ORBIT (2018)

Hagley Open Stage, Christchurch

30/11/2018 - 01/12/2018

Production Details

You are invited to celebrate the success of a years creativity and training with the Hagley Dance Company, in their end of year graduation show 2018.

Guest choreography by: Fleur de Thier in honour of Sheryl Robinson, Julia Harvie and Aleasha Seaward. With student choreography by second year member Dana Dawson, and first year members, Callie Hitchcock, Immy Mackintosh, Kereana Mosen, Tracey Saunders, and Madison Tumataroa.

Company Director: Naressa Gamble

Ticket bookings: hagleydance2018@gmail.com

Evening shows: $20 or $15 Concession (students/Senior citizens) 
3pm Matinee: $15 adult, $10 concession, $5 children


With student choreography by second year member Dana Dawson, and first year members, Callie Hitchcock, Immy Mackintosh, Kereana Mosen, Tracey Saunders, and Madison Tumataroa.

Dance , Contemporary dance ,

90 mins

Contemporary practice informed by traditions

Review by Dr Ian Lochhead 02nd Dec 2018

Hagley Dance Company’s 2018 Graduation show, Orbit, follows a pattern already established in previous years of avoiding the obvious format of a series of discrete items and instead establishing a unifying theme and merging the contributions of student performers and choreographers into a continuous sequence into which are also inserted works by established professional choreographers, Fleur de Their, Aleasha Seaward and Julia Harvie. This has a number of benefits as it avoids what can often seem like a fragmented smorgasbord of items for a more fully developed programme and it gives the students dancers an experience akin to that of performing in a much larger scale work than would normally be the case, with all the demands of changes in tempo, style, costume and staging.  It is to the credit of the students and their tutors that this 65-minute programme unfolded without a hitch, a testament to careful planning and stage management.  If for the audience as a whole this approach provides a more satisfying overall experience, this year’s Orbit, like 2017’s Veins, presents greater challenges for the reviewer in distinguishing where one programme section ends and the next begins. 


Hagley’s dance course occupies a distinct niche as a training programme for young dancers, providing a pre-tertiary year of study for students who are seeking to enter a full-time three year professional course.  In 2018 the cohort of students consisted of six women, two less than in 2017 and with no men in the group.  This could have been a limitation, in that it restricted options for partnering and altered the dynamic that a different gender balance would have created, but the structure of the programme ensured that this was not the case.  It was thus appropriate that Fleur de Thier’s two contributions to the programme, Martha #1 and Martha #2 were conceived as tributes to one of the great pioneers of modern dance, Martha Graham, with the second of these pieces also acting as an acknowledgement of the contribution of Sheryl Robinson, Hagley Dance Company’s founder, and a devotee of Graham technique.  The chance to explore Graham’s distinctive movement vocabulary, mediated through another’s choreography, is a valuable opportunity for young performers to be put in touch with the origins of their chosen discipline but it also demonstrates the ways in which traditions can inform contemporary practice.


Drawing on tradition was also demonstrated in the opening sequence of Orbit, Madi Tamataroa’s He Taonga, essentially a danced pōwhiri that invites us into the showwhile also bringing the members of the company into the performance area from the shadows behind the audience.  In keeping with the concept of “orbit” the audience is seated in an ellipse with the dancers entering either on the main cross axis or from openings on the diagonals. 


Throughout the show effective use was made of props; black cubes formed seats, platforms and obstacles to move around; T-shirts became hoods and masks, to be struggled with and hidden behind; skirts were added or abandoned to evoke differing moods and styles of dance.  Most striking, however, were the aluminium thermal blankets and throw-away rain capes used in the final work on the programme, Julia Harvie’s Perpetual Revolution 1.  These could be heard almost before they were seen, their gentle rustling providing a counterpoint to the music of Laurie Anderson and Lorne Balfe.  Hidden behind these shimmering, reflective carapaces, the dancers took on an unworldly quality, moving as groups that suggested at times Chinese festival dragons, but also revolving as individuals in orbit, until eventually shedding their protective skins in a discarded pile of post-industrial waste.  Harvie’s work, through its use of these throw-away items, asks questions about what we are doing to the planet but also suggests that we are going to need some kind of protection from the unintended environmental impacts of human behaviour.  It is a valuable reminder for audience and performers alike, that dance has a role to play in making us think about the wider issues that effect us all.


It would be invidious to single out individual performers in a programme that relied so much on teamwork and shared achievements.  Hagely’s class of 2018 demonstrated confidence, commitment and stamina across their performance and amply deserved the enthusiastic applause of the attentive audience.  It remains to be seen what orbits within the world of dance these young performers will eventually occupy, but their year with Hagley Dance Company has provided them with the launch pad they need to travel further.






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