The Nothing

Shed 6, Queens Wharf, Wellington

11/10/2012 - 13/10/2012

Production Details

The Nothing is a beautiful, witty contemporary dance work exploring themes of striving for success and what to do when life has other plans.

“We humans are compelled, like a tornado unleashed. We do f**ked up inappropriate things and beautiful selfless things to try and make sense of our world in our own backwards/forwards way. We cannot stop ourselves,” says choreographer and dancer Sarah Foster-Sproull. 

“I wanted to make this work to express the idea that we all feel fraudulent or lacking to some degree in our day to day lives. That perhaps we feel with some degree of commitment or certainty that we’re not quite good enough.”

Featuring four totally unique international performers; Sarah Foster-Sproull (NZ), Craig Bary (NZ), Josh Thompson (Aus) and Rebecca Bassett-Graham (NZ) and a new mesmerizing music score by Eden Mulholland (Motorcade, Carnival Hound).

An unconventional warehouse space on the Wellington waterfront will become a surreal and frenzied glance into The Nothing – to experience dance that will warp your mind, make you think about world you live in, confuse you and comments on the humanity and how we exist within it.

This is a strictly limited development season. 
We have on offer ‘pay what you can afford’ tickets for $5 / $10 / $15 – while they last.

Shed 6, Queens Wharf, Wellington
Thursday 11 – Saturday 13 October, 8pm

Ticket Information:
Adult: $35.00
Concession / Student: $20.00

Booking fees may apply


Performers; Sarah Foster-Sproull (NZ), Craig Bary (NZ), Josh Thompson (Aus) and Rebecca Bassett-Graham (NZ) and a new mesmerizing music score by Eden Mulholland (Motorcade, Carnival Hound).

Lighting by Jennifer Lal 
Publicity Brianne Kerr 

1 hour

More like David Attenborough than Sigmund Freud

Review by Jennifer Shennan 06th Dec 2012

[Note:  This was omitted in error back in October – apologies for that – ed.]

The hour-long work opens with a line-up of the four dancers delivering snatches of introductory text that set the mood of discomfort and dislocation that hovers throughout. There are solo and duo dances but rarely anything that involves the quartet moving together. Themes of loneliness, of isolation, of insecurity, of need, of inadequacy, of bitterness in personal (read ‘sexual’) relationships are referenced but not resolved.  If there is humour it is titillating and sly, and appeals to only some of the audience.

There is irony in the fact that all four dancers have very considerable skills and strengths in movement and timing … these are special and rare enough gifts not given equally to all who would perform … yet this choreography does not want them to indulge in movement with flow or kinetic sequitur suggesting light and shade, or the natural ebb and flow in most human experience. Isolation in and of gesture is the vogue. 

So what’s the deal? Where’s the metaphor?  Is human communication really so difficult, such an endangered pastime? The sex drive is paramount but merely obeyed, not enjoyed, not celebrated. The insect kingdom is often evoked, and various species that exist simply to mate are depicted in various attempts to engage. It is true that Nature is often unkind, and this choreography is determined to remind us of that. 

There are glimpses of poetic arm movements, but these are kept deliberately private and minimalist. One solo was danced by Sarah Sproull’s long hair, maypoled and starfished by the other three performers. Back-lit, it offered a striking image, yet hard to say how it related to what had gone before.

I found the lighting design uncomfortable as one of the bright side spots was angled towards the audience all evening, and a sequence in which a bright searchlight was swept back and forth across the audience seemed far too clumsy and corny a device to ask the audience who they think they are and how they are relating to the choreography. All this suffering seems to amount to a quasi-religious cum-psychological charting of man (read “woman”) in a lost state within the natural world.

How powerful by contrast then was the final precarious sequence, I’d guess ten minutes long, in which Sproull stood and balanced on, then walked and climbed all over, the horizontal slowly writhing revolving body of Thomson spreadeagled on the floor. He struggled under her weight while she stayed atop of him. The sequence was nothing short of heroic, requiring astonishing strength and concentration from both performers.

