Isaac Theatre Royal, Christchurch
24/02/2019 - 24/02/2019
Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin
26/02/2019 - 26/02/2019
Regent On Broadway, Palmerston North
19/02/2019 - 19/02/2019
Te Papa: Soundings, Wellington
01/03/2019 - 03/03/2019
Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna, Auckland
15/02/2019 - 16/02/2019
After touring in China with Hemispheres last year, with our partners Guangdong Modern Dance Company, we can’t wait for New Zealand audiences to experience this exceptional show. Especially as, thanks to support from Asia New Zealand Foundation and sponsorship from the China Cultural Centre, we are able to offer entry to all performances by koha (donation). This is a very rare opportunity to see outstanding work by international and New Zealand artists with a simple donation on the door. We are over the moon to be able to present Hemispheres in this way.
A collision of artists from both sides of the Pacific Ocean: Hemispheres is an impressive international collaboration between the longest-running contemporary dance companies in New Zealand and in China. Hemispheres is headlined by Mass Solitude, an astounding new work choreographed by Sarah Foster-Sproull and performed by both companies. Mass Solitude showcases the technical mastery of detailed movement that is a signature of Chinese dance companies, with the powerful physicality that New Zealand dancers are renowned for across the world. Adding to the evening of exceptional artistry is Elliptical Fictions, choreographed by New Zealander Zahra Killeen-Chance and excerpts from The Spring Tide, choreographed by Taiwanese artist WU Chien-Wei. See below for more information about each of the works in Hemispheres.
Bruce Mason Centre
15 February 7pm – 8.45pm
16 February 7pm – 8.45pm
Regent on Broadway
19 February 1.30pm – 2.30pm (Short programme + Q&A)
19 February 6.30pm – 8.45pm
Isaac Theatre Royal
24 February 1.30pm – 2.30pm (Short programme + Q&A)
24 February 6.30pm – 8.15pm
26 February 6.30pm – 8.15pm
Wellington, Soundings Theatre, Te Papa
1 March 6.30pm – 8.15pm
2 March 1.30pm – 2.30pm (Short programme + Q&A)
2 March 6.30pm – 8.15pm
3 March 1.30pm – 3.15pm
Hemispheres includes the below works:
Mass Solitude (群孤) returns to forgotten movement rituals as a way of connecting with each other beyond language and technology. Here, human proximity and surveillance are our key means of communicating and belonging to the group. Mass Solitude is a movement meditation on connection and isolation. Within it we look at how people might interact whilst under constant observation, and consider what might inspire us to rebel, escape, or commit ourselves further into the folds of the community.
Guangdong Modern Dance Company: The Spring Tide (excerpts):
Finding the balance between contemporary and tradition: The Spring Tide portrays the journey of an upcoming generation. Riding on the wave of a new era, they uncover their bright future through perseverance and bravery. In an honest and hopeful look to the future, choreographer WU Chien-Wei has created a truly compelling tale of courage in the face of change.
Footnote New Zealand Dance: Elliptical Fictions:
Drawing on her research during a three-month residency in Taipei in 2017, Zahra Killeen-Chance creates a mesmerising world in her work Elliptical Fictions. Grounded in the idea of opposition, Elliptical Fictions is an exploration of the curve evolving out of the line, and the line evolving out of the curve. Adding to her hypnotic work is projected imagery by legendary New Zealand artist Richard Killeen, Zahra’s father, whose work has exhibited widely internationally and across Aotearoa. This is the first time he has collaborated with his daughter. With sound design by accomplished Wellington composer Emi Pogoni, Elliptical Fictions brings together a potent combination of New Zealand creativity.
Footnote Dance's collaboration with Chinese company transcends boundaries
Review by Lyne Pringle 05th Mar 2019
Mass Solitude, Sarah Foster-Sproull’s choreography, brings to fruition the cultural exchange between Footnote New Zealand Dance and Guangdong Modern Dance Company from mainland China.
It is a work of larval intensity with passionate dancing, stylish costumes and astute lighting design. The work was created in China on both companies and has toured Guangdong province before a national tour of New Zealand. The diverse audience in Wellington reflected this ground-breaking initiative.
