SKY CITY Theatre, Auckland

16/04/2015 - 17/04/2015

Lake Wanaka Centre, Wanaka

21/04/2015 - 21/04/2015

Regent Theatre, The Octagon, Dunedin

24/04/2015 - 24/04/2015

Theatre Royal, 78 Rutherford Street, Nelson

28/04/2015 - 28/04/2015

Opera House, Wellington

04/03/2016 - 05/03/2016

Festival of Colour - Wanaka

Production Details

Created and choreographed by Douglas Wright

2016 – Wellington

When Douglas Wright makes a new work, dancer Sarah-Jayne Howard drops everything to be in it – “because I just can’t not be there with him”. You don’t have to be a dancer to feel like that.

The Kiss Inside is the choreographer’s meditation on the search for ecstasy, that buzz we are all looking for, “whether it’s through a chocolate eclair, or it’s the rush of heroin, or an orgasm”.

Wright has dug deeply into the human psyche and returned with a visual poem full of provocative images and exquisite, sometimes frenzied, movement — all to a soundtrack combining classical Sufi music, Patti Smith and JS Bach. Discover for yourself what the buzz is about.

8pm 5 & 6 March



ACCLAIMED NEW ZEALAND CHOREOGRAPHER DOUGLAS WRIGHT explores the search for ecstasy in human culture in his new full-length work The Kiss Inside which has its world premiere in April.

The Kiss Inside opens at Auckland’s SKYCITY Theatre on Thursday 16 and Friday 17 April, followed by one night only performances in Wanaka (as part of the Festival of Colour), Dunedin and Nelson.

The first full-length work since Wright’s acclaimed 2011 piece rapt (which was performed in Auckland and The Netherlands), The Kiss Inside is a kinetic meditation on the search for ecstasy in our human culture. Religion, sex, drugs, extreme physical exertion, sado-masochism and of course dance itself are all explored in this succulent work through the surreal dance language for which Wright has become renowned.

In it, Wright digs deeply into the workings of the human psyche and lays bare motive and outcome in startling provocative images and exquisite and sometimes frenzied movement.

With a soundtrack including classical Sufi music, Patti Smith and J.S Bach, the work will be performed by five dancers – Sarah Jayne Howard, Tara Soh, Luke Hanna, Craig Bary and Simone Lapka.

“These five dancers each have an exceptionally rare charisma and are at the very peak of their craft,” Wright says. “I’ve loved working with them – watching them dance inspires me.”

The Kiss Inside marks a continuation of a 15-year choreographer-dancer collaboration with Melbourne-based dancer Sarah-Jayne Howard. “She is my muse and she’s a joy to work with. Sarah-Jayne also introduced me to Tara Soh and it’s been a pleasure to discover her as a dancer.”

Wright adds that the music for The Kiss Inside has been a new experience. “I’m used to using one style of music, but in this we have woven different music together as a mosaic to create a soundscape for a dance language that is very primal. I really have loved making this work – it’s filled with little shocks as if touching a live wire by accident.

The Kiss Inside is commissioned by the New Zealand Festival.

AUCKLAND: SKYCITY Theatre| Thursday 16 & Friday 17 April 8pm | Book tickets at Ticketmaster 0800 111 999
WANAKA: Lake Wanaka Centre | Tuesday 21 April 8pm | Book tickets at
DUNEDIN: Regent Theatre | Friday 24  April 8pm | Book tickets at TicketDirect 0800 4 TICKETS (484 253)
NELSON: Theatre Royal | Tuesday 28 April 8pm | Book tickets at TicketDirect 0800 4 TICKETS (484 253)

Includes some nudity with drug and sexual references. Recommended for age 15 years and over. 

