Made in New Zealand 2012 - Footnote Dance Company

Mary Hopewell Theatre, Dunedin

22/03/2012 - 24/03/2012

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

22/05/2012 - 23/05/2012

Opera House, Wellington

12/06/2012 - 13/06/2012

Dunedin Fringe 2012

Production Details

Inspired by New Zealand, Footnote Dance present their touchstone season ‘Made at Centerstage Theatre.’ Featuring kiwi choreographers Ross McCormack, Malia Johnston, Sarah Foster, and Claire O’Neil. McCormack and O’Neil are returning back home to New Zealand – and Foster to her Southland roots – to present four new individual works in this season:

– ‘(Sex)’, by Ross McCormack – Flesh, skin, urge, trance, ecstasy, beauty, cruelty.

– ‘In Pieces’, by Malia Johnson – Several sections of movement choreographed by the dancers using tasks that metaphorically investigated falling, trip and exit.

– ‘Southern Cross’ by Clare O’Neil – It’s a one-way ticket, from west to east, from here to there, from then to now, from birth to death, from calm to turbulence, from the city into the bush and from inspiration into action.

– ‘Trance Like Happiness’, by Sarah Foster – influenced by Sarah’s recent trip to study in Israel.

Featuring company dancers, Manu Reynaud, Emily Adams, Olivia McGregor, Alice Macann, Lucy Marinkovich and Levi Cameron.


Dunedin – Dunedin Fringe Festival – Mary Hopewell Theatre – March 22nd and 24th – Tickets at –

Invercargill – Centrestage Theatre – March 25th –

Nelson – Nelson Heritage Week – The Suter Theatre – April 17th and 18th – –

Dannevirke – Dannevirke Town Hall – May 12th – Whiplash Surf

Auckland – Q Theatre – May 22nd and 23rd –

Wellington – Wellington Dance Festival – The Opera House – June 12th and 13th –

Footnote Dance Company - dancers: Lucy Marinkovich,  Emily Adams, Olivia McGregor, Alice Macann, Manu Reynaud, and Levi Cameron

In Fine Fettle

Review by Greer Robertson 14th Jun 2012

United in its quest to create and perform dance made on these shores, Footnote mounts the 6th and the last in the series of Made in NZ under the Directorship of Deirdre Tarrant.  After 26 years at the helm, Tarrant continues to drive her dream and leaves the dance company in fine fettle for the next director to further grow her legacy. Having nurtured and molded a solid base of structure, a passion to strive, coupled with a forever pitch to thrive, Footnote lives on.

Four new works by New Zealand choreographers  are presented by six proficient and passionately committed dancers. Undauntedly, they give their all. And all in attendance marvel at the honed physicality and consummate technique the dancers display.

First up is “Trance like Happiness” with choreography by Sarah Foster-Sproull, based upon her experience and recent travels to Israel. Raw noise, chanting prayers and market-place clutter cut the air, instantly identifying the off-shore culture. Slowly, a beat is added and the clipped concise angst of the dancers’ repeating moves find purpose. Blind faith permeates into hidden, held-back happiness without any exuberant outward display of joy. Is this a deliberate cultural stance? What is happiness?

Superbly in sync, the dancers culminate in a strong visual state of unity and support with arms and hands cleverly and artistically placed on the one who will survive.

A change of flavour, a change of pace and it is onto the second piece “Southern X” with choreography by Claire O’Neil. This is a project with a lot going on.  It spans north to south, east to west, one to another, together and apart, calm to turbulence, city into bush. Phew, no wonder I had trouble keeping on the makers track? Less is sometimes more. 

Freshly clad in colourful, everyday clothes designed by Fidget Co, the dancers move across the ample stage space changing pace and style with almost every move. Dancer Levi Cameron is a definite stand out with fluid dexterity.The spoken word is used to punctuate the moving atmosphere. These verbal cumbersome moments seem to jar the flow as it is often difficult for dancers to achieve and maintain, if not professionally trained in voice projection, enunciation and breathe control. Was this jarring intentional perhaps?

