LIFEWORLD (in five parts)

Opera House, Wellington

19/10/2016 - 19/10/2016

Globe Theatre, 312 Main St, Palmerston North

21/10/2016 - 21/10/2016

Gisborne War Memorial Theatre, Gisborne

25/10/2016 - 25/10/2016

Q Theatre, 305 Queen St, Auckland

04/11/2016 - 04/11/2016

Production Details

Lifeworld (in five parts) is a compelling dance theatre work that celebrates the different ways we move through the world and our potential to choose the way we see it. Commissioned from Auckland-based Claire O’Neil, whose last full-length work for Footnote, MTYLand, was one of the standouts of the 2010 New Zealand Festival, Footnote New Zealand Dance is delighted to present this new work by one of the country’s most exciting, energetic choreographers around New Zealand this spring.

In Lifeworld, O’Neil exposes the space between relationships and perception, and explores the notion of joy in the human experience. Lifeworld features an intriguing projected world of images and videos that set the scene for the dancers to etch the story of Lifeworld (in five parts) as they perform.

“But it means something… doesn’t it? You mean something… don’t you? Do ya know what you mean…? I wanna know what you mean… what do you mean, you don’t know what I mean?!” –The Narrator

Lifeworld (in five parts) elevates every day in a grand theatre of objects, where movement, humour and social commentary collide. Whether Lifeworld feels close to home, vaguely familiar or almost alien depends on where you’ve been.

Dancers:  Brydie Colquhoun  Jeremy Beck   Emma Dellabarca   Jared Hemopo  Lana Phillips  with Joshua Faleatua


Music - Original composition by Eden Mulholland

Lighting Design - Natasha James 

Film Editor - Jeremy Brick

Lighting/Sound/AV Operation - Alex Fisher



Original composition by Eden Mulholland plus

Catalina 1943 by Loscil

Hitta Hem by Erik Levander

Milk and Honey by Klimek

When I Was Done Dying by Dan Deacon

Sun(Rise) by Klimek

Xerrox Spark by Alva Noto

No Bold Villain by Timber Timbre

Dance-theatre , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

Delightful to watch

Review by Chloe Klein 05th Nov 2016

The programme informs me that Lifeworld is a term to describe “our sensuous experience and perception of objects and spaces”. Lifeworld in five parts is just that- a nostalgic celebration of the ordinary, a sharing of a genuine piece of the world of it’s collaborators. Choreographed by Claire O’Neil and produced and performed by Footnote Dance Company, featuring artful composition from Eden Mullholland, Lifeworld is a powerful and heart-warming curation.

Q Theatre’s Rangatira stage is set with a large projection on the stage wall featuring a recording from the top of a green suburban roof, clouds floating across the sky, tree branches, a power line. The clucking and twittering of birds floats through the theatre.

A crescendo of orchestra rises as a solo performer (Jeremy Beck) walks across the stage. Music blares again, swelling only for a few moments before fading away as quickly, to be replaced by another swell in a dramatic cannon, still overlaid with the chirping of birds. In an instant, the projection is gone and a spotlight appears. Jeremy, in shorts, is comically clothed by assistants until he’s fully dressed in blazer, scarf, and satchel. He’s joined by five others similarly dressed, also with bags. A performer’s t-shirt signals the beginning of part 1. Atmospheric bass echoes through the theatre as the group moves in a natural almost-unison. Controlled isolations and twitches come together in a rhythm in-likeness, a dynamic the performers hold the length of the performance. Each dancer moves with clarity, strength, and flow.

Leaps, twists, slides and other expressions of joy characterize movement throughout. However these movements are not pushed to their extremes, or intended to show off – they are natural, organic, human. These are paired with Forsythian-in-appearance movement, and hints of hip-hop flavours. Each movement flows smoothly even when isolated, and is performed as an extension of each dancer’s persona. The authenticity of each performer and genuineacknowledgmentt of friendships produces a heart-warming dynamic. Of particular note is Joshua Faleatua, a standout performer who offers movement with surety and the oxymoronic quality of relaxed control. Complex and gravity defying flips are performed without breaking his movement quality, he isn’t moving from one genre to another as much as he has fluidly integrated his hip-hop and contemporary backgrounds into one.

Each scene is delightful to watch, offering another insight into the lifeworld of the piece. In a comical sequence, Jared Hemopo moves humorously through his daily routine, the group forming and reforming his world as a fully functional bathroom sink, set of drawers, laptop, newspaper, washing machine, and cross trainer. In another Lana Phillips spins continuously and elegantly, in orbit around a living room, her energy affecting the space though the projection. Backed by a series of pictures drawn by children, the group races and bristles with relish to the swelling track. Brydie Colquhoun floats through her world of ever changing and repositioning road barriers naturally and with grounded grace. In a particularly notable scene, Jeremy embodies the drama of of choosing an outfit and resulting dress up playdreams, supported by the group acting as a dramatic chorus to his action hero fantasies. Nuanced, Emma Dellabarca fights through physical limitation as her cries for help are ignored.

