Having been impacted by the February earthquake, Jolt’s annual informal show has developed into a nine piece professional show as part of the Body Festival. An attempt to reclaim our relationship with the land, its physical beauty and cultural heritage, is the theme for Homeland, Jolt’s earthquake-inspired show. The show boasts a 70 strong cast of performers and an impressive list of creative contributors who are Lyn Cotton, Renee Ryan, Fleur de Thier, Samantha Bates, Jodie Bate and Erica Viedma. Jolt is a mixed ability group, meaning the performers come from a range of experiences, inclusive of age and various physical abilities – not all of the dancers are traditionally trained. I look forward to see how the show can exploit the endearing possibilities with such a range of dancers.
Something in the water begins the show. The curtain opens to reveal a stage jam packed full of dancers. Aptly danced to the song of the same name by New Zealand’s Brooke Fraser, Something in the water is a lively introduction to the show. An energetic young lad of about five years old, immediately wins the audience choice award by breaking free from the pack and coming right up the front of the stage and flinging his arms wide as if to say ‘look at me, I’m the star’. As a veteran performer, for me there is nothing more exhilarating than performing on stage in front of a full house. You can tell from the sheer joy in their faces that this rings true for the performers in front of me.
This lively energy continues through the next two pieces The Mountains and The Rivers. These pieces are performed by the children in Jolt who not only have the cute factor but also a really confident and expressive stage presence. They purposefully move through the stage over and on boxes then maneuver their way around and under billowing fabric.
If everyone thought the children were cute, the effect of the littlies on the audience is a combined awwwww. These dancers look to be under five and the confidence they possess is astounding. As well as confidence, these young performers have a natural aptitude for dance, creating beautiful lines with their arms. The littlies enter on the shoulders of two adult dancers who whirl them round and round, “just beautiful” says an audience member beside me.
It is the relationships between the dancers that make this show stand out. The dancers use various ways of connecting, lifting and supporting each other throughout. It is evident that the strong and supportive community that Jolt operates within is integral to the group’s success. Themes of resilience and community spirit resonate within these relationships. Albeit simple, the act of two pairs of dancers slowly walking off stage hand in hand pulls the heartstrings of the audience.
The relationships with props and digital media are also significant in the overall effect of this show. Most items are enhanced by some form of image projected on the back screen and props are used in nearly every piece. In Settlers, the simplicity of four wooden boards creates dynamic layers of dance. The boards are passed over the heads of dancers then transformed into boats. In this same piece, all of the dancers form a stiff cluster center stage and stare despondently out to the audience, evoking the image of the non-smiling sepia portraits from the early 19th century.
The soundtrack is, complimented by the vocals of the audience. Unified ooooos and ahhhhhs and awwwws fly from the audiences mouths. The use of gumboots during The Farmers provides some comedic relief and incites laughter in the audience’s sound repertoire. Then there are also the moments when we are awestruck, when the audience is so chillingly silent that you can sense the butterflies in their stomachs. One of these moments is during Tribute, a work commissioned by the Christchurch City Council.
I now fully understand what it means to have something ‘take your breath away’. You would be able to hear a pin drop as the audience is in stunned silence. White fabric lengths-called tissus-drape from the ceiling with performer Jaine Mieka entwined within them. She elegantly moves in the air as the ends of her tissu are wrapped around one of the dancer’s wheelchairs. Dancer Julia McKerrow spins the dancer in the wheelchair around the stage which makes the dancer in the tissus whirl in the air. The image is so compelling and casts an eerie silhouette across the back of the stage. A small collision between flying dancer and wheelchair motions a chorused gasp from the audience. Previous to being hypnotized by the tissu dancer, Tribute took the audience on an intense and moving journey through the earthquake.
An audience member behind me sums up the experience nicely by saying “everybody should see this show” and I whole heartedly agree with her. I decide I need to have a video copy of this show on hand for the next time one of my dance students tell me “I can’t do this”. What has left me most impressed is how with such a diverse group of dancers you can only see the ‘can do’ and the never the ‘can’t do’.
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