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Connectivity and positive insight
Review by Greer Robertson 03rd Mar 2019
To connect with ultimate ever evolving connectivity is a much sought after and an ideal in today’s world. Such connection is becoming more and more lost with the onslaught and inevitability of speedy technology, non-verbally based, antisocial behaviour as it creates a physical, mental and emotional disconnect and discord. Allow an onslaught of such possibly unintentional yet prevalent behaviour, and humans become devoid of emotion because of this disconnection.
I am happy to report, however, that such connectivity and positive insight has been established between two countries and two quite individualistic, longstanding contemporary dance companies, working with support from the Asia New Zealand Foundation and sponsorship from the China Cultural Centre.
Following a shared season in China during 2018, the current New Zealand tour by Footnote New Zealand Dance and the Guangdong Modern Dance Company (from China) has been made possible.
The programme opens with choreography by Wu Chien-Wei for the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, presented by 11 dancers under the directorship of Liu Qi . Honed and trained to physical perfection with consummate detail, extreme use of flexibility, acrobatic skills, explosive and full body extensions that know no bounds, the dancers from China showcase their talents. Suited and socked in everyday clothes, the dancers energetically portray an often mundane daily existence as they reach for a delivery of tomorrow’s promise for a new generation. Street and traffic sounds along with mime gestures set a busy scene. So clean, clear and dedicated is their technique that it sometimes becomes quite clinical. But maybe this is Spring Tide’s message?
Elliptical Fictions by choreographer Zahra Killeen-Chance danced by Footnote follows. The movement and philosophy of the work are influenced by the teachings of Tai Chi. While on an Asia New Zealand Foundation Residency in Taipei, Killeen-Chance studied Tai Chi. Demonstratively and by way of a direct contrast to Spring Tide, this piece evolves as an initially over-controlled slow motion stop in time. With equally well rehearsed dancers but from a more eclectic mix of diverse training, their unrelenting focus is to be admired. Eventually the movement steers away from a stationary robotic phase, taking a long time to finally achieve a greater growth of energy. The hero for me however is the ever changing graphic of the black-on-white backdrop, drawn by artist Richard Killeen.
The final piece is Mass Solitude, a return to forgotten movement rituals as a way of connecting with each other beyond language and technology. Choreographic direction is by kiwi Sarah Foster-Sproull. Her already established signature go- to of featured and sympathetically lit vibrant body parts, whether arms, head, and hands is evident for both infused companies. The piece cohesively integrates as one and eventually lifts itself to ‘an anything you can do, I can do better’ feel demonstrating a full celebration of cameraderie.
Sadly however, I witness a true disconnect of many attendees in the audience, as they stay connected to their technology devices, unable to remove themselves from or connect with the visual integrity of the performance. This distracting glow is glaringly obvious.
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A joy in experimenting with movement languages
Review by Hannah Molloy 28th Feb 2019
Watching a collaboration and sharing of very different cultures and practices, such as Hemispheres, performed by Footnote New Zealand Dance and China’s Guangdong Modern Dance Company, is always a privilege.
In three parts, there is a thread of communication, isolation, and growth and acceptance of community.
The first part, The Spring Tide, choreographed by Wu Chien-Wei and performed by the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, is simply beautiful. The dancers burst onto stage to a soundscape of violin and rainfall. There is a non-conformity to their costumes but a sense of submission to societal norms. It’s quite a narrative piece of dance, with a clear story of workers subjugated by the 9-5, and rather lovely impressions of monotonous train travel, from gentle swaying with arms upraised to the mad mob rush of squeezing out the doors. There are solemn and pensive moments, all beautifully articulated through the dancers’ precision and care and their explicit emotional investment in the choreography, delicate but very decisive movements with supreme awareness of their bodies in space. They are tight and athletic and beautiful.
Of particular appeal was the subtle subversion in the upraised arms, changing quietly from open palms at the beginning to closed fists by the end.
The second piece, Elliptical Fictions by Zahra Killeen-Chance and performed by Footnote New Zealand Dance, is stark and staccato, with a backdrop reminiscent of a PacMan maze or binary code. The first thing that struck me was how enormous the dancers’ feet looked in silhouette as they paced onto the stage – I’m not sure if this was deliberate or not.
