Geo Dome, Christchurch

26/09/2011 - 27/09/2011

Fortune Theatre, Dunedin

01/04/2009 - 05/04/2009

Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

13/10/2012 - 14/10/2012

The Body Festival 2011

Tempo Dance Festival 2012

Dunedin Fringe 2006-9

Production Details

Bipeds Productions (Lyne Pringle, Claire O’Neil and Paul Forrest) bring their award winning chemistry to Auckland to present the dance work Lily. Their other shows Fishnet and Gonne Strange took the city by storm!  Fabulous performer and choreographer Claire O’Neil joins the company to play Lily for this season. 

Lily features the One Step Beyond Youth Dance Company and students from the Marian McDermott School of Dance.

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2009 - Dunedin cast:  Kilda Northcott (MNZM) and Lyne Pringle with students from Dance and Theatre Arts, The Dunedin School of Ballet and Dance, and the Bennett School of Ballet and Jazz

2011 - Christchurch cast:  Jessica Latton and Lyne Pringle with The Southern Ballet and Hagley Dance Company
Music: Chopin Etudes Opus 10 

2012 - Auckland cast
Lyne Pringle, Claire O’Neil with the One Step Beyond Youth Dance Company and students from the Marian McDermott School of Dance.


Dance ,

1 hour

A charming celebration of the past

Review by Barbara Snook 14th Oct 2012

Iconic dance teachers have existed in the history of New Zealand dance, memories are held for a few generations, and then as people age and die, so a legacy will often die with them.  Bipeds Productions has ensured that the memory of Lily Stevens, a remarkable Dunedin studio dance teacher is kept alive through the engaging production of Lily.

Lily was staged in the Loft at Q Theatre on Saturday 13 October. Claire O’Neil danced the title role in this production alongside Lyne Pringle who took on multiple roles and provided a narration throughout. Student dancers from the Marion McDermott School of Dance and One Step Beyond Youth Dance Company provided a suitably high standard of technical excellence as Lily’s students. They also engaged well in role creating an atmosphere of a bygone era.

Lyne Pringle’s relationship with Lily through her grandmother, mother and aunt formed a basis for the telling of the story and made it quite a personal account.  Lyne’s aunt had danced alongside Lily and according to the Pringle family, was the ‘better dancer’ of the two.  If women chose to get married and have babies however, as did Lyne’s aunt, then the door to dance was closed. On the other hand, Lily made a decision to devote her life to her dance and her students, resulting in a somewhat solitary and difficult existence.

The staging created an ambiance from the start and supported the performance. Two screens at the back of the stage were not only decorative, but were used as props and also reversed to accommodate the projection of beautiful old images of Lily. The lighting was used effectively to create different scenes and even took Lily to different countries during her year in Europe. The costumes were many and varied and reflected Lily’s complexity as she struggled with staging highly creative and demanding productions while often plagued with mental illness throughout her career.

There was a warmth and naivety about the script and the delivery, which was endearing and gave the production a personal touch which was carried through into moments of audience interaction.   Both the spoken text and the dancing provided amusing moments, and occasionally the dancers appeared to comment on the dance rather than simply recreate a work.  Humour was used effectively to engage the audience.  Within the dance narrative there were also some poignant moments which honoured Lily’s life.

Claire O’Neill created a believable Lily. It was a pity that her main dance solo was obscured during a dream sequence surrounded by her pupils in dark moody lighting. We would have liked to have seen more. The performance of dances from a different era, some of which have endured in the dance examination world, were a treat. It was wonderful to see Lyne as a dancer in her 50’s continuing to perform and entertain. She has taken her dancing to a different stage, informed by years of experience. 

Both dancers combined to capture an essence of the life of Lily Stevens through a production utilising different art forms. This was a captivating creation that told the story of a woman whose life work provided an insight into the devotion and commitment of studio dance teachers. As Lyne stated in the program “[this work] is dedicated to the incredible passion and artistry of private dance teachers everywhere”. 


