SCOPE - NZSD Choreographic Season 2016

Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

20/05/2016 - 28/05/2016

Production Details

New Zealand School of Dance

The New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) Choreographic Season is a highlight of the Wellington arts calendar, relished by dance aficionados and newcomers alike. Renowned for technical accomplishment, the students’ choreographic talents are showcased in this performance season titled SCOPE.

Book your place and witness an extraordinary collection of new dance works by the ten graduating students of the School’s full-time contemporary dance programme. The season will run from 20-28 May at Te Whaea Theatre in Wellington.

Jag Popham, one of the students creating a work for the show, describes the experience as a “highly rewarding process for those choreographing, you get to see the class fully immerse themselves into the works of the show. It is fulfilling for each of us to develop our creative voice and put something of our own making before an audience.”

SCOPE, is both raw and deep; exploring the idea of the human condition and what our existence means to us. The theatre has been set up so the audience is placed around the dancers, a challenge for the students to make choreography that can be viewed from all angles.

The production is a collaboration between the dance students of the NZSD and the production/stage craft students of Toi Whakaari (New Zealand Drama School). Coordinator of the show, and NZSD graduate herself, Victoria Colombus emphasises the importance of this experimental method of creation. “This year the New Zealand School of Dance students and Toi Whakaari students are cultivating a very collaborative working process. They have been working together to investigate overriding themes and how they can utilise different elements of stagecraft and performance to sew together these common threads.”


Trophics A position on the food chain. What level are you on?
Choreographer Tristan Carter
Music Te Aihe Butler
Dancers Whole Cast

Come Along and Feel the Kairos The perfect, delicate, crucial moment; the fleeting rightness of time and place. A warm embrace. Choreographer Samuel Hall
Music Cascade – William Basinski
Dancers Kent Giebel-Date, Christopher Mills, Jessica Newman, Ella Williams Assistants Rachel Andrew, Tristan Carter, Isabella Colluccio, Jill Goh, Christina Guieb, Nicholas Jachno, Tiana Lung, Sarah Wilson

□ᶾ Amongst the noise and chaos, it is important to remember to take time and live in the moment. With that comes serenity. Choreographer Christopher Mills
Music Forever Dolphin Love – Connan Mockasin; Haunt Me, Haunt Me Do It Again – Tim Hecker
Dancers Whole cast

XXX XXX When you feel everything and nothing at the same time.
Choreographer Jessica Newman
Music Song – Pink Noise; Album – Ambient Background Soundscape, edited by Te Aihe Butler
Dancers Christina Guieb, Samuel Hall, Connor Masseurs, Christopher Mills, Jessica Newman, Toa Paranihi

The Private Sphere Plastic fruit and tending flowers. Air freshener and painted landscapes. An exploration regarding our domestic attachment to the inanimate.
Choreographer Isaac Di Natale
Music Lichen - Aphex Twin; Doorway - Planningtorock; Inframince - Lucrecia Dalt
Dancers Isabel Estrella, Holly Newsome, Georgia Van Gils

Blight We always end up destroying what we inhabit.
Choreographer Tiana Lung
Music Native Belle – Animal Collective; Second Skin / Zombie Wind – Grouper
Dancers Rachel Andrew, Holly Brogan, Tristan Carter, Isabella Colluccio, Isaac Di Natale, Isabel Estrella, Kent Giebel-Date, Jill Goh, Christina Guieb, Samuel Hall, Olivia Knapton, Holly Newsome, Nicholas Jachno, Jessica Johns, Connor Masseurs, Christopher Mills, Jessica Newman, Toa Paranihi, Kit Riley, Georgia Sekulla, Angus Syben, Breanna Timms, Georgia Van Gils, Alex Warren, Ella Williams, Sarah Wilson

Atlas of Intangible Everything and everyone is connected as part of a continuous energy field. As a result, every thought, feeling and action we have exerts an influence on the whole.
Choreographer Breanna Timms
Music Summa for Strings – Arvo Pärt; Virginal II – Tim Hecker; Duoon – Alva Noto + Ryuichi Sakamoto
Dancers Tristan Carter, Kent Giebel-Date, Jill Goh, Tiana Lung