Throughout Lifeworld’s five parts, a significant performer itself, the projection offers many images and connections. A recording of a toaster and a kettle, voices debating what the dots on the toaster really mean, are they minutes or heat levels? Seagulls at the beach, the corner of a soccer field, flash cards, a book shelf hosting sporting biographies and Harry Potter novels, a 70’s styled living room, a handycam video of the moon. Each of these contributions is beautifully curated, every decision seamlessly supports the feel-good nostalgia and sense of home. A webcam recording of a man in his apartment sharing his perspective of life, liberty and freedom, encouraging a revolution of love, and teaching us his favorite dance moves is a highlight of the choreography.

Lifeworld is a celebration of the ordinary. One of the most uplifting, significant, and mesmerising works of choreography I have seen, it left me hopeful and with a feeling of personal connection to the creators that it not easy to achieve.



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Re-opening audience eyes

Review by Jo Thorpe 27th Oct 2016

‘A work of art should always teach us that we have not seen what we are seeing’.  So wrote 19th century French poet, Paul Valery.  And so believes NZ choreographer Claire O’Neil, whose stated aim for her new work Lifeworld (in five parts) is to ‘reopen the audience’s eyes and make them ask: Are we really seeing things?  Are we taking the time to see things?’

Created for Footnote NZ Dance’s 2016 season, Lifeworld succeeds in making us do exactly that.  In a rich amalgam of movement and music, filmed image and ideas, it zooms in on the ordinary – a corrugated iron roof, a toaster, a kettle, a cup.  Sometimes, by gazing at length, we realise their intrinsic beauty. At other times, objects become imbued with an ‘otherness’.  Pictures in a child’s book (of a jaccuzi, a golf ball, caviar, champagne!) are freighted with an implicit commentary on consumerism and social values.  A close-up of a bookshelf in which Bob Dylan sits alongside Mr Nice and Neil Young lies under Dan Carter, makes me think about eclecticism and randomness.  And a supermarket trolley, upended in a stream and snagged between sodden logs, becomes a metaphor for abandonment. 

O’Neil’s work has always been in the style of European postmodernist dance theatre – deliberately provocative, challenging, anarchic.  But this work has a lighter touch.  In a series of loosely connected scenes, the camera (Film Editor Jeremy Brick) takes us both indoors and out.  We move from a contemplation of the celestial to a focus on the domestic.  And the choreography, which ranges from the free to the mimetic, both illuminates and mirrors these filmed sequences.  In an early clip of a stretch of sand, a seagull pecks at something dead on the shore.  Eden Mulholland’s reverberant, pulsating score drives the jerky, open-chested movement of the dancers.  The scene has a visceral quality which I find almost disturbing. 

One of my favourite moments occurs against a projected sequence of children’s drawings. Enhanced by beautiful Renaissance-like lighting (Natasha James), the dancers communicate the sheer exuberance of kids larking around – leaping, jumping, the child inside us all.  This section has a sort of ‘halcyon days’ feel to it and the dancers exhibit their sheer love of dancing as the scene builds to the first real choreographic ‘let-go’ moment in the work.

Another highlight occurs against a projected image of a distant moon (Norfolk pine in the background).  The dancers rotate on one hip on the floor, extended legs parallel and close to the ground.  It is a lovely embodiment of earth’s slow turn in space. Mulholland’s score makes me think of Dire Straits’ Local Hero – the wonder of looking at the night sky.  And of Yeats’ ‘turning and turning in the widening gyre’, as one dancer (Lana Philips) draws us into the vortex of her beautiful, accelerating spinning. 

There are times when I want more of this expansiveness.  There is slick simulation and clever manipulation of feet, arms, legs, and hands, so that the dancers become household objects – a sofa, a washing machine, a dining table, basin.  Themes emerge – anxiety, disconnection, uncertainty, fear. But there is plenty of humour too, as in the shirt scene, though this has an unforeseen darker twist at the end.

Indeed, it is this switching from joy to something more sombre, from the ordinary to the extraordinary, from abandonment to control, which keeps me engaged throughout. I am by turns intrigued, admiring, questioning, and truly moved.   When the dancers sprint urgently across the stage – first one way then the other – I wonder, are they running away from something or towards a thing?  Or neither?  Or both?  The fact that I am drawn to think and feel in this way is a measure of Lifeworld’s success.

