Into the Looking Glass

Footnote Dance Studio, Wellington

07/02/2009 - 14/02/2009

NZ Fringe Festival 2009

Production Details

Take a peek into a ‘curiouser’ Looking Glass

Come Into the Looking Glass. To a place where deep secrets, dark fears, light dreams and carefree whims all come true. When you look in the mirror what do you see?

Into the looking Glass is an innovative new dance theatre work for the 2009 New Zealand Fringe Festival featuring elements of improvisation, exciting choreography and original text, promising to whisk the audience away from reality to fantasy.

From the ridiculous and the extreme, the silly and the serious, Into the looking Glass will experiment with contemporary dance and other mediums all colliding to create on original new work.

Loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, the show is a thought-provoking narrative about the pressures of modern living where one is expected to take on a myriad of roles and responsibilities.

Drawing from their experiences of working with New Zealand’s leading contemporary dance company Footnote Dance, Anita Hunziker and Sarah Knox are not only performing but also fulfilling the roles of lighting, ticketing, stage management, costuming and even pouring cups of tea for the audience, which is limited to 30 people each night for Into the Looking Glass’s six-show run.

Into the Looking Glass will be a mix of theatre, contemporary dance, and text exploring the experiences of a dancers career, all tied together by the fantasy world of Alice in Wonderland as the Footnote Dance Studio on Cuba Street will be transformed into a representation of Lewis Carroll’s fantastical vision.

Into the Looking Glass
Feb 7, 8, 11-14 2009, 9pm
Footnote Dance Studio,
125 Cuba Street, Wellington Central
Tickets: Waged – $15 / Student/Concession – $12 / Fringe Addict – $10
Book: Downstage Theatre Box Office cnr Courtenay Place and Cambridge Tce, or door sales (cash only)

Dancing to Lewis Carroll’s Tune

Review by Jennifer Shennan 18th Feb 2009

Into the Looking Glass, choreographed and danced by Sarah Knox and Anita Hunziker, used images and excerpts from Lewis Carroll’s writings as fruitful guide for the journey from domestic tea-time into the unexpected. The relativity of right and wrong was well caught in their danced proportions of tiny to tall, and both performers showed great skill in performing high energy sequences in confined spaces.

This was no straight-forward borrowed story, but had simultaneous narrations by the dancers questioning their moves.  The choreographic sub-text alluded to obstacles in daily life, and the final calming poem with candlelight was a welcome beacon after their stormy travel. 


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The blurry line between dreams and reality

Review by Jo Thorpe 08th Feb 2009

As if Footnote Dance company doesn’t work hard enough already, two of its members have found the time and energy to create and perform a new dance theatre piece which draws on their complementary skills and experience.

Into the Looking Glass is the first dance work to feature in this year’s Wellington’s Fringe Festival.  Loosely based on Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, Anita Hunziker and Sarah Knox use a mix of theatre, contemporary dance, spoken verse and text, to explore – not the story of Alice in Wonderland – but their own stories and emotions, including fear and frivolity, ambition and angst. 

Even before the performance begins, I am charmed by the red petals strewn over the Footnote Studio stairs and the Victorian drawing room atmosphere of the transformed studio complete with lace doilies, tasselled lampshades and patterned wallpaper.  The two dancers seem completely at ease as they serve their expectant audience (seated at tables or on comfy sofas) piping hot tea in delicate china cups. 

Into the Looking Glass consists of a series of scenes delineated by the dancers manipulating the lighting by switching lamps on and off and blowing out candles.  In the opening ritualised tea party, the seated dancers fasten themselves into long red and blue satin skirts which tie them to one spot, yet tier up like a wedding cake when they stand on top of their chairs to create a delightful Carrollian surrealism. 

Whether pouring tea, stirring in sugar or eating cupcakes, the slow motion, stylised movements create an atmosphere of restrained decorum, a confiding spiced with gossip.  I particularly like the recurring motif of one arm passing in front of the face and encircling the head before being lowered to the side, as if to punctuate a secret conversation.  

In the second scene, the dancers inform the audience of their supposed physical defects for dancing, then move into a pure dance sequence beginning with ballet exercises and port de bras and developing into innovative contemporary vocabulary.  It is beautifully danced, in near perfect sync. 

A frenetic card-trick scene (which may have been drawn from Knox’s experience as a magician’s assistant in Japan), is largely lost on me, but features a seductive Queen of Hearts, little Alice in her white frock and black (super high-heeled) shoes, and a very real White Rabbit.  

Knox brings a compelling intensity to her solo exploration of fear and depression. Dressed in a black pant suit and sleeveless top, she dances out despair, her sharp twists and contractions panicking her into swinging two heavy leather shoulder bags to good effect.

Hunziker’s more reflective solo is danced in silhouette.  It is prefaced by her reading a Carroll verse, but the delivery – possibly deliberately naturalistic – fails to engage, even in this small space.  A more successful ‘sound effect’ occurs in the scene in which a child begins skipping lightly in the dark to the tinkle of a music box, but which becomes suddenly ominous when the skipping rope is periodically rotated at double speed, slicing the air like a blade.

When the candles are finally blown out and the last (recorded) poem read – Life, what is it, but a dream? I find myself feeling a little bemused.  But maybe this is an entirely suitable response to a work drawn from a book written by a 19th century author who chose to use a pseudonym, and who doubled as a lecturer in mathematics and a pioneer amateur photographer. 

As an exploration into the blurry line between dreams and reality, Into the Looking Glass engages with its imaginative design, interesting choreography and clean, expressive dancing. 


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