Old Yeller 2010: Collection of Works

TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland

03/10/2010 - 04/10/2010

Tempo Dance Festival 2010

Production Details

Where did all those old dancers go, ever wonder? Come and have a look at what we’ve been up to.

Old Yeller is a medley of short works by the professional dancers who have made their mark on New Zealand dance over the last 50 years.

Date: Sunday, 3 October 2010
Time: 6:00 pm
Date: Monday, 4 October 2010
Time: 8:00 pm

Performance Times:
Sunday, 3 October 2010, 6pm
Monday, 4 October 2010, 8pm

100 Motions Rd, Western Springs
Free Parking and Station Cafe Bar will be open
Adults $25
Concessions $22.50
$1 for online bookings
$4 for phone bookings
Click here to book online
Ph: 09 845 0295
Phone Bookings are open Mon – Fri: 9:30 AM to 5:00 PM
Box Office open 1 hour prior to show

Retro gems

Review by Jack Gray 04th Oct 2010

Old Yeller is a firm festival fave with the masses, a happy early evening crowd gathered for a Forrest Gump-like Chocolate Box dance show experience. You never know what you’re gonna get with this format – as the performers are all mature artists aged 35 and over!

Dancer: Felicity Molloy, Music: Iarla O’Lionard (mix by Josh Rutter)
“The eleventh of an anthology of solos choreographed over a period of thirty years that trace the patterns of experience written on any dancer’s body.” 

Spindly music, 6 sidelights of soft orbs come up – Molloy is standing by a pile of gauze, she wears a light blue/indigo sleeved top, short, slicked-back hair, her eyes light yet piercing. A gorgeous retreat down to a seated position, her back becomes bathed in white light. Her torso is open and reaches, showing softness, robustness and balance.

Dance is her way of transmitting sensuality, as we observe the curves of her spine and hips while crouching deeply. Spoken (recorded) words float through, before a rocketing sound leads into fervent strings. She looks at us and licks her lips (spontaneously). Creature-like, her movement contracts and falls. She is an orb of light herself – like watching various tints of blue on coloured glass. I love the texture of her walk, the distribution of weight displacing in space. There is black velour sheen and transparency, as she wraps the gauze around her – before throwing it in the air to fall softly into blackout.

Dancer: Vivio Mediaceja, Music: Franz Schubert    
“Choreographed on Vivio fifteen years ago by acclaimed Cuban choreographer – Dialo, about a conversation with God.” 

“Jesus,” I exclaim, before I realise he actually is… as Vivio’s muscled brown body in white nappy-like wrap assumes the symbol of the crucifixion (complete with a dab of blood red paint under the rib).

It is a fast beginning, an agony is expressed, spins and falling to the floor – his whole body making impact, heavily purposeful. The choral music sings ‘Maria’, urging him to search and seek respite.

He is a remarkable dancer and this enactment is performed earnestly and with personal significance. The last image: he stands with a bead of sweat dripping down.

Dancers: Moana Nepia and Wendy Preston, Video/Sound: Moana Nepia 
“A gestural ritual over wine and food, unfolds as a series of encounters and separations, against a rumbling haka sound-quake, and cascading frescos shot in the ruins of Pompeii.” 

There is a skinny, tall video projection of something abstract, sandy coloured, blue and pink. Wendy Preston makes her grand entrance in a black dress with yellow flowers and a fascinator hat. Moana Nepia dramatically appears in a Matador’s outfit and communicates to her through some finger gestures and cheeky eyes. She is prim and proper, while he looks like he is about to bust out energetically any second.

The music is growly and heavy, which alludes to a darkness that offsets their tongue in cheek playoff. Wendy is powerful onstage and gives me a glimpse of her dance spirit; regal, poised, saucy and tantalising. He coaxes her to hold his hand for their little tango of duality. Miming drinking from wine glasses is delightful. Their moments of lifts and partnering show ease, a memory still within their body. Embodied, embedded.

The last music sounds like the creak of old trees as they finish with a thud splitting down to the floor.  

Dancers: Val Smith and Mike Holland, Music: Sally Nicholas
“How are our assumptions and beliefs about gender affecting our dance interactions? In what ways are our embodied experiences of gender informed by performance and presence states?”

Val and Mike appear in grey tops and denim jeans facing the back. My first thought is that they’re too young – however they are in the “age range” but only just. Brightly lit stage, a pulsing buzz sounds like an alarm clock going off while you’re dreaming, the two of them close up, standing still and looking at the ground.

