Q&Q with A&A

Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

10/10/2014 - 11/10/2014

The Physics Room, 209 Tuam Street, Christchurch

26/09/2014 - 27/09/2014

Tempo Dance Festival 2014

The Body Festival 2014

Production Details

Q&Q with A&A

Q&Q with A&A is a bold cross-disciplinary double bill by two experienced, experimental choreographers: Alexa Wilson (Auckland/Berlin) & Anna Bate (Dunedin).

 Star/Oracle – choreographed and performed by Alexa Wilson
This work invites the audience to ask questions for the ‘Oracle’ to answer in symbolic actions, administered to the audience or performed by the soloist using objects, actions and words. The focus is upon the audience asking QUESTIONS of themselves, their environment, culture/s and together co-creating a meaning. 

For Crying Out Loud – Choreographed and performed by Anna Bate
For Crying Out Loud saturates its audience in intricately linked choreographed sound and movement that questions how vocal codes may be unhinged. This choreography of perpetual exclamations purposefully disrupts the flow from cause to effect as it zooms in and around the utterance of ‘H’ ‘A’ “HA”. What might ‘ha’ be seen doing on the dance floor? How might ‘ha’ infect the audience?      

Music: Dr Hooch by Do Make Say Think; The Book Canal by Calexico; Home by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis; Insensatez by Antonio Carlos Jobim and The Bridge by Anna Calvi. 

Questions that provoked this work:
-What is the difference between affect and emotion?
-How can I prioritise choreographing the felt experience of the audience?
-What kinds of acts generate kinaesthetic transfers between the audience and me?
-How might vocal sound be treated as bodies in themselves, taking into account not only what they may ‘mean’ or ‘signify’ but also what they may do?  
-How might the common differentiation between dance and music, body and voice, image and sound, be blurred?

Thank-you to: Jodie Bate & DANZ for vocal coaching, Lisa Wilkinson & RASA studios in Dunedin for rehearsal space and Creative Communities Auckland for support.  


The Physics Room, Levels 2 & 3 Old Post Office Building, 209 Tuam Street,  Fri 26th and Sat 27th September at 8.00pm.               $10 door sales only.


Friday Oct 10 and Saturday Oct 11 2014 at 10pm

Ticket price:$16-$26 (service fees apply)– See more at: http://www.qtheatre.co.nz/qq-aa#sthash.Aki5INAN.dpuf

Alexa Wilson  & Anna Bate 

Physical , Performance Art , Contemporary dance , Dance ,

1 hour

A game of three halves

Review by Raewyn Whyte 11th Oct 2014

Q& Q with A&A is a double bill which brings together two New Zealanders whose experimental dance works are grounded in performance research. Alexa Wilson is based in Berlin: Anna Bate has recently returned from China. Both have international experience presenting their own works, and both are pursuing advanced academic studies in the field of performance. Both seek to engage the audience deeply in their performances, but they take very different approaches to doing so.

Wonder, joy, delight and discovery permeate Anna Bate’s richly detailed For Crying Out Loud. She prowls, jiggles, wiggles, shimmies, bounces, jumps, swings her arms through various configurations, drops into a deep second position, advances and retreats, with an astonishing array of constantly changing facial expressions and poses accompanying her stream of utterances.

WOO        hoo    oh        O      UH     ooo   

Wah      ah     A    H   HAH   ha  HA

     huh   hahahahaha

Hah   ih    hah  ih  hah  ih 


Bate integrates breath and body positioning, action and stillness to vary the intensity and level of her vocalisations, and the array of continuously changing attitudes which are revealed, everything from girlish excitement to warrior-like anger and confrontation, the rapidly shifting expressions which flit across a small baby’s face as she wriggles in their cot, or the wonder of a small child watching bubbles burst, with sequences of utterances escalating into orgasmic satisfaction  or de-escalating to restful stillness.