“[SEX]” with choreography by Ross McCormack is a piece with four dancers exploring a physical relationship based on a quote from Rosalie Cortass, “Ecstasy, Sex, Dance…. Separate these words and you’ve split the atom.”

Two couples separately demonstrate clever entwining partnering skills as McCormack manages to establish and maneuver the intent to devour another human being through longing, loving touch. This piece at times is uniquely refreshing as one can physically see a thought before it transcends into an emotional state, before it becomes an actual dance move. In this way, “[SEX”] stands separate from the other works where the move often makes feelings happen after the fact.

Bold at times, subtly layered at others, it commands your interest.

Finally “In Pieces” with choreography by Malia Johnston.

Material input is also created from the Footnote dancers where several ideas were interpreted. Take apart, fall apart, trip, fall and exit being their words for dance direction. Pleasing expansive breadth of movement is shown in flowing black and white attire with costume co-ordination by fellow dancer Lucy Marinkovich. Good sharp contrast lighting is a welcome effect. The accompanying music of abrasive electronic sounds mingled more pleasantly when piano and strings were added to the mix.

All in all, a dance marathon and the dancers and “[SEX]” are the winners.

A firm, physical triumph across the finish line, Made in NZ.



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Footnote's excellent pedigree to the fore

Review by Sam Trubridge 13th Jun 2012

Footnote’s Made in New Zealand 2012 season at Wellington Opera House concludes the nationwide tour of this mixed bill of works, and more significantly marks director Deirdre Tarrant’s last presentation of this six year tradition at Footnote. After 27 years of tirelessly leading this company from inception, Tarrant is retiring from this role to leave behind a strong company and excellent pedigree in the four choreographers and six dancers show-cased in the programme tonight.

The evening opens with Sarah Foster-Sproull’s Trance Like Happiness: described as a response to travelling in Israel in 2011, where she attended a workshop run by Batsheva Dance Company. The choreography shows the influence of Batsheva director Ohad Naharin, where powerful choruses of movement contrast with explosive bursts of individual freedom. Foster-Sproull’s feverish movements use a range of religious supplications and overlapping rituals that are so much a part the cultural and political landscape of the Middle East. If there was any doubt about this, the music by Andrew Foster creates a kaleidoscope of various religious calls to prayer, invocations and bell ringing. It is a flickering, twitching landscape of movement that is never quite comfortable with itself, relaxing into moments of abandon in solos that inevitably return the dancer to the conformity of the crowd. Finally, in the last moments of the piece this energy gathers around one figure (Olivia McGregor) who slowly emerges from a forest of patting, pecking, poking, and tugging hands. Fingers pull at the edges of McGregor’s face as she breaks free to step away from this blind and groping anemone of the crowd. It is a powerful image of the sticky, suffocating proximity of humanity to end the work with.

As the first work ends with a departure, the next work focuses on journeys. Southern X  by Claire O’Neil operates as a continuous diorama in motion from left to right, pushing the dancers across the stage in a tide of tumbling activity. The choreographic phrases that sustain this movement move past us, as if this were a passage through life that we were witnessing with all its diversions and events rendered in an ever-rolling comic strip of movements. The performers punctuate this rhythm by making regular intrusions to the forestage, attempting to connect with the audience by speaking to them through a microphone. Welcomes, encouragements and consolations are offered. Against a backdrop of reunions and couples meeting, Manu Reynaud explains how he and the other dancers must run around behind the scenery to keep this treadmill in constant motion. He becomes frustrated with this mechanism, and tries to reverse it, only becoming subsumed by the crowd again. It is a mesmerising work, only sometimes undermined by mimed action or the more literal references to its subject matter. It is the subtler sequences and image that seem to express the ideas more profoundly: such as newcomer Alice McCann’s own short, understated solo and parting words to the audience as she leaves. Small gestures made in a tide of movement that must keep going – “our way is that way” she says as she leaves the stage.

