Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

17/07/2019 - 20/07/2019

Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki St, Waterfront, Wellington

24/07/2019 - 27/07/2019

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

12/10/2017 - 13/10/2017


Production Details

Director: Sarah Foster-Sproull

Presented by Foster Group Dance

Sarah Foster-Sproull (Foster Group)

ORCHIDS returns for a second season at Q Theatre, after receiving standing ovations and selling out its Tempo Dance Festival premiere in 2017.

Unveiling a hidden realm which evokes mothers, sisters, witches, sirens, goddesses and otherworldly creatures, ORCHIDS divulges the occult secrets of feminine magic and lost ritualistic practices. Seven women spanning three generations unravel their mythology – from former LIMBS dancer, Marianne Schultz, still entrancing on stage in her 60s, to 9-year-old Ivy Foster, Choreographer Sarah’s own daughter.

Director Sarah Foster-Sproull (Footnote New Zealand Dance,Guangdong Modern Dance Co. China, The Human Expression 2nd Co. Singapore, Royal New Zealand Ballet) draws together a coven of talent to present a spellbinding show. Sarah’s work has been likened to a living Hieronymus Bosch or Caravaggio painting. Through ORCHIDSFoster Group Dance connects some of NZ’s most reputed artists, including composer Eden Mulholland and designers Andrew Foster (set and dramaturgy) and Jennifer Lal (lighting). Together, they demystify and unravel the complex mythology of the female spirit, bringing women out of darkness and into the light.

Featuring the extraordinary talents of dancers and collaborators Marianne SchultzKatie BurtonRose PhilpottJahra RagerJoanne HobernTori Manley-Tapu, and Produced and Assistant Directed by Natalie Maria Clark.

2019 season and tour

 Q Theatre Auckland – bookings

Tix: $29 – $42 https://nz.patronbase.com/_QTheatre/Productions/9477/Performances

Circa Theatre, Wellington – bookings

PLEASE NOTE: This show contains mature content – abstract depictions of violence, recommended 13+.

“… full of eros, pathos and humour … “ – The Pantograph Punch

“… intensely intimate … “ – NZ Herald

“… the most honest examination of femininity that I have seen… the enfolding warmth of support and nurturing versus the cut and thrust of unwarranted negativity and obstruction … moves many of the audience to tears …” – Theatreview

Premiere season 2018

Orchids flourish in empty spaces, clinging to dust and unexplored territories.

A striking new choreography featuring seven distinct performers (including former Limbs member Marianne Schultz), ORCHIDS presents women at various stages of life, divulging the secrets of feminine magic and lost ritualistic practices.

Choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull connects some of New Zealand’s most intriguing artists, including composer Eden Mulholland. Together, they reveal an entrancing metaphysical realm that demystifies the complex female spirit. Unravelling this mythology evokes mothers, witches and otherworldly creatures, bringing them out of darkness and into the ‘light’.

“… richly resonant … potent images … ORCHIDS is mysterious, mythic, moving, majestic … quite extraordinary.” – Raewyn Whyte


Thu 12 Oct 8.30pm
Fri 13 Oct 8.30pm
70 mins
BOOK qtheatre.co.nz
$27.50 – 44.00*
*Booking fees apply

Dancers and choreographic collaborators: Marianne Schultz, Katie Burton, Rose Philpott, Jahra Rager Wasasala, Joanne Hobern, Tori Manley-Tapu, Ivy Foster

Producer & Creative Assistant: Natalie Maria Clark

Assistant Producers: DyCypher Productions

Additional choreographic input and collaboration: Grace Woollett

Dance-theatre , Dance , Contemporary dance ,

60 mins

Intricate and surprising and the journey into the feminine is majestically crafted

Review by Lyne Pringle 30th Jul 2019

Orchids is a dance by Sarah Foster-Sproull and collaborators. This finely wrought work of art maps the ineffable and mysterious depths of the female psyche.  It is as perfect in form and structure as an orchid – the inspirational metaphor that, as the choreographer states, “manages to grow in the crevices of other plants”.

What impresses most is the integration of all aspects of the work into an organic totality of immense aesthetic precision.  This is a testament to the four-year creative process and a revisiting of the work for a second season. It is rare to see a New Zealand dance work reach this level of maturity. [More]


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The feminine divine

Review by Sam Trubridge 26th Jul 2019

Six dancers. An under-utilised piece of scrim. Symmetrical lighting and brooding darkness. A glorious score that shifts from spacious arrangements, into pulsating beats that lift us, lifting the bodies. And one child.

Fingers flutter over skin, limbs wind around one another, and palms open like fronds around faces to create mandalas from living body parts in this sensual study of female relationships and the female sublime. The dancers are diverse in physicality, age, and ethnicity but find a special connection as a well choreographed ensemble in this new work by Sarah Foster-Sproull, with music by Eden Mullholland and lights by Jennifer Lal.

