Night Light

ASB Waterfront Theatre, 138 Halsey St, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

03/06/2022 - 04/06/2022

Online, Global

24/06/2022 - 26/06/2022

Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre, Rotorua

12/08/2023 - 12/08/2023

Clarence Street Theatre, Hamilton

17/08/2023 - 17/08/2023

Production Details

Choreographer & Composer: Eddie Elliott
Choreographer: Tor Colombus

New Zealand Dance Company

The New Zealand Dance Company presents Night Light – an evening of earthy contrast 

Join us as we embark on our Te Ika-a-Māui tour of Night Light, an exhilarating double bill set to light up Rotorua, Hamilton and New Plymouth this winter.

Exploring an ancient sequence of nature in The Fibonacci and the blurred lines between fiction and reality in Uku – Behind the Canvas, Night Light premiered in Tāmaki Makaurau in 2022 to critical and audience acclaim.

The Fibonacci by Tor Colombus opens up a dreamy terracotta world that explores the mathematical Fibonacci sequence. With a movement vocabulary that drifts effortlessly between the natural and the mechanical, The Fibonacci reveals a tapestry of pattern and form, which provokes a feeling of connection to something deeper than the detail of each individual action.

Tangata Māori choreographer Eddie Elliott’s Uku – Behind the Canvas explores the power of vulnerability and the strength within struggle. Anticipation and intensity are at the heart of movement paired with cleansing uku (clay) which symbolises the relationship between Hineahuone and Tāne – where we’ve come from and to where we will return.

From floating through time and space, observing nature’s mysterious golden spirals in Colombus’ The Fibonacci to grounding down with feeling in Elliott’s Uku – Behind the Canvaswhere confronting storytelling is at its most raw, these two sublime performances make for an evening of earthy contrast that will leave you in awe of the talent and artistry brewing right here on our shores.

Don’t miss this double bill pairing featuring works by two of Aotearoa’s most exciting choreographers on tour this August.


2023 Performances

Rotorua: Saturday, 12 August, 7.30pm
Sir Howard Morrison Centre, Rotorua

Hamilton: Thursday, 17 August, 7.30pm
Clarence Street Theatre, Hamilton

New Plymouth: Thursday, 24 August, 7.30pm
TSB Showplace, New Plymouth

Uku - Behind The Canvas
Choreographer & Composer: Eddie Elliott
Composer: Alistair Deverick
Composer: Jason Wright
Lighting Designer: Jo Kilgour
Costume & Set Designer: Rona Ngahuia Osborne
Mātanga Mātauranga Māori
Tūī Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield

The Fibonacci
Choreographer: Tor Colombus
Sound & Spatial Designer: Rowan Pierce
Lighting Designer: Jo Kilgour
Costume Designer: Elizabeth Whiting
The Fibonacci was co-commissioned by NZDC and the Festival of Colour.
The creation of The Fibonacci was supported by the Susan Paterson Memorial Choreographic Commission, generously made possible by Jane Vesty, Brian Sweeney and Greg Fahey of SweeneyVesty.

2023 Dancers: Brydie Colquhoun, Carl Tolentino, Chrissy Kokiri, 'Isope 'Akau'ola, Katie Rudd, Kosta Bogoievski
2022 Dancers: Brydie Colquhoun, Carl Tolentino, Chrissy Kokiri: Ngaere,Jenkins, Toa Paranihi, Xin Ji
2021 Dancers: Amit Noy, Carl Tolentino, Chrissy Kokir,: Katie Rudd, Ngaere Jenkin,: Toa Paranihi
2020 Dancers: Carl Tolentino, Chrissy Kokir,: Katie Rudd, Ngaere Jenkins. Toa Paranihi, Xin Ji