Douglas Wright
Born in Tuakau, South Auckland in 1956, Douglas danced with Limbs Dance Company of New Zealand (1980-1983), the Paul Taylor Company of New York (1983-87) and DV8 Physical Theatre of London (1988) before forming the Douglas Wright Dance Company in Auckland in 1989.
Over his 25-year career Douglas Wright has created more than 30 works including Knee Dance, Faun Variations, Hey Paris, How on Earth, Gloria, Elegy, Forever, Buried Venus, halo, Arc, Inland and Black Milk. When Forever had its European premiere in Switzerland, it was hailed as “an overwhelming contemporary contribution to the history of our life and times”.
In 2002, he choreographed Inland, which premiered at the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts and then toured New Zealand. Critic Jennifer Shennan wrote of the work: “Douglas Wright’s choreographic imagination has yielded a profound work of dark humour and breathtakingly brilliant dancing”.
The Douglas Wright Dance Company toured throughout New Zealand, and to Australia and Europe. His work has been performed by other dance companies including Australia Dance Theatre, Sydney Dance Company and the Royal New Zealand Ballet, and supported by Creative New Zealand.
In 2000 Douglas was one of five inaugural Arts Foundation of New Zealand Laureates and in 2003 was the subject of a feature-length documentary film, Haunting Douglas, directed by Leanne Pooley. His acclaimed 2004 book Ghost Dance (Penguin) is part love story, part memoir, a deeply felt meditation on the art of performance, on absence and on life itself. As in the best of Douglas Wright’s dance-theatre work, light and dark are interwoven in deft, mysterious combinations.
The 2006 season of Black Milk was accompanied by the publication of a new book – Terra Incognito (Penguin).  In the same year Douglas presented wounded cloud and other works, his debut exhibition of painting and sculpture, at Stanbeth Gallery in Auckland.
In September 2007 Douglas’ first book of poetry laughing mirror (Steele Roberts) was published. Laughing mirror was subsequently chosen by the New Zealand Listener as one of the Best Books of 2007. His last dance creation was a 15minute piece created for Taiaroa Royal and Taane Mete featured in the work Tama Ma. And in November 2009 the Black Milk book was published (Craig Potton Publishing) documenting the creation and performance of this work, it features the exquisite photography of John Savage accompanied by text from Wright and writer Leonard Wilcox.
Significantly, in 2009 Ghost Dance was included in the book 50 Gay and Lesbian Books Everybody Must Read edited by Richard Canning and foreword from renowned literary critic Harold Bloom. This volume contains 50 essays by critics, public figures, and authors illuminating Douglas’ writing alongside literary giants Wilde, Woolf, Proust and Ginsberg to name but a few.

Dancers – Sarah Jayne Howard, Tara Soh, Luke Hanna, Craig Bary and Simone Lapka.

Dance-theatre , Dance ,

70 mins

Transcendant, meditative

Review by Ann Hunt 07th Mar 2016

The opening scene of The Kiss Inside sets the tone for this transcendent, meditative work. It has been described as ‘a visual poem,’ a most apt description.

In a series of visionary scenes, some nightmarish, some beautiful, choreographer Douglas Wright reflects on humankind’s capacity for deception and desire. Nothing is sacred, except perhaps the natural world. 

Wright has intimated that this may be his last full-length work. We shall all be the poorer if this is so. No-one makes us think like Wright, and no-one holds up a mirror to our follies as he does.

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Simmering vignettes of the search for ecstasy

Review by Jillian Davey 05th Mar 2016

This will be Douglas Wright’s last work.  He has quietly stated that he’s retiring (haven’t we heard this before?); leaving on a good note but tired, worn out and perhaps a little jaded.  This makes The Kiss Inside a special koha to New Zealand audiences, as it caps decades of work that have continued to shake up Kiwi contemporary dance.

Beyond that, it’s a simmering piece of dance theatre that satisfies a certain hunger.  Presented in vignettes, The Kiss Inside gives us the multitude of ways we seek ecstasy and what we hand ourselves over to in devotion.  From religion, to sex, to drugs, cultural ritual, dedicated toil, male and female bonding, sport, war, politics, and dance itself; they’re covered with honesty, if not a touch of absurdity.  These vignettes might not scream cohesion, but the theme is slowly and surely built upon.  The subtle reprisal of movement phrases keeps the work from becoming overly disjointed.  I also very much appreciate that the motifs within each vignette are firmly laid without rushing on to the next.

