17/06/2021 - 19/06/2021
What remains when we offer surrealism to the body? How does one dance with the subconscious?
Magnificent Remains is a contemporary dance work by Brittany Kohler in collaboration with Dance Plant Collective, inspired by the surrealism movement. It is a nod to the original Surrealists, who, in pursuit of liberation turned to the unconscious mind.
We now welcome the 2021 Surrealists. They have spent the last while waltzing with surrealism – discovering, abandoning and following their noses without rationale. They will offer us an insight into their investigations, a dip into a world where dreams are placed on a pedestal and logic is abandoned in favour of possibility. Watch as the body receives and reacts in a collage of juxtapositions.
With movement based images of surrealism, Magnificent Remains is performed by a stellar cast of dancers. An incredible sound score has been designed by james risbey, Costume by Zoë McNicholas, and Lighting by Paul Bennett.
Choreographic collaboration and performance
Lighting design and operation
Experimental dance , Dance , Contemporary dance ,
Wonderfully unique and refreshing.
Review by Lucien Johnson 22nd Jun 2021
Going to Dance Plant Collective’s new work Magnificent Remains, a self-avowed surrealist contemporary dance-theatre work, one cannot help try and make connections with artists from the surrealist canon. Are the performers, dressed in oversized vintage suits, straining to see what is written in the journal on top of an old-fashioned desk, the faceless, bureaucratic phantoms of the world depicted by René Magritte? Does the projection on the back wall of the theatre, a wide camera shot from a bird’s eye view, reference the scattered motifs of Joan Miro? Are we trapped inside one of Man Ray’s ‘Rayographs’?
What emerges though is something quite unique. The references and touchstones are quickly left behind or forgotten. In Magnificent Remains, Dance Plant Collective, under the choreographic direction of Brittany Kohler, create their own world. In a series of sequences seamlessly blended together, composition and improvisation, direction and individual expression, are so beautifully intertwined that such distinctions are rendered meaningless.
The work is formless. There is no climax or sense of beginning nor end. Where some may feel dissatisfied or lost by such a bold gesture, it is indeed the work’s strength and an act of courage to resolutely stick to this plan. We are inside a dream, thoughts are only half-conceived or cast-aside, sentences half-finished, gestures ambiguous and abandoned. Kohler and her team resist obvious clichés inherent to the theatre of dreams. We sit in a disconcerting universe, to be sure, but one which is oddly peaceful, perhaps even unexpectedly comforting.
One senses a wonderful complicity and genuine empathy amongst the cast. The work is anti-virtuosic, and as such individual contributions are not the point. James Risbey’s immaculate sound design, one part Twin Peaks, one part Bladerunner, is a brilliant contribution though and deserves special mention.
Dance Plant Collective and Brittany Kohler should feel very proud of Magnificent Remains. It is a work of maturity which belies the youth of the cast. One hopes that they will be given the opportunity to develop this language, which is wonderfully unique and refreshing in the landscape of New Zealand contemporary dance-theatre. Like a dream, it remains in the imagination, something that feels so strong in the moment and yet, when asked to recall it later, or what it meant, becomes elusive and intangible. _______________________________
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A wineglass, darkly
Review by Jesse Quaid 19th Jun 2021
We walk into a set piece.
Human tables, plastic wine glasses full of vividly luminous red carried on their backs. Suited figures with clumsy shoes and carefully blank faces. A slow shifting tide of carefully dishevelled poses, shadows thrown high against the stark white walls of the space. This slow first act, an exaggerated parody of a gallery opening, is a strangely disassociated commentary on what follows.
The latest work from Brittany Kohler and Dance Plant Collective, Magnificent Remains is an accumulation of curated tasks and tableaux that unfold in a constantly increasing tempo. The mechanics are clearly displayed and the eight performers deftly navigate their way through the structure, their blank concentration interspersed with over-amplified emotion. This is a piece of choreography deliberately constructed of parts.
james risby’s atmospheric composition fades in and out of awareness behind the show’s four distinct acts, each containing its own unique rules and preoccupations. A live feed, a fascinating birds-eye view of the stage, floats neglected on the back wall and objects lie stacked at the sides to be used and then abandoned.
It is unfortunate that LOT23 is so small. Although the solid white walls create an effective backdrop the sheer number of bodies on stage constrains and obscures the choreography. There is no possibility for exiting the space, and neither do the performers absent themselves energetically. Their movements are forced to overlap, with patterns losing their distinction and bodies unable to fully extend into the space. Amidst this constant shifting small moments of clarity arise and die like soap-bubbles.
Bella Wilson stands, looking past the others as if she’s not sure why she’s here. Fa’asu Afoa-Purcell stares into the audience as if they are not sure why we’re here. Jacob Reynolds and Neža Jamnikar stumble across the floor together with captivatingly awkward dedication.
A series of images is presented, centrally placed, faux-surrealist compositions. Collapsed man with wine glasses, ‘Dead’ woman with chair, candles and teapot. Natasha Kohler rises from a fall of paper in a fluidly responsive solo that dissipates into arbitrary dance. If the mechanics of construction were less overwhelming, swallowing each image before it is fully realised, this avalanche of images could be mesmerising.
Magnificent Remains has a clear choreographic structure and an assured cast; it is a joy to witness the sympathy and ease displayed between the performers. As an attempt, however, to “unleash the subconscious” it is uncommitted, either unwilling or unable to let go of the safety of known forms. There is neither conviction nor risk in what is presented, no frisson of the unknown or shock of the uncanny.
The art scene in Aotearoa is not an easy place to survive in and it is a laudable achievement that Dance Plant Collective are still together and regularly making work. They are skilled artists with a strong voice and it is, perhaps, time for this established collective to swap their plastic glasses for the vulnerability, clarity and strength of crystal.
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