Only the Stars Know Where I've Been

Basement Theatre Studio, Lower Greys Ave, Auckland

05/03/2024 - 09/03/2024

Te Auaha, Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington

03/07/2024 - 03/07/2024

Pōneke Festival of Contemporary Dance

Production Details

Choreographic Direction by Jake Starrs
Dramaturgy by Jane Smolira
Sound and Music Composition by Hugo Butler
Performers and Collaborators: Stella Grace Seawright and Sydney Magnus

Presented by: Ctenophora Co.

An ode to aspirations of lassoing passing asteroids and inflating the moon.

Only the Stars Know Where I’ve Been is a full-length contemporary dance work. Calling upon the dust collectors in our subconscious, it sculpts a vision of an approaching solar cycle. Time darts where it pleases, entangling utopias into a tapestry of sentiment, before the seasons of doubt arrive. Musings of youth somersault over one another and meet dreams of the drowned – a brooding pair navigate the inscriptions on their skin.

With its tender performance, sculpted choreography, and uncanny world, Only the Stars Know Where I’ve Been conjures an opportunity to introspect and converse with your quiet contemplations. An artefact of self-reckoning and self-fractures through a queer temporal lens. Amidst the finite delicacies of parasitic relationships and stinging ties, we stand in the sentiment of what it means to return to oneself after extreme change.


05 – 09 March 2024
Basement Theatre, Tāmaki Makaurau
03 July 2024
Te Auaha, Te Whanganui a Tara
Wellington Tickets

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Lighting Design and Operation by Grace Bella
Produced by Jake Starrs, Jane Smolira, Olivia Hall
Performers and Collaborators: Stella Grace Seawright and Sydney Magnus

Contemporary dance , Dance ,

50~ minutes

Ethereal billowing of unity

Review by Sophie Sheaf-Morrison 04th Jul 2024

Only The Stars Know Where I’ve Been presents the entanglement of two beings in a mesmerizingly vast world created by Director Jake Starrs.  The performers reside in this world, fabricated by the hypnotically dreamy sound composition by Hugo Butler, as well as the serene lighting design by Grace Bella.    

As individual beings, both performers radiate in their unique performance qualities.  Stella Grace Seawright has a dignified and stately aura in their stage presence, sustaining this composure whilst executing mystifying contortion and shapeshifting.  They display an unwavering strength through a contrastingly vulnerable and fragile movement vocabulary.   

As for Sydney Magnus, a stunning visual scene of their strikingly subdued emotion anticipates their highly athletic solo movement.  Sitting in solitude, they exude a deliciously deep expression of, what I would class, despair.  This is followed by a series of calculated and precise fast-twitch movement patterns, reading like a language I cannot understand, yet can comprehend.  Both dancers execute their movement with such clarity and conviction that they construct an otherworldly language, one that is only natural in this extraterrestrial landscape, enticing the viewer to empathise with them; longing to understand them.  

A real star of the show is the ability of the two performers moving together.  They create engrossing creatures and visuals with their unconventional movement, interweaving limbs and bodies as if they share one subconscious mind.  Their uncanny beings emanate the elegant beauty of obscurity.  Moreover, their movement language between each other is intimate and sacred, often concealing their faces with intricate hand patterns.  Their encounter holds riveting tension amidst tenacious sensitivity.  

Likewise to the performers’ entanglement with one another, the costume design, produced by a collaboration of Starrs, Seawright and Jane Smolira, intertwines within the beings themselves.  Ribbon and frills do not just adorn the dancers, but they are one with the performers’ bodies, lacing directly to their skin.  This wardrobe feature may add greater depth to the act of sharing a ribbon.  It could perhaps symbolise their remaining influence on one another despite their disentanglement.  

The performance left me with gratitude to have witnessed the ethereal billowing of unity, intimacy and the concluding dissipation.  In its mystical dreamlike nature, it ends soothingly despite elements of vast loneliness.  I am left asking if we, the audience, can now be considered one with the stars?  


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Strange imaginings, otherworldly atmosphere

Review by Teianna Chenkovich 07th Mar 2024

Only the Stars Know Where I’ve Been is an ode to questions of youth and tangled webs of being. The work reimagines becoming as an un-linear and diffractive queer goo. Strange imaginings, otherworldly atmosphere, and dream-like remembering’s punctuate its fabric. The dancers enter from the house as if one creature, stalking hauntingly and inhumanly, then methodically unravel from their collective beast. One dancer disappears behind the ominous doorway that is obscured with a velvet curtain.

Choreographer Jake Starrs carefully builds the mystique of the unseen space beyond the mysterious doorway. Hands in black gloves extend like tendrils to pull props in or out, dancers disappear to reappear transformed by their unseen and unarticulated experiences, and large gray trench coats that present the idea of regulation and normalization appear from its velvety depths. What exists beyond the door feels normal, upsetting, restricting, and grown up, while what exists on stage is expressive, dreamlike, liminal, and just childlike enough. 

