Sleeping Ocean

49 Cape Horn Road, Hillsborough, Auckland

30/08/2014 - 31/08/2014

Production Details

Sleeping Ocean: the tide rises for a new collaboration

Emerging New Zealand choreographer and producer, Juanita Madden (nee Jelleyman) in partnership with fashion designer Tatyana Kurbatoff of Porcelain are collaborating with a talented and diverse bunch of Auckland-based emerging artists to present Sleeping Ocean: Phase One, this August.

Following a rich, ‘deep-sea’, soul searching creative process facilitated by Madden, Sierra Palmer, Reuben Jelleyman, Lauren Maree Stewart, Tatyana Kurbatoff and Stacey Ross are ready to allow audiences a dip into their creation.

The fifty minute, site-specific, ambulatory performance leads audiences through the towering trees and manicured gardens of a stunning Hillsborough property set high on the cliffs of the Manukau Harbour. This rugged and changing outdoor wilderness provides a setting reflective of the current performing arts millieu, a world that each artist is desperately trying to navigate.

It is all fresh: the costumes, the visual design, the composition, the movement and the spoken word. Everyone is doing a bit of everything, even the graphic designer is performing!

“As we set out to explore each of our emerging identities as creators, it was important to work across each of the mediums that we as a group represent. We also found that our key themes of navigation, journey, fear and aspiration came through more clearly as we collaborated and threw each other in the deep end,” comments Madden.

Without funding or a theatre venue the artists of Sleeping Ocean are doing this off their own backs. Putting on a public show for a work still in progress might seem excessive. But the emerging artists of Sleeping Ocean simply can’t afford excessive. Instead, they are driven by big dreams, and funding aside, they have one outstanding need which must be met—the need to be seen and heard by an audience.

“There is an honesty to Sleeping Ocean. We have tried to expose our needs and our fears, our hopes and the challenges that surround them. Our response has been to work with these without letting go of a strong aspiration to be unhindered by them. We want people to see this so that they can support us, and maybe even see some of their own hopes and challenges reflected,” says Madden.

Sleeping Ocean is the first collaboration for Madden under the umbrella name of Gatekeeper Curation. This is also a first time collaboration with Porcelain, Reuben Jelleyman, Tatyana Kurbatoff, Stacey Ross, Sierra Palmer and Lauren Maree Stewart.

Saturday 30 August 2014 – 2pm Performance, 5pm Performance + Artists Forum
Sunday 31 August 2014 – 2pm Performance, 5pm Performance
Register online at Porcelain for location details.
For more information contact Juanita Madden, Artistic Director,

Artistic Director: Juanita Madden, Gatekeeper Curation 
Production Designer: Tatyana Kurbatoff, Porcelain.
Musical Director: Reuben Jelleyman
Costume Designer: Tatyana Kurbatoff, Porcelain
Graphic Designer: Lauren Stewart

Cast + creative team:
Juantia Madden
Tatyana Kurbatoff
Reuben Jelleyman
Lauren Stewart
Sierra Palmer
Stacey Ross

50 mins

Not your everyday walk in the park: Sleeping Ocean phase one

Review by Jesse Quaid 01st Sep 2014

A gaggle of us are waiting in front of a very filmic looking gate, huddled against the wind and threatening rain. In front of us grey bars glow, surrounded by greenery. This initial image with its inherent tensions could stand as a fairly apt metaphor for the performance that follows.

Sleeping Ocean phase one is the first performative outcome of the collaboration between Porcelain and Gatekeeper Curation. It is set within the beautifully sculpted grounds on the Maxim Institute, perched above the muted waters of Waikowhai and Wattle Bays. Given this stunning setting to play in, the artists have created an atmospheric experience, although they have yet to tie the promising fragments of ideas into a truly cohesive journey. 

The show starts with the eruption of Lauren Stewart in full regalia of wetsuit, flippers and snorkel. After some housekeeping and a quick costume change she leads us to the captain of this voyage. Juanita Madden stands afloat in a sea of gravel, precariously tethered by the thin string she holds in her mouth. This jump from comic to calmly surreal is the first of many abrupt mood changes throughout the piece. The shift works this time but later changes are more jarring and their rhythm becomes predictable.

Following the guidance of our captain, we wend from one beautifully staged setting to the next. A scattering of white paper boats is vibrant against a green lawn. The drummer, Reuben Jelleyman, sits writing furiously in a battered wooden dinghy amidst daffodils. Where there is dance it is often slow, extended and internally focused. The childish energy of the transitions and the quasi-philosophical musings of the acted moments play against this, leaving the piece as a whole unsettled.

At the end of the path Sierra Palmer, joined later by Stacey Ross, dances on a wooden deck accompanied by a mechanical soundscape. This sudden intrusion of modern technology is an interesting choice, seemingly at odds with the timelessness and overt nautical tone of the rest of the piece. Carrying paper boats and a piece of fudge we return to the gravel ocean at the beginning of our path where the entire cast comes together to perform for the first time. This ensemble dance piece neatly encapsulates the motifs of the journey we have taken but seems clumsily structured and executed, perhaps the most under-rehearsed section of the show.

As with any work in progress Sleeping Oceans is a combination of success and failure. The show’s greatest strength in its current form is the design. Great attention has been paid to creating a clean, appealing aesthetic, visible in the staging, the movement vocabulary and in the costuming. It sometimes feels, however, that this visual beauty has come at the expense of a deeper exploration of what this journey means to the performers. Whatever their shared ocean encompasses is only hinted at, remaining hidden below the calm surface of the work.

The name “Sleeping Ocean” implies depth and power. This first phase of the project skims the surface of the idea, and I look forward to seeing what territories these artists uncover as they explore deeper.


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