The only resonance in dance that occurred to me was of a Samoan taualuga, when a taupou or titled young woman dances with ineffeable grace and then steps up onto the clowning flapping body of the prostrate aiuli fool, who enhances her beauty with his oafish behaviour. But all that is a far cry from this sequence in The Nothing. Here one could only be struck by the struggle and determination involved, even if it remained thematically enigmatic. 

Intense textured passages in Mulholland’s music were sometimes matched and sometimes in contrast to the dance.  Existentialism, post-Beckett, is probably a more fruitful trope for literature than for choreography, but there is no denying that these dancers gave their all in delivery, and left us moved by their courage, strength and commitment.

More like David Attenborough than Sigmund Freud, it is always affirming to experience fit and fabulous dancers delivering serious work. There is need for light, in several senses, but we were certainly invited to think about our responses at a number of levels.

Art for today, though perhaps not for tomorrow.   

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Review by Virginia Kennard 12th Oct 2012

Very much a work under development, The Nothing is split in two with respect to choreographic construction. The first ‘half’ has a crafted flow, encompassing an entrance procession, text through a foghorn, and segues into choreographed sequences – a succession of solos, duets, unison movement, but with no real depth.

Relationships occasionally reveal attempts to cling to someone, anything, nothing. Rebecca Bassett-Graham’s anxiety-ridden woman has clear emotional resonance and Craig Bary quietly freaking out on the floor with gestures around the throat are chilling and engaging.

Bary and Josh Thompson execute movement with immaculate skill, though their stage presence looks contrived – more performative direction needed possibly? In the absence of discernible character, the movement vocabulary takes the focus, dance sequences that could be class exercises, even though obsessed with the frontal plane and the right side of the body.

Shed 6 gives depth and scope for a potential 270° of performance. A raised central stage has vast back space that performers use when off-stage/at rest,  plus room at the sides. Jen Lal’s simple, superb diagonal lighting highlights the physicality and dynamics of the movement and the space, revealing spatial possibilities and alternative angles not yet explored by the choreography.

The second ‘half’ is a more disparate collection of vignettes, entertaining in its randomness.  The anxious woman uses her track pants to give herself a wedgie and experiments with different ways to wank, including a penis made of her T-shirt. The strange creature who sexually harasses her; Foster-Sproull with insect-like physicality. Bary’s menacing presence shining a light on the anxious woman then making a talking vagina out of his hands; a Contact duet between Foster-Sproull and Bary. Foster-Sproull’s hair is pulled away and tangled up and made into a maypole, which could be a whole piece in itself. Yet more sequences referencing earlier masturbatory actions.

Eden Mulholland’s sound track swings from super bass-y, to guitar driven loud right round to choral chanting that is eerie and creepy. Almost unnoticeable in the first half, it comes to the forefront in the second as it highlights the clear shifts between movement ideas without ever overriding the dance at hand.

The work ‘ends’ as it begins, with the bottomless stares of the performers. Though it is not actually the ending, not even an enjoyably awkward “has it finished yet?” moment. Foster-Sproull adds footnotes. And then finally, finally, something that draws me in. The clipped speech of the beginning returns, online chatting through a foghorn. A desperate duet between Foster-Sproull and Thompson culminates in a precarious balance as she walks her feet slowly over his prone body. He struggles to drag himself across the floor and sit up with her burden.  She ends standing on his chest, on top of his heart…

How should I view this work? I can respond, react, allow myself to become enveloped in the nothing-ness, or I can learn from what I experience. As a choreographer, my default is a desire to learn, and ultimately I prefer to do so. I recognise that Sarah Foster-Sproull knows how to choreograph more than class exercises. That she may still be working through the angst of a quarter-life crisis. That using a dream team of dancers does not mean that they will necessarily be interesting to watch in performance. That maybe this work really is about ‘Nothing’ and I should stop desperately trying to assign meaning to it.


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