsal directors 2011:  Natalie Dowd, Dannielle Chandler
Vocal coach 2011: Georgia Wood
Set design: Adrian McNaught
IT/Technical/Artistic Support: Rene Burton
Lighting 2011: Dayle Burgess
Motion capture/Maya artist and additional post-production: Shea Melville

50 minutes

Highly accomplished multimedia show

Review by Jonathan W. Marshall 26th Mar 2012

Girl With a Movie Camera is a highly accomplished multi-media show from recent graduates of the Auckland University of Technology dance program, choreographed by Jennifer Nikolai and with projection from Andrew Denton.

The piece takes Dziga Vertov’s landmark montage study of the contemporary urban environment, Man with a Movie Camera (1929), as a jumping off point for various visual and choreographic sketches. The dancers quote out loud assorted passages from Vertov’s writings, but in truth, the relationship between the material performed and Vertov’s own work is mostly relatively slight.

Denton’s imagery for example includes almost no rapid montage from one camera perspective to another. Vertov’s central idea of montage-synthesis, which he shared with Sergei Eisenstein, entailed the almost organic linking of different objects and forms through their rapid sequential replay on the cinema screen. Denton does not perform such a combination of shots, and the choreography itself rarely echoes this concept of synthesis.

In the end though, this is relatively unimportant. Despite the title, Girl With a Movie Camera is not an actual reinterpretation of Vertov as dance. Rather, Nikolai and Denton use several of Vertov’s key concerns as motifs around which the material is built.

These themes include the framing of vision by a lens, the speed and pace of the modern world, and especially its means of transportation (cars, trains, motorways), the transformation of bodies into machines or cogs within a larger mechanism, and the experience of modernity as an almost ecstatic one of transformation and of power.

The mise en scène takes the form of two screens at the back onto which imagery is projected, or behind which the dancers move in order to cast shadows across the surface. A narrow passage divides the screens, leaving a horizontal strip of stage at the front for further interactions.

The initial framing of the movement is somewhat clunky. Nikolai and Denton work hard to make the screens themselves the focus of much of this early attention, and so quite a lot of action gets sandwiched between them this awkward interstitial space.

Soon enough though the forestage comes into play, and more complicated choreographic forms arise. The score is essentially a jukebox of various techno and electroclash musics (Peaches, LCD Sound System) interspersed with contemporary chamber music in the lyrical repetitive mode of Philip Glass (though actually by the Vitamin String Quartet). This renders the performance highly episodic, each sequence distinguished by its own musical and rhythmic pattern, typically with a short period of silence and darkness between to emphasis the conceptual and scenographic discontinuity between sections.

The material is linked, but each section starts from a fresh palette (quite the opposite of Vertov). The feel then is often that of a highly accomplished popular dance-floor, and although some of the choreographic material is drawn from Contact Improvisation (falls, climbing on top of each other, and catches), the overall style is largely that of generalised modern dance after Cunningham with a tendency towards jazz-ballet and other modes which synthesise popular dance with the precise, accented articulation of the trained dancer. Sharp angles about the joints giving a slightly robotic look to action comes to dominate as the piece progresses.

Projected sequences often alternate with those of the live performers, notably a sequence showing them in cropped close ups about the face and eyes as they gaze out the windows of Auckland’s trains, or another sequence where brightly coloured virtual armatures of dancers (produced using motion capture technology) weave and spin about a boundless black space, as the planes on which they are dancing also shift, come forward, recede, or twirl about a central pivot.

Perhaps the most striking sequence is where the projections offer the viewpoints of a number of cameras as these are carried by the moving dancers. Images are inverted, great arcs are described, and other confusing yet invigorating distortions of space are offered. As these films play out overhead, a lone dancer comes on stage holding a video camera, and it becomes clear that she is recreating the positions that she executed when the video was produced. Other dancers gradually arrive, and this ghostly, previously empty or haunted space becomes literally populated. The visual and experiential or kinaesthetic difference between what the audience can now literally see in the dancers, and the sense of swirl and movement which the camera eye presents on screen, now becomes intense and quite exhilarating.