At the end of Part 5, three couples face each other, unsure, wary of becoming attached, yet afraid of not being so. Lana Philips and Jeremy Beck are terrific in this scene, alternately gauche and playful, fearful and tough. Then an unexpected Part 6 hits the stage.  Witty, ironic, it returns us to the theme of perception.  Are we really seeing what we think we see?  What are we really seeing?   An impressive solo by hip-hop trained newcomer to contemporary dance, Joshua ‘Fale’ Faleatua, leads the company into a light-hearted unison dance accompanied by a groovy, plonky guitar track.  The credits roll, as at the movies – a fitting end to a dance theatre work in which video and projection plays such an integral part.

Congratulations to O’Neil and Footnote’s six inspirational dancers, and to all her artistic collaborators.  After a public showing the next day in the Tairawhiti Museum, two young kohanga reo groups thank the dancers with enthusiastic waiata.  Footnote’s General Manager, Richard Aindow, responds with: ‘We can’t wait to come back to Gisborne!’   Let’s hope they put the word out to other touring companies that Gisborne has both the theatre (our newly renovated War Memorial Theatre – ‘the most modern, well-equipped theatre in NZ’) and an enthusiastic audience waiting to welcome them, one that is hungry for dance. 


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Accessible dance theatre

Review by Leah MacLean 24th Oct 2016

The latest work by Footnote New Zealand Dance is the brainchild of Claire O’Neil; Lifeworld (in five parts)is exactly how it sounds. The show is built around our relationships with everyday life, objects and phenomena. This ranges from the mundane of trying to choose a shirt in the morning, to the less mundane of tripping on magic mushrooms.

Lifeworld is an accessible piece of dance theatre; in that the audience can sit back and just enjoy being present while the talented dancers consisting of Jeremy Beck, Brydie Colquhoun, Emma Dellabarca, Joshua Faletua, Jared Hemopo and Lana Phillips hurl themselves across the stage. Lifeworld does not ask hard-hitting questions, more it points out and celebrates the different ways we move through life.


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Quirky, humorous and absorbing,

Review by Tania Kopytko 24th Oct 2016

Quirky, humorous and absorbing, this latest work for Footnote Dance New Zealand, by New Zealand choreographer Claire O’Neill, investigates human foibles and behaviour. It is about 10 years since Footnote last performed in Palmerston North and Friday night’s performance was the second in a tour which takes them around New Zealand to many smaller centres.

The work presents life in different scenarios using the movement theatre or physical theatre genre, beautiful and clever visuals (Jeremy Brick) and lighting (Natasha James) with a score (composed and arranged by Eden Mulholland) that well compliments the movement. There was amusing interplay between the lighting sound and movement with many little puns, such as the supermarket trolley lying in the stream in the “I need help” part. There is not an expansive dance vocabulary, but rather, it is more intensive and introverted and at times mimetic.

The work has a young and energetic feel as befits the lovely young dancers. It has great appeal to the young people in the audience, who are well absorbed and clearly love the humour. But it is equally absorbing for all age groups – a great achievement to produce a good work with wide appeal. It has a New Zealand-ness about it too.

The ensemble work, often in semi-silhouette against the photo/video, provides many examples of lovely sculptural shapes and transformations, with solos and duos breaking out to give us a particular human narrative or create interesting movement contrast. “Kids for life” asks if we should be choosing yachts, Jacuzzis, private jets or caring about people and is followed by the quirky exploration of mundane household habits in a mundane house. The dancers become a sofa, TV, play station, bathroom and washing machine. It is clever and articulate. The voiceover from the TV quiz programme featuring “The Chaser” is a clever reference point, as the dancers decide which shirt the character might wear, but which is really about fitting in. Another part, with clever use of traffic cones and barriers, explores protection, care and boundaries and when this might become control. The work then moves into the darker, scarier territory of needing help. 

The Palmerston North audience are mainly young – studio or school dance students. The theatre could have been more full, but a relationship needs to be built with a town after such a long absence. On Saturday, Footnote provided a well-subscribed workshop for aspiring dancers. Good on Footnote for coming to our city. Let us hope this is the beginning of a successful relationship where Footnote can inspire and support local dance and we, in turn, can support Footnote. We are, after all, only 1 hour 45 minutes up the road. Thank you Footnote dancers and team, good luck with the tour and we hope we see you again soon!