The third piece (SEX) is choreographed by Ross McCormack and features only four of the company dancers: Manu Reynaud, Emily Adams, Olivia McGregor, and Levi Cameron. Four bodies dressed in rumpled old bedshirts and undies move with all the familiarity of a long-term relationship around one another. Sometimes the movements are anything but sexual, with heavy movements and manipulations devoid of any eroticism or sensuality. At other times sex is everywhere: expressed in what seems to be a crowd of party-goers, or the poses and myriad adjustments of the body attempting to be appealing or seductive. From the very beginning there is a panting, undulating of the belly and the shoulders that sets the rhythm for the piece. It is as earthy and visceral a work as McCormack’s recent piece for Okareka Dance Company, and it is fantastic to see this talented team of dancers approaching the choreography with such raw energy and bravery. This is contemporary dance that finds beauty in the grotesque: such as when McGregor and Adams pump their feet on the spreadeagled backs of the male dancers or when Adams is lifted and fluidly swept around the stage in a garish sequence of poses. Yet it ends with a tender kiss and the strains of nostalgic music. In the darkness behind this, Reynaud and Adams are visible, their backs rising and falling with exertion like two beating hearts.

The bill concludes with Malia Johnston’s In Pieces. Bodies fall into the stage in a reverse of O’Neil’s earlier choreography – from right to left, bodies filling a shrinking square of light. As the name suggests, this work is a fractured montage of choreographic sequences that build a poignant emotional landscape. Levi Cameron lies splayed and discarded on the stage, dropped by one of the sweeping sequences across the space. Later Lucy Marinkovich falls repeatedly, each time being missed by Cameron, who each time rushes back onto the stage trying to catch her. Later she throws herself backward again and again to be caught by Manu Reynaud.  There is powerful and melancholic duet between Footnote newcomers Alice McCann and Levi Cameron that leaves McCann on the edge of the stage. It is both a very abstract work and incredibly heartfelt, as the name of the work suggests. But blink and you will miss it, because In Pieces does not impose any angst upon its audience. Instead it is easy to be seduced by the cascades of movement across the stage, rendered in washes of cool light and performed with complete confidence by this company of dancers.

It is a wonderfully diverse programme, which the strong company of dancers unite with a common vocabulary. The drama of Trance Like Happiness, the endless movement of Southern X, the earthiness of (SEX) and the crystalline In Pieces: this collection of works describe a contemporary terrain for the body that is emotional, sexual, spiritual, and transient. As Tarrant prepares to pass over her leadership of this company, one can truly appreciate in this programme a strong future for the company that will be sustained by the vibrant young energy of this group of dancers and choreographers. Be sure to see this fantastic selection of New Zealand’s choreographic and dance talent before it closes tonight. 


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Art - not just movement

Review by Roxanne de Bruyn 23rd May 2012

Minutes before the performance starts, Q Theatre is full, the audience bustling about Footnote’s annual short works programme Made in New Zealand.

The lights dim and the curtains open on the first of four works, Sarah Foster-Sproull’s Trancelike Happiness, a response to her travels in Israel. Opening with a single dancer on stage and incorporating repetitive, sharp isolations and contortions, it is an otherworldly and intriguing piece, alluding to mysticism, religion and the social structures within a city.

Andrew Foster’s music is reminiscent of the Middle East and provides context to the work, creating a space that seems distant and exotic. The dancers intertwine, giving a sense of a whole, with individuals intermittently leaving and rejoining the group, being pulled back into the whole. There is a powerful scene where one emerges from the group, moving forward with difficulty, as she is caressed by the group, their hands stretching the skin on her face and body. She seems to be trying to leave, perhaps to attempt a higher level of spirituality but is pulled back into the supporting but suffocating arms of the group.

In contrast, Southern X is fast moving, with a strong structure and direction. The action moves along the stage from left to right in a rapid, linear pattern; a representation of a journey in only one direction. Using words as well as movement, a microphone is the only prop and progresses across the stage with the dancers as they tell their stories in turns. The end result is a mixture of freedom, entrapment and possibility, as there is only one way to move and going back is impossible, a restriction which is enforced by the other dancers.

Ross McCormack’s work (SEX) follows, sensual and erotic. Two couples partner closely, the individuals both supporting and limiting each other. There is a strong focus on the physicality of dancers; bodies are emphasised with lots of touching and slow deliberate movements accentuate every muscle and sinew.