The cast of six dancers is strong and exquisitely competent. Sarah-Jayne Howard and Craig Barry continue their relationship with Wright after having been in many of his previous works.  Tara Jade Samaya, Luke Hanna, Simone Lapka, and Eddie Elliott add their various backgrounds and expertise to round out the cast.  They all dedicate themselves to the movement; whether whirling like dervishes, throwing themselves to the ground, or gesturing in a simple and strong solo.

The set (by Michael Pearce) is simple yet full – a life-size tree suspended upside down.  Lighting (Jeremy Fern) is unobtrusive.  Music (audio designed by Rachel Shearer) is well selected and ranges widely from choral and religious to more contemporary pieces.  The only thing letting the audio side down is that it isn’t quite loud enough to give a full aural sensory experience.  Some sections demand a pulsing reverb, but what we get is something just loud enough to hear properly.

In all, The Kiss Inside is a solid offering.  It’s not mind-blowing but it is contenting in its non sequitur, erroneous way.  


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Review by Janet Whittington 30th Apr 2015

I know better than to ‘expect’ anything when I sit down to a Douglas Wright performance. For 30 years he has opened our eyes to new ways of dancing and interpreting. I know this man lives in a different world to me and I am always agog at the new realms he opens to me with every performance.  Expectedly, but never tediously, this performance produced more of the unexpected..  

The programme gives nothing away. “..on a marae ..I made a promise to make a certain dance..”

The opening waiata delivers a recurring theme of intertwined New Zealand and Maori elements for the evening.  The dance opens in a striking dramatically original pose with the singing dancer Luke Hanna; held upside down in chains by his ankles behind an inverted large tree. Thus starts a series of dance and music vignettes – moving the gaping audience through the visual treats that is always Wright!

For me, these seem to be his best creative ideas, shelved in his mind, waiting to develop into a full performance, but never making it. Recognising that they are all small, but perfectly formed – Wright airs them together, each exquisite in themselves. Overcharging the audiences’ minds, leaving us to talk about them over coffee and cake later, to ensure that each stays with us after the performance has finished.

The ballet dancer and yoga teacher seated beside me are amazed that Wright manages to dance to the Sadhana without a single yoga pose, unique in her experience.  My favourite, [and Wright’s too I suspect, by the repeat images throughout the evening], of dancers leaping over each other, but held poised in mid-air in a running pose, legs and arms bent and strong, seemingly weightless for seconds. Sarah-Jayne Howard holds me in awe as she seems to be weightless the longest, over and over again. I hope my mind never lets that image go.

Wright’s frequent use of humour to provide lighter moments in many pieces is another unexpected pleasure. Half way is not marked by intermission, but rather the introduction of orange quarters on a dish for the ‘players’, gobbled greedily without offering any to the audience. We receive just a smug orange peel grin at us before the next piece.   This provides necessary pace and shows good judgement on Wright’s behalf, as not all his pieces are light to absorb. To me he had a little piece of ANZAC in the middle. The music score revolving out of staccato and into gunfire, while the dance moves slowly from modern dance to marching, the dancer’s faces move from ecstasy, to passivity, smiles, grimaces, horror and dropping in death to the final gun barrage. Every dawn parade should have had that piece in place of a speech in my opinion.

Wright even treated us to a solo performance of his own.

The final dance movement will remain in my mind forever. Hanna, naked, bent double by the weight of another recurring theme, books, on his back. He steps slowly into centre front to the haunting minor key of Bach displaying a detailed dramatic Maori tattoo on his thigh and buttocks.




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A gift comprising absurdities and contradictions

Review by val smith 27th Apr 2015

Through a reflective process that intends to end up with a written ‘review’ of The Kiss Inside by Douglas Wright, I have thought about, researched, and written on some of the more critical issues that this dance raises. I have considered how it addresses cultural appropriation specific to Aotearoa New Zealand, and how it questions the effectiveness and purpose for spiritual and religious practice.  I have also learnt about the oratory and weaponry skills of Te Arawa tohunga Te Irirangi Tiakiawa, and reflected on the meanings of the upside down tree in the Bhagavad-gita. I have contemplated a number of possible angles with which to reflect on the many layers of implication that emerge from The Kiss Inside.  I read back through what I have written, however, and none of it seems important or relevant to what Douglas Wright has actually accomplished through this work. 

