Soft Graft

Te Auaha, Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington

05/07/2024 - 06/07/2024

Pōneke Festival of Contemporary Dance

Production Details

Nerve Endings:
Choreographer Miriam Eskildsen
Dual Helix:
Choreographer Jacob Reynolds

Measured Frenzy co

Soft Graft is a double-bill dance show, comprised of Nerve Endings, choreographed by Miriam Eskildsen, and Dual Helix, choreographed by Jacob Reynolds. This work is being staged as part of the inaugural Poneke Festival of Contemporary Dance. These pieces are both in development for presentation as full length works in future.

Through intricate, thoughtful and emotive movement, Soft Graft will explore the physicality of each performer as both self and other/personal and alien.

Each work will delve into a personal exploration of what it means to be human: from following an experiential journey to reawaken lost identity, to interrogating the relationship between body and selfhood. Rooted in speculative evolution and futurism, each piece will delve into the varied possibilities of the human body with warmth, curiosity and vigor.

Nerve Endings imagines a scenario wherein two people allow their brains to be scanned, downloaded, and implanted into new bodies. When these new bodies are awoken, a previously unknown glitch in their implants render the memories of their previous lives indistinct and incomplete. As they attempt to repair themselves, they must work together through a dual challenge: relearning the relationship between form and function, and constructing a relationship in the present whilst dogged by the incomplete context of their past selves.

Dual Helix invites audiences to ponder the intricate relationship between the human body and the essence of self. Rooted in speculative evolution and futurism, this evocative piece inhabits the intersection of the human body as both self and other/personal and alien, probing the varied possibilities of the human form. As bodies morph and contort, exploring the malleability of identity, we are called to consider the many different forms “humanity” has inhabited or may yet inhabit. Where do “we” reside?

6:30 PM 5th, 6th July, Te Auaha prices range $21.57-$42.58 Incl booking fee.

More information about the Poneke Festival of Contemporary dance and booking information here

Nerve Endings:
Choreographer Miriam Eskildsen
Performers: Miriam Eskildsen and Sydney Magnus.
Performance and material collaboration by Jacob Reynolds and Raven Afoa-Purcell
Performers: Raven Afoa-Purcell, Jacob Reynolds
Music: Elani Austin-Tenant
Lighting Design-Operation: Janis Cheng
Costume by Miriam Eskildsen

Dual Helix:
Choreographer Jacob Reynolds
Performers: Miriam Eskildsen, Sydney Magnus
2024: Performers: Jacob Reynolds and Raven Afoa-Purcell
Performance and Material collaboration by Miriam Eskildsen and Sydney Magnus
Music: Brandon Ross
Lighting Design-Operation: Janis Cheng
Costumes by Jacob Reynolds

Contemporary dance , Dance ,

60 minutes

A thoroughly impressive performance

Review by Helen Balfour 06th Jul 2024

Suspended from the ceiling is a pod like structure, gently illuminated, arousing curiosity; for me a sense of birth and the unknown. Insect inspired movement begins, a dancer enters and with subtle gestures of action on long straight legs, they traverse the space. Shortly after, another dancer emerges from the pod and together they acknowledge each other, displaying a delicacy of touch and they respond to each other with evolutionary creature-like responses. 

Both Miriam Eskildsen and Sydney Magnus beautifully articulate the choreography which is rich, thought-provoking and at times mesmerizing, through rippling undulations and isolations as they go about discovering each other and the space. Costumes, by Miriam Eskildsen are musk rose and brown, superb in highlighting the interactiveness, physical articulation and isolation of their body parts.

A phrase springs to mind as I watch, “without one there is no other”. Inter-connectivity and bonds are imperative to life and this piece thoughtfully shows this through delightful physical conversations, focus and a ‘copycat’ duo which is perfectly timed as they move harmoniously within, through and around the space and each other, accompanied by a most effective soundtrack by Brandon Ross.

Janis Cheng’s lighting is exceptional in this work. The side light enhances the articulation of the movement and creates some compelling shadows, with gentle wafts of haze to compliment the intrigue.
The concept of two as one and one as two was clever, displaying more renditions of insect-like features, eyes, feelers, legs. 

The sound builds intensifying, growing, breathing to shape and hold the movement, again,  without one there is no other. One fails and falls the other goes on, separated, unique and empowered. 

A thoroughly impressive performance from Magnus and Eskildsen, both strong, and committed to the style and form of the movement, curiously displaying distortion, sometimes unrecognizable, are they facing the front or the back?

Congratulations on Dual Helix. I was mesmerized and intent on wanting to know more, both from a physical sense and where the intention may lead next.
One thing, perhaps a slightly tighter ending was needed. There seemed to be a couple of endings; a stronger conclusion would have wrapped all ends up firmly.

A diagonally placed shaft of light sets the space to present Nerve Endings. Performers in astronaut type costuming move within this shaft. Mirroring gestures, one lying, one standing, quivering, shaking; common actions in both works this evening. 

Performers seem to move as though awakening, expecting things to come. The sound by Elani Austin-Tenant explains maintenance checks, failures occurring, systems malfunctioning the dancers respond to these words with actions that allude to breakdown of the physical and mental form. 

Floor work abounds, sharing weight, balancing, tumbling, rolling, lifting and supporting each other, the dancers are focused in tight knit connection. Jacob Reynolds and Raven Afoa-Purcell slide over the floor in their slippery astronaut-suits which looks like fun! 

With the deliberate use of the astronaut-like costuming, which at times didn’t do the movement justice, there is a sense of confusion as to who these performers are and the intention of the work and its associations to the lighting and costumes.

We see manipulation by one to the other, small bound actions, wound about each other. I found that it was hard to see some of the movement when it was out of the strong diagonal shaft of light. I wasn’t sure if I was supposed to see it or not? 

There are interesting suspensions, falling, releasing movements, however in many aspects they were the same types of movement that had been seen before. A richer diversity of shapes and qualities of movement and the manipulation of time may have been experimented with. I saw many complicated and intricate hand gestures and the intimacy between the two dancers was at times, clear and strongly interconnected. Travel through the whole space to contrast the bound convulsive movement could be considered.

Nerve Endings has much potential, starting strongly. However, it became clumsy and confused. 
There was too much repetition and the end was laboured. Perhaps more time in the studio to refine, and polish is the way forward. 


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