The Piano, 156 Armagh Street, Christchurch
08/07/2022 - 08/07/2022
Choreographed by: Josie Archer & Kosta Bogoievski
Commissioned by Ōtautahi Tiny Fest
From the team that brought you Tiny Fest 2019, The Vision, and Tiny Fest 2021 comes the premiere of begunperiodicpassageslapsesintervalsapproachingwarpcompressionmiddleeventabsoluteconcludinghorizonturnending (Permanent Distraction) – a new dance show by Josie Archer and Kosta Bogoievski.
Permanent Distraction is not so much the (abridged) title but situates the work within the attention economy — the media circulating public and private spaces vying for your attention. Rest assured, you will not be consistently entertained. Expect non-algorithmic pacing, creative transgression, non-interpretive dance, ambiguity, novel experiences, and sincerity. Intention is placed on the uniquely live aspects of theatre and the rituals around dance and performance — how we viewers and performers act, behave, and perceive in this setting.
Alongside their friends Olivia McGregor and David Huggins, the choreographers navigate the alps of imaginative terrain. They trudge ever on, barrelling through creative blocks, jettée-ing over valleys of crisis, and vigorously shaking negative demons from the delicate cells that sustain artistic process. These four dancers, your chaperones, will guide you from beginning to end ad infinitum, encountering the sublime in the minimalist and the carnal in the maximalist. Warning: Contains nudity
Performers: Josie Archer, Kosta Bogoievski, Liv McGregor, Olivia McGregor and David Huggins
Dance , Dance-theatre , Performance Art ,
Review by Rose Kirkup 29th Jul 2022
This is tales from the back row -as I head to Permanent Distraction with a couple of my bros, the topic of choice is Christopher Nolan. I laugh inside my head because the “contemporary dance” we are about to witness will take us on a Nolanesque journey where time, space, and narrative cease to exist. My mate is a visual artist, the other is a beat maker/ tailor they don’t really see much contemporary dance in these parts.
Ōtautahi is regenerating its vibrancy, as a generation of makers come to settle and build lives here. The community is returning to the city centre and is shown how artists band together to access affordable and adventurous spaces. It occurs to me that Movement Art Practice is really the only alternative movement space I’ve seen in Ōtautahi, other than the rich culture of kapa haka and toi Māori. Josie Archer, Kosta Bogoievski, and Liv McGregor all live near the MAP studio in Sydenham, where they teach and create. This style of fostering, which provides not only a space to make in but also a place to live, is the type of fostering organization funders should be seeking.
Okay, back to Permanent Distraction, the newest offering by duo Josie and Kosta. We hang up our jackets- I’m pumped to see another friend who feels as uncomfortable as me. See, I’m not a very serious person and neither is my mate. It feels like, as dance audience members, there is a type of self-censoring that’s expected… Lucky for me, I have BTS knowledge and gave myself permission to laugh. I should have told my friend too. The tickets are for general admission, so we head to the back. There’s some jazzy music playing, a small patch of turf on the left-hand side with five hay bales stacked up, and a nice warm glowy pre-show lighting state. The Piano is massive and made for a string quartet playing the greatest hits of Shania Twain. It makes my heart pang for how much this city craves a space where artists can present experimental performance, where this vibe and community can continue to build.
My friend’s crew throw me just before the lights go down by sitting two rows behind us! Like wtf! We were the back seat rage lords but I can’t change it now. The music changes abruptly- I get frighted and scream. The first ten minutes had no sound, just the performers on stage doing a series of different moves. The audience is attentive, silent, and contemplative. I can feel the tension build around me as the giggles began to grow from my friends behind me, and necks in front started to whip around. As collective deep breathing begins I hear someone whisper, “I don’t know if I can do this.”
I don’t even know why we all had the giggles. It might be something to do with seeing people do weird moves to no music, or being confronted by the thought of our own bodies doing or not doing these things… I’ve been to a lot of dance shows. I still get intimidated by the culture of perfection and judgment. I also, straight up, get bored. I’ve learned some tricks along the way that help in these situations. I watch the dancer’s shadows, I close my eyes and listen, and pretend I’m watching a screen saver.
I start to feel more comfortable when I see Josie trying to make herself speak on stage with bashful looks and fidgety fingers, or when I see Kosta become one with the air. I feel happy when David cranks out some intense staring into the first few rows, extending his arms in a peacock stance, and when Liv just spins and spins her arm around and around. I become, lost in the majesty of their bodies.