Breath, vibration and rhythm are as much part of the dancing as the movement, and there is contorting and lengthening of the dancers’ bodies. There is interplay of control, power and vulnerability between the dancers and the overall impression is overtly sexual and somewhat uncomfortable and voyeuristic at times.

The final work, In pieces, choreographed by Malia Johnston, looks like it would have been lovely to dance. It is themed around falling, individually and together, and is full of turns and jumps. There is less depth to this piece than the others, but is seems to catch an authentic response from the dancers, perhaps an expression of some of their love of dance. The highlight of this work is a arresting series of quick sequences by the dancers in a lit square on an otherwise dark stage.

For all four works, the stage is very stark and empty, so lighting and music provide the context. The lighting is striking and the music is pivotal to the understanding of the pieces. The dancing is good and solid, with lots of strength and physicality. There is a strong feeling of the inspiration behind the movement inherent in the dancers. There are similarities is the style throughout the pieces – many contortions, isolations, rhythmic repetition and the touching and entwining of the group.

There is a good connection between the dancers and the work and there is a clear link between the movement and the concepts. The dancing manages to embody emotions and it is perhaps a pity that the pieces were too short to explore the ideas more fully.

Overall, there is a lot of depth to the programme and there are interesting interpretations of ideas. These works are intended to express concepts and do so effectively resulting in art, not just movement.


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Revelling in technical sophistication and athleticism

Review by Jonathan W. Marshall 27th Mar 2012

Last year Footnote Dance toured the wonderfully strange, sculptural, full-length work Hullapolloi. In 2012, though, the company again brings its annual mixed bill of Made in New Zealand to national centres. As a collection of short works the effect is, well, mixed, and some works are stronger than others.

Each piece constitutes a short exploration of a theme, and consequently the results themselves tend to be sketch-like. Trancelike Happiness from choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull (music Andrew Foster) and (Sex) by Ross McCormack (music Jason Wright) largely succeed in overcoming this limitation by merit of some extremely striking and idiosyncratic movement.

The other pieces of Southern X (from Claire O’Neil and Riki Gooch), and In Pieces (by Malia Johnston and Rowan Pierce) seem to reflect something of a company style. The hollowing out of the chest and curving inward and outward of the arms about this charged, tensed, muscular void recurs in many works. This was indeed one of the most impressive elements within Kate McIntosh’s and Jo Randerson’s Hullapolloi, hence the manner in which it seems to be emerging as a common motif throughout the company, irrespective of the choreographer.

Intentional or not, such larger themes are welcome within a program of otherwise truncated studies. As a program then, Made in New Zealand 2012 is quite satisfying, even I missed the amount of depth of fuller choreographic development which a full-length piece can offer.

Footnote continues to commission new music to accompany these new choreographic works, and although I continue to be slightly disappointed that this element is not foregrounded as well as it deserves, it seems the company is committed to this model — even though the movement of the annual Dunedin venue from the University of Otago’s Allen Hall to the smaller Mary Hopewell Studio nearby would seem to suggest that Footnote is struggling to maintain audiences. That said, the Hopewell has a fairly underwhelming sound system, poorly located high in the roof, and none of the music sounded as good as it could.

Leaving aside such technicalities, the pieces are strong and consistently well executed, even if an overall pattern to these rapid fire exercises is not always apparent. Malia Johnston’s contribution for example seemed focussed on movement which placed the body nearly off balance, even if much more to link the assorted positions proved largely absent — a quality exacerbated by the fact that while Rowan Pierce compiled the musical selections, little by way of significant remixing or re-crafting of this material was effected, making the score essentially a slightly random jukebox collection, ranging from postpunk maestros The Tall Dwarfs through to film and theatre composer Rhian Sheehan.

Claire O’Neil’s contribution was apparently supposed to present an abstract representation of the experience of travelling to New Zealand, but aside from a rather kitsch and to my mind near cringe-inducing sequence showing faux-models wandering past in summer attire and sunglasses, I could not see much holding this work together either.

That said, O’Neil’s choreographic transitions are extremely straight forward (rather too much to my mind), with the vast majority of the movement occurring as dancers move along almost straight lines running left to right across the stage, as though dancing along a very fast conveyer belt. This gives a straight-forward, quasi-filmic quality and it certainly provides a readily accessible means of organising the material, ably supported by Gooch’s driving glitch funk.