What Douglas is talking to us about, and the way in which he does so, will not be done justice by an analytical rendering of ideas through language. The only written response then, that feels appropriate to this work, is to simply thank Douglas Wright for the gifting of The Kiss Inside to a New Zealand public, and for his continued efforts to make his productions come to life. So, I thank Douglas for his energy, and his honesty.  I thank him for opening a doorway into his life, his inner journeying, and for a view into his very being.

Douglas is a spiritual teacher who uses dance as a medium to share his wisdom, insight and vision.  His style of communicating choreographically is cryptic and complex, yet profoundly clear and perceptive. In witnessing The Kiss Inside, I have felt hope, hopelessness, pain, desperation and profound kindness; I am left with a distinct feeling that whatever we do in the world is fine, yet I also know that it is all a waste of time.  I am led to keep reflecting on the bigger questions of life, but more importantly, The Kiss Inside reminds me to laugh at the absurdities and contradictions that happen along the way. 

I imagine Douglas laughing from the back of The Regent Theatre here in Dunedin. He is laughing to show us the futility of our indulgences, the futility of trying to understand, the futility of a quest for certainty. His laughter rings true to vibrate the sturdy bones of the theatre. The shuddering resonance of a laugh that moves between a child’s joyfulness, and an adult’s cruelty. His laughter, despite playing with the edge of a dark cynicism, offers us relief and healing.

And, we must laugh. We must laugh skeptically, intelligently and with delight. We must laugh fully and frivolously. We must laugh at our failing and our flailing. We must laugh in wonderment from birth to death. We must kiss ourselves all over with laughter, inside and out.  We must laugh, or we must die asking why.  

With the promise Douglas made 33 years ago to Irirangi Tiakiawa, The Kiss Inside was ignited to burn before our very eyes on the stage. A blessing of mysterious knowledge passed forward, it silently slips back into the lake from which it sprung forth. From the land on which we stand, from the people who have stood here before us, the dance carries forward, knowing its origin, its responsibility and its impermanence.


Dr Jonathan W Marshall June 15th, 2015

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A series of paradoxes

Review by Francesca Horsley 24th Apr 2015

The Kiss Inside, the latest work by master choreographer Douglas Wright came as an unexpected gift. A bonus from an artist whose unique dance lexicon is a keystone of New Zealand contemporary dance but whose ability to create new works is compromised by debilitating health issues.

The opening image of a man, strung upside down from an inverted tree that is suspended over the stage is at once alarming and beautiful.  Despite his inversion, the dancer, Luke Hanna, chants an eloquent karakia and then spinning in slow arcs, produces a haunting waiata tangi. Once released and his heavy collar removed, he is cradled by the cast who stroke him tenderly.

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A work of great intrigue

Review by Jenny Stevenson 17th Apr 2015

Douglas Wright’s ode to mysticism, The Kiss Inside celebrates the human life cycle and the quest for spiritual enlightenment: following meandering pathways of transcendent beauty or horror or deviating through byways of the mundane, the inexplicable or the profane.

It is also the work of a master craftsman, a purveyor of images who had the audience captured from the moment the curtain rose on the tableau of an inverted tree-of-life – it roots seeking the heavens rather than the earth – with a man suspended upside-down, in limbo awaiting birth, watched by a group of cognisant witnesses.

Stephen Bradshaw’s opening karakia followed by a waiata tangi defines both the starting point of the journey and its inevitable conclusion.  The inherent emotion of the delivery( by an upside down hanging Luke Hanna) acknowledges the many who have gone before and those who are yet to come – both the great significance of life itself  and its sheer insignificance in the unlimited design of the universe.