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Lily = outsider spinster artist dedicated to her art

Review by Paul Young 27th Sep 2011

Say the mantra; we are blessed to have a festival, we are blessed to have a venue, we are blessed to have illumination (daylight savings means the show started in broad daylight) ohm, ohm, ohm. The Geo Dome feels the docking bay on a space station and the sight lines are a disaster but beggars can’t be choosers, and I just have to let it go, let it go. Ok!
Before a big orange sash, folded screens printed with lilies, a podium, a chaise lounge and an enamel washtub sits Lyne Pringle in a tuxedo and top hat, mannequin like. This is someone who has been dancing since before I existed. I think she might be role-playing the ghost of theatre past, baton in hand. She makes eyes at me. Batty lashes. Is it a challenge? I have not quite lost my bias against dummies since Douglas Wright’s camp little character in Black milk. Is she going to pass the baton or whack me with it?
At its heart, Lily is a celebration and acknowledgement of Lyne’s dance whakapapa. It is visual history, and a celebration of dance pioneer Lily Steven’s living legacy. Recorded testimonies from Lily’s past students, all quite old now, are steeped with respect and affection. They paint a picture of a perfectionist, inspirational educator and stern taskmaster (at one point demanding that a young student hold a twenty-cent coin between her buttocks, have feet like needles and relax, in the same sentence).
Lyne’s connection to Lily is by way of her childhood dance teachers, and via her own grandmother, who danced with Lily in her youth and may have been her rival. While Grandma conformed to societal pressure, and applied herself to domesticity, Lily became an; ‘”outsider spinster artist dedicated to her art”. Thank god work and family are no longer mutually exclusive.
Lyne pulls out more than a dozen costumes all, I assume, from her childhood.      In her first dance class she had to tuck her singlet into her undies because she didn’t have a leotard, and now 48 years later she is rocking the same look, plus big white bunny ears. The bunny suit represents all the things she ever got to be as a young dancer; Cleopatra, Aurora, Song of the sea, the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland; and in her first ever dance costume; waterfall sprite, 1963.
Lily, portrayed at various stages of life by Jessica Latton (Ngati Wheke), enters with a waterfall of little ballet sprites cannoning her every move. The Southern Ballet Junior Company flow on and off stage like hourglass sand, their feet move like aforementioned needles. Later they are adorable as they animate Lyne’s old costumes.
There is enough nostalgia here to cause a rift in time but Lyne is firmly in the here and now and muses on the past in a casually observational style occasionally yelling ‘CUT’ to bring us back to the present. Lily never really seems to be more than a two dimensional projection of archival footage. Although she does speak, it is Lyne as storyteller who can really turn a phrase.
Lily worked so hard that she may not have been able to fully enjoy the fruit of her labour. In fact, she was over-worked to the point of a nervous breakdown. This is played in a scene like a cross between Walt Disney’s Fantasia and Lord of the flies. Caught in a maelstrom of phantoms and discombobulated dance paraphernalia, Lily lashes the air with her cane before ending up burnt-out, alone ,and presumably in psychiatric treatment, wearing a mask fashioned from a child’s tutu. The mask evokes a big bug, a Sunflower and a WWF wrestler, and is a moment of aesthetic genius. There a few striking moments like this that I would like to see elaborated upon. Lily obviously recovers and we see her still  teaching in her 90’s!
In this work, Lyne integrates at least four generations of performers, involves the local community, and honours the experience of our dance antecedents through oral history. What more appropriate homage could she create?                                                    
I’m left thinking fondly of my teacher Sheryl Robinson whose career was much shorter than Lily’s, but she also left a legacy that will influence future generations, I’m sure.

For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.


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Compelling portrayals

Review by Alexandra Kolb 02nd Apr 2009

This is a time for retrospectives. Following the cinematic celebration of Shona Dunlop MacTavish, accompanied by much fanfare at the Regent Theatre a month ago, another Dunedin dance icon has now been placed into the limelight of the local and national community.

