NASDA Theatre, E Block, CPIT, Christchurch

01/10/2013 - 03/10/2013

Maidment Theatre - Musgrove Studio, Auckland

19/11/2013 - 22/11/2013

The Body Festival 2013

Production Details

A brand new double bill of dance theatre by BackLit Productions and newcomer Flux Productions. This evening of work encompasses compelling dance and stunning imagery, giving rise to themes that will stir and seduce you for sure.

From a playful, light hearted survey of self presentation in a world obsessed with being PC, fitting in and exuding their “correct” attributes, to a place between the layers of time where instinctual beings conduct the space in captivating imagery, and explore the relationship society holds with each other and our landscape.

Complete with interactive set design by award winning artist Alex Bartleet and world-class costume maker Hanna Randall, side by side the two companies present a delightful evening of dance suitable to be experienced by all.


The Body Festival: 
Venue NASDA Studio at CPIT, E Block, Madras St 

Date/Time Tue 1st – Thur 3rd October at 8.00pm 

Duration 70 mins 
Cost $25, $20 concessions from Dash Tickets, or phone 0800 327 484 booking fees apply

Dancers: Annabel Harrison, Shannon Mutu, Kate Bartlett, Julie Van Renen, Serene Lorimer, Sam Rawnsley-Wood, Lydia Zanetti.



Meaningful encounters and gentle social commentary

Review by Raewyn Whyte 20th Nov 2013

Confident dancing, subtle lighting, collaged soundscores and gentle social commentary are elements shared by two 30 minute works by Auckland dance production companies which join forces in  KEEP/SELF , making its Auckland debut after a season at the Body festival in Christchurch.

KEEP is choreographed by Georgie Goater, Shannon Mutu and Tracey Purcell from Backlit, and carries a message about our social responsibility for the health of the earth.

A self-inflating/deflating grassy knoll (very cleverly crafted by Alex Bartleet) stands in for the living, breathing Planet Earth, providing a sensuous surface for interactions amongst five women in shifting  guises, and an enduring presence with which each interacts individually and variously. Mutu rests face down on the slope and it moulds to her body, earth and body seeming to fuse, recalling creation legends of many cultures in which the first women were crafted from clay. Kate Bartlett becomes a shamanically intense, clawed creature, alternately frantic and frozen, rerluctant to approach the slope, while Lorimer tends to keep her distance, more an observing, surmising entity Julie Van Renen and Annabel Harrison both became entranced with the grassy texture of the surface, van Renen absorbing its lushness into her own subsequent solo, Harrison absorbing instead some potent, angry spiralling motion which is quickly communicated to the others and becomes a unison dance of volcanic energies.

Their meaningful encounters come to a head when the grassy knoll has become flat and silent, and they frantically start trying to revive it with planetary CPR. In their wake, they leave an implicit call to take action with like-minded others to prevent looming disaster.

By contrast, Presentable SELF, choreographed by Serene Lorimer from Flux, is all playful wit and charm, a somewhat tongue-in-cheek series of tactical interpersonal encounters and costume changes illustrating some ways to exploit societal norms of self-presentation for our own purposes.

The quartet of performers dance elegantly to Vivaldi’s Summer Movement from the Four Seasons, holding apples and pausing at the end of each swirling phrase to hold the apple high on an upraised palm, before holding it against the solar plexus, looking querulous and subsequently frowning at Lydia Zanetti’s antics. Mutu provides a contrast to the others, looking alluring rather than querulous, and demure rather than angry, but the sparkle in her eye says it’s all just a put on, and revels in our enjoyment of their dancing.

Zanetti moves purposefully towards a standup microphone, large green apple in hand, and she has our immediate attention. But instead of speaking to us, she proceeds instead to fairly rapidly and with evident delight, eat the very juicy apple, including the core, with amplification making us aware of every crunch and swallow.Only then does she address us, Alexa Wilson-style with a series of observations and rhetorical questions about who is wearing what, then starting to change her own clothing and being thwarted by her fellow cast members, whio array her in tied on shirt and apron. before quickly changing her own clothing: I notice you are… Did you notice I am…? Another such series happens later in the work.

Annabel Harrison and Sam Rawnsley-Wood engage in a series of interchanges, with Harrison looming over the petite Rawnsley-Wood and manipulating and prodding and pushing her in in an aggressive manner, over and over – until Rawnsley-Wood rebels, stands her ground and launches into a solo comprising own power moves mixed in with NZ Sign gestures and other codified symbolic gestures which signal her own indomitability.

Both KEEP and SELF are presented with a good degree of polish, making the most of an array of shifting moods, myriad fleeting encounters and some unpredictable idiosyncratic material which is the lifeblood of really good contemporary dance. However, both works could also benefit from further development which grapples with the themes and issues at the heart of each work — these have the potential to be communicated much more richly. 