Elliptical Fictions was an esoteric experience and I found myself relating it to a book that you start reading when you’re not sure if you’re going to enjoy it but you can’t quite put it down and suddenly it’s finished and you’re left thoughtful, perhaps a little bereft, but still uncertain about whether you actually enjoyed it.
Mass Solitude, the third and final piece, choreographed by Sarah Foster-Sproull and performed by both companies, was exquisite. Foster-Sproull has a sparkliness to her choreography, sort of a carpe diem mood of exultation and experimentation with purpose. The dancers in red formed shapes with their limbs from the symmetry of herringbone to the gaudiness of an eastern goddess. There seemed to be a trust and delight between the two companies and a joy in experimenting with different movement vocabularies and styles. Definitely the highlight of the evening.
Footnote General Manager Richard Aindow says in the programme notes, “The power of art to communicate across borders. The power of dance to communicate without language. Art is our language …” – in our chaotic world, it is comforting to have the pleasure of watching such a seamless blend of cultures.
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A collaboration to be much applauded
Review by Dr Ian Lochhead 25th Feb 2019
The collaboration of Footnote New Zealand Dance and the Guangdong Modern Dance Company, mainland China’s first professional modern dance company, is an event to be applauded. The two companies performed together in China during November and December 2018 and arrive in Christchurch halfway through a New Zealand tour. Remarkably, the level of sponsorship for this tour has made it possible for admission to be koha-based, so no one who wishes to see the remaining performances in Dunedin and Wellington can have any reason for staying at home. This has to be the dance bargain of the year, or indeed any year.
The programme opens with Wu Chien-Wei’s The Spring Tide, a celebration of the resilience and adaptability of China’s youth who are facing, as the young are having to do throughout the world, the challenges of rapid urbanisation and the loss of traditional social structures. Guandong’s dancers are lithe, supple and superbly disciplined, their movements exhibiting whiplash speed and pinpoint accuracy. They are, quite simply, a pleasure to watch. The work is in three parts, an opening sequence that suggests a traditional world that is already subject to the pressures of change, an encounter with the modern city with an interlude for a solo dancer and a final section in which the dancers respond to the tumult of the new urban world.
Music by Australian multi-media artist Alexander Waite Mitchell effectively supports the choreography with, in the opening section, cello mixed with a combination of natural sounds and mechanical noise. During the central solo, the sound of waves dominates, suggesting, perhaps, the underlying reassurance that the natural world supplies, while in the final sequence, the sounds of the city take over.
The pace of both the opening and closing sections makes huge demands on the dancers’ stamina but they propel themselves through the work’s demanding choreography with total conviction. Wu Chien-Wei is also responsible for the costume design, which changes from casual attire in the early sequence to the formal black suits required for success in the urban world. In spite of these contrasts, there is less development in the choreography from one section to other than might be expected. The desire of the individual to escape from the straightjackets imposed by the rituals of public transport is suggested by dancers dropping out of the lines of strap-hanging commuters but the coercive power of conformity is evoked by the suit primping of the new urban dwellers. While the programme note suggests the prescribed optimistic message of official art, there is no trace of this in the Guangdong dancers’ compelling performance.
The second work on the programme, Zahra Killeen-Chance’s Elliptical Fictions, was performed by Footnote in Christchurch in August 2018, and it is a fascinating work and well worth seeing again. As mentioned in my review of their previous performance, the hypnotic advance of Richard Killeen’s projected backdrop risks overwhelming the dancers performing in front of it, so this was an occasion to focus on the measured and highly ritualised movement that Killen-Chance has given her performers. They move with the stateliness and formality of dancers at the court of some exotic potentate, the sculptural shapes of the costumes complementing the abstract nature of their movements as these gradually evolve from angular to rounded and then return to angular once again. It is a measure of what a strong work Elliptical Fictions is that it remains equally rewarding on a second viewing and no one who has already seen the work should be put off by the prospect of seeing it again.