Sydney Magnus dawns a grey jacket (pulled from behind the magic doorway). The jacket has been modified into a puppet and creates the illusion of dancing with a partner when worn. One of her arms manipulates the jacket/puppet, and the other is still her own. Magnus beautifully and skillfully performs two simultaneous characters, the authoritative and invasive suit-hand that presses and pushes against her autonomy, as well as the white clad protagonist curious and uncomfortable. In the hypnotic ‘duet’ it is easy to lose track of reality, as the “suit hand” manipulated her “real hand” and the “real hand” began to feel more like the true puppet. This was a standout moment by Magnus and choreographer Starrs!

During the artistic process the chosen score could have been useful for creating the right atmosphere. The repetitive echoes were referential to the liminal space-y ness of the work, and at points provided necessary reinforcement, but they turned monotonous and apathetic in their continuous use. I would be interested to seeing how a more dynamic use of sound could still maintain the atmosphere of the current score while producing greater intrigue.

Frequent transitions in blackout wittingly and willingly took away the liner building of ideas. A solo full of nervousness with slow meditative questions punctuated by jittery anxieties, then transitions in blackout to a duet, both dancers rhythmically dragging themselves from stage right to left. This is a clever device that encourages the audience to witness the choreography through a queer temporal lens and see each section as a distinct-yet-connected moment. 

I wonder if the queer structure might be easier for an audience to grasp if some images had continuity throughout? Like the return of the ribbon that originally appeared (strikingly & stunningly) laced down the back of performer Stella Grace Seawright? It was clear Jake Starrs was already thinking about refrain from a choreographic place, as movements reappeared in different contexts to build the language of the work – but extending that to more images, props, and situations could prove useful. Nevertheless, I urge the audience to enjoy the process of pulling themes, patterns, and inferences from across the joyful tangle presented. There is an intentionality and thoughtfulness to this work that directs your gaze to disparate ideas and pulls them together into a larger conceptualization of our many past selves and relationships. 


Megan Seawright March 11th, 2024

Only the Stars know where I’ve been. Performed by Ctenophora and Collaborators. March 5-9th March 2024, Basement Theatre, Auckland. Written by Megan Seawright. (COI: mother of dancer Stella Grace Seawright) Chorographer: Jake Starrs Dancers: Stella Grace Seawright, Sydney Magnus Dramaturgy and Producer: Jane Smolira Lighting and Sound: Grace Bella Composer: Hugo Bulter The recent five night showing of Only the Stars know where I’ve been at Basement Theatre’s upstairs studio, Auckland, has been met by audiences with a gentle astonishment for the other worldly androgynously pitched duet, choregraphed by Jake Starrs and collaborators. Multiple themes present, widely exploring transformations of self; how one’s life separates, plays with departures, and self-repatriation. The work generates its focus through slowed and emotionally driven movement suspensions alongside frantic specificities exposing the certain snapping’s that occur when one is surprised by growth and unfolding. Absorbing moments set with ‘star dust’ like sprinklings such as recurrent sequences ground the work in its own language. Starrs synopsis references the terrains of queer temporality, and this work contributes into the current evolving cannon of queer contemporary performance discourse, through movement ideas realised by collective and individual experience, thus the journey of this work is set. There were multiple moments, sheer and beautifully paused where the rippling physicality of dancers Seawright and Magnus’s held us. Delightful and delicate at times the duet melded in hand and finger gestures minutely timed and pushing us with intimacy and quiver. Larger sequences and solos lead the human fraternity between us all in this space-realm work. We recognize the self-fractures - it is a very human experience, and we feel its plausible pathways of return. The pauses along the way in this performance give viewers time and accordingly at times the dancers themselves are the watchers. What I loved about this work, is the dedication to details; the crew, the slide of a black velvet hand removing props, and the introduction of personified objects – the woolen trench coat, a psychological replacement of self when we’ve tossed away perhaps what could have held onto. There are vibrational elements that convey a sense of concern, a risk to be restrained to the present and back into perseverance. At times, it feels like the room shifts into a reservoir of sadness, it’s an emotion that quickly lifts with the many emotional geographies that shift across the work, a tell to the unique perceptivity of the world, and what it takes to walk your own walk from Ctenophora and co collectively. A beautiful and aesthetically styled work from costumes to specifically composed music and enhancing lighting. Thoroughness has been offered to each component of the performance. The dancers are attentive, uprising energy and meditation in turns, reflecting the labors a considered chorographic process. At the end, we are left feeling saturated, having been folded into a dream like vista, this surreal travel affecting our inner common humanity and a delight to view. Brava!

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