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Shared bill leaves room for elaboration

Review by Paul Young 02nd Oct 2013

KEEP/SELF is a self-assured new double bill from Auckland companies BackLit (Keep) and Flux (Self) who are continuing the long tradition of UNITEC sisters doing it for themselves when it comes to producing and touring their own work. Brava!

These companies are promotion-savvy, well-organised and determined to have their work seen. Backlit, for example, has already presented 5 full-length works and Flux has established a consistent presence in the dance scene, mostly with solos and curated seasons of new works by others. Even so, there remains a challenge to develop imagery, vocabulary and practice that is rigorous, original, and contributes both to the form and to the industry – thus meriting support above and ahead of the other artists on the long breadline of waiting to be served.


The land is breathing. Literally.

The set of green turf, rising from its shoreline-like perimeter on the rich wooden floor is reminiscent of an island viewed from afar. It deflates and re-inflates via some ingenious invisible mechanism, creating a sound like the deep deliberate breath of a life support system. This forms the basis for a lot the sound score, which at times seems like the rushing of blood through veins, maybe as experienced by an unborn child. This landscape could be how our ancestors would have first perceived Aotearoa though the filter of their belief in gods, myths and monsters. It is quite profound, quite beautiful.

Three intertwined figures begin a grappling dance towards the island. Are they migrants? or are they flotsam and jetsam? They reach and struggle but seem anchored to the spot. There is a figure just visible behind the heaving hill. It’s Papatuanuku as performed by Shannon Mutu. The way Mutu rolls and lolls over the rising and falling hills is luscious and eminently watchable, she is so immersed in her world that we relax and begin to roll with her.

Later, in another display of earth mother power, she flings the rest of the cast around with casual intensity, merely by tossing her hair. It is a moment that I respond to because it reads so well.

Serene Lorimer bursts out of nowhere. She has considerable control over her willowy body and her idiosyncratic gestural solo is clear and sharp but I find this hard to relate to what has been implied by prior events. Five minutes ago, Papatuanuku was rolling in the deep, looking omnipotent: now she’s just one of the girls?

Much work has gone into this piece. It is colourful, fun and full of images that would bear considerable elaboration. But there is also an uneasy relationship between the action, which is relational, and the structure, which is collage. The program notes state “KEEP questions our relationships to the earth, time and each other”. Unfortunately it doesn’t necessarily provoke the viewers to ask those questions of themselves, nor does it provide us any obvious answers.

One more point.

There is a music track used in KEEP titled I’ve read lots of books. It was composed by Eden Mulholland specifically for the work Body/Fight/Time by Malia Johnston and Emma Willis, which is still being performed. That piece of music is intrinsic to the integrity and identity of another artist’s work and had it been me in their position I would have banged sticks together to make a beat before damaging my goodwill in this tiny dance community.


SELF is a tongue-in-cheek study of self-presentation that doesn’t really define what angle it is exploring, other than to say it is “societal.” OK. Performativity, be it gender, societal or cultural, always has room for artists to break new ground and bring their ideas to a new audience.

This work has a structure and modes of address that are strongly reminiscent of Alexa Wilson’s choreographic approach. A microphone is placed at the front left of the stage and the performers arrive with a selection of props, costume changes and an anarchic attitude… and in this case, MORE APPLES. It is official! The casts of Demigod/half Human (the preceding show in this same venue) and SELF, which follows, hold the monopoly on apple-related choreography. Anyone who thinks they might have an apple in a show ever again, shouldn’t. It has been done!

Lydia Zanetti has the audience waiting for her to speak while she eats an apple into the microphone. (The presence of Magritte’s surrealist painting The Son Of Man may offer clues to the concept behind some the sections). Zanetti has a natural affinity with this type of work and tends to find the right tone in each section. Annabel Harrison is at times delightfully crazy. During one of the more successful sections, Zanetti and Samantha Wood-Rawnsley perform very funny character transformations with just a shirt and skirt as costume.

I am a bit confused by the motivation behind the choreographic elements, which at times seem to be deliberately derivative of pre-existing forms, and at other times veer into generic contemporary dance territory. It doesn’t seem as if choreographed movement (aka dance) is treated as being of equal value to the other various communicative devices. If the performative characteristics could be evolved till they yielded a credible movement vocabulary, it would make for an interesting movement study and also help define the impetus of each sequence.

Self is a provocative romp with a sassy attitude but doesn’t transmit as much content as it could, and some rigor should be applied to ensure that it does not appear overly familiar. Commenting on the audience’s physical condition, whether sweetly or sardonically, and making verbal demands of a dancer until they go wrong, are both very well worn tropes. 


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