On the other hand - New Zealand School of Dance Choreographic Season 2012

Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

18/05/2012 - 26/05/2012

Production Details

New Choreographers Communicate through Movement

Created by contemporary dance students in their third year of full-time study at the New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD), ‘On the Other Hand’ is the result of four intensive months of preparation. In addition to workshopping new dance pieces, the group of young choreographers have collaborated with other dancers and with lighting, set and costume design students from Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School to create the show.

Communicating through movement, this intriguing collection of works is about interpersonal connections and interactions between people and their surroundings. “It is dance that portrays intention and emotion as well as inventive movement,” explains artistic coordinator of the show, Victoria Colombus.

“This is a highly talented and motivated group of dancers that have been inspired to create something unique. Each of the dance works relates to influences or personal experiences that are significant at this point in their lives” adds Victoria. “‘On the Other Hand’ will resonate, it will surprise and move the audience.”

Set in a surreal environment, the show has dramatic visual impact and clever use of space. Several elements of the set are incorporated into the dance works including recognisable household objects with surprising twists.

The New Zealand School of Dance has been invited to take ‘On the Other Hand’ to Auckland in October for Tempo dance festival. This invitation builds on the school’s success at previous Tempo festivals when NZSD choreographic works were audience favourites and one student received the award for ‘Best Emerging Choreographer’.

Third year student Jimi Pham, dances in a number of the pieces, and is also an accomplished musician. In his own choreographic work for ‘On the Other Hand’ he performs music live on stage to accompany the dancers. A sublime performer, Jimi has been offered professional contracts with Alice Lee Holland and Melbourne based company Chunky Move, which he will take up on leaving the NZSD in July this year.

The student-created dance works for ‘On the Other Hand’ come in many guises. They range from Simone Lapka’s flirtatious and suggestive piece ‘!’ to Matt Roffe’s beautifully captivating ‘Weight over Me’.

Students own stamp allows season to shine

Review by Jennifer Shennan 25th May 2012

It has been for many years challenging to review the student choreographic season at the New Zealand School of Dance.

Total commitment from the dancers as performers usually saved the day, but was never quite enough to counter the fact that some unidentified director-input kept combining all the pieces from different choreographers into effectively one unbroken labyrinth of a performance.

There were no pauses for us to check the programme to learn who or what we were watching. Momentum was rarely sustained.  As most pieces had at least three different music tracks each, and similar movement vocabulary, this was no easy reviewing task.

I am delighted to report that this year’s season, by contrast, has much more of the students’ own stamp upon it, with cohering theme that allows each new work to grow out of the previous one. Dance uses highly stylized movement yet here that is anchored into the same set of domestic objects – television, bed, cupboard, piano – that feature in various ways. 

Although we still don’t sight the printed programme, that somehow matters less, within a journey of stylistically varied episodes. Much humour, ranging from whimsical to sardonic, and plenty of mickey-taking, includes hilarious use of David Attenborough’s commentary on the behaviour of different species. This does not get stuck in slapstick but catches light and shade through dynamic movement contrasts, with impressive and highly entertaining results.

Individual dancers seem able to hold their own style and personality, and their range of physique, not to mention coiffure, helps here. All are highly competent performers, though some are much busier than others.  My eye kept returning to two in particular, who are able to maintain a stillness between moves. That openness creates a metaphysical space with which we engage. It’s part of the magic of dance.

When you read the programme later, and find how excruciatingly dense and unhelpful the notes are ( ironic, since this is one skill related to choreography that can be mentored…) you are somewhat grateful not to have been absorbing them en route. 

This show is eminently worth seeing.


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A journey of talent

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 24th May 2012

Ten new works made by students were held together by the search for self of one dancer and his commentary on life. Gareth Okan, gave a real physicality and thematic purpose to this series of works. 

Very much a collaborative evening with contributions by lighting designers and musicians and a buoyant and exuberant energy from the talented dancers, the challenge each year is to give new choreographèrs a chance to trial ideas and to somehow weave these works together.

Read the review here 



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Cohesive staging a brilliant choice for student works

Review by Virginia Kennard 20th May 2012

A stellar, cohesive performance of these ten new works, rather than the usual loosely related series of choreographies, is assisted by the decision to keep the set and costumes as a common theme for this season – a decision taken in collaboration with set designer Oliver Morse and lighting and costume students from Toi Whakaari. The set throughout the performance comprises white bedroom furniture around the edges –  used, or not, to various ends by each choreographer. The inspired choice to use Gareth Okan’s piece to transition, introduce and conclude the performance, is also incredibly successful in execution. The same costume is worn by each performer throughout, taking nothing away from the stark differences between pieces.

There is a  typical prevalence of ensemble unison movement sequences in most works, and even comprising some entire works, but moments of individual choreography and character roles are well placed, either nicely crafted amongst the ensemble sections, or, as with Simone Lapka’s piece !,  as a complete character work. The voice over of David Attenborough in this piece was comical and well used, though it clearly dictated the structure and nature of the work. Could the work itself stand on its own, should it? That is of course begging the question as to whether or not the dance is or even should be  the master, the lead in transmitting ideas and creating atmosphere.

Each work sets forth vastly different foci. Bait, by Emma Dellabarca, uses lighting to great affect, shades of Hofesh Shechter’s Political Mother during the blackouts which the performers used to silently appear, shift and reposition. Still unsure what was so tempting about the television…  The third work Weight Over Me, by Matte Roffe creates some dynamic partnering phrases, though overemphasises a tendency for the woman to submit to the man. The choice of blue light is quite extreme, and there isa powerful performance by Michael Gudgeon.

Axis Mundi has an eerie and quaint quality. Jimi Pham’s work is almost substanceless, with women seemingly moving as one body at the dictate of a man making music. Human Im-pulse over-uses cannoned movement. Andrew Miller begins his work with hunched over, zombie-like dancers; this intriguing physicality is lost soon after, though the movement isolations, waving and ticking style of choreography are well executed by the group.

Brydie Colquhoun’s piece It’s All Fun and Games is a joyous duet, a free spirit bounding and flitting in the space, entering in a supportive and at times destructive relationship. There is a lovely connection between the two, teasing, annoying, playing. The concluding loss could have been extended. Andrew Searle’s Pace opens with a show pony sequence of tricks and high kicks – well executed: ultimately Camillo Baracco is the star of this work, simply himself on stage. The dance party intro to Okan’s piece Lesson 1 is a genius piece of lighting and theatre, the dancers giving way to night club abandon. Okan’s text, soundtrack (composed by Marika Pratley), and his physical attempt to rip off, extract himself, tear out his layers are all excellently crafted. Okan allows his character to evolve throughout the performance, becoming more insecure (appropriately) in his piece.

Francesca Sampson’s work 75 Squared shifts the aesthetic away from tricks and high kicks, to vocabulary initiated by the hands and fingers. The subtle shift in physical motivation gives the work a slick and exciting quality, though it lacks clear ending.

The performative quality of Samantha Hines’ work Façade is heavily influenced by Lina Limonsani/Al Seed (Whispers from Pandora’s Box; The Red Room): the beginning line up where the performers laugh silently and horrifically, and the choreographed grotesquery makes good use of the extremities of the performers. The elements within are haphazard, not always adding to the work. The high energy finale certainly brings the performance to an amazing crescendo.

Outstanding technique throughout from Samantha Hines and Jimi Pham. She needs more performative scope, as she defaults to sinister and intense; he is clearly utilized for his quirky and elastic quality; could he be used more subtly perhaps?




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