Shaving a Cactus I don’t think it’s possible to be perfect. I don’t think it’s possible to shave a cactus.
Choreographer Holly Newsome
Music Baleen Morning – Balmorhea; Step – WoolyMammoth & Tsuruda remix by Crooked Colours; What a Way to Wanna Be – Shania Twain
Dancers Holly Brogan, Isaac Di Natale, Isabel Estrella, Olivia Knapton, Jessica Johns, Connor Masseurs, Toa Paranihi, Kit Riley, Georgia Sekulla, Angus Syben, Breanna Timms, Georgia Van Gils, Alex Warren

Temenos “Biologically speaking, we are all people made up of smaller people.” – Joseph Fink and Jeffery Cranor Choreographer Isabel Estrella
Music Bowls - Caribou
Dancers Whole cast

Contemporary dance , Dance ,

1 hour

A beautiful celebration of physical prowess and artistry

Review by Chris Jannides 23rd May 2016

SCOPE is the NZ School of Dance’s annual Choreographic Season featuring works by 3rd year contemporary dance students. Four seating blocks frame the corners of the large Te Whaea space with its high ceiling. Audiences on opposite sides are backdrops for each other. There is haze. Shafts of gently pulsing light. Darkish mood music. It is a theatrical cathedral. The challenge is that the dancers have to choreograph and perform in four directions. But they are in expert hands.

The show’s director, Victoria Colombus, has taken over a major choreographic role in WOW, Wellington’s Wearable Arts extravaganza. The school is fortunate to have this level of expertise in Colombus as its choreography tutor and student mentor. She does an amazing job, not only in streamlining the flow and structure of the show, but in empowering the students to high levels of choreographic output.

What is immediately striking when the programme starts, and always striking from this school, are the fit bodies. Sexy too in their tight fitting all too brief costumes. Sleek, toned, fluid, sensual, graceful, feline, fast.

The first item, choreographed by Tristan Carter, has snake-lines of dancers weaving and criss-crossing the diamond-shaped stage. A lovely labyrinth of diving and plunging in synchronous waves of motion. Flame-like hands above heads. Phrases build and accumulate. Intensity and speed increase. Complex travelling configurations to throbbing music. Leaps, rolls, big sky-grabbing arms. Much use of unison and canon. Thickening and thinning of space. A climax of stillness with faces turned upward to the cavernous roof of the theatre. Clothing bombs rain down from the sky and plop around the dancers’ feet. They dress themselves in grey toned trousers and polo-neck tops. I think ‘wow, this is pretty good’. It’s a perfect opener to what lies ahead.

All in all, there are ten student works. All are linked together by transitional choreographic inserts to music by the masterful Te Aihe Butler, who also edited, spliced together and constructed the sound landscape throughout. This gives a sense of the whole evening being one production. For me, this works both for and against the proceedings. I think I would like to experience each of the pieces a bit more independently. There is a tendency for a sameness to creep in, not helped by the fact that the costumes remain unchanged. It’s not always clear where one item properly finishes and another begins. This blurriness facilitates a sense of flow but tends to also flatten things out. So the highs and unique distinguishing features in individual works struggle slightly to make impact. 

Nevertheless, sameness and blur aside, there are plenty of highs that I find myself enjoying. I like the zany look in the lead dancer in Isaac di Natale’s The Private Sphere. Her facial expression exudes glee for power. The master/follower choreography, with contrasting expressions to match, reorients itself beautifully in the four-sided space. Pity it doesn’t find an interesting ending.

Very nice manipulation of audience in Come Along and Feel the Kairos is conceived and choreographed by Samuel Hall. Making human chains with hands on the shoulders of people in front, a large chunk of the audience is literally and thematically woven into the narrative to great effect. A theme of inclusion/exclusion is clearly played out, concluding in a slightly sentimental motif about the power of the hug.

Blight intrigues me. Choreographed by Tiana Lung, the creepy maniacal manner of the lead female dancer is fun, offset by the mysterious birth of an upside-down male toddler in white underwear and singlet. Their duet is one of the more original partnering relationships of the night. The power of group features here too. An undulating mass of bodies wonderfully swallows the female protagonist. One of the better endings.