The evening’s highlight, however, was the final work, Sarah Foster-Sproull’s Mass Solitude, in which the seven Footnote dancers are joined by seven members of the Guangdong company. Any suspicion that dancers from such different performing traditions and cultural backgrounds wouldstruggle to work as a unified and coherent troupe are immediately dispelled as it is clear from the first moments that all fourteen artists combine seamlessly. Foster- Sproull’s underlying theme of surveillance and connection have considerable immediacy in the contemporary world and the work builds to a powerful and chilling climax. Choreographically there are echoes of Foster-Sproull’s previous works, especially in the tightly massed groupings of bodies and the co-ordinated movements of heads, hands and limbs, but these effects are subservient to the overall theme of the work and are never used simply for their own sake. There are echoes of The Rite of Spring in the way that individuals are cast out from and then reintegrated with the group, but in a final twist the isolated “chosen one”, in this case Footnote’s Joshua Faleatua,, is abandoned on the stage to sink into the final stages of despair and death.
It is exhilarating to see a modern dance-work performed by such a large cast when we habitually see performances by troupes of around six or seven dancers. For this reason alone, we should be celebrating the international initiatives that have brought about this combined season by the Guandong and Footnote companies. One also wonders why more co-operative ventures of this kind are not happening when the rewards for both performers and audiences are so great. In a world where barriers between nations seem to be growing rather than breaking down this artistic collaboration between China and New Zealand is a powerful antidote to prevailing political trends.
The one negative note in an otherwise wholly positive experience was the persistent use of mobile phones by members of the audience. This practice is not only distracting to the performers but potentially dangerous for dancers moving at speed and in close proximity to one another. It is also hugely disrespectful to the dedicated artists onstage as well as discourteous to other audience members. In spite of a plea to the audience from a member of the theatre staff at the interval, the practice persisted, although at a reduced level. One inevitably wonders if audience members would have been more respectful of the performers and their fellow audience members if they had been required to pay in full for their tickets?
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Markedly distinct triple bill comprises Hemispheres
Review by Raewyn Whyte 18th Feb 2019
Three markedly distinct works are set beside one another in Hemispheres, jointly presented by China’s Guangdong Modern Dance Company (GMDC) and Footnote New Zealand Dance who are touring the country following performances in China.
GMDC present excerpts from The Spring Tide by WU Chien-Wei. This offers a snapshot of a new generation of optimistic and determined young adults who aspire to a bright future. They are restless, driven, hurrying and scurrying individuals, seizing moments of success, collaborating with others as needed, quick to move from home to the big cities and adapt to city living.
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Review by Alys Longley 16th Feb 2019
Again, the singular to the mass
Pressing against its ecology
Again, the one erased by the many,
The restriction of vocabulary in
Some forging of unity
Again, the visceral power of symmetry,
A talismanic repetition
A dancer made plural brushing their language apart
Footnote’s current evening length triple bill Hemispheres is a national tour in collaboration with Guangdong Modern Dance Company – presenting a rich opportunity for dance artists to cross hemispheres and encounter new spaces and practices.
Liu Qi’s excerpts from WU Chien-Wei’s work Spring Tide present a narrative of young people in contemporary China, with the brutality of uniformity punctuated by the seemingly effortless virtuosity of the dancers, sprinting across the stage into super-elegant duets then sliding into the wings, to a soundscape of melancholy pianos and cellos, punctuated by the claustrophobic repetitions of a train.
Zahra Killeen-Chance’s Elliptical Fictions brings a wholly different take to the play between scale and symmetry, part and whole. This work is visually luscious in its collaborations with artist Richard Killeen, composer Emi Pogoni and a design team from AUT’s textile design faculty. Killeen-Chance’s ability to drop deeply into highly specific movement inquiries to find extraordinary detail out of singular concepts gives this work a rich sense of spaciousness and texture. The hypnotic repetition of the movement grows and changes so subtely that the noticing is delayed, which gives this work the sense of an exquisite spilling-beyond-the-expected-form.
Sarah Foster-Sproull’s Mass Solitude continues a sustained body of work exploring the interweaving of bodies into ropes of ritualistic mass, with exalted individuals rising from sinewy veins of human grouping, the occasional soloist starkly observed by a cast of others. In this role Josh Faleatua performed an astounding solo – morphing between states of elevated status and abjection. Faleatua brought a welcome sense of everyday action to Foster’s densely theatrical work – with passages of movement that felt more street than theatre, followed by intensely dramatic passages of multi-directional, stuttering phrasing. The tone in the theatre was breath-taken by this final solo, framed by dancers from both Footnote and Guangdong Modern Dance Company working as a singular ensemble.
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