I have seen many, many dance companies struggling with cumbersome digital technologies as the artists strive to project imagery produced by an on-stage camera onto screens whilst they dance. Nikolai and Denton however remind us that since dancers are expert at recreating movement that they have already executed, there is absolutely no reason not to integrate pre-recorded visuals with live performers. Indeed, precisely such a strategy, again, rather than synthesising and combining different perspectives, highlights the differences between these positions in a way which is quite fascinating. In this respect, Girl With a Movie Camera approaches Eisenstein’s concept of dialectical montage: a use of space and material which rather than simply blending things together, sets them off as distinct but related entities.

Although the title at first seems somewhat sexist and belittling — why not Woman With a Movie Camera? — there is a manner in which youth, and specifically feminine youth seems deeply tied to this aesthetic. An early sequence which shows the performers running through shopping centres and staring out from escalators could come from a girl teen film since the 1990s (though the celebration of glittery consumption and the buying of things is absent here). The dance-floor style choreography also imparts a sense of young women exalting in the various experiences which contemporary popular culture offers. The musical sources — notably an ironically cute piece by Japanese girl band Shonen Knife — enhances this quality.

In this sense, ironically, Nikolai and Denton are very close to Vertov, since one of the most striking elements in his own film is the mapping of urban forms and shapes onto the youthful female body. In Man With a Movie Camera, skyscrapers and office blocks become parts of the naked body of a woman disrobing in her urban apartment. The sexual, life-affirming power and the increasingly fit, toned and taut shapes of the so-called New Women, the modern girl and the flappers of the 1920s seemed to epitomise the very essence of modern culture for Vertov and his peers.

Whilst Nikolai and Denton do not present such a cohesive thesis, their production is open to such a reading, and for this it is all the richer.


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A sweet homage to Vertov’s work