The funny thing is that they are “playing” show ponies, wearing flesh-coloured underwear and their equestrian accessories, crawling on their hands and knees. Three of the ponies settle on their patch of grass. A whisper from behind snaps me back, “I’m fucking bored.” Strangely, I’m not, I feel the discomfort of another audience member who doesn’t know the language of this type of movement. I realize I’ve learned it, I can read this work in many ways. Is that good or bad? I’m not sure… Kosta appears on stage in human form wearing a shirt and trousers. Spot lit, he reads a text that explains the title (or non-title), sharing with us the many options they had for what this thing could have been called, my favourites being hahhhhahhhhhhhahhhhah and collective sigh. He leaves, and we see the costume he wears is cut in half,
exposing his naked backside to the audience…the back seat kids burst out laughing, silence from the rest of the audience. The costume design by being. clothes (Ōtautahi-based creator Brooke Georgia) is impressive. I love the subtleness of some deeply conceptual ideas, and then beautiful bottom surprises, like Kostas’s costume.
As we come to the halfway mark, the performers appear in rehearsal sweats, tee-shirts mushed together, and track pants with a legging bottom attached. These costumes are one of the hidden secrets or codes of contemporary dance. I once worked on a show where I asked a dancer why he wore the same ratty black track pants to rehearsal every day. Why not just get a new pair for $10 from the Warehouse? A couple of days later, I noticed this dancer had stopped talking to me, so I asked if I had done something wrong. He told me I had insulted his rehearsal pants- they allowed him to move in a way that made him feel free, they were his mojo, and I’d made him self-conscious about this (love you, Alex). They might just look like clothes for a lazy Sunday, but they’re not. These costumes or sacred sweats are inspired, and a clear call to other dancers who know the power of trackies.
Rolling into half-time, a script that is also projected on a screen is performed like the kōrero they have in the rehearsal room… Josie begins to read instructions to the audience (there will be a ten-minute break), but on returning, they ask the audience to stop reading the work or stop trying to force meaning on it.
The back rows bust outside for a vape and a needed breath. We check in with each other: “Are you ok?”
“Are you gonna stay for the second half?”
“I don’t know why everyone is so serious, I just want to laugh.”
“This just feels like art for arts.”
This last statement gets me, coz the people I’m in the audience with are artists, and it seems they are feeling alienated, that the work is not for them. I encourage the crew to lean into the challenge set down for us to not read the work, to just be in it and laugh if they want to. We agree we are all going to have fun in the second half.
We head back in, now a pack of six. The dancers enter and stand, looking out in a row as the music and lights pump. We all start to amp and rage in the audience, cutting shapes, and getting into the mood of the second Act. We chatter to each other, and as quick as it comes, the music cuts off again. I’m left yelling in a quiet space. They head to the grass patch in silence, dimly lit. They un-robe, slinking across the stage, rubbing and slapping a mass of flesh, not knowing where one begins and the other finishes. Sweeping orchestral music, provides an epic base for this sensual feast. The giggling from our section becomes stronger as someone says under their breath, “this is the writhing section.” I know for sure we are all being confronted by the sight of nude forms moving in a sexual way on stage. But, I become particularly aware that I am one of two Pākehā sitting with my rōpū. And maybe, some of this nervousness comes from the fact that subconsciously and overtly my POC artist-friends know what it’s like to be exotified, judged, and to have their body sovereignty in question on the daily. Like the movers on stage, they are exposed to abusive and dehumanizing creative people and environments in order to do what they love to do.
As the light shifts, the stark naked reality of what the performers are doing is shown, and there is nothing sexy about it. Our perception was wrong, they were merely jiggling each other’s skin and smacking different parts of their bodies. Facing the front and eyeballing the audience, the performers smile, making eye contact in a moment of pure connection while being completely naked. “Shall we clap? I think we should clap,” is the consensus from the back. We hoot and applaud these people who are standing, being, and giving to us.
We all start laughing, both the audience and the performers, when the music and lights change. It’s not the end- they snap into beast mode. I get a lil emo as they become the sunset, four friends in movement together, these world-class dancers. Some of our hottest movers, nailing the phrase that’s been peppered throughout the piece. The movement is faultless and intuitive- the way their muscles flex while their natural synchronicity oozes out all over the stage.
Power in dance. The performance is finished. They take their bow. We made it through together. Was this a good show? Yes. Were parts of it boring? Yes. Did parts challenge us? Yes. To me, this is what live performance is all about: reaction, feeling something from within, even if it’s “I hate this- how do I be ok in this audience?”
I’ve been lucky enough to watch Josie, Kosta, and Liv come up. Meeting David was an extra treat. I feel very proud of these artists because though they may be making art for artists, they also they are testing and making in a way that values the creative voice of every maker in the rehearsal room with commitment and aroha. Editing comes with age. It will come with generous supportive mentors and community. I love to see these young people in a no-fear, non-competitive creative environment. The joy and life these young artists have in them is infectious. If we are able to foster more experimentation, like MAP and Tiny Fest, maybe we will find ways to continue to uplift and share our community’s talents with a broader audience. Ka Aroha.
- Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Copyright © belongs to the reviewer
Raewyn Whyte July 29th, 2022
Thank you for sharing your experiences with us Rose - such responsive writing is very much appreciated (and I too am a fan of these particular artists who always engage the audience observers so richly.