As always, Douglas Wright has assembled a group of compelling dancers who tackle the relentless physicality of his choreography with boundless energy and determination.  But the undoubted highlight of the evening is to see Douglas himself performing – a non-stop fluid rendition of gestural brilliance, that conveyed its meaning subliminally, imparting multiple images in mere moments.  Watched by a silent nurse, his performance could well be perceived as paying homage to the great Vaslav Nijinski, himself a mystic, whose flashes of crystalline lucidity were ultimately subsumed by his horrific journey into darkness.

Sarah-Jayne Howard and Craig Bary have a stellar presence throughout the work, both strong and strangely familiar in their roles, seeking out the subtle nuances of each and every movement to perform them with highly concentrated energy.  Sarah-Jayne’s solo as the scarlet woman is startling in its intensity as she reprises her previous material: the in-yer-face aggression of the provocative harridan or the woman who is the object of great love. 

Luke Hanna acts as a lynchpin, a sort of journeying everyman who initiates the action or is caught up in the maelstrom of events.  His languid grace serves him well but it is his elevation that is the key to the effectiveness of his performance.  Newcomers Tara Jade Samaya and Simone Lapka dance with fervour throughout and Eddie Elliott as the simian dispenser of comfort provides a gentle note amidst the frenzy.

The pursuit of religious dogmatism is a strong feature of The Kiss Inside with a pithy reference to the terrorism of ISIS as Craig depicts a maniacal man sharpening his blade on a whetstone, lovingly licking it as he stands in front of a concealing backdrop.  Elsewhere in a charming piece of kitsch, a burqua-clad woman whirls the poi, entangling them again and again to the music of “When my wahine does the Poi” by Daphne Walker, featuring Bill Wolfgramm and his Islanders.  Several tracks of middle-eastern music are interspersed by religious music from many different cultures and a Fugue arranged by audio design artist, Rachel Shearer and Douglas himself.

Throughout the work, Douglas inserts whimsical choreographic references to his earlier works, as familiar talismans to light the way.  The continued allusion to blindness or “unseeing” would appear to represent a grappling with the complexities of mysticism, an attempt to pass through the darkness into light.   But subversion and non-sequiturs remain at the heart of the work as Douglas points the audience in differing directions while steadily building on the core of the actions so that a through-line slowly begins to emerge.  It is a work of great intrigue and will undoubtedly bear repeated viewings.


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Shimmers rather than shines

Review by Dione Joseph 17th Apr 2015

Douglas Wright is a New Zealand icon. His contributions to dance have been recognised, applauded and embraced not just in  Aotearoa but across the globe for almost three decades.  His latest work The Kiss Inside reflects some of the key changes we are experiencing in the categorisation, comprehension and cohesion of modern dance especially in works that embrace the fluidity between the past and present.

The set consists entirely of a single leafy tree that creates a striking visual against which the performers enact various narratives. The evening opens with a man (Luke Hanna) hanging upside down performing a karakia while the ensemble looks on. There is an embedded sense of connection, a stillness that works in conjunction with the slow swirling movements and then, dramatically it changes. A frenzy of apoplectic movement breaks out as Patti Smith Group’s Radio Ethiopia rumbles across the stage.

Disruption is key to The Kiss Inside not only in completely questioning any assumptions, preconceptions or attempts at solidifying the abstract; but more potently in laughing at the very notion of doing so.

The musical accompaniments to the performers’ brilliant physicality is well curated. A woman in a burkha performs with two pois while in the background croons Daphne Walker (featuring Bill Wolfgramm and his Islanders) When my wāhine does the poi. Similarly the Westminister choir chimes in beautifully, as does the Tashi Jong Community from the Khampagar Monastery, always to seemingly visual and aural antithesis.

There is a gorilla on stage. With oranges. A woman (Tara Jade Samaya) slowly takes off her dress only to be plastered with pieces of damp paper that are meticulously ripped out, dipped in a water jug. Another woman (Simone Lapka) sits in front of a stone, and as she hammers it, blood slowly drips down her face and naked torso.

[See additional text in Comments below, added 18/4.]

There is repetition (Meisner would have been delighted) slow, specific, a Butoh movement, and an electric performance by Sarah Jayne Howard who in her in bright red dress is a tour de force sizzling in an exhilarating exhibition of physique.