Maori contemporary dance , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

90 mins

Presented to a full house in Hamilton

Review by Sue Cheesman 20th Aug 2023

New Zealand Dance Company’s double bill Night Light was presented to a full house in Hamilton at the Clarence theatre. The Fibonacci choreographed by Victoria Columbus and  Uku – Behind the canvas by Eddie Elliott were two very contrasting works, both exquisitely performed by the very talented company dancers namely: Katie Rudd, Brydie Colquhoun, Carl Tolentino,  Crissy Kokiri , Koska Bogoievski, ‘Isope ‘Akau’ola. During the bow at the end of the show, dancers in the audience burst into haka in respect and acknowledgment of the dancers on stage. Kia kaha! The collaborators – Rowan Pierce, Elizabeth Whiting, Jon Kilgour Alastair Deverick, Jason Wright, Rona Ngahuia Osbourne and Māori tikanga advisor, Tui Ranapiri Ransfield, Mātanga Mātauranga – each contribute to the dances with their elements richly woven into the tapestry of both works.

Fibonacci begins with a single light entering the stage from the vertical, journeying downwards slowly to light a solo dancer beneath who is moving seamlessly. Interestingly, connecting beginning to end, this piece concludes with this light circling a solo dancer, coming to rest, then a flash of light and ending as it begins which I associate as completing the circle. Throughout the piece the dancers thread through the stage bathed in warm light in circular patterns constantly changing relationships, solos, duets, trios and groups. The dancers’ arms and legs seem to stretch to infinity contributing to the luscious feel of the movement vocabulary. They dance as if moving through water with pauses to momentarily regroup in different shapes and then off again as the piece morphs and transforms continually.  

This mood is interrupted as line of individual dancers in silhouette, against a brilliant white lit back drop, changes the focus and the tranquillity. This is momentary then we return to warm ambience and continue with the previous patterns of circling, surging and pausing. A clever moment is with a soloist side of stage amplifying the movement from within the group centre stage.

There is a very close relationship between sound score and movements throughout, frequently the movement and the sound strike together in unison, accenting the movement and sound. Subsequently the dancers continue to ebb and flow through the sound score amplifying the repeating patterns of the Fibonacci mathematically sequence.  The liquidity of the piece feels aesthetically pleasing.

The back drop with it folds and dappled colour that turns a vibrant yellow at one point provides another layer to this piece. 

In the second work of the programme, Uku – Behind the canvas, the washing with clay is constantly returned to throughout the piece acting as a cleaner. In addition the clay symbolises the relationship between Hineahuone and Tāne  the programme note states. This ritual is performed by each dancer and it is interesting how it permeates through the piece covering the whole stage and dancers in liquid clay  both symbolically and metaphorically. Words that come to the fore are strong, physical, elemental, raw, vulnerable and primeval, underscored by birth, earth, female.  

One dancer has serpentine like movement and seems charged with raising other bodies into life.

At different points in the dance the performers slip and slide across the floor plus carve up the space into lines as they powerfully traverse on the diagonal in unison. Quick foot movements (ti patapata) allow the dancers to skitter across the stage in sharp formation as the dancers inhabit the space moving in all directions smudging the environment with clay.

The dance does a complete u turn at one point with the introduction of comic relief, through spoken text via female voices while the male dancers lean on them facing upstage, gesturing with arms in response to the spoken word, is unexpected. Everyone relaxes and laughs in agreement with the voices exclaiming the previous moves were boring. 

Steeped in Māori references combining kapa haka and contemporary dance produces a visually and viscerally striking piece.

I left the theatre pondering several questions about Uku – Behind the canvas: were there too many ideas being presented so that several were not developed or hidden or I just missed the threads? It seems to me that there is potential to develop this piece to further the telling of stories from a Te Aro Māori lens.

Although the choreographer Eddie Elliott does state that ‘you can make your own story in relation to this piece and his story’, but I still was wondering, as a pakeha, did I miss some of the nuances in the piece not being steeped in Te Aro Māori?