Review by Jack Gray 08th Oct 2011

Having answered a last minute mayday call to review this show (after the original reviewer fell ill), I jumped on a bus and headed down to Q Theatre – rapidly now becoming my second home thanks to its impressive opening season beginning with Atamira’s Te Houhi,followed hot on its heels by the Tempo Dance Festival, a sprawling, horses for courses array of dancing indulgence served a la carte, eat in or takeaway.
You know you’re a Q Theatre regular when you know the bar staff by their first names and have that sheepish “me again” moment before resuming the festive rush of caffeine or wine, before dashing to the next show.
Sprinting upstairs to the Loft (that had just hosted Tertiary Colours) it was nice to see it transformed into a new space, with new lights and backdrop for a show called Girl with a Movie Camera by Jennifer Nikolai. A matinee show, I ended up sitting next to elderly parents of one of the designers who told me they had scored comp tickets after I asked what had brought them to the theatre. They remarked they hadn’t really been to many things in a theatre setting before and would perhaps go to a movie only rarely. I find people’s motives for attending (or not attending) concerts fascinating, as I had just been to see Carmina Burana at the Town Hall the night before, and was amazed at the overwhelmingly senior audience gathered in droves to watch the Auckland Philaharmonic Orchestra.
Luckily, this show was packed to the brim – a wonderful and welcome change for contemporary dance – and a startlingly common occurrence at Q Theatre throughout this entire Tempo season. Several showcases have been absolutely sold out – which is something I’d imagine usually happens in avid theatregoing cities like Wellington’s Courtenay Place. Whether this new venue being placed in the heart of the city is starting to attract punters, or whether contemporary dance audiences are now starting to stabilise and form firmer foundations, it remains to be seen if this venture will start to pay dividends for all its keen investors.
So, as I sometimes prefer, I didn’t really know a whole lot about this show before I arrived. I previously spent some time in Europe where due to language barriers any information wouldn’t have helped me in my reviewing expertise. Therefore I have become accustomed to doing what it is that most audiences are asked to do. Sit. Watch the show. And feel. Or at least when I review, think about what I feel. The gentleman next to me said the show had some projection and was also based on a Russian director’s work. I had imagined Jennifer Nikolai herself to be onstage, until she made a late entrance to sit in the audience.
The basic premise of the show is actually quite simple. There are two white hanging sheets with a space in the middle, where the dancers appear from behind the set designed by Adrian McNaught. They use the sheets  in a myriad of ways, mostly as screens for video projection – but also for shadow interplay. Sometimes they appear from underneath, and hit the screen so that the fabric billows. Other times they run or walk around it – so it acts as a device that allows the performer to appear, disappear – much like some type of walking into and out of frame filming device.
The videography by Andrew Denton is lucid, collaged, textural, at times colourful and often busy. Mostly it shows footage of the performers themselves in train stations, on escalators, playing, running, jumping, dancing, exploring, observing and being observed. It is always shown with music – that covers a similar palette of beaty, pulsating, remixed angsty 90’s garage alternative pop performed by string orchestra – giving me the feel that it is someone’s autobigraphical life soundtrack – perhaps Nikolai’s or perhaps not. The intermarriage of elements is nostalgic, composed, experimental. I was lucky enough to see Malia Johnston’s faultless new work Body Fight Time  last night, which the Tempo Lady (aka Carrie Rae) said wouild make for an  an interesting comparison. Whereas Body Fight Time explored the nuances of projection vs the live feed to remarkable effect, this show attempted similar ideas – albeit on a smaller scale and budget.  
The dancers were all recent graduates of the AUT Dance course and former students of Nikolai. They were clean in their execution, consistent in their energy and outwardly committed to the form and style required of them. I am aware of the stylistic differences of say Nikolai’s Canadian background (though she has lived and lectured in NZ for 9 years) and how her specific, detailed clean lines contrast with a more typically released and earthy New Zealand approach. Here the dancers maintain very minimal facial expression or even expression of much physical exertion, though they move with deftness and deliberateness.
The dancers speak throughout the work, not as characters necessarily – but as deliverers of dramaturgical text directed by Aya Nakamura and coached by Georgia Wood. I have this strange thing sometimes where I don’t often understand lyrics to songs as meaningful words, but hear them more as rhythmic vocalisations. In this case their text didn’t assist me anymore or any less in understanding the work. Their New Zealand accents threw me everytime. I felt the filmic language was much more accurate in expressing the themes applicable to director Dziga Vertov (whose seminal film “Man with a Movie Camera” inspired this work) exploring his application of  “cinematic montage” in his experimental film work and his theoretical investigation around “kino-pravda”.
I watched the dancing and its integration with the screen projection with close scrutiny. Some of the ideas had a simplistic naivety – like a sequence where a woman dances with a camera and we see the ‘supposed’ camera eye view projected on the screen behind her. This grows into a larger sequence obviously workshopped around the premise of a base of movement language seen through the lens of multiple cameras attached by elastic, thereby constraining the camera holder’s perspectives and freedom and creating an assortment of views. Legs, close-ups, faces, eyes, moving swiftly into and out of the frame. One effective yet also obvious scene, revolved around a play of shadow light and the interaction between the shadows increasing/decreasing in size – much like some type of puppet show. The lighting by Dayle Burgess was spot on, clean, clear and with enough light and dark to not detract from the audio-visual component.
A question that occurred to me – that might not even have been relevant – was “but who was THE girl?” I am always curious about performative decisions and think it is the responsibility of the performer to draw/tease/cajole a certain sense of humanity/reflection/expression out of their being that elicits something from the audience – touching on another level beyond a purely visual one. I let my mind drift and wondered briefly how it would be if the work was performed by French women. Why French? Because they are dreamy, sensual, mesmerising and I think they are taught (or maybe it is encoded in their DNA) to consider how they are seen.
I’m not talking about the sexual gaze, I’m just talking about the pure fact of looking deeply and knowing what is being seen. Why do we as audience members, as human beings look at other human beings? What do we discern from their facial expressions, the smell of their hair, skin, the glint in their eye? I found the dancers were very much rooted in their physical structure as much as the choreographic and technical mechanisms. I also imagined Nikolai in the work and know that as an eye-catching woman, she would have added much punch, more possibility and more presence.
Overall, the work was a sweet homage to Vertov’s work and a development of a work that has seen a few different incarnations at different theatres. The AUT Dance Company was supported by the whoops and yells of a few very keen and delighted friends, which at this level – is utterly right and deserved.
At the conclusion of the show, I was blinded once again as I walked into the bright light of the day – and thought it a treat to see a dance show in the middle of the afternoon. As I slipped into Queen Street now transformed into an Indian Food Alley in celebration of the Diwali Festival, I also noticed bunches of people wearing English Knight costumes and those in French Tricolour regalia – on their way towards festivities for the Rugby World Cup Quarter Finals. Just like one of the video sequences from the show that fast tracked a period of time lapse in the City of Sails, I had my own moment to reflect on how we are always constantly experiencing our own montages of colour and experience through our own eyes. Springtime in Auckland is a great place to be.   