And of course there is the brilliant Craig Bary whose performances are utterly exceptional in delivering a highly nuanced sculpted conversation.

But is it enough? The pattern of disruption (while clever) loses its novelty quickly because it becomes so obvious. Some of the sequences are simply extravagant examples of art pour l’art while the overall dramatic arc seems to be tightly wound in independent vignettes.

Dramaturgically there seems to be an absence of cohesion, a range of rather self-indulgent reflections with little reflexivity and an absence of an engaged relationship with the audience.

While as a titbit The Kiss Inside is delicious, it lacks the satisfaction of a hearty meal, and the layered complexities that are provoked shimmer rather than shine.

NB: In retropect, one of the highlights of The Kiss Inside was indeed the fact that Douglas Wright danced in this production. Dressed in loose white (hospital garb?) his physicality is exquisite, the narrative utterly sculpted and within a historical, biographical and personal context (with the nurse watching) it is profound. It was a finished and extraordinary beautiful solo but personally, I felt his work reverberated better through the various other moments that he sculpted on this stage. Through the other moments of intense viscerality  it is possible to gauge (perhaps not a linear chronological history) but a unique understanding of the various facets of how art is made, shaped and received. And these stand well on their own for any audience, irrespective of age, because ultimately it is about a deep listening and a response that is personal. Shaped out of one’s own experience, knowledge and understanding of the world it is this response that interacts and inscribes with the unfolding narratives on stage.


Dione Joseph April 19th, 2015

One of the highlights of The Kiss Inside (which my review failed to acknowledge) was indeed the fact that Douglas Wright did appear in this production and yes, it was an omission that certainly didn't deserve to be made. Dressed in loose white (hospital garb?) his physicality is exquisite, the narrative utterly sculpted and within a historical, biographical and personal context (with the nurse watching) it is profound. It is a finished and extraordinary beautiful solo but personally, I feel his work reverberates better through the various other moments that he sculpts on this stage. Through the other moments of intense viscerality  it is possible to gauge a unique understanding of the various facets of how art is made, shaped and received. And these stand well on their own for any audience, irrespective of age, because ultimately it is about a deep listening and a response that is personal. Shaped out of one's own experience, knowledge and understanding of the world, it is this response that interacts and inscribes with the unfolding narratives on stage.

Kristian Larsen April 18th, 2015

Its a glaring omission on the reviewers part that she fails mention one significant event within the show. Douglas Wright actually appears in the Kiss Inside and performs a solo dance. There I said it. I said it because the reviewer didn't and that for me is a problem. Given Wright's artistic stature, historical significance, and personal circumstances its miraculous that the public even got this one last opportunity to witness him dance live.  

Editor April 18th, 2015

Susan: Apart from the fact that the opening par names and acknowledges Douglas Wright and the entire review reflects the qualities inherent in his work, this review is to be read in conjunction with Jenny Stevenson’s. Jenny brings a dance focus while Dione comes more from a theatre perspective. Dione has written 52 performing arts reviews for theatreview in the past 9 months revealing a great depth of knowledge and understanding. Perhaps it is you who could do more homework before jumping to insulting conclusions.

susan trainor April 17th, 2015

I am saddened to read this review. Although I agree with alot of what was said, particularly about the performances, the lack of acknowledgement of the show's creator and his performance shows an ignorance of his massive contribution to dance in this country and the immense influence he has had on almost every contemporary choreographer and dancer that has graced the stage here and internationally. If the reveiwer did know the history of Douglas Wright then her omission is even worse for its lack of respect. Perhaps next time she reviews something created by someone over the age if 30, she might do her homework before putting pen to paper. 

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The primal search for ecstasy

Review by Bernadette Rae 17th Apr 2015

While punters in the casino below pursued the elusive ecstasy of winning against all odds, Douglas Wright flashed a theatrical trump card upstairs in the premiere of his new dance theatre work, performing a solo unannounced, unexpected and riveting and reminding us of what a galactic talent he has been from the beginning: intense as dark matter, wild and bright as an exploding sun.

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