For my money though, those pieces which broke the space into irregular, scattered patterns, and produced formal combinations reminiscent of monsters or mutants (again, interestingly, evoking one of the main themes of Hullapolloi from last year) provided the stand out works in the quartet.

Foster-Sproull’s segment was apparently inspired by a visit to Israel. As I am not conversant in Hebrew myself, I could not precisely place the complicated wailing tones which accompanied much of the action. It was nevertheless clear to all concerned that Sarah Foster-Sproull’s performative space evoked a realm foreign to most English-speaking New Zealanders, most likely one connected to experiences of the Mediterranean.

There was little sense here of a reversion to some kind of premodern spiritual locale, such as so often mars other works like this. Andrew Foster’s fantastic combination of environmental recordings, found sound and other abstract materials included the bustle of the city, and urgent, insistently heard conversations in the acoustic foreground as we also heard in the distance calls to prayer and other rhythmically complex Middle Eastern materials.

The evocation of some sort of spiritual or religious practice was quickly established by dancers holding the left hand in the gesture of benediction or prayer — a suitably abstract gesture in itself, which translates right back to the mythic origins of Western European and Mediterranean culture in northern India amongst those peoples who have now become Hindu, Buddhist and Muslim.

Dancer Manu Reynaud, a heavy presence within many of the works, engaged in a particularly explosive exploration of the potentialities this gesture evokes. He curled in upon himself in the manner I described earlier, before pointing out in various directions in small, rapid starts and possible trajectories, before bouncing back about his chest and torso to reinvigorate the core from which this impulse arose. Somewhere between confusion and martyrdom, ecstasy and enlightenment, these and other phrases evoked a highly complex and never fully resolved sense of questing which pumped violently and strongly through the bodies on stage.

The piece closed with dancer Olivia McGregor attempting to hold a more quiescent version of this gesture of benediction as the other five dancers crouched in the distance behind her, reaching forward in a long interwoven series of tendril-like limbs, pulling her face out wide and drawing the skin taught across her visage as she moved down into a crouch, and then up and out, her head straining to lead her body and soul.

These and other images, significantly enhanced by a complex score, made Trancelike Happiness a real gem.

It was however Ross McCormack who best succeeded in producing beautiful monsters within Made in New Zealand 2012. Using sexual coupling and creative sensual exchange as his theme, McCormack moves us from the almost pieta-like holding of the limp, prone body by one dancer, through to explosive displays of nervousness, tics, and crazed multidirectional movement. 

The stomach and abdomen is pressed and compressed, and later becomes a site for quasi-phallic distensions. While not as extreme as David Cronenberg’s infected, sex crazed mutants in his film Rabid (1977), the exploration of sensorial exchange between couples, triplets and all four of the cast produces some truly wonderful shapes and images.

The dancers splay their legs, droop their heads low, and pulse in time as each body gently undulates out of the ground and back into it, legs opening just that bit more, before the close allows the torso to rise again. A deeply inhuman sense of organicism and erotics is conveyed here and in other positions.

Wright’s score more than rises to the challenge of informing this work. The music moves through a wide range of material — most notably decaying strings and tones such as György Ligeti specialised in, through to minimal techno, atmospheric hisses, tones and glitch in the mode of Frank Bretschneider and other artists from the purist label Mille Plateau.

Even this does not do justice to the score though, because what most distinguishes Wright’s compositions is not a series of musical signatures per se, but a complex layering of sound and material. The sonic environment is characterised by an acoustic depth within which multiple frames and articulations pulse and throb. This amplifies the choreographic density of McCormack’s work, since no movement is unidirectional. The musical complexity deployed here thus ensures that every action and gesture is always multiple even as it tends to coalesce about a mildly exhausted beat and repetition.

