Separately, in Tandem

Auckland Old Folks Association. 8 Gundry Street (off K' Road), Auckland

01/05/2021 - 01/05/2021

Production Details

Separately, In Tandem is a double-bill contemporary dance show choreographed by Miriam Eskildsen and collaborators.
Helena (in collaboration with Veronica Chengen Lyu) is a solo that immerses intricate, highly stylized movement into an obsessive, fragmented persona; the unrelenting itch that is attention to detail intersecting with notions of paranoia, supernatural mythology, and the ever-fragile illusion of control.
Night Dance (in collaboration with Cecilia Wilcox and Jacob Reynolds) presents a dream-universe born from the subterranean terrain of the subconscious; a stark, surreal realm populated by a lone pair of chameleon-like characters, with composition by Elani Austin-Tennant.

Choreographed by Miriam Eskildsen and collaborators: Veronica Chengen Lyu, Cecilia Wilcox and Jacob Reynolds, Elani Austin-Tennant.

Dance ,

60 mins

Vignettes are expertly woven together

Review by Katrina Bastian 05th May 2021

Separately, In Tandem as its name suggests is an evening in which two short vignettes are expertly woven together by Miriam Eskildsen’s talent for creating a sinister, yet stunning atmosphere of the uncanny. Although both “Helena” and “Night Dance” are works that can stand on their own, it is Eskildsen’s command and mature knowledge of her own aesthetic that creates a thrilling whole.

“Helena” a solo work performed by Veronica Chengen Lyu harkens the movement qualities of the Exorcist while paying homage to the worn and somewhat retro character of The Old Folks Association in costume, hair, and makeup. I am left imagining that if David Lynch was around and into contemporary dance he’d have loved this work! Eskildsen’s obsessive attention to detail in her choreography comes out in a lizard-like, slither, robot movement quality that winds its way across the creaky floors of the Old Folks Association.

Paul Bennet’s lighting design, paired with Fa’asu Afoa Purcell’s expert hair and makeup, and the atmospheric soundscape by Rita Laing bring the work out of the realm of ‘exercise’ (as described in the programme notes) and towards a mature, fully realised work of expert craftsmanship by the whole team. I’ve been to Old Folks lots of times, and yet, thanks to Bennet’s design find myself subtly appreciating the undertones of the space, the light that lays in wait in the corners, the colours that hide within the cracks. Eskildsen’s team has done a fantastic job of making “Helena” into a work that seems made for the space, and as such, a work that tells a story with layers of complexity and sophistication.

“Night Dance” is a duet performed by Cecilia Wilcox and Jacob Reynolds in brilliant costumes by April Haszard and Jeanette Eskildsen. It is in this work that we see the overarching themes of Eskildsen’s aesthetic become more clear- subtle, classy, but with a hint of the sinister and macabre. The dance alludes towards water as I find myself reflecting on shells. A grey day walking along the beach collecting sea shells. I hadn’t read the programme notes before watching the work, but upon reflection see that the work draws on ‘deep-sea imagery.’ Eskildsen’s ability to so ingeniously trigger my associative capacities is the mark of a deeply considered work. There are allusions to “Helena” within the choreography which are treat to find!

The music by Elani Austin-Tennant with excerpts contributed by Russel Eskildsen really ties the work together. It complements the fluidity of the movement when it needs to, drives the vigour of the dance, and keeps my mind in a drifting, almost dream-like state. I leave The Auckland Old Folks Association in a state of calm excitement. Excited because I can’t wait to see what else Eskildsen and her team bring into being. Whatever it will be, I’m here for it!


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Encompassing rich imagery

Review by Nicole Wilkie 03rd May 2021

Separately, In Tandem is a double offering of two exciting new works, Helena and Night Dance, choreographed by dance artist Miriam Eskildsen, in collaboration with the dancers.

The show begins with Helena, in which the solo dancer Veronica Chengen Lyu stations herself face down in the upper right-hand corner of the stage, subtly pulsing, the body and through the hands as the audience file in. As the lights dim and the music permeates the space, she creeps forwards, in an almost reptile-like fashion. As the dance progresses, she moves with a robotic flow, framing the face, glitching in and out of presence. The motif of the hands behind the back, seemingly sewing oneself together, is a clever moment that sticks in the mind. Another highlight is the interaction with the wall at the side of the stage, adding a refreshing dimension with the mesmerising, accumulative gesture performed against it. The choreography is hypnotic and creates a dream-like state with its imagery and pacing. Veronica Chengen Lyu performs the movement with precise attention to detail, she is effortlessly strong and elegant. Her red dress, hair, and makeup combined with the expert articulation of the choreography conjures the image of a wind-up doll, she wholly embodies the character and is a joy to watch. This work captures the essence of obsessiveness.

Night Dance, performed by Cecilia Wilcox and Jacob Reynolds, is an introverted exploration of deep-sea imagery, and the concept of two beings becoming one entity. As in Helena, there is strong gestural framing of the face in this work, creating fantastic imagery. The duo flows with an ethereal quality to the rhythm of the soundscape, becoming one another, becoming a curious, mysterious creature, before separating and showing their distinct parts. Both dancers are impressive individually and together, partnering each other effortlessly and efficiently, moving into and out of the floor with ease, and precisely articulating both strong and soft gestures, like octopus tentacles or anemones reacting to their surroundings. There are moments where they are so engrossed in their world and physically entwined that it is difficult to distinguish which body parts belong to whom, serving to further draw the audience into their introspection.

Eskildsen’s clever choreography is stylistically distinctive throughout both pieces, encompassing rich imagery, yet there are marked differences in the displayed qualities of each work. Helena is sustained, neurotic and quirky, while Night Dance is a more undulatory, rhythmic journey of separation and connection. The show is a true collaboration of the hard work and talents of many people, from the lighting and music elements to the craft of the space and the movement performed within it. 


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