She glows and glimmers under lambent lighting by Brad Gledhill, and we feel the glow internally, infected by her good will and carried along by her momentum on this journey of discovery.   Her vocalisations are backgrounded by music from Do Make Say Think, Calexico, Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, Antonio Carlos Jobim, and Anna Calvi, more often than not running counter to their moods to express the full gamut of emotions, with one state morphing into the next to give a much richer understanding of all expressions encountered.

Bate has been investigating  the codes of social communication for some time, with works such as High Stand Display (2006), which focused on bending, and Pro-Posing (2010) which played with the ways we read the poses of women wrestlers, body builders and cheerleders, Like those earlier works, For Crying Out Loud results from rigorous physical investigation of her subject matter, in this case, the way vocal codes can be affected by combinations of intricately inked choreographed movement and sound. Her complexly detailed performance demonstrates her discoveries to the nth degree, and is a tour de force. An utterly memorable performance.

Star / Oracle is itself an Alexa Wilson double bill which has been performed in Europe, the US and NZ over the past 18 months in galleries and at festivals of experimental performance works. The two works are related, and share costume, design, dramaturgy and movement elements, and are very much concerned with the present state of the world and contemporary political, social, and environmental crises. 

Star is derived from the Star tarot card, and from the activities and pesonalities of celebrities with warped relationships to the environment. The Star persona we meet in the very condensed section of the full length performance is schizoid, erratic, restless and disengaged, somewhat paranoid and influenced by the mood of randomly changing background music . She hides her face behind sunglasses and her body under layers of mostly red clothing, but suddenly strips down to reveal them. She spills water and wallows in it, and slathers on sun cream without rubbing it into her skin. She changes her clothes often. She is willing to pose for paparazzi for certain period, but is quick to move on to other activities, leaving a mess in her wake. When she has had enough with one activity, Star changes to another at lightning speed.

Oracle is the reverse side of Star, and her persona is a deeply calm, centred, focused, all-knowing entity. She is warm, friendly, open, and she hands control of the performance over to the audience. She sits in a yoga pose at centre stage in her red silk robe amidst an array of objects, and invites the audience to ask any questions they wish of her, promising her answers will satisfy them.

In this particular show, the questions range widely. “How many numbers are there?” “Why can’t I walk down the street without being handed a flyer or asked for some change?” “ When will we meet aliens from another planet?” “How did you become an oracle?” “Will Ed get laid tonight?” “How old will Jacinda Ardern be when she becomes leader of the Labour party?”

The answers are generated via “psychomagic” and comprise a rich mix of symbolic elements and physical actions, words, and objects ranging from spray paint to cell phones, gem stones, a tarot pack, and sometimes the questioner, in a highly symbolic exchange of actions and objects.

It would give much of the surprise away to describe the answers here. Suffice perhaps to say that my own question was sufficiently answered in an elliptical manner, very adroitly and with a smile. 

You might want to meditate on your own question before the next show.


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Living Inside the Question

Review by Renata Hopkins 28th Sep 2014

Alexa Wilson and Anna Bate both work at the intersection between dance, theatre and performance art. In Q&Q with A&A, they experiment with and challenge the conventional roles assumed by performer and audience.

The first work of the evening, Anna Bate’s For Crying Out Loud, sees her perform a freeform vocalisation accompanied by movement. Bate begins speaking the single syllable “Ha”. This one sound is stretched, shortened and morphed into breathy panting or low – even sinister – laughing. Gradually, “Ha” becomes “Wa” and then “Wow.” At times a single repeated sound is replaced by a silent scream, or with a babble that brings the evangelical spiritual tradition of ‘speaking in tongues’ to mind. Bate’s face and body are alive with the sounds and movements she makes. Her mouth and eyes open wide and she spreads her arms in a gesture that could be a welcome. She pats the air, appearing to reassure us of something, or to warn of danger.

