The Auckland Performing Arts Centre: TAPAC, Auckland

13/12/2006 - 14/12/2006

BATS Theatre, Wellington

21/09/2006 - 23/09/2006

Production Details

Lighting designer Martyn Roberts and choreographer Maria Dabrowska.
Soundscape composed by Stephen Gallagher

Collaboration between lighting designer Martyn Roberts and choreographer Maria Dabrowska.

“ink came about one afternoon over coffee in a frenzy of quick decision making. The kind where suddenly the road ahead becomes adventurous and you are being taken into new areas. I like it about Maria that she is prepared to throw herself into a project with a lighting designer who talks about ‘minimal lighting where you hardly see the dancer’ (that’ll be me). Madness! Surely everyone wants to see the Dancer! But nooo… this project is about glimpses, taking our audience into the darkness, sensing the movement in an environment of grey”. Martyn.

ink will be supported by sound designer Stephen Gallagher (winner of last years Chapman Trip Sound design award) who is equally excited by the piece. A platter of sonic images supporting the quirky, jovial and sensual Dance choreography will provide a different landscape each performance. The plan is for the operator (that’s me again) to place sounds according to whim rather than have the same score every time.

The darkness is the domain of this dance work that will challenge the way we see performance. BATS will become a solid black void in which the grey light will shift and murmur to tantalize the audience into seeing ghosts of haunting beauty fleeting across the playground of night. You will be taken on a journey, of light, sound and imagery, a void of no place where beauty and darkly quirky characters emerge transforming the human form and the space into poetic imagery.

“Chance plays a huge part in the decision making process – with movement being repeated several times until the most probable outcome is achieved.  Everyday objects are subtly subverted, to expose a cultural perception of feminine. This is a dance that has a masculine imprint on the feminine soul”. Maria.

ink also features guest star Mel Hamilton, no stranger to the strange whose appearance will certainly leave audiences with an adrenalin fuelled jolt!

dance - maria dabrowska
            - mel hamilton

light - martyn roberts

sound - stephen gallagher

Theatre , Dance , Music ,

40 mins

Hypnotic Existential Absurdism

Review by Nik Smythe 15th Dec 2006

I can’t think of any show I’ve seen which has evoked the sense that I’m having a dream more than Ink.  As we enter into the mist that pervades the theatre and auditorium space to seat ourselves I feel partially transformed to a more primitive, dreamlike state of perception.

The blackest of blackouts signals the start of the show, and the immediately intense soundscape ensues. Imperceptibly slowly, sharp wide beams light up the thick mist that still surrounds us, creating a murky, pumice-like texture.

After some time enjoying this powerful combination of Stephen Gallagher’s sound design and Martyn Roberts’ dynamic lighting effect the scene abruptly changes to reveal the prostrate figure of Maria Dubrowski, the choreographer of the piece.  Her outstanding agility develops a frantic and excitable creature, exploring and creating and working at playing.

Following two short but equally striking scenes, two chairs are introduced, first to play a scene of their own as Dubrowski and her most worthy guest performer Malia Johnston look on, then to be props in a more theatrical scene with the two dancers.  The stifled, alienated non-interplay of the characters suggests a resentment-based form of co-dependence.

From this scene, culminating in the retreat of one and then the other, we are taken to the final scene, a chaotic cat and dog game played in rectangular spotlights.  Throughout the complete harmony in dancers, set, props, light and sound is precise, and cranked to the optimum sensory level so that, while a brief forty minutes, it is a richly powerful forty minutes. 

I confess I never know if any of the impressions I get from watching a work of dance are the same or anything like what the director intended, so I feel it pertinent to conclude in Maria Dubrowska’s own words:


"Chance plays a huge part in the decision making process – with movement being repeated several times until the most probable outcome is achieved. Objects are subtly subverted, to expose a cultural perception of feminine. This is a dance that has a masculine imprint on the feminine soul."


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Quickening senses

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 28th Sep 2006

The theatricality of the setting achieved with beautiful lighting in a fog filled Bats Theatre was astonishing and somehow surreal. Pathways presented themselves and dissolved, ultimately the shadows revealed form and physical shape. Bare limbs cut the air and reached from a dark torso with sharp, elongated piercing thrusts and stabs into the light in a strong solo created and danced by Maria Dabrowska.

Ink was an exploration of form and light but with riveting dimensions of emotion interlaced and consummated by suggestion. The crashing of two chairs, symbols of convivial comfort and friends but hurled out of the dark into an uncertain light and to support a brief peace symmetrically shared by Dabrowska and guest dancer Melanie Hamilton was particularly effective.

The haunting song I’m Sorry carried a plaintive call out of the dark framed by still shadows of female form. Harsh irregular holes of light cut into the floor and two figures in red and black appeared to both rise through and fall into these, the tension of their effort to release or contain equally intense and ultimately exhausted.

I left the theatre feeling astonished, that the mesmerising quality of this work had reached out on more levels than movement and light and that it had captured something of that universal truth that art can sometimes do. I felt a real quickening of the senses and a reluctance to return to the mundane.

In a plethora of dance offerings during this fabulous festival this stands out as truly pushing ideas and finding another way to communicate through the medium of dance.


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Absorbing and perfectly pitched

Review by John Smythe 23rd Sep 2006

If you’re wondering what happened to a least one head and set of limbs missing from the torsos on display at Downstage in The Blonde the Brunette and the Vengeful Redhead, they are adrift in darkness over the road at BATS, in ink.

The disembodied head and limbs is just one of many extraordinary images generated from this collaboration between lighting designer/operator Martyn Roberts and choreographer/dancer Maria Dabrowska, with dancer Mel Hamilton and a superb soundscape composed by Stephen Gallagher.

We enter a softly glowing auditorium, eerily isolated by low houselights in a dense mist that obliterates the performing space: memories, a friend in the audience volunteers, of a certain rugby match in Christchurch. From this we sink into total black, ink black; blacker even than the “bible black” at the genesis of Under Milk Wood.

The 40 minutes that follow unfold as a poem in darkness and light, positive and negative, mystery and revelation, order and chaos … Hard lines of light slice the darkness, soft shafts of light recall that biblical reference …

It is Maria Dabrowska, black-clad torso disappearing into the darkness, whose face and limbs seek connection and coherence in the void. Her movements are mostly sudden, disjointed, robotic … Two red easy chairs enter / are illuminated. To Brenda Lee’s ‘Sorry’ (so sorry …) Dabrowska is joined by Mel Hamilton, in red.

Their synchronistic movements suggest a single personage. The red one’s tendency to break free of the regime, if only to find her freedom blocked by a black wall, continue the play on positive and negative: take your pick which is which.

While it is clearly trustworthy and in no way private or self-indulgent – the dance/movement elements are wonderfully executed – ink is very open to subjective interpretation. Had it gone on longer we might have wanted it to be more than impressionistic but at 40 minutes it is always deeply absorbing and perfectly pitched.

Just one more chance to see it, tonight. Do!


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