Prime Cuts 2010

TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland

05/10/2010 - 08/10/2010

Production Details

Over the past six Tempo festivals, choreographers have been putting on a rich spread of dance delights; recently the feast has included the zingy tang of Fresh cuts, which works to complement the experienced and complex flavours of Prime Cuts. And Universal Drive is now added to the menu.

Some of New Zealand’s most dynamic choreographers and dancers come together as part of Prime Cuts. Last year this programme sold out and this year’s programme promises a similar response.

Prime Cuts features works from Kelly Nash, Rosalie Van Horik, Cathy Livermore, Cat Ruka and Sarah Campus with dances that range from cutting edge contemporary dance to contemporary Pacific dance.

The spectrum of themes for both Fresh and Prime Cuts are enlivened by the lighting designs of Brad Gledhill.

Prime Cuts:
5 – 8 October,
8pm, 8pm, 6pm (60 minutes)
TAPAC, Motions Road, Western Springs, Auckland
$30 Adults/ $27 DANZ members and Concessions 

Tickets: available through: / / ph: 09 845 0295

For more information visit 

Gorgeous moments | More essence and kaupapa required | Beautifully danced | Vividly avant-garde | Hard hitting, brave and in your face

Review by Jack Gray 07th Oct 2010

Prime Cuts is marketed as a showcase of a new wave of New Zealand’s next choreographers approaching their ‘prime’. While this may arguably be the case, the programme was a mixed bag of ideas, with varying degrees of potential and growth.

[For the purposes of this review, I have omitted to write about “Gender and Performance Inquiry” by Val Smith and Mike Holland, as I have reviewed that piece in Old Yeller].

Choreography: Kelly Nash, Dancers: Alex Leonhartsberger, Liana Yew 
Collaborators: Charlotte 90 (sound) and Pedro Ilgenfritz (dramaturg) 

Background: This work was commissioned to debut at Prime Cuts and workshopped ideas around anatomy and dissection of self. The dancers devised the movement.

(Clink of wine glasses as “Good luck” is whispered to Nash sitting in the audience…) 

Accordions. A dapper figure (Alex) walks backwards from the wings, awkwardly, in white collared shirt, greyish jeans. He seems to be a Gepetto-like character manipulating a marionette. His solo is a fast flurry, reaching, and ending with a courtly bow. A jacket is on the floor. His movement is open-chested with grotesque arm. Insect-like, he crouches, with arms like feelers. Whirring strings. Placing the jacket over him to become a greyish mound.

Paper darts fly in from offstage, missing him as he emerges. There is a change of music as he clutches his elbow, spins, twisting his ankle. Struck by some darts, others stray into the audience. Liana also appears in a grey coat, picking up darts to throw at him, as he ripples back and forth. I get a sense of a European foreign film. As her intensity picks up, he decides he has had enough and chases her offstage.

A blue light and shuddery sounds signal another shift. Alex takes the coat off so that it covers his face. Tremendous skills of timing and fluidity come to the fore, his backbend although contorted is effortless, and finger clasps are subtle. Liana re-enters in a blossomy red and white floral dress, dropping off a black hat and bunch of fake red flowers, before dancing with a dust-brush. Her signature movement is fast, soft, grounded and explosive, to reflect mourning and grief. Alex sings along with the song (in a foreign language) but leaves as she tries to lie next to him.

It seems to be a work about departures. Alex gathers the items left behind, donning the hat, picking up cards, flowers and what looks like a ball of navy blue wool. Walking towards her prone body he places the (tarot?) cards in-between her toes and fingers. Approaching slowly and gently, face sliding unevenly across the marley floor as he drags her to stand up. Holding each other’s heads, pushing, readjusting, in a partnering duet of many embraces. The ta moko on her arm is graphic against his white shirt. They look really beautiful together which adds to the works maturity.  

The music is sonorous, a constantly building pulse that takes us to an ethereal place. I see detachment, connectedness and beauty. Though they are very experienced dancers, the movement has a feeling of freshly taking root in their bodies. Nash’s piece will benefit from future performance and development opportunities to further deepen, consolidate and increase the works potential and longevity.

Summary: Gorgeous moments with definite potential to grow.

Choreography: Cathy Livermore
Dancers: Cathy Livermore, Alex Leonhartsberger, Liana Yew, and Paul Young
Music: Imogen Heap (edited by Frank Kalolo)

Background: This dance was originally made as a full-length theatre show at Wellingtons Dance Your Socks Off Festival with a cast from Whitireia Performing Arts School, before being reworked and performed by Atamira Dance Company in Whetu.

Silhouetted, the quartet look like some kind of expanding flame-red orchid, with bright orange lighting suggesting a Pacific sunset. Livermore stands out immediately with her long arms and swaying body in contrast to the rigidity of some others. Hands clasp and shift, bathed in now golden light, their gestures show mirrors, clasping, outstretched. Rolling bodies, spring and soften. There is a lovely fluidity and interchange between soloist and ensemble work. The girls are passionate; the group’s uniformity pretty good.

Livermore’s expressive face suits the nature of the work and it’s message of the “struggles we face with the inevitable fate of sinking islands and disappearing culture due to the impacts of global climate change.” As the dance progresses, the movement desires more flow, oomph and fire to bring the urgency of the story to life. The men could do with more kaha and breath, and their interpretation – though very cleanly done – requires a specific kind of masculinity intrinsic to Pacific dance performance.