Lung’s choreography, along with other pieces in the evening’s performance, most notably Holly Newsome’s, Shaving a Cactus, showcases these young dancers’ joy in robotic mechanised movement. They do the twitchy demented humanoid thing well. Newsome’s work also stands out for its greater complexity and visual uniqueness, relative to other items.

The last piece of the evening takes the non-human mode to machinic heights of virtuosity verging on ritualistic. Temenos is choreographed by Isabel Estrella. It is an accomplished, incredibly strong group work featuring the whole cast. There are great patterns and use of in/out, up/down, circularity and wave actions on a downward pulse that releases visual surges of kinetic energy. I appreciate the fact that the focus is inward rather than out at us. There is a sophistication in being able to sustain our attention for a lengthy period of time where all we see are backs. The climax is an explosion of bodies that splay out face down from the centre of the stage, followed by the lifting of our attention to lights high up in the roof of the theatre. Nice! The worship is for floor and sky. Very appropriate for high-end dance.

Generally speaking, however, this year’s offering is simpler than in previous NZSD showcases I’ve seen. While there are numerous choreographically demanding moments that amply demonstrate the superb skills and standards of these dancers, the work remains predominantly form-based with a focus primarily on dynamic patterns, partnerings, and technical panache. From this, it is clear that the students are gaining a highly accomplished foundational lesson in more advanced choreographic crafting. I just miss the more unusual and adventurous performance concepts and outcomes that I’ve seen in this exercise in the past.

Nevertheless, I cannot quibble when confronted by such a beautiful celebration of physical prowess and artistry. These contemporary students in our leading dance institution show that they are the best in the country and on par with any anywhere in the world. Is the job of their training being done? Most definitely yes. Along with getting a great practical introduction to the complexities of choreography, a project such as this provides an amazing opportunity for them to work with all the technical and production elements that go into the making of professional dance. In this regard, students and staff behind the scenes from the drama school with whom they team up in these areas are also to be ackowledged and applauded for their substantial contribution. SCOPE, while slightly narrow choreographically, is on the other hand immense in the richness of its performance outcomes and appreciation value.


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Review by Donna Banicevich Gera 21st May 2016

The New Zealand School of Dance 2016 choreographic season ‘SCOPE’, on opening night presents a collection of contemporary dance works to a transfixed audience. As a group of choreographers, the students are  exploring current themes that unite us as people, questioning our place in the world.

The ten individual pieces are woven seamlessly together to present a cohesive empowering night of contemporary dance. Complete ‘fusions of life’ as we know it. Each work challenges the audience to reflect and consider the disruptions, disarray, and deceptions we pose for ourselves in our everyday being.

The cast performs as one, highlighting the power of collaboration in this art form. It is wonderful to see each individual contribution moulding itself into the professional production.  Visually the experience, in the round, is outstanding. The lighting and costume design mirror the current spin on lives searching for a purpose. The set comprises eight white box frames, in varying sizes and dimensions, that track their way across the stage, enabling the entire production to fit together like one giant puzzle.

I fall in love with the vision that is ‘Obelus’. Choreographer Jag Popham does an excellent job creating this work. As stated ‘Power is always dangerous, it attracts the worst and corrupts the best. It is only given to those who are prepared to lower themselves and pick it up.’  Creatively ‘power’ is interesting to explore, especially when considering the reactions of human beings when faced with opportunity. The opening fight sets the scene strongly, and is executed with strength and precision. The dancers do this moment proud.

All the choreographers, without exception, confront us with interpretations or declarations of change. All are interesting. While the subject matter alone makes the works unique, the innovative approaches are diverse and stimulating.

Overall the night challenges. The choreography challenges. And to my mind, this is a good thing. As the lights come up, the woman sitting next to me, who has held her breath throughout, whispers ‘crazy’. These are just the type of crazy questions art should be posing for an audience. Do we recognise ourselves here? Are we prepared to change? For me, to leave a theatre contemplating life is an experience not to be missed. That’s SCOPE.


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