ASB Theatre, Aotea Centre, Auckland

11/08/2012 - 11/08/2012

Production Details

The New Zealand Dance Company in partnership with Kowhai Intermediate School

Alongside the Language of Living season, The New Zealand Dance Company is also offering a dedicated youth engagement programme.

A partnership with Kowhai Intermediate School sees 20 children take to the stage along with NZDC Youth Company, our own dancers and special guests from Rutherford College performing a dynamic programme of short works that include excerpts from the Language of Living launch performance.

NZDC Executive/Artistic Director Shona McCullagh and company member Tupua Tigafua have worked over several months with the students at Kowhai helping them to create their own choreographic language, celebrating identity through their own personal connection with community, whanau, culture and passion. Best We Can Be, set to music by Trinity Roots, is a unique work inspiring our youth to be courageous in their individuality through the transformative power of dance.

This new work will be featured alongside works from NZDC’s Language of Living season. These include Justin Haiu‘s quirky and comical solo work Release Your Robot with live music by The Electric Boutique; Shona McCullagh’s Trees, Birds then People with live music by NZTrio; Sarah Foster-Sproull‘s intriguing group work Human Human God with music by Motocade’s Eden Mulholland; and Evolve, a solo for Ursula Robb featuring the music of John Elmsley and animations by Japanese artist Macoto Murayama.

Our Youth Engagement Programme is an important part of our crusade to communicate the power of dance and its ability to transform young lives. The New Zealand Dance Company is proud to share the stage with some of New Zealand’s most talented and inspiring young dancers in a diverse, high energy performance.

Dancers: NZDC: Alex Leonhartsberger / Craig Bary / Sarah Foster-Sproull / Justin Haiu/ Hannah Tasker-Poland / Tupua Tigafua / Lucy Lynch/ Ursula Robb

& NZDC Youth Company – Angel Morrell, Anneke Tomkins, Hosanna Ball, Holly Brogan, Cameo Fityus, Vida Gibson, Tori Manley, Claire Esterman, Caitlin Davey, Esther Saborio-Ramano, Onyeka Arapai, Duncan Armstrong, Lisa McLaughlan, Xavier Breed, Grace Pritchard, Renee Richards, Rodney Tyrell

Kowhai Kids: Emily Hayward, Sarah Gudsell, Lesha Laile, Keiana Arona, Maia Edge Woodward, Roslyn Hifo, Kate Moss-Mason, Evangeline Tsong, Sila Siaki, Ricardo Dominiko, Harel Feliciano, Flo-Jo Adams, Tane Wolfgram, Desmond Petelo, Ammon McCarthy, Mahina Holland-Bennet


1 hour

Engaging youth dancers have a promising future

Review by Raewyn Whyte 12th Aug 2012

The LIFTOFF Matinee performance by the New Zealand Dance Company is a hybrid event, both showcasing the parent company’s dancers  in their second  public performance as an ensemble,  and introducing the NZDC  Youth Company alongside work resulting from the company’s Youth Engagement Project with students from Kowhai Intermediate School.

The matinee has a more relaxed feel than the previous night’s gala debut, with dancer Justin Haiu in his Robot persona slowly working his way along each row in the 15 minutes before show time, getting up close with seated audience members and greeting old friends who cross his path. He  eventually makes his way to the stage and suddenly it’s game on – Release your Robot begins and  The Electrique Boutique trio appear in a corner of raised curtain playing their laptops.

Normally a solo for Haiu, this follows a day in the life of the Robot with a heart, from waking and washing his face, through to an unfortunate encounter with traffic, a brief moment of afterlife, and then his return to the everyday world.  The movement base of his dance is the gestural street /club dance form liquiding, which flows through a series of momentarily locked positions and looks a lot like popping or fast mime, Marcel Marceau style. It’s a relatively straightforward style for high school kids to learn, and for today’s show, Haiu’s choreography has been very cleverly expanded to include the Youth Company’s 17 performers in carefully chosen scenes. They become bathroom furniture and the Robot’s mirror reflection, other Robots and/or people in the various settings in which his day is spent. They dash to his side to see if he’s ok after he has been knocked down by a car, then fade into the wings. This makes for a much richer version of the dance than the solo version, and I can see this being a terrific continuing showpiece for the youth ensemble.

This same strategy of interpolating additional dancers has been taken in Sarah Foster Sproull’s much more technically challenging Human Human God,  set to a series of dynamically driven and ever changing instrumental segments interspersed with ironic songs by Eden Mulholland. The teenage dancers are all in white and perform alongside the blue clothed dancers of the main company, with cleverly expanded choreography  allowing for anywhere from two or three  additional dancers up to all seventeen at once.  At times the white-clothed dancers are wraithlike, massed shadowy presences in the background, adding depth to proceedings by echoing the actions of the others out front, but at times they are the featured dancers, with crisp, clean execution of the tricky moves hinting at their capacity for some exceptional dancing of works made for them in the near future.

Four members of the NZDC Youth Company from Rutherford College also perform their own choreography,  Inner Heart,  set to Rihanna’s Fool in Love. Dancing confidently on the huge stage of the ASB Theatre in mostly unison phrasing of movements drawn from hip hop and contemporary dance, Renee Richards, Grace Pritchard, Rodney Tyrell and Xavier Breed portray two couples struggling with pressures on their relationships, with the women determined to maintain their trust in their partners, no matter what..

Sixteen dancers from Kowhai Intermediate present Best We Can Be, a dance made as part of an ongoing Youth Engagement Project between their school and NZDC, with choreographic support from NZDC’s Shona McCullagh and Tupua Tigafua, and guest choreographer Richie Cesan. Their dance,  set to All We Be by Trinity Roots,  draws from contemporary, hip hop and cultural dance forms and makes use of a circle format,  alternating blocks of movement and unison sequences, and a stunning wedge  formation, with clean entrances and exits and concentration on listening to the music and keeping to the beat. By the end of the dance, the Kowhai Kids kids had become totally absorbed and were clearly delighting in dancing – they seemed surprised to reach the end.

Two main bill works complete the programme – Evolve, a meditative solo for Ursula Robb choreographed by Shona McCullagh with projections of a digitised orchid byby Macoto Murayama set to Prelude by John Gibson and the soundscore Soft Dawn Over Whispering Island by John Elmsly, and the quartet Trees, Birds then People, choreographed by Shona McCullagh to Gareth Farr’s somewhat raucous Rondo Mondo played live by NZ Trio.

A delightful surprise finale – everyone is invited to come up on the stage and jam, and about 40% of the audience do, ranging in age from about 3 to somewhere in their 30s. Kids are invited to take a turn in the spotlight and some do, demonstrating their skills in ballet and hiphop, but most are happy just to boogie together and are reluctant to step down off the stage when time is called. Clearly, dance has proved to be inspiring for participants in the NZDC programme, as an adjunct to the other dancing opportunities many of them now have in school, and along with out-of-school and community activities. 


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