Throughout the performance, Bate’s sounds and movements resist the natural impulse to interpret or make sense of them. We may initially read a grimace as discomfort or pain, but if it then transforms into a grin, we have to question our first assumption. Conversely, we read laughter as signifying pleasure or enjoyment, but as soon as it becomes manic, too loud, or too mechanical, our reading shifts again. Bate plays cleverly with these tensions. Even when she makes the sound “Wow” – which we recognise as a word, she distorts and deforms it, deferring and disrupting our instinct to infer meaning. Instead, she creates a subtle and skillfully nuanced invitation to the audience to feel along with her and to move along with her, even though we mightn’t know where we are – or where we’re going. 

Bate enters the performance space wearing everyday clothes: sneakers with a dark skirt, top and tights. This pedestrian costume works well as a counterpoint to the experimental nature of the performance, heightening the strangeness and discord in her sounds and movements. Recorded music plays underneath her vocalisations and she uses this as an effective counterpoint, at times competing to drown out the soundtrack, and at others allowing the music to be foregrounded. 

Throughout her performance there is a sustained sense of presence and concentration. Bate is a strong and engaging performer and her confident focus and commitment create a kind of energetic feedback loop that flows between her and the audience. This is not a performance that exists as a static offering “from” the performer “to” the audience, but, rather, as something mutually created. 

Alexa Wilson’s Star/Oracle, also encourages the audience to ask questions: literally, in the case of the second section, Oracle. Before this, in the section titled Star, she sets up an inherently theatrical and playful world: her props and costumes are laid out on a sheet on the stage, ready to be chosen as required in a performance that will include improvised, as well as choreographed, elements.

Wilson enters wearing a costume that is suggestive of character or caricature: a poisonous green dress, a red scarf and sunglasses. She delivers a truncated weather report before shaking, squirting and spitting water onto the floor. She lies down in the water and later smears herself with lotion from a bottle in a queasy parody of sensuality. As in Bate’s work, things are off-kilter, unpredictable and even vaguely threatening. At one point, Wilson whirls an electric cable in the air above her head, before asking the audience, “Can you feel the connection?”

In the artists’ talk given by Wilson and Bate earlier in the day, Wilson explained her interest in breaking down the separation between audience and performer/s, which she sees as mirroring the disconnectedness at the heart of consumerist/capitalist culture. Consequently – as in Bate’s show – she invites a conversation between artist and audience. In the second section of her show, Oracle, Wilson invites the audience to ask her any question they’d like an answer to. She then formulates a response to the question utilising movement, props, music and words. This requires a lot of trust on the audience’s part, and takes a confident and skilled performer to pull it off, but Wilson makes good on the deal. The audience’s willingness to go along with her is evidenced by the kind of questions asked during the performance I saw:  “What is the right way to learn to say ‘no’?”, “What does the human body want?” and “When will my father die?” At other times, the questions are more playful, as with: “What is your favourite conspiracy theory?” At one point, Wilson even tells the audience her mobile number and invites us to text her a question, thus opening the floor to those who feel diffident about asking their question aloud.

Wilson isn’t using the character and symbolism of the oracle to deliver witticisms or laughs, though there are times when her responses arouse laughter. She sits quietly to consider a response to the question, before inviting the person who asked it to join her onstage. In response to one question, she dons a meringue-like wedding dress and asks the questioner to spray-paint her while she dances. The result sometimes looks like a choreographed duet and at other times like a fight. In response to another question, she invites an audience member onstage, blindfolds her and then asks her to respond to various stimuli. Wilson flicks a lighter next to the woman’s head, rattles the ball inside the spray can, leans against the woman, and finally undresses next to her. While some of this may sound confrontational, it never feels that way to me. We are in the safe hands of an experienced performer who can take her audience somewhere that – while it may be unexpected or disquieting – is never manipulative or humiliating.

The title of the double bill calls to mind the Q&A format utilised by everything from pub quizzes, to political debates, to game shows, all of which trade on the inherent drama in our quest for “the right answer.” However, both of these shows reject the notion of tidy conclusions. They are all the more compelling for their ability to live inside the question – in the territory of uncertainty, experiment and risk. 


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