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On critiquing, this show and contemporary dance in general

Review by Lexie Matheson ONZM 14th Mar 2011

Walter Kerr, reviewing John Van Druten’s I am a Camera in 1951, summed up his experience in three memorable words: ‘Me no Leica.’ I am a Camera went on to become Cabaret and a great hit. Reviewers are not always right. I like to think that, had Kerr experienced Girl with a Movie Camera he would have, as I did, Leica’d it a lot!

Let’s be perfectly clear. Art should be liberating and, since Girl with a Movie Camera is most certainly art and I was most certainly liberated by it, I must say that I am a fan of Jennifer Nikolai the person, the teacher, the philosopher, the coffee-drinking buddy. Of Jennifer Nikolai, in fact, I am inordinately fond. We work together, have the same employer and have been known, on occasion, she adds blushing, to share a bottle of wine – in the company of our wonderful partners, of course. This needed to be said as partners also come into this reflection and we leave them out at our peril. Just as Vertov’s wife Elizaveta Svilova edited his work, so Nikolai’s husband Andrew Denton is integral to Girl with a Movie Camera, but more of that later …

So there, now you know.

Not that knowing someone and respecting them should be reason to misunderstand, under-estimate, or over-value their work. Nor should it mean, in a country the size of New Zealand where the arts are universally undervalued and quality practitioners are sparse, that we should not review each other’s work where appropriate and be seen to be objective about it. It’s a fact of life and we should get used to it. It’s better, surely, to have an informed and detailed critique than unrestrained praise from the illiterate and uninformed. Reviews are, after all, not just fodder for the artist or quotes for the marketing team but should also provide an educated source of critical comment, knowledge and information for the general public and, dare it be said, an historical record as well. 

As reviewers we should also get used to the fact that some artists feel they have the right to lambast reviewers for their opinions and do so with alacrity. I have, on occasion, done so myself and felt much better for it. “There, that’ll show him,” I have thought whilst at the same time realising that, apart from dissipating pique, I have achieved nothing. 

Back in the day my work was often reviewed by Paul Bushnell, not always favourably, but I grew to view with satisfaction the knowledge that he would review what I had created. I didn’t always agree with him but I did grow to respect that he would always be honest and, when necessary, ruthlessly so. Through Paul’s informed and intelligent observations my work grew. He had that happy knack of sensing when I was cheating and had the courage to say so. Bravo Paul, thank you for your integrity, particularly as I am aware that others were less enamoured of your candour and certainly felt free to say so. 

I endeavour, always, to emulate your integrity. 

Girl with a Movie Camera is listed as ‘a multi-media dance/theatre piece with live and video performance, choreographed by Jennifer Nikolai and dancers, with video direction by Andrew Denton and performed by dancers from the AUT Dance Company’, and so it was.

