Rise - Java Dance Company

BATS Theatre, Wellington

22/10/2011 - 05/11/2011


Production Details

A woman stands alone with a space beside her, grinding flour and singing
A man with an idea builds brick by brick
A youth stirs and stirs and hopes for rising
A pair of lovers fight, cajole, coax and coerce, kneading as they go
A woman whispers and watches
A child asks for more
They all smile, waiting for warmth
And a loaf of bread is baked
Catch flour falling, water pouring, the wall of milk and honey bursting, yeast expanding, salt seeping, hands kneading and mouths devouring.

JAVA Dance Company bring you a stellar international cast, live music, interaction, sensory stimulation, full immersion, explosive design and dough in a sensual, physically explosive exploration of what it is to be human. 

The transformation of wheat into bread; 
of raw instinct into ritual; 
of basic need into community.


Will Barling  

Anne Brashier

Brian Grannan

Natalie Hona

Alana Sargent 

SINGER: Nik Jarvie-Waldrom 

CELLIST: Charley Davenport 

LIGHTING DESIGNERS:  Rachel Marlow & Marcus McShane 


COSTUMIER:  Jane Boocock 

DESIGN ASSISTANT:  Margarita Lanev


70 min

Connecting all the senses

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 03rd Nov 2011

Forced gasping from hanging bodies and a stream of flour floating, falling, cascading from the ceiling involve us as five dancers start their journey and response to making bread. Quotes from authors and religious sources set the space for the ritual that is humanity providing for life.

Created and choreographed by Sacha Copland, here was a heady ambition and a concept with potential for both depth and range of interpretation. The actual making of the bread was fascinating and the joy of Alana Sargent as she revelled in the flour-angels and fine flying flour dust wonderful to watch. The rather laborious and gloriously messy process was punctuated with a burst of folk movements. The steps of eastern European kolos and the competitive element of the dance rituals of survival were strongly referenced in the movement. The ingredients symbolic and yet very visceral with an almost mud wrestling element to what was a couple dealing with the slip/slide of their own relationship.

Natalie Hona had a sense of wonderment throughout and Brian Grannan intrigued with his almost butoh-esque stillness and seriousness as he dealt always with the minutiae of the processes. Will Barling and Anne Brashier added substance and a temporal sense to the process.

There was much made of needing and kneading, both as necessities and pleasures in life. The idea is great but the actual movement material not very inventive or coherent and editing is required to sustain the structural appeal of the actual bread making in terms of movement.

The hot bread at the end was inspired and a sort of slap dance as the work concluded had elements of movement satisfaction as the bread was stacked with punctuated precision. It could have been fun and it could have been time to consider the ingredients and processes of our lives? I wanted the vocabulary to be more organic and to reflect the purpose and process in a more considered way but, that said, the energy was uplifting and the performers literally threw themselves into making the work ‘rise’.

The original music by Thomas Press was effective and design by Meg Rollandi worked very well indeed. The final image of stacked rolls up the wall and the smell of hot delicious bread being given to us to eat was strong and a celebratory connecting of all senses. A great start to the STAB season. 


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Flour, treacle water -- a finely negotiated balance

Review by Lyne Pringle 28th Oct 2011

The dance work Rise clambers into our senses from the word go; successfully drawing the viewer into a kinaesthetic engagement with the performer’s bodies in a reconstructed Bats Theatre.

Pre show publicity claims a journey; “how instinct becomes ritual, and how individuals become a community”.  I was curious to see how this could be played out.

Choreographer Sacha Copland demands much of these dancers with her trademark intense physicality. In this production she adds the challenge of negotiating flour, treacle and water. It is a delicate balance that requires intense concentration and just the right amount of each ingredient – hours of experimentation are in evidence as is an uncompromising commitment to the vision for the work.

Initially compelling, with unconnected pieces of action happening on the walls and various places on the set – great design by Meg Rollandi – the work progresses until the dancers engage in a dynamic and foot tapping jam session; pure folk/,break dance joy. They are propelled along by a multi layered and intricate score by Thomas Press who also plays accordion. He is ably accompanied by cellist Charley Davenport and singer Nikola Jarvie-Waldrom. The music sits sympathetically inside the work adding texture and emotion, although some repetitive pieces irk the ear.

The overall intention is clear and a well-defined structure supports the investigation of the themes: however it needs trimming. The flour rapture scene, danced exquisitely by Alana Sargent, is too long and during the dough making section, attention wanders; this long sequence needs another layer of action.  This causes the overall tempo of the work to lag.

Natalie Hona brings a strident and focussed energy to the performance. Her duet work with Will Barling is initially sensuous, tender and glistening with syrup – how lovely it would have been to see them discard those polite dance clothes, to allow flesh to truly slip and connect. They then dance powerfully together pushing and grappling as they mould each other into the perfect partner in a frenzied duet that pushes them to the edge of physical limits.

There is a beautiful childlike quality from Anne Brashier. Brian Grannan skirts the periphery of the work until he is drawn into a duet with Hona to dance her out of grief. Dynamic lifts and explosive leaps showcase their complicite and skill.

All the performers contribute vocally with sounds and shouts but this element apart from gentle singing seems unnecessary – too obvious and sweet.

