If the Auckland August cold is keeping you at home this week then there is good news for you. HEALR is the warmest thing you can experience this week. Literally warm. Notices warning excesses of 30 degree temperatures can be found at the Basement studio entrance. The programme on each chair features foldable fan-making instructions. The studio space in front of us is empty but for two metal stands side by side, filled with heaters. I think of Primer’s ‘box’- everyday objects made into something bigger.
We are witnesses to creators and performers Rose Philpott and Jessie McCall journey through what feels like a warped spiritual science fiction yoga class, complete with Bikram temperatures. Repeated releases and swings reminiscent of warm up (excuse the pun) exercises are executed over and over. I find myself drawn into the cyclical patterns of the work. Endless flow and momentum. Both calming and eerie, somewhat damaging? But soothing. If we strip away layers of ourselves will we find healing? Will we be more fully and completely us?
Uncomfortable mesmerisation is broken by changes in the sound track – providing relief, only for those changes to themselves become stuck in relentless repetition. It’s inescapable. And mildly terrifying.
The sci-fi-esque heater structures seem to not only be a source of light, but of life. Becoming themselves a performer, there’s something alien about it. Humming, piercing, calming, not growing or depleting, emanating, alive. Absorbing its energy, or does it absorb them? Offering regeneration, but what are the side effects? Disillusionment or enlightenment? A cold steel knife cuts through the heat when tensions come to head with a transfixing sacrifice.
Both Rose and Jessie bring their own performance presence to the work with strength and clarity, a curious paradox as they seem to be increasingly stripping themselves of self throughout. At times, they are extensions of one another’s bodies, working together with momentum and ease. Their energies alternately perpetuate and shatter calming states.
A well-deserved nod must also be given to Paul Bennett’s lighting design which gave character to the movement- the use of the heaters as stage lighting a significant choreographic device.
By HEALR’s conclusion I was left with questions, with concerns I couldn’t place what for, and a strong unsettling and assurance that I can’t name. To embody and communicate what words can’t express is one of choreography’s most valuable attributes and HEALR is a great reminder why. The synergy offered by the artful and considered combination of costume, performance, soundtrack, lighting, props, and movement is effective, concerning, and complex.
Make time to experience HEALR this week.
Just don’t wear a thermal.
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