Over one hour, the work moves through a series of dance sketches, sometimes wandering, sometimes digressing, to arrive at a very powerful and compelling final sequence. Despite some great beauty, it does fall into the trap of getting lost between either creating a legible structure or committing to a more abstract, textured experience. At times I recognise the confident formalism of companies such as Rosas, but end up being distracted by unexpected characterisations or shifts in style.

Joanne Hobern is an incredible discovery in this work, demonstrating an explosive strength and precision which makes me want to see more from her. However, her animated presence sometimes distracts from the shared focus of what is a very group-oriented piece. Others such as Rose Philpott and Jahra Wasasala take their roles with equal virtuosity, but have a more mature, relaxed connectedness with one another and their dance.

Philpott leads a spellbinding sequence with the cast taking the ends of her hair and accompaning her as she leaps and rolls around them. Attached to each of them in this way, her crown of hair twists and untwists around her – exploring the connections she has with each of the other dancers. Throughout the work there is this same sensitivity towards the dense intertwining relationships on stage, echoing vines and roots to create a sensuous world of touch. But this connectivity is not just a characteristic of the ingenious choreography, but also a felt, shared thing in the work – of an emotional connectedness and empathy between dancer and dancer, between dancer and choreographer, between a choreographer and her work. There is an empathy for each of her ensemble that is felt through Foster-Sproull’s choreography, where the character of each is allowed to flourish and blossom in their own way. While at times it can be distracting (as above), it is also a strength of the work in other ways.

The orchid lives on other plants, their roots growing in bark and seldom finding soil. It is Foster-Sproull’s symbol for the feminine divine – “a mysterious and potent allegory for the dark and light masks of the female psyche”. This idea finds its most distinctive imagery in the final scene, when the crowd of bodies part – to reveal a young girl of orchid-white skin (Ivy Foster). With angelic grace she steps into the air and is lifted, walking a forest-canopy of upraised palms and gentle hands. It is a dance of incredible delicacy and tenderness, and utterly breathtaking. Working with such a light body, the choreography is able to explore a whole new language of movement and meaning. As the lights fade, Foster floats above Philpott lying below her, one mirroring the other. Orchids blossom from each of their mouths.


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The telling of age and the tracings of women

Review by Felicity Molloy 18th Jul 2019

This is the second time round for Orchids, choreographed by Sarah Foster-Sproull, produced and assistant-directed by Natalie Maria Clark and with an abundance of collaborative energy in the assembly of gorgeous dancers. I wish I had seen Orchids first time round, and at the end of the performance during the standing ovation I want to see the work straight away again; in case I miss an orchidaceous detail.

Translating the flow of the experience into the written word is not easy. The warm soft buzz of the auditorium is an entrancing start to an evening with my grown-up daughter. What sets the scene is listening to one or two engaging queries around the auditorium – about who an audience member ‘might they know on stage’. Lights out to black, soft padding of feet on the floor takes me back to when I gave up dancing the first-time round.

I cannot distance myself from knowing these people. Even the initial moments of fluorescent detail, the glorious feminism, feminist femininity of former Limbs dancer, Marianne Schultz dancing with Tori Manley-Tapu, connects to the exquisite sweetness of the final girl dancer, Ivy Foster. Orchids is about the telling of age and the tracings of women. My daughter and I share a generational revelation through our lives within the realm of contemporary dance. Composer, Eden Mulholland makes a punctuated score with emotive cues extracted by some lovely strings that pluck and celebrate the isometrics of every female life.

The set, a black diaphragm designed by Andrew Foster is suspended above the dancers who, when we first see them, are coupled as a heart organ. The first scene feels like visceral witness; of the heartbeat, of the organ, of the muscle, of the blood flow, of blood flow, of the pulse of every woman. Somehow in its organic simplicity, the billowing set reveals a fluent and fluid mise-en-scène. At one point the material releases from the ceiling in graceful swathing, the menses flow a metaphorical register, and each member of the Orchid cast points and hugs like cries within this symbolic gesture. Contributively mythological, each subsequent section of the work is as much about sensuality as ingrained texture. 

At times, in Jennifer Lal’s light, of the curvaceous moon beam, gesture (tiny or grand) becomes delicately ignited, though always peripheral to Orchid’s inter-embodied choreographic forcefield. By dancing together and on their own, these seasoned dancers embroider the seams of a critical piece of New Zealand’s dance story. The powerful artistry of solos, duets, trios, group and ensemble movement reveals a considered interpretation of the anatomy of dancing women’s sensibility. Sharing and linking histories through writing is not sufficient to do that.