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Joy of watching the contrasting sequences, and the range of connecting movements

Review by Te Ao Tahana-Prangnell  13th Aug 2023

A powerful beginning of The Fibonacci by choreographer Victoria (Tor) Columbus as a single light, amidst complete darkness, descends from above as a single dancer  from the New Zealand Dance Company moves fluidly underneath it. I watch in sheer wonder as the depth perception of the light plays with my eyes and contradicts with my brain as it slowly moves down. The music design by Rowan Pierce adds to the atmosphere with lovely tones and beats that dictate the isolation movement sequences within the choreography. The joy of watching the contrasting sequences, and the range of connecting movements in the dancers’ groupings, mimicking the music is pleasing to my senses. To see the flow of the Fibonacci sequence unfold on the stage in front of me is brilliant. 

I have recently learned in te reo Māori class about moroiti – microorganisms within the oneone (soil) of the whenua and its importance to us. Being influenced by this, I can see in the choreography the dancers, as moroiti, deep in the ground connecting, moving, and growing. Moving together and against each other as the dancers follow the pattern, I can easily see a connection to Eddie Elliott’s dance piece UKU and the story of Hineahuone. Imagine what the soil could tell us about the beginning of life? I especially enjoy watching the weight bearing movements within the choreography. One has to acknowledge how strong, free and beautiful the dancers are in performing the piece on stage, the amount of trust they need to have in each other to ensure they all hit their marks and moments.

The single light depicts to me, ngā hīhī o te rā – the sun rays that bring forth warmth and energy. The white backdrop empowers the movements created by the dancers beautifully. The soft colours in the costumes is a great design choice and adds to Columbus’s choreographic vision. The lighting design by Jo Kilgour adds to the contrast of light and dark similarly to the whakataukii, “Ko te pō, te whaiao, Te Ao Marama” From out of the darkness, the world of being, to the world of light. 

This dance piece UKU – BEHIND THE CANVAS by Eddie Elliott is something I have been eager to watch. I have to admit, I am sceptical about this piece of choreography. Too many times have I seen Māori in general used as a form of tokenism within a pākeha construct.  The choreographer’s stimulus of a fusion based on a Swiss artist’s work and a pūrakau of Hineahuone and Tāne Mahuta is strange to say the least, granted I do not know anything about the artist in question. I am nervous as the lights go down.  The music composed by Alastair Deverick, Jason Wright and Eddie Elliott is very consuming. The contrasts in tempos are striking and paired with the lighting design by Jo Kilgour invades my senses.  It is interesting to watch the female dancer speak for the first time, I wish it was in te reo Māori. As I continue to watch with caution, I can’t help but be drawn into the space by the dancers. The focus and strength they hold within every inch of their bodies, shows the dedication to the choreographer’s vision. I thought I could relax into my seat at this point then Elliott realises my worst fear. He drops a haka into the mix. I feel let down – I can sense that the dancers’ confidence in reciting this haka isn’t as strong as their movements before, is this on purpose I wonder? I begin to regress as the dance continues into a very long sequence. Eddie Elliott read my mind in every way possible, he has a brilliant sense of humour! Giving the dancers a voice is an interesting choreographic choice. The unified voice of the female dancers as their male counterparts incorporated what I could see is NZSL is brilliant. As a mother to a cochlear child who is learning sign language, it is empowering to watch on the stage and I wish my child, Te Waiwaha, is with me to see it.

I should acknowledge that the set design and costumes by Rona Ngahuia Osbourne contribute beautifully to the kaupapa. The city of Rotorua is predominantly steeped in Te Ao Māori, haka and pride, who better to know this than Aunty Tui Ransfield who guided Eddie Elliott through matauranga Māori. She is my haka idol. The lights go up and I breathe a sigh of relief. I feel the dancers deserve a haka, an acknowledgement of beautiful storytelling tonight. This highlights for me the need to have more exposure within our Māori communities to see performances like this, to support our Māori choreographers and encourage more story telling through the Māori lens. One final thought, as much as I love the waiata Tai Aroha, Eddie, have you thought about composing your own pao or pātere to UKU?


