Green Silence

Hansen Park, Christchurch

28/10/2023 - 28/10/2023

Production Details

Choreography - Sarah Elsworth
Composer - Anita Clark/Motte

Movement Art Practice

A poetic dance weaving through sonic landscapes.

From the very heart of the park, I welcome you. Are you with me?
Gather, gather, around, around. Lines, lines, square off, square off. Stop. Gather up.
Comfort fingertips, some particular angular shape.
Felt safe out here, in the clear clearance, once we carved the spaces

Green Silence is a surrealist painting-in-motion, a site-specific work transforming the community function of the park into a concoction of performance encounters. Come for a meditative night-walk experience.

Green Silence disrupts our expectations of the park space in surprising ways. A picnic tale, a soccer opera, a floral arrangement hanging in the sporting space. The park becomes a visual promenade, a slow march, a collapsing of worlds and environments. From the utopian to the confessional, Green Silence asks us to slow down, to draw in closer, to experience distance and proximity.

Movement Art Practice (MAP) produces its fifth Community Choreographic Project Green Silence in collaboration with choreographer and director Sarah Elsworth and a cast of community artists. Lighting design by visual artist Stuart Lloyd-Harris. Set to a stunning cinematic sound score composed by talented multi-instrumentalist musician Anita Clark/MOTTE. Be greeted with a pair of headphones and take up the offer of an immersive and intimate sound experience.

Event Information
Hansen Park
Saturday 28 October
8pm and 10pm
Approximately 1 hour performance
$20 Waged/$15 Unwaged
Book at Humanitix:

How to get to the venue: check in by the Port Hills Athletics Club (16A Butler Street), at the Butler Street entrance, Opawa, Christchurch 8023. The #27 bus stops 450m on Wilsons Rd. The #8 bus stops 1km away on Opawa Rd.

Where to park cars at the venue: there are spaces outside of the Port Hills Athletics Club or roadside parking on Ombersley Terrace. Arrive early to ensure you can find a park before performance time as these spaces will not be reserved.

Where are the disability access car parks: TBC

When to get to the venue: we encourage people to be there about 15 minutes before showtime.

What to wear: appropriate footwear for grass and gravel. Dress to be warm. This event takes place outside.

Accessibility information: being in the audience at this show will involve moving between seated stations in the park. Seats will be provided. Please get in touch if you would like more information

Back up day in case of bad weather: Sunday 29th October

Catherine Butchard
Chelsea Lewis
Claire Burgess
Jenny Postles
Mari Shibata
Mya Fisher
Olive Lochhead
Phebe Mander
Robin Humphreys

Lighting/Technical Manager - Stuart Lloyd-Harris

Producer - Bea Gladding
Assistant Producer - Claudia Jardine
Production/Site Manager - Correna Davies
Graphic Design - Kat Stefanova
Filming & Photography - Robyn Jordaan & Kita Films
Project Lead - Paul Young

Community-based theatre , Contemporary dance , Dance , Dance-theatre , Experimental dance , Multi-discipline , Music , Outdoor , Performance Art , Spoken word ,

50 minutes

Collective silence under a full moon

Review by Kosta Bogoievski 14th Nov 2023

The Movement Art Practice (MAP) community greets us at Hansen Park. Friends, family, and familiar faces gather around a multi-purpose sports field enveloped by the rivers, trees, and neighbouring houses. There are fifty or so chairs set up in the middle of the field facing bush, a walking/cycling path, and Ōpāwaho river. Also, upwards of 80 chairs lining a 100m track in traverse.

After a quick catchup with some friends I put my provided headphones on and meander toward the chairs in the middle of the field. Distant sounds of a packed stadium, radio station tuning in and out of RNZ National and Concert, pop songs, some distortions, tasters of Motte’s (aka Anita Clark’s) musical composition, and “walk in circles, walk backwards, take one step at a time”. The scattered soundscape heightens the sense of anticipation. The context alone is exciting. There’s about a hundred people here with silent disco headphones all wandering into the middle of a floodlighted, stadium-sized park in twilight. A cyclist in that bizarre cockroached posture breezes along the path that stretches along the river, a perfect profile from our view.

Motte’s distinctive ethereal sounds ring in the middle of my skull as the performers enter from behind the bushes. A synthy bop is introduced and I begin to form a distinction between digital/organic / synthetic/natural. It induces that, not totally dissociative but distanced enough, state of a meditative stroll at night where listening to music is the soundtrack for your life, layering whatever feeling you want to indulge in that moment. Even in this large gathering there retains that intimate moment with the self where thoughts and feelings feel as loud as the music. The headphones create that social barrier where each person is their own island in the sea of the performance. As a result, my gaze is more voyeuristic. I don’t quite connect to the park, performer, and environment so much somatically or as embodied as I would in a typical dance performance but rather contemplatively, like watching the moving tapestry of a slow-paced film.