As much as New Zealand lays claim to variation in the species of its many orchids, the dancers warrant individual mention. Marianne Schultz is ineffable in her emotive precision. Her overwhelmingly good coupling of power and vulnerability pulls the dance into its sense of completeness. Tori Manley-Tapu is strong and clear with a generous nature and a rich and smooth movement conviction. Rose Philpott epitomises dancing in female wisdom. Jahra Wasasala’s ornate and expressive body and face captures raw beauty in womanhood. Katie Burton expresses herself in joyous and Douglas-esque suspensions in mid-air: all female patterns of style and poise. Like a gleam in the dark, Joanne Hobern adds speed and dexterous dancing, figurative to a work on the aesthetic margin. Yet, with all this femaleness, the work never delves into blatant sexuality. With sensitive costume design by Rose Philpott & Tori Manley-Tapu what emerges from deep within the collaborative turn, is the naturalistic passion of their choreographer, Sarah’s form.


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Orchids explores darker side of femininity

Review by Raewyn Whyte 16th Oct 2017

The darker side of women’s relationships with one another is at the heart of Foster Group’s beautifully atmospheric Orchids.

These relationships are examined through repeating cycles of succour and support which degenerate into rejection and betrayal. It uses six female archetypes and their shadow selves morphing into the maiden, mother and crone of matriarchal societies while a preternaturally aware fairy-child completes the roster.

Intense individual moments of rage, anxiety, frenzy and narcissism are interspersed with group encounters, collectively comprising a disquieting portrait of femininity.

Throughout the work there are detailed images of a diverse array of orchids. The symmetry and particular structures of the flower, stems and tendrils are reproduced by arraying fingers, hands, forearms and whole bodies brought into focus or settled into niches.



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An honest examination of femininity

Review by Jenny Stevenson 13th Oct 2017

Director Sarah Foster-Sproull has assembled a superb cast of dancer/collaborators to create her long-anticipated new dance work Orchids, which premiered at Auckland’s Tempo Dance Festival last night. The work has evolved from the Company’s examinations of the concept of the “feminine divine” realised through embodying the manner in which females interact with each other and through ritualised paeans to the seven archetypal goddesses of Greek mythology.

It is perhaps the most honest examination of femininity that I have seen since Tru Paraha and Cat Ruka performed their work Hine.  The truth of women’s relationships emerges: the enfolding warmth of support and nurturing versus the cut and thrust of unwarranted negativity and obstruction. 

Foster-Sproull and her collaborators have engaged a vocabulary that focuses on the hands and arms as symbols of love and caring through encirclement of the body and framing of the head.  But the same hands also jab and poke and the same arms constrict and constrain.  It is unsettling but very real.

Each dancer has an individual story to tell and their distinct energies are what define each movement vocabulary.  As an ensemble, the dancers often move and pose in plastique groupings that bring to mind the early modern-dance pioneers’ tableaux.  These groups also act as framing mechanisms for the body and head of the soloists, creating intricate shapes and detailed images that are constantly evolving through the placement of the hands and the folding and unfolding of the fingers.  The focus that this brings to each of the soloists is quite unnerving as the groups seek to envelop the single being into the communal fold sometimes in a caring manner but at other times employing a peremptory disregard for the individual.

The idiosyncratic, energy-based characterisations are clear-cut.  Marianne Schultz exudes a grounded energy with an open and lifted upper-body that reinforces her bearing as an authority figure, perhaps a priestess.  Rose Philpott as the main protagonist is beauty personified – soft, pliant and sensuous.  Joanne Hobern creates a manic, fast-moving and highly individualised vocabulary as a break-away figure while Jahra Rager Wasasala enacts sharply focussed rituals of portent.  Katie Burton’s joie-de-vivre is her driving force and Tori Manley-Tapu’s lightness of being gives her an aura of mysticism.  As a symbol of awakening and innocence little Ivy Foster is a force of nature that moves many of the audience to tears.

Downstage dead-centre seems to be the truth spot where many of the women enact their stories.  It is established as a place of power enhanced by Jennifer Lal’s glorious lighting design which often throws the central character into sharp relief or else works some magic to create a sensory, shimmering alternative world.

Andrew Foster’s genius set-design is a constant presence that invokes the orchid flower through the use of diaphanous material.  At first it describes a softly curving womb-like petal in the opening sequence in which a mother (Marianne Schultz) and her daughter (Tori Manley-Tapu) are placed as they interact.  It is then raised up in the form of a globular structure that floats overhead as a symbol of the metaphysical world but also resembles the curved lip of the orchid flower.  It finally floats free as a back-drop to the moments of birth and affirmation that conclude the work.

Eden Mulholland’s music is also a defining force in the work, moulding itself to the choreographic intent as an intrinsic aural statement in its own right.  Elizabeth Whiting’s delicate, draped costumes in colours ranging from the palest pink through to deep fuschia soften the contours of the bodies as they move through space.

The opening night audience gave an ecstatic standing ovation to Orchids.  It has been a work three years in the making and the fine crafting is much in evidence.


Raewyn Whyte October 19th, 2017

Further reviews of ORCHIDS can be found as follows: 
by Lauren Sanderson in DANZ Magazine

by Paul Young in The Pantograph Punch 

by Jennifer Shennan in Michelle Potter ...on Dancing  (scroll down)

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