It should be noted that, among the dancers of the AUT Dance Company, was Nikolai herself. She was unheralded, un-named, indistinguishable (though not undistinguished, oh, dear no!) a hoofer just like everyone else and this was oh so appropriate, particularly as this work followed the line of it antecedent and might have been cast, anonymously, from the Moscow telephone directory.

Performed in the main theatre space at TAPAC where the cavernous nature of the deep stage provides a great starting point for any dance work, Girl with a Movie Camera also benefited from the height as the staging consisted of two rectangular white fabric ‘drops’ which served as both projection monitors and, when back lit, perfect display screens for a range of beautifully executed live cinematic silhouettes. These silhouettes, it must be noted, had been rehearsed with exquisite care and the placement of light sources was such that a surreal power relationship between dancer and a single-minded camera tripod was able to be vibrantly explored in three dimensions with no loss of clarity.

While a mere 40 minutes long, Girl with a Movie Camera, through its use of a wide range of contemporary recording and projection devices interfaced with rich physical imagery and pulsating movement, was proof that it is the quality rather than the length of a piece that is important and that shortish and complete can be as satisfying as anything else. If you’re talking value for money this was certainly it! 

Never one to take the easy route, Nikolai and her team set themselves a supremely serious task, namely “to build on Dziga Vertov’s application of film montage, his theories on ‘kino-pravda’ and his seminal film Man with a Movie Camerainto a platform for dancers to develop themes into performance, in a live and recorded format. Video images and performances contrast or complement each other in an exchange of media and mediums. It is a conversation between ideas, images, and performance in search of new meaning.”

So says the press release and, quite surprisingly, this is what actually occurred. Surprisingly because press releases are often simply opportunities to advertise in ways that, while giving a sincere indication of intent, seldom deliver what is promised. Girl with a Movie Camera delivered what was promised. 

Kino-pravda or ‘film-truth’ was developed by Vertov in the 1920s as a tool for filming the everyday and the mundane and, through this, reaching a deeper truth. His style is functional and economic and he filmed in markets, bars, public places and mostly without permission. As his documentary series evolved he was more and more frequently called an ‘idiot’ and told he was ‘insane’.

History recalls Vertov differently and credits him with first use of techniques such as fast and slow motion, freeze frames, split screens, tracking shots, scenes shown backwards and odd things with animation. Many of these techniques are evident in both Nikolai’s choreography and in Denton’s moving imagery almost all of which was shot in Auckland. Particularly evocative were a fast-filmed day in Auckland and a fine robotic sequence performed by the company. Worthy of note here – since robotic dance has been around forever – was the freshness of ideas and the rhetoric of the physical vocabulary used in this set.

In fact the dance vocabulary throughout had a freshness and spontaneity that only comes from a freedom to discover and a delight in recreating the spontaneity of those discoveries. Not that the rehearsal machinery showed at all, quite the opposite. 

Also impressive was the confidence – and the assurance – of the dancers. This was quality work danced unemotively, but not without emotion, by dancers who clearly knew they were riding a winner and who were pretty damned happy to be there. These performers were right on top of their game!

Often contemporary dance dissolves into a mishmash of previously learned (and seen) vocabulary and this is most often evident when the work lacks structure. This isn’t limited to non-linear works and it’s fair to say that, because of the nature of Vertov’s original, Nikolai’s work is less than linear. In fact, at times it seems almost intentionally episodic and expressionistic but, while so being, it never lacks metaphoric and impressionistic linkages that enable the viewer to make important reflective connections that are unique to them. Rather like ‘my random impression’ versus ‘your expressionistic reflection’, which is clever because the viewer can only ever be right about what they are consuming. Smart art, that is! 

Andrew Denton’s moving images are sublime. Using some of Vertov’s repertoire of trickery Denton makes the world his own and we are constantly gob-smacked by what he achieves. He quite literally takes our breath away and when the dancers interact choreographically with the imagery, gems of memory are there for the taking. I’ve long thought that the exit moment of any work of art, that moment when you emotionally depart, is the most critical because when engagement leaves off memory begins and the reality of the encounter immediately becomes something else. Real art doesn’t just exist in the experiential flash but also in the subsequent moments of refection and memory both of which can be exclusive and dissimilar. Denton and Nikolai provide ample exit moments within the composition and we are constantly put in the vein of reflecting and remembering even before the whole opus is done and dusted.

