Basement Theatre, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

17/09/2015 - 19/09/2015

Production Details

Look At Me – a double bill


A dance piece with no bodies? Crazy fad culture? Duelling saxophones?

Chloe Baynes

Kimberly Cheng Hui-xin, Rebecca McCracken, Stephanie Day, Laura Wansink.

About the work
What if you saw dance without a single body? “_________” is the physical exploration of how movement can be communicated through layers to reach us. Fabrics, light, darkness, and sound shroud the movement. What will be seen through the ripple effect?

About the Choreographer
Freelancer and choreographer Chloe Baynes is currently working towards her Honours Degree in Dance Studies at The University of Auckland. Her choreographic interests include perception of image, aesthetic, and communication. She utilizes interdisciplinary collaboration with musicians and visual artists to explore how these ideas can be expressed through movement.

Look at Me 

Tori Manley.Latecomers cannot be admitted.

  • 17-19 September at 8pm

  • Adult: $17 
    Concession: $15

Bookings: https://www.iticket.co.nz/events/2015/sep/look-at-me

Contemporary dance ,

1 hour 20 mins

Double bill - the absurd meets the heartfelt

Review by Carrie Rae Cunningham 18th Sep 2015

I must start by saying that this work is already a triumph before I even see it.  Look at Me is a collaboration between current dance students at Auckland University and recent dance graduates from Unitec, something that hasn’t been done before as far as I know.  Not that there are some kind of unspoken Uni Wars or anything, but the two tertiary programmes (that both produce some of the country’s top dancers and choreographers) have always seemed to keep their respective distance from one another.  But no more!  And what a wondrous occasion it is.

The Basement’s downstairs theatre space is longer than it is wide with a relatively low ceiling (for a theatre), which gives it a kind of cavernous feel.  I nearly walk into a pole and dangling lightbulb when I enter through the door.  A large canvas-like material is stretched across the stage area of the space.  The lighting levels are quite low.  These are intrepid times.

The first piece titled “______________” (really?) by Chloe Baynes plays with the number of ways form can be found, manipulated and distorted into the unknown and unseen.  The canvas fabric is super stretchy.  Faces, hands, legs and other body parts push into the canvas, grabbing it, creating distorted figures and eerie human likenesses.  A tapping of the canvas sends ripples across it, creating some beautiful surface movement.  All this is set to the staccato and sometimes shrill bleating of a saxophone played live by Jarrod Baynes.  It’s highly effective as an absurdist soundtrack to what becomes a quite absurd amorphous performance.  I also instantly like that the saxophonist is in a full-body black leotard, complete with hood.  It makes the sax appear to be floating.  Like a ghost sax.

And then enter the ghosts.  The canvas is pulled down and crumples over the top of the bodies behind it.  They appear to be fumbling around under their cover, but then two figures emerge only to be covered by more fabric – white sheets.  They are like headless ghosts!  I instantly think of the Charlie Brown Halloween cartoons (the sight is quite comical).

And then I also remember I saw a first draft of this work by Chloe at a University of Auckland black box show earlier in the year.  I like how it has developed.  Which reminds me.  What a treat to be able to see multiple versions of an artist’s work in the making!  In our resource-driven, performance-seeking, finished-product-focused world of dance making, we often forget that the creation of work takes time, consideration and revision.  This work has come a long way and I appreciate the time spent on its development. 

The ghostly figures shuffle awkwardly about the space.  Then the bodies underneath flick on some torches and have crazy shining eyeballs that seem to be surveying the scene.  This makes me think the ghosts are cute and I laugh.  This could be an episode of the X-Files.  The programme notes for this work ask “How do we experience what we cannot see?” I ask the same question, as the lighting in this work is very, very low and I feel like we as an audience miss some of the intended effects of the side lighting on the canvas as it ripples and rolls across the stage and as two more mysterious figures appear under the fabric.  I get the mood lighting and all, but maybe bump up those side booms a bit, eh?

In the end, the cute ghosts and the floating saxophone are gobbled up by the big mass from which they came, in a hail of spluttering squawks from the lonely brass section.  A return to form.  Ashes to ashes. Back into the primordial ooze. 

The second half of Look at Me begins with Tori Manly and Joanne Hobern en repose like God reaching out towards Adam in Michelangelo’s famous painting.  The stage manager stacks up a teetering mountain of chairs and random props all around them and I get the sinking feeling I’m about to see some kind of bad improv comedy sketch unfold.

My fears are unfounded and instead Tori and Joanne give us a funny, very clever and genuinely heartfelt ‘performance’ about two human beings who feel, hurt, want, need, help and love each other.  They pass notes between them (with their toes!) and whisper secrets in each other’s ears. They wear shirts that look like they came from the kids’ section of Cotton On. 

A tray is wheeled out and Joanne sits down to chop onions.  This makes her cry.  Real (real?) tears.  But it doesn’t matter what kind of real they are because I soon forget why or how she started crying and am willingly drawn in to the interaction between two totally committed performers.  Tori piles up an impossible mountain of props onto Joanne and it proves to be a madness her arms cannot hold, much like life.  Sometimes.  Joanne is overwhelmed, crying.  We’ve all been there.

Tori drags Joanne away from her misery and lies her down, laying hands first on Joanne’s eyes then on her own.  A transfer of tears, of defeat, of loss seems to take place, rendering Tori blind and precariously navigating the space with Joanne clearing the scattered props away so that her friend doesn’t smash into anything.  These are seemingly small gestures but they represent the heart of this work, which is the capacity of humans to be kind, selfless and caring.  The performers have a genuine connection throughout the work.  It is [they are] easy to believe because you don’t have to believe it.  It’s real.

One of the passed notes re-appears.  It is unfolded and reads “BETTER?”  The other note is revealed in response.  “THANK YOU.”  It is meant to be an unspoken conversation between the people on stage, but I feel like we as an audience are in on it too.

Yes. THANK YOU.  Gratitude.


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