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Defiant and joyous, banal and revelatory

Review by Sam Trubridge 20th Oct 2016

Lifeworld (in five parts) by Footnote NZ Dance started its nationwide tour today at Wellington Opera House. Choreographed by Claire O’Neil (MTYLand) the work looks at the seemingly mundane details of our everyday lives: zooming in upon them to microscopic detail, turning them over in the palm, and finding something different there. Perhaps a moment that sums this up best is when one of the many video projections plays a shot of the dawn sky, complete with a blurry spot of the moon hanging in the deep blue-black. It isn’t an attractive shot: like many in the show it is banal and almost meaningless. But it is a moment that means something to the person behind the camera in the way that so many images we see today are. Poor photography and videography are rampant in this age of social media. But as the camera zooms in on the moon, its wobbling white blob becomes a searchlight on the stage, momentarily illuminating a dancer entwining with another, before swinging off to another part of the stage, or disappearing entirely from the jumpy hand-held frame. Then the camera finds the moon again, and manages to focus: so we see it finally in perfect detail, with all of its craters and shadowy scars. The camera wobbles again, and the moon returns to its smudgy outline. 

This discovery of the minutiae within a grain of light is a good analogy for this show: which often presents us with a simple image or moment before revealing something deeper about it. The aesthetic is deliberate in its banality, so that it can surprise you in this way. It is a gentle, delicate way of looking at things that interacts with the choreography on stage. Overall, the dance focuses on the group, with the six Footnote dancers working together to create what feel like bundles or clusters of movement, embroidering the stage beneath the projections with patterns of movement that split into solitary sequences before being swept up again by a new movement that flows across the space.

It feels lyrical, intricate, and playful – evoking the same nostalgic, suburban New Zealand cosiness that I get from watching Christine Jeffs’ Rain or Ian Mune’s The End of the Golden Weather. Interestingly there is some of the textural quality of the Rosas production by Anna Theresa de Keersmaker in this work, which was based on Kirsty Gunn’s novel of the former. 

The music is incredible, with a wonderful smokey selection of tracks and stunning original music by Eden Mulholland. The lighting by Natasha James is fantastic as well: washing the stage in warm umbers and dim palls of light that evoke unused living rooms, hallways lit by light from another room, always slightly too dark for the figures, so that movements are blurs or flashes in the space. It is this ephemeral quality to the choreography that I found most compelling in the work. Much like the blurred figures depicted in the show’s marketing imagery, the stage is populated with fleeting figures that leap in front of crisp projection imagery. It creates a melancholy to the work, echoed in one scene where the image of a hospital room is accompanied by a nervous voice asking questions like how I got here, what is happening now, what is happening to me, calling for help as the image disintegrates and rasterises into patterns of light and colour. This delicate play between dance and image is the production’s strongest feature. However, some moments still seem to be that of a work in progress, where the rendering of a scene looks too much like a theatre-sports exercise or actor’s warm-up. 

One sequence, in particular, stands out, where five of the performers pretend to be household furniture and appliances while the sixth goes about his daily routine with them. It gets laughs from the audience when a bobbing head expertly depicts the turning of a front-loading washing machine, but it all feels a little too much like a gag for this work. In another scene, the dancers voice the inner thoughts of characters at the airport, on the plane, or at soccer practice. Dancers making theatre and acting is a common thing these days, but I think we can be more sophisticated in our use of voice, prop, and movement than this. It requires a semiotic or dramaturgical rigour that seems absent here. 

Where it does get interesting is when O’Neil begins to stretch these games with the performers – where the rules become looser, more abstract, and where they begin to dance. By shifting between forms or trying to do more than one job at once, the movement begins to animate the static ‘body-sculptures’ and create a tension between the architectures they describe and their kinetic, expressive bodies. Here the domestic routine and O’Neil’s choreography become wonderfully intertwined, taking us into the more abstract sequences of dance where the ensemble leap, dash, play, and gather in the patterns described earlier.

It is an entrancing production by Footnote, and it is fantastic to see how integrated the dance is with some really stunning work on sound, lighting, and AV design. It demonstrates how confident NZ dance is now working across media to develop powerful new relationships on stage. Of note is the precision with which O’Neil works with video footage to create a new dance, between this digitally produced imagery as a kind of ‘second stage’ upon the stage: one that sometimes plays with or overlaps the live performance, or elsewhere provides parallel, separate, or complementary ideas. Defiant and joyous choreography is set against a montage of children’s drawings. In each image we are aware of the child’s unsteady hand, their trembling but determined lines, their imagination, and aspirations. This making-of-seeing through drawing is mirrored in the wild-wild dancing below, that is only half-choreographed to give space for the energies of the dancers’ own inner children. A beautiful dialogue emerges in these moments between the stage and the image above it: a dance through the screen and back again.  


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