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Uku – Behind the Canvas is exceptional, chthonic, primordial

Review by Lyne Pringle 26th Jun 2022

The New Zealand Dance Company once again pivots to present their season of Night Light, on line. Whilst a digital performance cannot emulate the magic of the ‘live’ experience, this initiative gives access to a wider audience. Night Light was to be presented in Whangarei and Otautahi – the company’s first tour in over two years – but these aspirations were curtailed several times by Covid restrictions.

The programme consist of two highly contrasting works, one a whisper and one a scream, one a gentle poem of harmony and hope, one a grunty rap of rage. They complement each other well and together provide a playground for the sublime dancers of the company to unleash their multi-dimensional talents.

The Fibonacci choreographed by Tor Colombus is a reworking of the piece that was first presented by NZDC in 2019. In the interim the choreography has developed and contains more texture and accents than the previous iteration. Dancers, Carl Tolentino, Chrissy Kokiri, Ngaere Jenkins, Brydie Colquhoun, Xin Ji and Toa Paranihi create a gentle and sinuous ensemble as they flow through intricate sequences of movement.
Less inventive in the movement vocabulary – arms  bend at the elbows to rotate and ripple around an often upturned head, the upper chest circles then side lifts, the feet are grounded with minimal leg action and a handful of jumps and minimal lifts – rather the real juice and choreographic virtuosity comes from the complex intertwining of dancers as they join another, then split apart to regroup in completely different configurations.

The Fibonacci is inspired by mathematical sequences found in nature in which each number is the sum of the two preceding ones. It can be seen in the flowering of an artichoke or the uncurling of a fern. This dance murmuration evokes these patterns,  drawing out a sense of wonder in the viewer. The soundscape by Rowan Pierce gives the work dynamics and massages the ears whilst his gorgeous spatial design, lit warmly by Jo Kilgour, soothes the eye.

Taking inspiration from the glitched-on-the-cusp-of-death paintings of Andy Denzler and placing his ideas firmly in the domain of Te Ao Māori, choreographer Eddie Elliott unleashes his snarling, playful and surprising imagination to create a panoramic work: Uku – Behind the Canvas.

Elliott continues to grow as a maker. He has a remarkable talent for evoking realms of the seen and unseen onstage, as if the spirits hover, as if the performers move in and out of their physical sheaths. He is unafraid to place his tongue in his cheek which is refreshing and breaks down the earnestness that so often bogs down contemporary Māori dance.
This results in a work that is vast in its textural range and highly inventive choreographically in terms of the movement vocabulary, the use of space and configurations and the overarching rhythm and dynamics. The world of Uku – Behind the Canvas is evoked sonorously. Jason Wright and Alastair Deverick are a magicians of sound, Elliott is fortunate to have these collaborators. Many many moments are embellished in their potency by the utterly surprising sounds that hover around the ear. Lighting designer Jo Kilgour also brings great skill to the arena with her haunting lighting – the use of distinct pools and shafts create a filmic intensity.

Chrissy Kokiri is the beating heart of Elliott’s work She is utterly expansively riveting. All the dancers of the company bring an intensity to their performances that simmers beyond the screen. They are not just physically astonishing and adept but also deeply and dramatically convincing as human/animals writhing, stalking and shapeshifting on the stage.

Uku – Behind the Canvas is exceptional, chthonic, primordial.


Myth buster June 26th, 2022

In the progamme for Night Light, celebrating the tenth anniversary, I note that the description of the genesis of NZDC incorrectly maps the place of this company as the front runner for a ‘full-time’ contemporary dance company post Impulse Dance Theatre and Limbs Dance Company in New Zealand. 
It characterizes Footnote New Zealand Dance with other dance companies thus: ‘predominately either part-time collectives, educationally focused, training grounds, culturally centred or ‘pick-up’ [companies]’. This is an incorrect statement that diminishes  the considerable ground-breaking work of other dance companies in Aotearoa. 
Footnote NZ Dance has been sustaining a company of five dancers for annual, up to forty week contracts for close to twenty years and delivering work of the highest quality to audiences across the length and breadth of New Zealand as well as critically acclaimed international collaborations and performances. It recently celebrated its 30 anniversary. Many of this country’s leading dance artists have worked with Footnote during this time.
In the last two and half years, Footnote NZ Dance has managed to fully deliver its projected targets of four national tours of new works with leading and developing choreographers, produced two seasons of offshoot company Choreoco, held four professional development laboratories for the wider sector and sustained the development of an international co-production with Canadian artists.

