Etched Productions, a brand new collective of ten recent dance graduates from the UNITEC dance programme, made a warmly received debut last Thursday night with "a curious medley of short works and wonders" confidently presented to a capacity audience at Galatos.
The medley was in itself a creative solution to several factors – one being the need to get some work out there to break the ice, another being the diverse approaches of collective members, and a third being the difficulties which came with the venue.
Given free of charge by the Moving Image Centre, the venue is a long narrow space with a small raised stage at one end, but the stage is a storage area for projection and sound equipment. Floor space has to be set aside for the performance, and unless raked seating is brought in for the production, sightlines are largely impaired. Dance in particular suffers because anyone beyond the front of the area can only see over the heads of the crowd.
The dancers opted for ambience over visibility, providing cabaret style seating at round tables which covered much of the floor. Attractively decorated by teapots, origami paper shapes and white flowers which echoed aspects of the dance works, the seating encouraged a warm buzz of conversation amongst the seated, and the rest of crowd spilled over into every nook and cranny and possible perch, and stood along the sides and rear.
The programme comprised seven short works which served to introduce the dancers and provide a sense of each choreographer’s creative solutions to the difficulties of staging. None attempted to make a full-out contemporary dance work, but there were hints at what might result in a more suitable venue for such works.
Perhaps most successfully, Serene Lorimer’s Fold Me Finite was really two solos intercut, with repeated exchanges of position between a dancer seated at a table and the other sprawling on the floor nearby. This made dramatic use of paper folding accompanied by spoken narrative and combatively vigorous ejection of the sitter from the chair.
Dancers Jess Quaid and Sam Wood alternately dispossessed each other of the chair, seamlessly continuing their own discrete narratives while folding paper, and their own dispossession-and-recovery solos in and out of the floor. Even if you could only see the action at the table, and the paper aeroplanes flying from table to floor, it made perfect sense.
Jess Quaid’s mosaic-like sextet Storm in a teacup coped well with the difficulties of venue also, making use of the stage and floor to create overlapping layers and continue lines of movement upwards from the floor to the rafters. Criss-crossing arms and twining movements of white shirted torsos combined in at times mesmerising patterns.
Febe Holmes’ very tongue in cheek (and overlong) solution in Fully Charged was to send the dancers to the far end of the space by the bar, in the dark, and then exhort the audience to be adventurous, get up out of their seats and go find the dancers, then use their cellphones as torches to see what they could of the dancers ‘up real close’. A number of the audience complied, and fun resulted.
Two works made use of projected film and attempted some interaction between film and live performance. In Amy Mauvan’s Boxed, a roving camera modestly flitted about the naked female body in what seemed to be a repeating sequence involving studded belly button, dangling knee, poking out shoulder blade, fingernails, neck sinews and collar bone, green eyes, pursed mouth, shrugging shoulders, hollows, surfaces.
After a while, the screen was slowly raised, revealing progressively larger horizontal slices of five dancers as a frieze to those on screen. When the screen was fully raised, the dancers slowly climbed down from the stage, with bursts of movement and flurries of poses, and moved out into the crowd, but there was never a sense of a "whole" against which the parts were to be understood, and little connection between the two in movement terms.
By contrast, Woven Together brought together a somewhat demented, narcissistic woman on film (Sarah Iwaskow) and her real-life somewhat dependent friend (Elise Chan), using the live performance to heighten the melodrama of narcissism and dependence. Involvement of identical physical objects in both live and filmed sequences, and parallel sequences in filmed and live action, created a sense of interaction between the two media, but the ending was inconclusive as yet.
Anna Flaherty’s Atelier 2 presented a confidently moving woman in a red dress (Olivia Hartles) in front of a screen showing a poem slowly being created on a typewriter. There were long passages of poetic text exchanged between a man and a woman on the soundscore, but sadly, the soundscore was not loud enough or crisp enough for the words to be distinct, and at times the words merged into a mumble. I am afraid I wasn’t able to piece this one together.
The evening closed with Sam Wood’s Puzzle
, a pure movement work set to resonant music by Dirk Gillabel and Spisfire, and showing both a genuine musicality and a strong commitment to dynamic variation despite the constraints of the performance space. At times the tonal qualities of the score were echoed in the movement, or rhythmic phrases recalled.
Sudden recoiling movements were a significant contrast to slow curving, stretching sequences behind them, as were combinations of movement against stillness, rapid sequences against slow sequences. Vertical layering and off-setting of pairs in space helped to make this cohesive in movement terms—definitely worth exploring further for a more spacious venue.
Etched Productions are emerging dance artists Amy Mauvan, Anna Flaherty, Febe Holmes, Jesse Quaid, Sam Wood, Serene Lorimer, Olivia Hartles , Elise Chan , Hannah Maclean, Sarah Iwaskow.
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