Hagley Open Stage, Christchurch

11/04/2017 - 12/04/2017

Production Details

Hagley Dance Company 2017 are pleased to present:
The INSITU Project 2017
A site specific dance show at Hagley College Christchurch
Tuesday 11th & Wednesday 12th April 2017
6pm, $5 koha
Dress warm, meet at the Open Stage

1 hour

In the appropriate place

Review by Andrew Shepherd 11th Apr 2017

Each year, during the final weeks of the first school term, the new Hagley Dance Company is introduced to the dance public of Christchurch through an evening of site-specific choreography.  This year, company director Naressa Gamble and principalcontemporary dance tutor Fleur de Thier present new full company works alongside the student’s own pieces; duos which have been developed from solo choreographies and which are performed around the Hagley College campus.  Having seen the shows for several years now, I am impressed by this year’s offering and the potential the dancers express.  I look forward to seeing how the company will develop over the coming months.

This year’s show is advertised as drawing inspiration from ‘Te Puna Wai O Waipapa’ (the fresh water spring of the Waipapa area) and Hagley’s history.  Two ushers dressed in historic Hagley uniforms are a nice touch that could be more fully integrated into the evening. I would like to see them explain more fully some of the history and inspiration for the works (similar to the brief explanation given at one site, as to the significance of a now absent tree planted by the school’s founder). By choosing to start the performance inside the Open Stage theatre with an entirely appropriate karakia (prayer), an opportunity to give some more background as to how the works were made presents itself. Unfortunately, I do not feel this opportunity is fully taken advantage of.

Naressa Gamble’s opening choreography sets a strong challenge to the company.  Use of wiri (quivering of the hands) and pūkana (widening of the eyes) and the placement of dancers around the chosen site’s steel pillars is strongly evocative of whakairo (carvings) on a marae, but brought to life and embodying the wairua (spirit / soul) of both the place and the young and energetic dancers. Initially static, the piece flows through some satisfying spatial weaving patterns that nicely move the full company across the site to a pleasingly sculptural final tableau. The audience is then led on a tour of the campus to view the remaining works on offer.

The lack of a printed programme means I am unable to adequately credit the students who rise well to the challenge issued by their director.  Strong works at the beginning and end of the programme showcase exciting raw talent and abundant potential.  Several dancers are well grounded and demonstrate well-executed weight transfers – both to their fellow dancers and to architectural elements of their chosen environments. Young artists in many disciplines have yet to grasp the concept of editing, and a couple of the choreographies in the middle of the programme lack the coherence that will hopefully develop as these young dancers mature and grow in confidence.  Too many tricks and overly dramatic facial expressions detract from the movement sequences in some cases.

Second to last in the programme, Fleur de Thier’s choreography brings the company back together in an entirely satisfying way, with stylised movement motifs that the dancers deliver convincingly.  As could be expected from their tutor, the piece stands out for being well crafted and clear in its intention. It incorporates a range of choreographic devices that allow all of the dancers to shine equally and illustrate the benefit to be gained from working together on this type of project.

The final student pairing is well chosen to close the programme.  Emerging from a tree, the male dancer’s solo is arresting with its strength and animalistic virtuosity, and challenges his female counterpart to respond. Two quite disparate solos are brought together for a satisfying conclusion back at the tree, with good use of line and form.

The INSITU Project is well named: dance works both “in the original place” but also “in the appropriate place”.  A site-specific show always has risks, as does showcasing the untested talents of students who may have little choreographic experience. While there are minor production elements that could easily be improved with this show, tonight the risks paid off.  Christchurch weather can be a fickle beast: hopefully the rain will hold off tomorrow night also, and the audience can fully appreciate another enjoyable show.


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