In summing up Made in New Zealand 2012, special note must be made of Levi Cameron. Whilst all of the dancers are excellent (Emily Adams is also highly distinguished in (Sex)), Cameron is clearly at the height of his physical prowess. A tall, sexy dancer whose musculature is visibly writ across every part of his form, and whose facial tics and absorption in his work is absolute, Footnote may need to work hard to keep Cameron in the future. Given the tendency of the company to revel in technical sophistication and athleticism, Cameron’s golden hours upon the stage are, sadly, not going to last all that long. In 10 years, such movement will be at best extremely hard for him to execute (assuming that he is lucky enough to avoid injury and/or successfully deal with the reconstructive surgery so common in the professional dance community). He and his peers should make the most of their virtuosity while it lasts — unless Footnote might one day be able to follow Netherlands Dans Theatre in establishing an over 40s group (NDT2).


Derek Tearne March 31st, 2012

Footnote is, by design and intent, a youth centric company.  My understanding is that it is intended, among other things, to foster young dancers at the beginning of their careers.  Levi Cameron is, as far as I can tell, 21 and in the early stages of his career.  If the statement by the reviewer is to be considered representative, then Cameron has only another ten yearsof career.  

One wonders where this bleak vision of the length of a dancer's career comes from. Not from watching NZ dancers!  My own observations would suggest that early 30s is about where dancers really start to get interesting.  And hsa been pointed out, our most illustrious NZ contemporary dancers are performing still in their early 50s.

So, where did this over by "mid 30's" idea come from?  Perhaps from Ballet, which we are lead to believe is a young person's game.  It certainly matches the career of length of Nijinsky, which was cut short due to mental, not physical, problems.  Problems which would likely be easily treatable today.  Yes, Balanchine had a similar performance career length, cut short by injury, but suggesting his career in dance was over would be far from correct.  Baryshikov was 26, nearly over the hill by this reviewers metric, when he defected to the US.  He continued performing ballet leads for another decade or so, before moving to other roles in dance.  That wasn't the end of his performance career though, ignoring the film and TV Baryshnikov is still touring and performing dance today at 60+. The famous pairing of Nuryev and Fonteyn continued until their famous last performance in 1988 - Fonteyn was 69, Nuryev 50, it also involved Carla Fracci, a sprightly 52.  

So. Not from Ballet then?  

Perhaps Modern Dance... no.  Isadora Duncan, still performing at 50 when she died in an automobile accident.  Martha Graham, dancing well into her 50s.  Merce Cunningham, cameos in his 80's, although one could argue this is not "dancing".  Pina Bausch, dancing lead roles  well into her 40's, and still dancing into her 60s.

One therefore wonders where on earth this came from?  And what kind of dance this reviewer has experience with.

Raewyn Whyte March 30th, 2012

I note the following for the record:

What a luminary dancer at just 21 can do, is just an indication of what their career may produce.

The majority of New Zealand's leading contemporary dance performers are  in their 30s-40s .

Many of our most valued mature performers are in their late 40s - mid-50s. 

Paul Young March 30th, 2012

It is inappropriate for you to speculate about the duration and quality of a particular dancers career and maudlin if not sinister to suggest a liklihood of injury. To state that a contemporary dancer in 2012 is at their peak in their early twenties is simply incompatible with the evidence. Even locally, perhaps you have not heard of Tairoa Royal and Tane Mete, Craig Bary, Alex Leonharstsberger, Jack Gray, Kelly Nash, Sarah-Jayne Howard...frankly, the list goes on and on and really I shouldnt have to spell it out. Even Ross McCormack who choreographed (sex) is 34. He is Currently on tour with Chunky Move . Not bad for being in that age group where "such movement will be at best extremely hard for him to execute".

I know the sterotype...short career...blah blah.....body wears out...blah blah. It is the sort of cliche that I might hear from a well meaning taxi driver (not that taxi driving and dance enthusiasm are mutually exclusive) In my experience dancers are more likely to retire in order to enjoy financial security and social status in a culture that appears to see dance as a youthful diversion.

Yes, I am a proffessional dancer.I am 33. My opinion is that Levi can look forward to being even more brilliant in ten years time...and in twenty? Who could speculate.

Footnote Dance March 28th, 2012

Unfortunately Allen Hall was unavailable this time - but despite Mary Hopewell having 40 less seats, our audience numbers were actually higher at Dunedin Fringe this year than last.

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