The Residents - New Zealand School of Dance Choreographic Season 2014

Te Whaea National Dance and Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Rd, Newtown, Wellington

16/05/2014 - 24/05/2014

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

15/10/2014 - 15/10/2014

Tempo Dance Festival 2014

Production Details

New Zealand School of Dance Choreographic Season 2014

The New Zealand School of Dance in Wellington presents their annual Choreographic Season from 16 May, introducing a series of new works choreographed by third year contemporary dance students. The Residents is a theatrical, curious and technically impressive contemporary dance show, inspired by the students’ own eclectic backgrounds.

James Wasmer’s choreography explores aspects of his dual heritage, “I chose my work to be inspired by the carnival in Waldkirch. It is something I looked forward to with great anticipation year after year growing up in Germany. Since moving back to New Zealand I was also able to further explore my Tongan heritage, especially in the performing arts. I was intrigued in finding ways of using both my German and Tongan side in order to create an exciting and unique experience for the New Zealand audiences.”

The Residents inhabit a distressed, deconstructed world, with doors that float and staircases that lead to nowhere. A place where they come together by chance, uncovering mystery, chaos and creation through movement.

Jeremy Beck, another student choreographer of The Residents, says his work takes the audience on a journey with a mix of visual and movement based scenes, “The most exciting thing about choreographing your own work, is being able to make imagination reality. I want my piece to feel like a journey and I want the audience to take their own experience away with them”.

The Residents is a feast for the senses, with set and lighting design by students of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School and costume design by Jane Boocock and Donna Jefferis.With a dismantled set and costumes – a fireplace here, a crinoline there – enhanced by an evocative soundscape, you will come away from this dance show with a sense of intrigue and surreal images burnt into your memory.

“Choreographic Season is an incredible opportunity for us to explore our creativity as dancers and develop our individual choreographic voice,” said third year contemporary dance student Tessa Hall. “I’m really enjoying the fact that every day I learn something new about lighting, music editing, set and costume design and I can’t wait to be part of the final product.”

Students train at tertiary level for 2-3 years at the School to become professional dancers. Choreographing their own work is a core aspect of the course and an essential skill for a career in contemporary dance. The School’s Choreographic Season shows the culmination of these three years of exploration into the art of choreography.

The participating students have worked hard to get the show on the stage this year, completing a unique fundraising stunt of dancing through a door 1000 times on Cuba Street in Wellington in April. The challenge, which took over two hours to complete in pouring rain, raised the money needed to install a repurposed film set into the theatre.

The Residents

New Zealand School of Dance Choreographic Season 2014

16 – 24 May 2014 

Te Whaea: National Dance & Drama Centre, 11 Hutchison Road, Newtown, Wellington

Ticket prices: $23 Adult, $17 Student/Senior/Groups of 10+, $12 Child under 13

Bookings and information

Performances: Friday 16 May: 7.30pm

Saturday 17 May: 7.30pm
Sunday 18 May: 2pm Matinee
Monday 19 May: no performance
Tuesday 20 May: 7.30pm
Wednesday 21 May: 7.30pm
Thursday 22 May: 7.30pm
Friday 23 May: 7.30pm
Saturday 24 May: 2pm Matinee and 7.30pm

Ticket prices:

$23 Adult
$17 Student / Senior / Groups 10+
$12 Child under 13

Book tickets online or at the venue

There will be a subsidised matinee for school and dance studio groups on Wednesday 21 May. Please email the box office manager for details.

This show contains strobe lighting, and material which may disturb some audience members. For young children parental discretion is advised.

NZSD is bringing the theatrical, curious and technically impressive contemporary dance show The Residents to Tempo this year. The Residents is a series of new works choreographed by third year students and inspired by their own eclectic backgrounds.    “This is an incredible opportunity for us to explore our creativity as dancers and develop our individual choreographic voice,” said NZSD student Tessa Hall.    The Residents is a feast for the senses, with a ‘dismantled’ set and costumes created by students of Toi Whakaari: NZ Drama School, enhanced by an evocative soundscape. You will come away from this dance show with a sense of intrigue and surreal images burnt into your memory.    Jeremy Beck, another student choreographer of The Residents, said his work takes the audience on a journey; “The most exciting thing about choreographing your own work, is being able to make imagination reality. I want people to take their own experience of it away with them”.    Students train at tertiary level at the NZSD for 2-3 years to become professional dancers. Choreographing their own work is a core aspect of the course and an essential skill for a career in contemporary dance. The School’s Choreographic Season shows the culmination of these three years of exploration into the art of choreography.

