Stage of Being

ASB Waterfront Theatre, 138 Halsey St, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland

21/04/2023 - 22/04/2023

Production Details

Made in Them
Xin Ji & Xiao Chao Wen Choreographers
Benny Jennings Composition & Sound Design

LittleBits and AddOns
Tupua Tigafua Choreographer
David Long Composition & Sound Design

The New Zealand Dance Company

In 2023 the New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC) returns to the ASB Waterfront Theatre to premiere Stage of Being, a thrilling double bill celebration of choreographic voices from Aotearoa’s Sāmoan and Chinese dance makers.

New Zealand-Chinese dance artist Xin Ji and his long-time collaborator, Beijing-based Xiao Chao Wen will explore how society influences our ability to discover and express our authentic selves.

With music by Benny Jennings, Made in Them investigates whether or not we get to independently decide who we are, or if agency over our lives is shaped through the systems, people and objects that surround us.

In LittleBits and AddOns, founding NZDC member Tupua Tigafua will open up the world of a picturebook for dance.

Known for his provocative yet uplifting dance theatre, Tigafua is a storyteller who creates worlds that metaphorically express relevant messages to audiences, sharing unique stories of Aotearoa throughout New Zealand and around the world.

A fairy tale for all people and all times, with music composed by David Long, LittleBits and AddOns explores character types that are universally relatable and that give perspectives on the ordinary, the cyclical and the wonder of the human condition.

Stage of Being will share contrasting perspectives of identity, culture and place in a ferocious, graceful, poignant and whimsical double bill that reflects the beauty of our beingness and the diverse artistry represented in New Zealand contemporary dance.

ASB Waterfront Theatre
138 Halsey Street, Auckland

Friday 21 April at 7:30pm
Saturday 22 April at 7:30pm

Premium $79.00

A Reserve $65.00
Child/Student/Unwaged/ Senior Citizen $49.00

B Reserve $45.00
Child/Student/Unwaged/ Senior Citizen $35.00

Tickets on sale now

Made in Them
Xin Ji & Xiao Chao Wen Choreographers
Benny Jennings Composition & Sound Design
Andreas Mikellis Costume Design
Elekis Poblete Teirney Lighting Design

LittleBits and AddOns
Tupua Tigafua Choreographer
David Long Composition & Sound Design
Andreas Mikellis Costume Design
Elekis Poblete Teirney Lighting Design

Katie Rudd, Ngaere Jenkins, Brydie Colquhoun, Chris Mills, ‘Isope ‘Akau’ola, Oliver Carruthers

Caroline Bindon Interim Chief Executive/Artistic Director
JP Bolton Creative Producer & Marketing Lead
Christine Rice Finance Manager
TBC Production Manager
Elekis Poblete Teirney Technical Operator

Contemporary dance , Dance ,

90 minutes (with 20 minute interval)

Processing and articulating the choreographic nuances with precision and drive.

Review by Jenny Stevenson 22nd Apr 2023

In their commitment “to staging compelling, relevant works” New Zealand Dance Company under acting director Caroline Bindon invites us to confront a duality In Stage of Being – two worlds: one bucolic, one dystopian –  where the protagonists examine and enact emotive responses to situational triggers.  The two realms are brought to life by some exquisite dancing by Katie Rudd, Ngaere Jenkins, Brydie Colquhoun, Chris Mills, ‘Isope ‘Akau’ola and Oliver Carruthers. Their characterisations and commitment are next level – processing and articulating the choreographic nuances with precision and drive.

Choreographers Xiao Chao Wen and Xin Ji have created a bleak setting in Made in Them, a work of dynamic intensity to music by Benny Jennings, that wages a visual and aural onslaught on the senses. A lighting rig lowered to the half-way point, consisting of multiple focused lamps, in a brilliant design by Elekis Poblete Teirney, suggests an oppressive, underground world where nothing escapes detection. Individuals are sought out and spotlighted while above the rig, puffs of a hazy substance suggest obfuscation and cover-up.  Katie Rudd opens the work dancing up a storm in a solo that initially hugs the floor but gradually ascends as though enacting a rite of passage, to standing position –  where she is rewarded with a black, shiny, globular helmet.

The helmets which cover the faces of the dancers when worn, appear to have a metaphorical intent – masking the “authentic selves” that the choreographers are seeking to expose through the work and pressuring the performers into a conformist mode.  The costume design by Andreas Mikelis of black boiler suits, reflects the austerity of the work with the helmets reflecting spots of light as an intriguing element of the design.

The choreographic vocabulary often features tensely held bodies and sharp staccato movements or the opposite way of moving, but still with a relentless and surging thrust, when the performers are free of constraints – usually when their helmets are removed. The dancers sometimes perform a sort of “thug walk” with hunched shoulders and simian, swinging arms, while a disembodied voice instructs and warms of consequences if disobeyed.

Oliver Carruthers is superb as the redemptive figure who through his example encourages a freeing of the state of being in his fellow travellers. His height enables sinuous and striking lines to emerge as he folds, unfolds and stretches his body. The work ends on a redemptive note but the threat apparently remains – perhaps as a deterrent.

Choreographer Tupua Tigafua establishes a different vista in his work  LittleBits and AddOns, to  music by David Long.   It is a fantasy world where the dancers adopt avian or animal-like characterisations, to suggest a rustic vision of an innocent, unsullied world, where anything is possible.  His choreographic vocabulary is softer and more playful but there are also darker references, when the dancers are enveloped in cloth, immobile and stationary on the ground, or peering outwards, through a shadowed window frame, projected onto the backdrop.  At one point a chicken is cornered and covered with a sack over its head, so that the threat of doom is imminent. The suggestion being that Utopia is perhaps a transient state. 

Tigafua uses small clusters of wooden building-blocks possibly to depict the small scale of our aspirations, and the way in which they can be altered by outside forces – in this case groups of dancers, rushing onstage and covertly altering the structures that have been carefully placed on the ground. This resonates in a world that appears to be in a state of flux with norms often being inverted to suit a prescribed pathway. 

If contemporary dance exists to reflect our world back at us, Stage of Being is achieving that goal.


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