Jenny De Leon’s Pre-Christmas Show 2008

Poyema Dance Company Studio, Auckland

19/12/2008 - 19/12/2008

Production Details

Programme Notes

As audience enters……..
Joseph Hartzenburg and Kevin Timm, Guitar, drums and piano accordion 

Introduction: (Hector Cumming)  … welcome. Especial welcome to family from the Netherlands. Especial welcome to family and friends from Auckland!

Dance No. 1: There’s still time…!!
Music by Cirque du solieil
Choreography: Jenny and Sjouke

Joseph and Kevin… (2-3 minutes)

Dance No. 2: Etude
Music, Chopin Etude in E, Opus 10, No. 3
Choreography: Jenny and Sjouke

Recorder item: Jennie and Lizzie Hoadley(2-3 mins).

Dance No. 3, by: How long…….
Choreography: Nikki Gibson (Gwen’s teacher) and Gwen

Dance No. 4: Trust
Music by Phillip Glass, Satya Graha 5.
Choreography: Jenny

Joseph and Kevin … (2-3 minutes) 

Dance No. 5: Soul
Music by Brett Dean
Choreography: Jenny

An evening’s entertainment to delight in and savour

Review by Julia Barry 15th Feb 2009

The pre-Christmas Evening of Music and Dance presented by Jennifer De Leon, Sjouke van Houten and Friends, was a relaxing and uplifting treat ideally suited to providing the audience with a welcome break from the Christmas rush.

Presented at De Leon’s well-designed studio in Grey Lynn, the performance included four works danced by de Leon and van Houten, with interludes by excellent guest musicians Joseph Harzenburg and Kevin Timm on guitar, drums and piano accordion, charming friends Jennie and Lizzie Hoadley on recorders and a vibrant dance solo by De Leon’s daughter Gwen, choreographed by Nikki Gibson.

The cushion and bench seating in this studio concert was casual, however, the performance standard of the artists was very high and the programme thoroughly entertaining and emotionally moving.  De Leon and van Houten are ideally suited to each other as dance artists.  The contrasts between their physical qualities – De Leon petite, lithe and graceful, belying formidable physical control, and van Houten, tall, strong and powerful with defined musculature – compliment each other perfectly and allow for the many intricate lifts within the choreography of their works. 

They are dancers of mature years, but this in no way diminishes the effectiveness of the choreography, or their performance of it.  The works stand as artistic creations of great integrity, and younger dancers would be challenged if not even unable to attain the level these two experienced dancers present.  There is no dumbing down here to pander to ‘the older dancer’ and the choreography makes intelligent use of the dancers’ many physical capabilities whilst showcasing the depth of their artistic interpretation.  That De Leon and van Houten still perform to such a high level is to be celebrated and fostered – their enormous passion for and commitment to dance is clear.  As long as bodies can be coaxed into compliant movement, it is inspiring to see mature dancers continuing to give pleasure to others through performing. 

The opening dance work, There’s Still Time, choreographed by De Leon and van Houten, offered an energetic friendly rivalry, with an attitude of ‘anything you can do …….’.   The Dutch heritage of van Houten was acknowledged in a light-hearted folk dance element at the beginning of the piece.  The choreography built in challenge and excitement, culminating in a stunning lift where van Houten held De Leon high above his head in a strongly maintained side-lying pose.  De Leon’s green jumpsuit was the perfect costume choice to reflect the enthusiasm of this work.

Choreographed by De Leon and van Houten and set to the hauntingly beautiful Etude in E, Opus 10, No. 3 by Chopin, Étude began with the audience being asked to close their eyes as De Leon and van Houten entered.  When we opened our eyes as the first exquisite bars of music began, we could see why we had been asked to do this – De Leon, costumed in delicate, floating pale blue chiffon, was revealed held aloft by van Houten in a striking and powerful pose showing a graceful arc of her upper back.  The romantic tenor of the music was expressed with sincerity and simple expressive gestures, which imparted the sense of deep and genuine caring of one person for another with no hint of blatant sentimentality.  The choreography showed a calm quality with generously sweeping movements, harmoniously aligned unison and shadowed shapes and seamless transitions into and out of effortlessly executed lifts.  Bodies were entwined with ease and grace and a particularly effective rippling movement action near the end reflected the fluid quality of the whole piece.  The return to the final pose for the exit, when again we all closed our eyes as De Leon and van Houten moved offstage, was a suitable denouement for this subtle and emotionally meaningful work.

The enigmatic music of Philip Glass’ Satya Graha 5 was reflected with energy and intensity in Trust, choreographed by De Leon.  A chic and sophisticated style was expressed with an exuberant joie de vivre, with a more dramatic interpretation evident during the soprano vocal section of the music.  Movement motifs were interestingly developed throughout this well-structured piece, to express the changing moods of the music.  A particular highlight was when van Houten took De Leon into a high lift with arms and legs forming strong "V" shapes whilst turning.    The transitions from floor movements to intertwined shapes and on into soaring lifts, and vice versa, were performed with ease and the confidence which comes from total trust in and support of each other.  The sudden movement into the final pose made a last statement of ‘trust’ as De Leon thrust herself backwards to arrive on van Houten’s shoulder as if blown there by a summer breeze.