Perpetuating this mythic narrative for NZDC is not helpful for or respectful to the wider industry. Yes NZDC is doing important work but it did not invent or solely keep the wheel turning for vibrant contemporary dance in New Zealand.

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Remarkable language of movement.

Review by Francesca Horsley 08th Jun 2022

The New Zealand Dance Company’s long-awaited season Night Light was an exciting kinesthetic experience on a rain swept Auckland night with Covid-19 cases rising again. It was a perfect launch back into live dance after two and half years of watching online. In the programme notes the two works were described by NZDC’s co-artistic director and choreographer, Tor Colombus as ‘evolving into the fullest expression of their ideas’, following the pandemic-driven cancellations of the original 2020 performances.

The Fibonacci was an optimistic, endorphin producing work that affirmed the importance of community and human touch.  A single lamp descended, spreading light and summer warmth over the six dancers,  clad in mango palette costumes. Fibonacci describes a mathematic sequence where each number is the sum of the two preceding, and it is this precise structural device that drove both the inventive musical score by Rowan Pierce and the light yet controlled choreography by Colombus. The score was  repetitive, mesmeric, with shifts in tempo and style, and the movement, wedded to the score’s geometric patterns exuded freedom and happiness.

In nature the Fibonacci sequence is revealed in myriad forms and Colombus sought to imitate this variety in the work’s design.  Each element began as a tight group, before the dancers rippled out into the space in flowing duets, trios, solos then regrouped once more in unison. As if fed by a spring the dancers expressed a natural effervescence, with articulate visual language of sweeping arms and legs, elastic backbends and spins. Individual expressions of desire, isolation or disunity were softly yet insistently dismantled with a return to the group’s togetherness.

Seemingly a post-lockdown celebration of community, it was indeed prescient; The Fibonacci was created by Colombus prior to the first lockdown.

In complete contrast,  Eddie Elliott’s Uku – Behind the Canvas was situated in a shadowy, Te Ao Māori  story of birth, grief and ritual. A tour de force, it was constructed around the creation story of Tāne and Hineahuone, where the first wahine was created from uku (clay) by Tāne. The story was skillfully merged into a contemporary birth ritual, ipu whenua, with liquid clay as the medium for the life-giving power of women.

The meta-narrative, the Uku creation story, was dexterously woven throughout the work, giving it cohesion and discipline from the opening to the closing moments. A gourd provided a constant supply of clay liquid to which the dancers returned to coat their arms, legs and bodies. The grey emulsion acted as a catalyst for change, despair, renewal, succour and obsession. Chrissy Kokiri was a pivotal character who brought to life half-formed beings, and set them on a journey that merged ancestral voices imparting ancient ways of being, to offbeat contemporary  exchanges and intricate relationships. It delved deep into disrupted psyches and loss and rose triumphant with exhilarating kapa haka, hip hop and electric ensemble sequences. Elliot built dramatic tension and pathos then released it with humour or dazzling dance. It was powerful and emotional.

The choreography was matched by the brilliance of the six dancers – Kokiri, Carl Tolentino, Ngaere Jenkins, Xin Ji, Toa Paranihi, Brydie Colquhoun – who carried the depth of the work from their personalities onto the stage with breathtaking physicality.

In both works the impressive array of artistic talent – composers, lighting, costume and set designers and Mātanga Mātauranga Māori (cultural advisor) – all contributed to the lustre and integrity of the programme. Given the NZDC’s level of professionalism and articulation to realise so completely each choreographic vision, one thing is certain – this is a programme that will resonate with audiences across Aotearoa and needs to tour. Our land and people will be the stronger for the opportunity to share in the remarkable language of movement, expressed through these impressive works.



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