Perhaps the most exciting aspect of Girl with a Movie Camera is that it’s not just some ‘this happened and then this happened next’ narrative. This is multi-media performance art at its finest, doubly exciting in that it’s reminiscent of nobody else, yet remains firmly locked in its contemporary dance oeuvre all the same. I tried to find reference points – Cunningham, Balanchine, Wright, Parmenter – but none would fit. This was Nikolai/Denton, pure and simple.

Yet, having said all the above and labelled this ‘art’, it must also be said that Girl With a Movie Camera wasn’t all po-faced and serious. It was also funny, witty, charming, idiosyncratic and oft-times just plain odd. It was also raw, intelligent, profound and passionate. It was all about us. About Auckland. And them. Yes, us and them. And accessible, always, always accessible.

Whilst Nikolai has choreographed and staged extensively in Vancouver this is her first choreographic outing in New Zealand and we would like to see many more. Like a seed planted and tenderly nurtured, Girl With a Movie Camera has blossomed as expected, spoken as was intended and will now remain tucked away in the memory along with those two words we are hot-wired to exclaim when our humanity is laid bare: ‘bravo’ and ‘more’.  

I’m adding this text of a piece by Laurie Anderson which always, for me, encapsulates contemporary dance: 
Walking and Falling – Laurie Anderson

I wanted you.
And I was looking for you.
But I couldn’t find you.
I wanted you.
And I was looking for you all day.
But I couldn’t find you.
I couldn’t find you.
You’re walking.
And you don’t always realize it, but you’re always falling.
With each step you fall forward slightly.
And then catch yourself from falling.
Over and over, you’re falling.
And then catching yourself from falling.
And this is how you can be walking and falling at the same time.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.  


Jack Gray March 15th, 2011

 Wish I saw it. Nice review Lexie and good work Jennifer.

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Inspired by Vertov ... and thought-provoking