The final dance work, Soul, was choreographed by De Leon to music by Brett Dean.  The serene atmosphere created by the music melded fully with the calm amplitude of the choreography.  The costuming of simple, pure white dance practice clothes was entirely appropriate and emphasized the outlines of the dancers’ bodies within the many intricate yet elegant combined shapes of fluid movement.  Smooth, flowing control and apparent effortlessness (despite the significant physical challenges of the choreography) gave a languid quality to this piece, one body moulding to the contours of the other, with subtle changes of shape and dynamic accent of one body providing momentum and motivation for the sinuous movement of the other.  The intensely close body contact sections were linked by sequences which created a reluctant distance between the dancers, who were then drawn inexorably together again.  This theme of drawing very close, then pulling away could be interpreted by the audience in relation to a number of personal experiences and beliefs.

This was an evening’s entertainment to delight in and savour, a timely reminder of the power of dance to touch hearts and lift spirits.  I look forward with relish to De Leon and van Houten’s next season.

[Julia Barry is a free-lance dance teacher and choreographer based in Auckland.]


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Sparkler at Sea: a reflection

Review by Celine Sumic 31st Dec 2008

Held Friday, December 19th, 2008, at Poyema Dance Company Studio, Grey Lynn Studio.

[The work was supported by Koha donation; the audience was composed of friends, family and dance associates. Jenny asked Celine to write about it; Celine feels Jenny’s current work illustrates a poignant moment in her career and therefore in NZ dance, so warrants public reflection. – ED]

Captured in the breath before the break, aglow in euphoric pause, Jenny De Leon and Sjouke Van Houten lit up her Grey Lynn studio in slow motion fireworks the week before Christmas.

Cradled in movement metaphors that speak of the sea, Jennifer ‘white wave’ De Leon and Sjouke ‘anchor’ van Houten are femininity and masculinity, steely spirit and coupled pride, balanced precariously on the cusp of a surging classical breaker, their dance appearing to entreat, "It’s not over yet!  We’ll show you what we can do!!"

Thus begins the evening’s program with a carnivalesque sense of challenge, an upside-down exchange of accomplished handstands and bright laughter between Van Houten and De Leon that echo of decades of dance classes coloured by an unequivocal "YES" to life.  De Leon’s studio has a steamy, elevated aspect that fittingly constrains the works, There’s Still Time, Etude, Trust and Soul: titles which concisely articulate the overarching theme of the evening’s celebratory study of flesh-bound materiality and spiritual yearning. 

Delicate sparkler in the hands of a strongman, Jenny fair beams at the fulfilment of her dance moment as Sjouke in embodied wonder carries his friend with time-honoured care.   A notable difference in scale between the respective physiques of the dancers further contributes to the strength of their partnered effect as Sjouke’s powerful frame stretches towards an imagined horizon, sparkler and strongman making magic in the air. 

A circus of light in semaphoric play, as the evening progresses I can’t shake the feeling that somehow I’m standing at the edge of a final party, witnessing a private sun set: Jenny and Sjouke the ocean returning; breaking and returning.  Brillianting in a halting rain of movement, her infinite balletic flow surrendered to a time-conscious suspension. "There’ll be no more grand allegro for you my girl," appears to whisper fearsome Age, as errant bone growth, increasingly apparent in gnarly feet and occasional faltering step, would seem to confer. 

De Leon’s lost leaping much mourned and now confined to her face and the studied friezes within which she cyclically portrays her hysteresis of time, Jennifer White Wave is become Mortal Mirror; primal essence longing for connection.  Single woman, solo parent, aging body broken and re-broken – there’s nothing delicate or graceful about this struggle to make it on your own.   Reaching for transcendence through spatial mists of hippie history and spiritual steel, captured in autumn’s breath at a collapsed classical (I)deal – can you show us your inner flight within your deepest falter?  Where will you go from here? 

A series of poignant, playful and heart-fracturing works, De Leon’s Christmas number is alternately sprinkled with musical interludes that seem to bubble up from beneath the floor.  Friends Joseph Hartzenburg and Kevin Timm, sounding melancholic ripples and resonances with improvised hand drums, guitar and piano accordion, contribute eloquent and distracting acoustic fare.  The complementary pathos of music and movement weaves an enriched spell to the night, lightly iced by the citrus-sparked piping of a recorder duet by Jennie and Lizzie Hoadley.

Centrally framed within the body of the evening’s program, Gwen De Leon’s exuberant solo How Long, co-choreographed with her teacher Nikki Gibson, delights with its freshness and focus, Gwen’s precision, flexibility and evident joy in dance providing a moving reflection of that of her mother, Jennifer De Leon. 

Unforgettable image of the evening would have to be Sjouke in the closing work Soul, perched impossibly, in divine conquer, upon Jenny’s tiny reclining frame.  The theme of spiritual overcoming thus concluding the evening’s program, I departed the De Leon studio in Christmas darkness, in/stilled with the tangible impression of Strongman and ineffable Spark straining together against the inevitable undertow, poised at the fulcrum of a return to ocean time.


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