In A Space

Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

05/06/2009 - 13/06/2009

Production Details

See some of the best young dancers in the country perform in the New Zealand School of Dance Choreographic Season, IN A SPACE. This innovative performance season will integrate daring aerial work, stunning lighting, video projection and edgy set design.

The New Zealand School of Dance Choreographic Season has become a much-anticipated annual event in the Wellington dance calendar, and is created by third year contemporary dance students from the New Zealand School of Dance in collaboration with design and technical students from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School. 

This year’s Choreographic Season is thematically based on astronomy; exploring the world of black holes, cosmic rays, Jupiter and its surrounding moons. The student choreographers’ various interpretations of the astronomy theme weave together into a one-hour dance work that is high energy and quirky.

The music ranges from ambient sound-scapes, kiwi dub, sixties songstress Nancy Sinatra, Tahitian drumming and opera, reflecting the broad range of choreography presented within the performances.

The astronomy theme of IN A SPACE ties in with Matariki, the Māori New Year, which is celebrated in June throughout New Zealand. 2009 is also the International Year of Astronomy, providing a surge of interest in all things astronomical.

The students have been mentored by some of New Zealand’s best contemporary dance choreographers in the process of creating their work.

"Working with the NZ School of Dance students has been a fantastic experience," says Sarah Foster, Artistic Coordinator of IN A SPACE, "They have an exceptionally high technical standard and an excellent work ethic. Their work is some of the best student choreography I have ever seen."

Sarah Foster graduated from NZSD in 1997 and since then has established a highly successful career as a dancer and choreographer. In recent years she has choreographed two new works for Footnote Dance, and performed in Michael Parmenter’s TENT, for which she received the ‘Best Female Performer’ award at Tempo, Auckland’s Festival of Dance. She is this year’s Choreographic Fellow at the NZ School of Dance.

Foster has spent the last few months working closely with the student choreographers – Gina Andrews, Jana Castillo, Robbie Curtis, Claire Hughes, Jessica Jefferies, Nicola Leahey, Lucy Marinkovich, Florian Teatiu and Xu Jingwen – to create IN A SPACE.

Well-known New Zealand choreographers Malia Johnston (Creative Director of WOW) and Daniel Belton (Daniel Belton & Good Company) have also been mentoring the students.

Head of Contemporary Tiina Alinen is pleased with the students’ use of technology within the performance season. "It’s vital to keep our students up to speed with current industry practice."

The New Zealand School of Dance has a strong tradition of producing choreographic talent. NZSD alumni include renowned contemporary choreographers Raewyn Hill, Mary-Jane O’Reilly, Taiaroa Royal, Taane Mete and Shona McCullagh.   

IN A SPACE opens Friday 5 June at Te Whaea Theatre, Wellington.

Te Whaea Theatre
11 Hutchison Road

7.30pm, Friday 5 & Saturday 6 June
2.00pm, Sunday 7 June
7.30pm, Tuesday 9 – Saturday 13 June

Tickets are $18, or $15 concession.
Bookings: 04 381 9254 or 

Stars in the darkness

Review by Jennifer Shennan 10th Jun 2009

This year’s season of student choreography is themed around matters astronomical, and the programme of 13 items, beautifully lit, results in some strikingly effective imagery of stars and space and escapes from gravity.  Viewers of all ages will love it.

The lighting design often favours shadows, achieving theatrical impact, though that comes at the price of keeping a number of the dancers in the dark.  It also means we can’t read any programme notes as reminders of which work and cast we are actually watching.  This has been the practice for the NZSD choreographic season for some years now.

Call me old-fashioned, but I will never be able to accept that merging individuals’ work into a corporate stream is ideal. In earlier decades, a peek at the programme after each bracket of two, was all we needed. Maybe some clever graphics could incorporate the information, without which we are not getting a fair turn at the telescope.

There are nine named dances, and four "interludes" which employ all the same forces as the dances, thus adding to the challenge. Black hole.

The Arts Council’s major Choreographic Fellowship has this year been awarded to Daniel Belton who in his own day as a student at NZSD elected to choreograph a work.  His wife-to-be (he knew it then, though maybe she didn’t yet), Donnine Harrison, also choreographed.  I remember them still, because at the time I could tell what I was watching, and reviewed them accordingly.

James Dunlop’s composition, Nebula, was perfect foil to the opening work, Transient Matter, choreographed by Gina Andrews, with a strong atmosphere that launched the programme well. 
There was mystery in I’m Present, by Robbie Curtis, around the theme of Pluto’s fall from grace.

Lucy Marinkovich brought welcome humour to her stylish Hollywood stars spoof, Bright Young Things. Jingwen Xu evoked the whirling dervishes dance of the solar system in Wo de Ying Zi.

Jana Castillo performed her own work with urgency; a graceful Venus, by Claire Hughes deserved better costuming, as did also the final high energy Cosmic Collision by Jessica Jefferies.

In Relentless Pull, Florian Teatu made enterprising use of Te Waka’s music. 

There was, in many dances through the whole evening, frequent and curious use of repeated arm gestures, rapid and small scale, as though the dancers were engaged in a restless attempt to ‘talk’ to us in something resembling sign language of a silent text.

In Teatu’s case however, he used such movements in a cameo for a seated duo evoking the cryptics of a Polynesian action song, whilst two other dancers simultaneously used much larger scale of movement to convey more private yet somehow liberated emotion.

It is rare that choreography can successfully source ideas from a dual heritage in this way, and that will be my Matariki treat for the year.
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