Lily Stevens (1902-1996) was a dance teacher, performer and administrator who taught ballet and character dance to generations of students in her studio at 26 Moray Place. Despite using her stick rather heavy-handedly – a practice not uncommon among her generation of ballet mistresses – she is still fondly remembered by many students as a fierce but charming and committed teacher. Ploughing every penny she earned into her artistic endeavour, she went on overseas tours to study and bring back national dances to Dunedin and neighbouring communities.

As someone who considers myself cosmopolitan, I admit to having at first asked the question: is a ballet teacher from a small city in New Zealand (or indeed, any dance teacher) really a worthwhile subject for a dance production? Then again, we see plenty of contemporary dance which is abstract in content, and I reminded myself of the German expressionist Valeska Gert’s harsh criticism of the abstractions of the (much more famous) Mary Wigman in the 1920s. Gert considered abstract dance an aestheticism out of touch with reality, a "senseless fiddling about".

Hence I decided that perhaps it is, after all, worthwhile to create projects born out of the local community, which have a direct reference to the everyday reality of their audiences. Consoling myself with this thought, I arrived at the Fortune Theatre with an open mind – and I was not disappointed.

The piece, about 50 minutes in length, uses a collage technique to convey a loose narrative – the life and career of Lily – in a post-modernist fashion. In the tradition of dance theatre, it combines elements of dance with the inclusion of speech, dramatic and theatrical gestures, alienation effects, and the use of props. The amalgam of these elements, together with the use of projections on an upstage makeshift screen, maintains diversity and interest.

The cast is unusual in featuring two mature dancers – Kilda Northcott and Lyne Pringle – and about 30 young students from three local ballet schools: Dance and Theatre Arts, The Dunedin School of Ballet and Dance, and the Bennett School of Ballet and Jazz.

The first to appear on stage are Northcott, playing the role of Lily in a dress suggesting autumn leaves, and Pringle, whose role is multi-dimensional as she weaves autobiographical elements with family history and (later in the piece) portrays other characters. At the outset, she wears rabbits’ ears and a costume worn as a child in a 1966 performance of ‘Alice in Wonderland’. She subsequently plays – and tells of – her grandmother Linda McDonald, who danced with Lily in competitions in the early 20th century but rather than pursuing a career in dance got married and had children. 

Subsequent scenes oscillate between episodes of Lily’s life and dance scenes with her numerous pupils which show fragments of dance classes, her rather authoritarian teaching style and renowned end-of-year concerts. The group scenes with the girls are convincingly choreographed – Viva Foster’s solo is particularly noteworthy – and the interactions between the two main characters, and between Lily and her students are diverting and varied in character (choreography: Lyne Pringle, co-choreographer Megan Adams, and guest choreographer Robyn Synclair).

The show is spiced up by elements of the comic and humoresque, but also sounds a succinctly sad if not tragic note, when Lily’s nervous breakdowns and her underlying loneliness and dependence on her students are captured. These scenes are brilliantly performed by Kilda Northcott. 

The work also raises some interesting issues, for instance about the difficult choice for women between career and motherhood, and in an acid side-swipe at the RAD (Royal Academy of Dance) system in a scene where the Academy’s representative, portrayed by Pringle, literally forces Lily to jump through hoops.

There were a few weaker aspects to the performance. The use of the props was not always convincing. The visual ‘lilies’ theme was perhaps a little overused, and I wondered whether the mechanical stilts used at the beginning were really necessary. The lighting (Jen Lal) was rather conventional and some scenes appeared slightly too dark.

The two main characters, however, were compellingly portrayed and spoke very clearly, and the girl cast was well-drilled. The star of the evening must be Kilda Northcott, who with her outstanding expressive talent conveyed a huge range of emotions in a short space of time.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 



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