Review by Julia Barry 06th Mar 2011

A visual feast of video images and live dance movement is provided by dancers from the AUT Dance Company in their production of Girl with a Movie Camera, presented at TAPAC as part of the Auckland Fringe Festival.
With choreography by Jennifer Nikolai, this work is inspired by director Dziga Vertov’s 1929 experimental silent documentary film, Man with a Movie Camera. Dziga’s film captures glimpses of everyday life in a number of Russian cities and shows a range of, at the time, highly innovative cinematic techniques. Both the concept of reflection on the day to day lives of people and their environments and a range of effective and striking film techniques are incorporated into Girl with a Movie Camera, with live dance performance cleverly relating to, interacting with or contrasting to the images onscreen. 
The video direction and mixing by Andrew Denton is outstanding and offers a fascinating variety of images from many different angles, from honing in on a small specific element such as a human eye, to fast-forward images of Auckland day and night time streetscapes, with the ever-prevalent busy traffic.
An eclectic mix of musical choices accompanies and expresses the intention of each section of the work. Most pieces have a driving, insistent drum or bass beat and some are particularly appealing with rich, lush strings or strong vocals. There is an interesting updated version by Shonen Knife of Top of the World made famous by The Carpenters – this gave me a moment of nostalgia for the ‘70’s!
The lighting provided by Michael Craven brings the simple, yet very effective set design by Adrian McNaught vibrantly to life. Two floor to ceiling fabric screens, positioned either side of a dark central space, facilitate video screening, effective use of silhouette and entrance and exit points through which the dancers move with fluidity at a range of levels. Greater dance space in front of the screens could perhaps have been achieved with their placement even just a little further back, whilst still allowing the silhouette effects to be achieved. Strategic placement of various heights of tripod and the dancers’ regular use of camera props establish the theme of the camera’s role as a ‘mechanical eye’.
The video footage includes representation of elements of company members’ lives and environments and mirrors to some extent the types of images seen in Vertov’s film.   Material from the dance studio shows a series of individual dancers reaching one arm upward, eyes searching up high, curious as to what could be there, then gradually descending downwards and out of camera shot, one presumes to the floor, then rising again, as if seeking something just beyond reach. Environments included show dancers joyfully leaping around and over each other down the corridor of a building, travelling on public transport, and those ever-busy Auckland streets.
Phrases of spoken language are interspersed throughout the work and give insights into intent of the work. Some of these are quite haunting in their piquant accuracy, such as “How is the ordinary eye to make sense of this visual chaos of ordinary life?” Dramaturg and dancer Aya Nakamura’s vocal tone and diction is especially clear and eloquent – similar volume and clarity could enhance the delivery of some phrases from other dancers. 
The live dance choreography showcases the ease of flow the dancers bring to their movements and includes many rolls and camera-related motifs, including the winding hand action representative of vintage movie cameras, as would have no doubt been used by Vertov. Perhaps less repetition of some of these rolls and gesture motifs may have enhanced their power by having them appear at strategic moments only. 
The black dance practice costumes are individualized and highlight the movement shapes and the dancers’ line. Large white over-shirts add contrast and emphasize flow of movement in the latter sections of the work.
Particularly memorable dance movement sections include the silhouettes of dancers behind the screens, interchanging between large and small images and with one dancer interacting in various ways with a tripod, including suspending herself from it. The following section juxtaposes the dancers’ driven running with sudden pauses in moments of complete stillness, then an unfolding of the arms in front leading into a fall to the floor.
A close relationship is established between a video scene of mannequins and one of the body language of the dancers on public transport, relating the bland expressions of people travelling to the mannequins’ inanimate appearance. This theme continues into a section of automaton-like live dance movement to the music Technologic by Peaches No Logic Remix. Here angular, mechanical, repetitive movement motifs are accompanied by very fast-forward video of street, harbour and cloud scenes, seemingly indicative of the frantic pace modern life can take.
Video footage taken from below, apparently from a vehicle on the motorway, looking up at passing bridges, lampposts, through trees and at billowy passing cloud formations, effectively develops the upward looking theme from the dance studio video section. This is further explored in the live choreography of dancers still reaching upwards from the floor and gradually rising to a sustained balance, feet apart, arms aloft, gazing down to the floor, as though looking back to where they have come from. Crazy Remix by Nelly Furtado accompanies this section to great effect.
The next section is a fascinating combination of computer graphics of many small moving squares and motion capture of three dancer figures in bold primary colours, concluding with three strongly defined images of an eye. 
The dancers perform with energy and commitment throughout this work, with a particularly agile short solo from Erin Bowerman near the end, culminating in her walking slowly backwards, with her enigmatic eye focus drawing the audience with her. Perhaps additional  lighting here would have enabled Bowermans’ gaze to have been more clearly shown for greater impact.
A defining moment for me is when Nikolai is framed within the dark central space, performing an elegant, chic ‘piqué’ action of the lower leg, with her back to the audience and head in profile. Her graceful line and delicacy of movement in this one small moment of simplicity is captivating.
The final scene has all the dancers framed within three pools of light, holding various types of camera and instruction booklets, reading various instructions aloud.   The quotes from Vertov, spoken by Bowerman, walking slowly forward as the work concludes,  sum up the themes expressed throughout: “I am an eye. I am a mechanical eye. I, the machine, can show you a world the way only I can see it.” 
Congratulations to AUT Dance Company and all those contributing to the technological elements on a most interesting and thought-provoking production. As an aside, I found it interesting to note that Vertov’s random footage of people and environments was actually edited into a ‘day to evening’ order for Man with a Movie Camera by his wife, Elizaveta Svilova. For Girl with a Movie Camera, the video footage is directed and edited by Andrew Denton, the husband of the choreographer, Jennifer Nikolai. 

For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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