Old Yeller

The Auckland Performing Arts Centre: TAPAC, Auckland

03/10/2007 - 04/10/2007

Tempo Dance Festival 2007

Production Details

Curated by Liz Kirk and Ann Dewey


At its heart, Old Yeller is a programme which emphasises that older dancers bring something special to their varying disciplines. This collection of strictly professional performers aims to give not only a fun and refreshing performance but a wider perspective to different generations of both dancers and audiences.

Dorothea Ashbridge, a former ballerina with UK’s The Royal Ballet for 20 years and a ballet teacher for Limbs, teams up with a another member of the Limbs alumni Debra McCulloch as part of a two performances at this year’s Tempoº New Zealand Festival of Dance with Old Yeller. The significance of their piece, ‘Time About’, is not only does it highlight the older dancers showing they can still run with the younger generation, but celebrates McCulloch’s return after a back injury she previously incurred, moving again after18 years debilitating pain. Mary-Jane O’Reilly choreographs this special event upon a personal request from McCulloch.

A timeless Limbs dance work from 1981 is reprised with the performance of ‘Talking Heads’. The performance will be danced by four of the original cast including O’Reilly, Kilda Northcott, Debra McCulloch, Shona McKechnie, Susan Trainor, Felicity Molloy and Tairoa Royal, as the group perform the short piece which has a distinctive shoulder shrugging action members of the audience have found appealing all these years.

The programme will also offer performances by Tairoa Royal, Jane Luscomb and Felicity Molloy as they engage the audience with an elegant array of solo work.

3rd and 4th October
3rd – 8pm, 4th – 6pm
TAPAC, Western Springs
Price: $22 Adult, $12 DANZ Members and groups of 8+, $18 Concession (service fees may apply)
Tickets available through Ticketek – www.ticketek.co.nz or 0800 842 538
For information on the event, visit http://www.tempo.co.nz

Dance , Contemporary dance ,

Time to stop putting out to grass every dancer who turns forty

Review by Dr Mark James Hamilton 04th Oct 2007

Old Yeller is Liz Kirk and Ann Dewey’s cunningly curated programme. It threads diverse works into a curious whole exploring the older dancer. Nothing in this outline could prepare you for the wild diversity of the show, of which I can tell but a little.

Morag Brownlie’s riddle-some item opens. From the off, I felt pleasantly plopped into a surprising narrative in mid-flow. Brownlie, dressed in floaty yellow layers and a boa head piece – like a refined Big Bird from Sesame Street – sings ‘Purple Rain’ while preening and flapping, and executing florid vocal play. Meanwhile, projected large on the cyclorama, a canary appears among belching factories. The miners’ favourite bird, C02, mis-coloured rain… an ecological subtext looms.

Kilda Northcote matches Brownlie’s verve, playing a gauche party animal letting rip, who morphs into a French pseudo-intellectual. Eventually, Northcote enters the floodlit auditorium and distributes grapefruits. All is as odd as it sounds – made doubly so by images on the screen upstage of a naked woman shifting subtly like a lizard basking. Ever multiplying, the identical figures shrink as they increase – three, then six, then twelve… till there are fifty or more. What this item suggests I know not, but the projection is hauntingly simple.

And Old Yeller gives us drag: a strangely reframed Corneesha (alias Taane Mete). Met by the formal silence of a theatre audience, Corneesha seemed not quite able to be the fun queen she is, and which the frivolous laughter of whooping queer party crowds help her to be. In the absence of this tautoko, Mete’s commanding agility, grace and precision stand curiously exposed: I saw male strength cast in relief by a veneer of hyper-feminine sparkle.

Though Iris Wegmueller lacks a gimmick, her balletic solo is as striking as her colleagues’ experiments and her measured and mindful manner is beguiling. Wegmueller’s gaze out to the audience is quite unusual. There is nothing needy: I see a woman who knows her worth. How then do I look back at her? This is a pleasing conundrum.

The final item, choreographed by Mary-Jane O’Reilly delighted the audience – me included. To open, two slight figures limber and drill, rear lit by a rich blue wash. Even in stark silhouette, a gentle poise radiated from the pair. The theatre rippled with excitement to see Debra McCullagh and Dorothea Ashbridge – Auckland’s grande dame of ballet, who dances with precious delicacy. Each of her movements is layered with a lifetime’s experience shaping myriads of dancers. In her actions I see fine line and perfect precision, like a blade made razor sharp by an incalculable number of cuts.

Over the whole programme’s duration there was a wee stumble in the wings by one dancer on exit, and there was perhaps a teeter to some folk’s turns, but in all the night proved that it really is time to stop putting out to grass every dancer who turns forty. Indeed, in Taiaroa Royal’s sprightly gallops and piquant isolations I see nothing lacking, and few of this year’s dance school graduates could match his finesse.


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