The headphones also provide us with the dancers’ freely-associative, pre-recorded words about the park. Sarah Elsworth’s work honours the community dancers, giving each performer a moment of dance with their accompanied voice. The dance sequences so far are soft, cyclical, and placed. I wonder how much of the work is choreographed routine or improvisational scores the dancers can move between. Dried floral arrangements drape from a goal post. Here, the performers move between positions of rest and motion and look out to us as they telepathically communicate via the headsets. The narrative voice is sprawling with images, ideas, and feelings between the perspective of the author and park. At one point, we hear the title of the work, Green Silence, which I suppose refers to the sonic ambience of a vague ‘nature’ connoted by the term ‘green’. We are instructed to remove our headphones to listen to the green silence. I feel the dissonance between my expectations of serenity as the sounds of a barking dog, chit-chatting bystanders, and an amused child running around punctuate an otherwise quiet moment at night. ‘Green’ had me distinguish natural from unnatural, a social construct that played into my engagement with the work. Was the green silence the ambience behind the domestic noise? The hum of the wind through grass and air channels, the river, ducks flapping and quacking, the collective drill of bird tweets? Or is it the absence of what is not here, highlighting the park’s imposition on a disturbed native ecology? Or all of these things? The constant stream of the performers’ words has put me in quite a heady space; a meditation that feels quite romantic with the collective silence under a full moon. By contrast, taking off the headphones in the green silence has plonked me back in my relational body which extends to the environment and others—as if I am part of the world again, not observing it from a distance.

We then stood in a circle as the performers split off and began to call out to each other. The volleying of voices shifted the mood to something you’d find during a daytime park visit. Two performers run towards each other, through the audience circle and intercept with a hug that falls onto the ground. This childlike play initiates a solo Phoebe performs with a football, mimicking its roll, bounce, and loft. The macro, dynamic movement works well in the large play space, the grass begging for impact into its cushioned turf. It draws the audience towards a new spot in the park, where the performers ask us to huddle in. A dog, presumably from an evening stroll, is alight by the festive energy and circles around congregations of people.
As we settle into our new location Sarah explains the guidelines for consensual audience interaction. If we’re ok to be in contact with the performers we have our hands by our sides. If not then we make a cross with our forearms. In this semicircle we’ve formed we watch the performers move through the audience improvising with those who are game. My hands are quite cold at this point so I retire them back into my pockets. As I watch the performers travel around with big expansive movement over large stretches of grass I feel like I want to move with them. Not to join in but just to feel more autonomy to move out curiosity, to see the work from different angles, and to stay warm.
My favourite moments so far have been moving from one sequence to the next. It invokes a filmic gaze where eyes lead the way and things like walking and the turn of the head become a slow zoom or dramatic pan. I wonder what it would take to initiate more freedom to move around instead of being motioned by the performers and settling into each new spot. Boris Charmatz’s Danse De Nuit comes to mind here. Where the audience, like moths, can choose to follow/chase one of numerous lamppost-like light sources strapped to technicians’ backs who are constantly on the move. Having said this, I enjoyed taking a step back and looking at a hundred people each equipped with a pair of headphones emitting an ominous red glow, looking like programmed beings being herded like cattle. Or seeing this as a techno-ritual under the full moon with Motte’s musical accompaniment sitting somewhere between the emotional and spiritual plane—perhaps because it is in some secular sense.

We’re cloaked in moonlit darkness at this point but we soon move towards the red light that illuminates the 100m track. The music is punchy and tongue and cheek for track and field interpretative dance. The movement here is at its most directional and linear, moving down the track, invoking a modern dance quality which reflects the athletic values of form, function, high performance, and consequently—at this later end of the piece—endurance. The show shifts gear into more conspicuously choreographed ‘found material’: retracing, remixing, and embodying the movement you’d expect to see at Hansen park. The performers spill out onto the field and we follow them as they split into two competing teams. Chasing, tackling, kicking, cheering, celebrating. Light splashes onto the grass dramatically as their final movements take them upstage, so to speak, far back into the distance and then disappearing into the night.

Overall, the experience was a unique blend of art, nature, and community, creating a memorable and immersive evening. I appreciated the ambition and scale of the community project. I’d love to see more iterations of this work where Sarah Elsworth has the time and resources to develop the ideas further, as I remember her mentioning one time in passing, the potential for different audio channels splitting the audience into separate groupings. This format opens doors to inventive ways to engage audience members and it is an exciting use of technology for more imaginative presentations of contemporary dance. Congrats on two sold out, epic shows to the community dancers, Sarah Elsworth, and Movement Art Practice!


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