Hagley Open Stage, Christchurch

13/04/2016 - 14/04/2016

Production Details


This is a fun performance of student choreography situated in various sites around Hagley College and also features works by tutors Naressa Gamble and Fleur de Thier. This is an intriguing way to see new dance in interesting spaces.

WHEN:            6 pm Wednesday 13/Thursday 14 April
WHERE:           Meet at Open Stage, Hagley College, Christchurch
COST:                Koha – Entry by donation

DRESS:              for outside weather conditions
DURATION:      approx 40 mins

Cafe - Choreographer/Director - Naressa Gamble
Duet - Hannah Dickie (graduate Hagley College Dancer) with Kayla Jayde Fasso 
Whole Company/Outside the dance studio and English department - Choreographer/Director: Naressa Gamble
Duet - Phebe Mander & Olivia O'Brien - Stairs
Solo - Isaiah Dean Poharama Thornton
Bus stop - duet - Frankie Harris & Tessa Newton
Whole Company - Choreographer Fleur de Thier

Site-specific/site-sympathetic , Contemporary dance ,

40 mins

Breaking down traditional boundaries between performers and audience

Review by Dr Ian Lochhead 14th Apr 2016

Insitu, as the work’s title suggests, is a dance performance located on a sequence of sites in and around the campus of Christchurch’s Hagley College. It was devised to introduce the young dancers of the Hagley Dance Company in their first performance project of 2016.  The dance programme at Hagley is intended as a platform or transitional year for students who have completed high school and who may progress to full-time tertiary studies in dance in the future.  It thus fills an important educational niche, providing training, experience and performance opportunities that can potentially lead to a career in dance.  The seven dancers who form the company, six women and one man, are at the end of their first term and Insitu is an opportunity for them to show what they have learned both as performers and choreographers. Tutors Naressa Gamble and Fleur de Thier have also contributed works for the ensemble while the dancers themselves choreographed a series of solos and duets.  It seems more than coincidental that Random Dance Company, of which de Thier is a key member, has just completed a successful run of their original production, Will Someone Say I Do, spread across a series of locations at Ferrymead Heritage Park.   Taking dance out of the theatre and into the wider environment has the advantage of breaking down traditional boundaries between performers and audience, and for young dancers it provides valuable lessons in how different spaces influence the nature of performance.

Effective publicity means that a large audience of between 50 and 60 people, ranging in age from pre-schoolers to superannuitants, is assembled for the show.  Opening in the college’s cafeteria, the dancers are seated at tables in contemplative poses as we enter.  Moving in close proximity to the audience, there is an understandable element of self-consciousness and tentativeness in this first piece that is gradually replaced with greater confidence and assertiveness as the performance progresses from one site to the next.  With light fading from dusk to darkness, we move to a tight courtyard where disability ramps, railings and a narrow doorway frame a duet for Hannah Dickie and Kyla Fasso, breaking out from the confined space of the door to make use of the rails as the piece develops.  The potential for these ubiquitous safety devices for performance purposes is further developed in Naressa Gamble’s piece for the whole group, centred around the experience of waiting to enter a building, and culminating in an arch of bodies framing a dramatic arrival.  A spontaneous “That was pretty cool” comes from the audience’s youngest member.

A narrow, steel staircase provides a fittingly harsh context for a duet by Phoebe Mander and Olivia O’Brien with an underlying narrative of shoe envy, culminating in the capture of the desired objects by one performer and the spectacular demise of the other.  A more domestic setting, the verandah of one of the college’s surviving wooden villas, provides the site for Isaiah Thornton  to explore the frustrations of isolation and disappointment, from kicking up sand to rebounding off trees and a final dejected slump onto a corner seat.  Ushered across the road to Hagley Park, our attention turns to the solitary person waiting in the bus shelter on the opposite side of the road.  With perfect timing a red bus arrives and moves off, revealing a second seated figure.  The shelter becomes a stage for Frankie Harris and Tessa Newton’s delicate choreography of waiting, shifting on the seat, leaning beyond the curb to spy the next bus, gradually evolves into more extreme actions as boredom and impatience take hold. This is an effective miniature, enhanced by the novel location and the tension created by the potential for random movements within the wider performance space.

The finale, choreographed by Fleur de Thier, brings the entire company together on the basketball court in front of the college’s main building.  It is a big ask for seven relatively inexperienced performers to occupy such a large and dimly lit space, but the sporting theme brings them together in a final team huddle of mutual support.  As these young dancers grow in confidence and experience they will discover that the larger the performance space the more expansive must be the movement and gestures needed to fill it. Perhaps for this reason, the most effective of these small works are the ones performed in the most confined spaces.  By year’s end, we can expect to see these dancers occupying and controlling a larger stage.


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