Summary: More essence and kaupapa required to deepen their performative experience.

Choreographer: Rosalie Van Horick
Dancer: Destiny Anderson

Background: Rosalie has recently returned from the Asia Pacific Young Choreographers Project in Taiwan; this is the debut of this particular solo.

A girl in a fancy frufru walks across the back of the stage like a Tim Burton character. Seemingly a Petrushka character dance from a ballet recital (with stop-start, clockwork, and fast little broken movements), Destiny successfully pulls it off with a vigorous technicality and delightful expressiveness. There are endless facial variations of her seeing, peeking, peering, and looking sideways. Though we glimpse her wearing old-fashioned white pantaloons, somehow she still manages to emit certain (African) lusciousness.

A light change with blue lights above and gold across the black curtains seems a little arbitrary? The narrative progression is unclear – making me wonder what the choreographic objective in this dance might be, or questioning where ‘Sally’ is going? Though performed commendably and emphatically, I wonder if perhaps it would be better framed in the Fresh Cuts programme for emerging choreographers.

Summary: Beautifully danced, yet needs development of structure and characterisation.

Choreographer/Dancer: Sarah Gavina Campus
Music: Where – The Creatures of the Wind

Background: Sarah and Cat Ruka have recently returned from presenting at the WDA conference in New York, and present two solo works exploring the feral identity “Wolf”.

Sarah in lollipop-red satin pants is crouching in ‘Eagle Over Grand Canyon’ posture. Blackout. Someone else traipses heavily across the stage in the darkness, as we hear her strong exhalations and in-breath. The light comes back on and she is revealed wearing a knotted denim top and a red headband. There is a windy atmosphere. She crouches on a wooden chair (with an interesting slim back and contoured curves), before sitting on it and facing the diagonal.

Sarah looks into the wind, the sound of scraping, rusty, iron gates shutting, before assuming a series of frightened poses like in the horror movies. Smiling overtly into the headlights and sneering lasciviously, all become one and the same. I keep getting 50s pin up girl and feminine resentment. She pants, crawls, rolling to dead possum poses, equally macabre and comical. The light swings from one side of the stage to the other, like car lights going by, or the sun setting on an empty desert road.  

Dragging herself along the ground, tongue poised, her dainty white tennis shoes arch on demi-pointe like a front paw. She opens wide into a silent scream, before her lip-sticked mouth resumes normality. I like something about these postures, the way she has crafted them together as images makes me curious about her creative process. The contractions are so deliberate, their extremity almost shamanic. There is a real time story going on here. She lets loose a frenzied scream and drops to the floor like an aggressive dog at a bone, before repeating her possum phrase again. Its contrast shocks us into laughter.

The music is a low bass sound, pulling us deeper and deeper into her den. Now as she looks forwards, she has a neutral yet beautiful gaze. Adding the femme fatale to her repertoire. Mature. Deep Woman. Kneeling up close, she scratches and reaches, in the darkness the clodhopper goes by.

Summary: Vividly avant-garde presentation and atmosphere, deliberate and intense performance.

Choreographer/Performer: Cat Ruka
Music/Guest appearance: Sky Bear

Cat storms in with some street attitude to loud drum and bass music, a frantic video projection of the ‘Hikoi’ on the wall, she wears a balaclava, black long singlet and shorts. She comes in krumping, while some other guy is taking photos. It references the media invasion and manipulation of images of the protests – perhaps as a way of making natives look “exotic” (cue Paul Henry: “not looking like a real New Zealander”). There is a drum kit in the background. As her balaclava is removed, we see her fully tattooed face (in Maori moko style) before she tosses her long hair around in a repetitive, low swinging action.

Staunch, strong, she wears a gang patch in a flag (?) wrapped around her waist. Krumping to the camera, I notice the Tino Rangatiratanga (Maori Sovereignty Flag) in the background film projection, before she starts to krump holding a taiaha (spear). The hoody guy holds a dry ice machine that he drenches her in, increasing the power of the image by going from something modern, to traditional, to becoming almost mythical. The mana, ihi and wehi of the moment, (combined with the audience being gassed by her accomplice) resonates and astounds on many levels in a cleverly crafted and politically packed power punch.   

Dragged and pulled by the male into the spotlight, manhandling her into a lying position, she is utterly limp. It is an image that really gets in your face, seeping into eyes and nose. I wonder who is this masked man? He has a bucket with a sponge and water that he uses to wipe the moko off her comatose, close-eyed face. I have flashbacks of her previous solo (the acclaimed “Playing Savage”) as both the visceral and symbolic potently combine. The ninja drops water on her back and neck as she leans huddled on the floor, removing her patch he heads to stand by the drum, one hand poised above his head.  

Cat looks out, her hair all over her face. We now see the most breathtaking image, as the dry ice has lifted to linger in the middle of the stage – like a low flying cumulus cloud, coloured red like a night sky. She is underneath and slowly stands, searching the crowd with her pleading eyes, her body doing actions reminiscent of Siva dance, rising in intensity, before again falling down till the last thing we hear are little jingles in the dark.

Summary: Cat reigns supreme with another powerful political commentary based on “the relentless fight for autonomy the Maori have taken since the beginning of colonisation”. Hard hitting, brave and in your face. Ka whawhai tonu matou, ake ake ake.


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