As the work progresses the vocabulary of movement becomes more interesting, the final ‘slap’ dance the most satisfying with its syncopated rhythms and compelling repetitive movement patterns drawing us into the frenetic ritual of a community defining a future; working together to provide sustenance and a sense of hope. Familiar ‘steps’ which underpin a lot of Java’s choreography disappear; there is a satisfying originality in the movement. What would Rise would be like if it started with this kind of choreography?

There should be less concern with a style of dance that ticks the boxes in terms of extreme physicality and a ‘known’ aesthetic and vocabulary. The pace and maturity of the artistic vision of the work requires an even more sophisticated and imaginative movement vocabulary – at present there is at times a disjuncture between these two things. In the final scenes the authentic physicality of the work arrives shaken out of the restraints of the choreographers previous expectations of what she ‘thinks’ she should be presenting and what she ‘thinks’ the audience wishes to see. Covered in flour and dough trembling with exhaustion these performers launch out into new and unknown vistas artistically. This is exciting and bodes well for future explorations by Java – no turning back seize this new direction.

The STAB platform is an admirable initiative with its provocation to experiment and explore new theatrical territory. With Rise Sacha Copland and Java Dance Company have taken with both hands the opportunity to knead new possibilities for this feisty, gutsy company.

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An exhilarating celebration of flour power

Review by John Smythe 23rd Oct 2011

It’s wonderful to see performers at Bats making real dough for a change. Literally. Once you combine flour, water and golden syrup you can make all sorts of things from it – and that’s pretty much the case with Rise. Choose your own metaphor.

Rise is the first of this year’s three Stab commissions at Bats: a relatively well-funded production that enjoys sole occupancy for a 90-minute show and runs for just over two weeks.  A more specialised dance-focused review will follow next week; I represent the generalist audience. So the next thing to say is that anyone who enjoys physical theatre is in for a treat with Rise.

Played somewhat in the traverse (a small block of seats face the main bank across the performing space), it covers a split level stage and climbs the wall, thanks to the installation of a small gymnasium climbing frame – designed by Meg Rollandi.

A faint heartbeat pulsates as we sit and take in the immobile forms of the dancers, awaiting the gift of life. Snatches of breath begin to energise them as Thomas Press’s less-is-more score begins its extraordinary evolution, with Charley Davenport’s cello and Nik Jarvie-Waldrom’s vocals abetted by Press’s accordion-playing and some clever live sampling and looping of cello and voice.

A solitary man (Brian Grannan) remains motionless, watching, listening, sensing and thinking … Later he will focus exclusively on carrying small handfuls of water to a higher place … And just when you think maybe he won’t, he does. Dance.

An inquisitive innocent (Anne Brashier) discovers grains of wheat, speckles of flour, hanging ‘rocks’ of semi-baked dough that turn to dust on being grasped … She will become caught up in the plethora of experiences engaging with this substance, and those who share it.  

A couple whose independent lives are driving them up the wall will discover each other – a beautiful moment of stillness and silence here. Their joyously sensuous explorations soon bathe them in a flow of golden syrup and they will go on to depict a life-and-death-time of intimate relatedness …

Meanwhile a supine woman (Alana Sargent) lies dormant until a trickle – soon to become a shower – of flour awakens her sensibilities. She luxuriates in it, glorifies in it … Her dancing is the most energetic and abandoned, building to an orgiastic celebration.

Some of the work may seem a bit repetitive until you notice the detail, the incremental developments, and tune into the human experiences being expressed. Engaging intuitively is rewarding in itself, and if you – like me – like to make something more of the ingredients (the very essence of baking), there is plenty to conjure with.

True to the stated intentions of the Java Dance Company* – whose artistic director, Sascha Copeland, created and choreographed Rise in collaboration with the dancers, composer, musicians and designers – the dance, the physicality, the movement and the stillness combine with the soundscape and the superb lighting (by Rachel Marlow and Marcus McShane, operated by Andre Anderson) to express states of being we can all relate to.  

As with excellent acting, I become so caught up in the total experience I forget to notice the skill of the dancing itself.  An aficionado, however, should find plenty to feed that appetite.  

So what is it all a metaphor for? As I said above, make what you will of it. At one point it suddenly hits me that the ‘dough’ they are making, distributing, redistributing, playing with, wasting, recovering, saving, making into loaves and sharing is an intended visual pun: it represents money. As such, with occupations around the globe to protest the misappropriation of money within an increasingly discredited economic system, it seems very apropos. ‘Bread’, after all, was a popular counter-culture term for money back in the ’60s and ’70s.

In her programme note, Copeland reveals how her search for the universal brought her to bread. The back of the programme extols the essential qualities and virtues of bread via quotes from Ursula K Le Guin, Robert Browning, James A Baldwin, Francis Bacon and Matthew (the gospel writer).

Universality is captured in an all-in dance sequence – including the musicians – where dance styles from around the globe are variously evoked within a circle, break-dance style. The sharing of dough and then the final product includes the audience.  

Whichever way you look at it, Rise is an exhilarating celebration of flour power.

*Other Java Dance shows reviewed include: Itchy Feet and Back of the Bus.


Graham Atkinson October 24th, 2011

A remarkable performance; like John I can't comment on the dance (which I thought excellent) but as physical theatre it is a tour de force. Congratulations Java and Co - you Rose to the occasion!

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