I love watching dancers faces and being given the permission to stare back and observe nothingness. The minimalism of the movement allows you to soak up each image. A sweeping arm to a fist, or a turn and reach back. It is a little bit like a Calvin Klein commercial coming to life. They face each other nose to nose, cheek to cheek – I swear it looks like love. Maybe it portrays the intimacy of allowing them to be fully surveyed?

Drowsy eyes, head connection and elbow moment – I consider if looking at each other (or not) highlights different possible meanings. Mike draws his wrist and elbows up, Val crouches with knees at odd angles. His torso moves, she gazes and swallows somewhat uneasily. Guitar and a single drumstick hit come and go.  

Dancer: Patrick Sunderhauf, Music: Nihon Daiko
“Based on traditional Japanese Kodo drumming and explores both the male and female aspects of a warriors life.”

Vivid red backdrop and a strong drum beat. Patrick comes out and graces the stage with his focus, long arms and legs, moments of control, breath, angles, spins up and into the floor, contorting muscles in his back.

My favourite part is when he looks at the audience – his eyes and presence demand to be watched. He finishes with a little floor spin and a scream on the final beat. Dynamic! 

Choreographers: Liz Kirk, Ann Dewey. Music: Jonathan Besser, Charlotte 90 
“Both dance and music have been created through structured improvisation. The musicians are engaged in a dialogue with each other and with the film, in which Ann and Liz consciously involved in a movement conversation.”

Pianists appear. A projection of something grey, at first thought concrete – but maybe something more textured. It seems the musicians are responding to the projection (as they play while staring constantly at the film). Two shadow heads appear at the top of the screen and we recognise the figures are walking towards us and that this must be an aerial view of the floor?

We can tell the little figure is Ann and the taller arms belong to Liz. I wonder if the pianists are scoring to each dancer? Ann’s movements are like little waggly dog twitches while Liz’s is like moving antennae. I wonder if they will eventually appear, but the live aspect is the music while the dancing collaborators sit quietly in amongst the audience.

Dancer: Mary Jane O’Reilly, Music: Piazzolla
“This character is fighting to reconcile herself with her own inner contradictions, struggling with her doubts until she finally accepts her essential truth.” 

Walking, her hands reach towards a circle of light. Wearing an embroidered and patterned skirt and black bustier with transparent black arms. Tango-like arms and movement show a visceral connection to her face and lips. Palm forms a triangle as she steps, turns and looks at her fingers, an in-breath. What is this pain? This longing and regret? Gorgeous wrist unfurls into a Sufi-like spin.

It is like a Countess writing a scarlet letter and sealing it with a lipsticked kiss. It also reminds me of old time movies, the sparkles on the skirt, the increasing frustration of a silver screen diva, intense and passionate. As the music gets lighter, her mood changes to one of happiness. Go MJ! 

Dancer: Amira Brock, Music: Sandy Shock 
“With its origins in Cadiz, this festive and lively form of flamenco is a vehicle for the dancer to express their personality and display the intricacies of their dancing and for the guitarist to play upbeat and sparkling accompaniment.” 

A flamenco guitarist welcomes the dancer. The crowd start to call “Ole”. Then comes beautifully rhythmic feet and her polka dotted skirt ruffles catching fire as she turns. Lovely timing of her foot clicks and fast hand gestures. She seems quite effortless and not melodramatic in a really pleasant way. Her nuance of looking down at the ground, furrowed brow and extravagance is wonderfully interplayed. The guitarist speaks to her.

A slower dance has more twirling wrists around her head that somehow makes it look sad… but girlfriend makes a sudden comeback with a spiralled jump, tappity-tap and stamp to finish! Getting the crowd to clap a triplet, she spanks the rhythm (no idea why but “spanks” seems to be the only appropriate verb). She is one seductive little tapper. If raindrops could massage your body, then she surely employed sun showers to pelting hail in her repertoire of musicality.

My sweaty palms aside, the audience showed full appreciation for this artist who was able to caress the soul of flamenco through her dance.  

What a charming wee show, some fantastic acts, some brilliant efforts and a seamless production led to a very satisfied crowd. My parting comment was that Old Yeller was like driving through small towns and stopping at little op shops along the way to marvel nostalgically over all the retro gems! Ole! 
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