Season Directed by Victoria Colombus
Sound Design Te Aihe Butler 
Stage Manager Alison Kirkpatrick 
Lighting Mentor Lisa Maule 
Lighting Design Students Blair Godby and Remma McArdle 
Costume Design Jane Boocock and Donna Jefferis 
Costume Construction Students Sarah Carswell, Hayley Douglas, Georgia Gilvear, Brydee McLean, Johanna Otto, Navit Skelton, 
Anna Stuart

Video clip is here

1 hr

Outgoing exuberance and wonderful ability

Review by Briar Wilson 16th Oct 2014

They may be students, but the overall impression is of professionalism – they brought a set with them from Wellington, each dancer wore a designed costume, and their dancing smelt of future employability.

The set is like a really bad decaying student renter – brown paper walls, with a door, empty fireplace, window and a set of stairs, all of which are exuberantly used for entries and exits.  The dancers wear a mix of stripes, frills and short crinolines in pale blue and shades of grey (only one touch of red) that have the look of period costumes, with a suit or two for the guys.

The introductory piece, Fade, gets more than twenty second and third year students onstage where they march, romp, have the odd fight, in small or large groups, simultaneously or sequentially, and otherwise have fun.  It looks almost chaotic so that no one knows what could happen next – no one except the dancers!

Gender issues surface in Pink!ish with music, A Fine Romance  and Guilty, rudely interrupted by short operatic excerpts from Verdi’s Sempre Libero.  This draws twelve dancers to lip synch with gusto, and to find the absurd in a “love” situation.  Mixed pairs, boys, girls, – any of them might have been happy or unhappy.  Two guys are dressed in crinoline skirts, which leads to some games with partners’ heads popping out, then folding the boys under the skirts to make them exit as if on four legs.

The programme describes Born Under a Bad Star as having aspects of traditional Cook Islands dance, but I didn’t pick this.  I see one unhappy girl who can’t quite fit in with the group of seven others.  Her movements are at times punctuated with unexpected sharpness or quivers, and she seems to be looking for something, while the group sweeps about the stage.

The Game has a leader to order the group about, and he gets the audience to choose words such as “back”, “girls”, “patterns” to pass on to the fifteen dancers, who either do or do not obey.  One guesses that parts of the dance are planned, parts improvised, and Arvo Pärt’s moody music allows some fraught reactions, so that order does not prevail over chaos.  The leader is finally knocked over.

In the Mood from Glen Miller sets the mood with happy jiving or Gene Kelly moves.  A Charlie Chaplin figure in bowler and bad suit earns spontaneous applause for his playing of Singing in the Rain onan imaginary keyboard.  A trio of athletic guys moves and throws each other about with great agility and speed, doing an amazing catch of one of them.  But this is not all – three girls come out and we see hands free, backward flips – with one a double!

Supreme Arcitecture [sic] has a line of flowers sniffed by a passing bee (in a suit) who picks out one of them for his attentions.  Here ensues a duet of aggression from the bee, with the flower barely able to respond, then wilting and dying, to draw frantic clawing from the bee, who finally gives up on the flower, to sniff the line again to find another.  Not the happiest picture of a search for love.

From the response of the generally young audience, !#@?!*   is probably the coolest piece, to music composed and designed by Te Aihe Butler with FMS – New Boyz.  With dramatic moves to changes in light and sound, eight dancers get into the groove, finally rolling off stage.

The final piece, Line, has the stage criss-crossed from one side to the other by tapes or strong ribbons – say four at floor level and three about chest height – before the dancers come on to make their way through the web.  Some interact with others, one entangling another so that both fall.  Some looked confused or unhappy while others manage perfectly, even though the tapes go up and down, and the dancers are confident enough to move with agility and speed.

All pieces are choreographed by third year students who are to be congratulated as each item has at least eight dancers to place and give movements to.  This means that the stage is almost always busy, so that perhaps the programme lacks light and shade.  Contemporary dance can also be lyrical.

The overall impression is of an outgoing, athletic, happy, exuberant, young group who make dances with elements of humour, a lot of energy and also, wonderful ability.


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Powerful, darkly beautiful work

Review by Ann Hunt 19th May 2014

This programme of ten choreographies created by third year contemporary dance students at the New Zealand School of Dance is outstanding. Original, articulate, amusing and professionally performed, it could tour immediately, such is the quality of the entire production.

The work is surely directed by Victoria Columbus and danced by second and third year students, with design input from students from Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School. The latter’s contribution in terms of set, costumes and lighting are of a very high standard indeed, and coupled with the excellence of choreography and performance, contribute equally to the production’s cohesion and success. The hour and a half programme consists of ten pieces with no interval.

The world of The Residents is deconstructed and strange. Grunge rules.  The palette is grey, dirty white, black and pale blue. Staircases lead to nowhere, doors float and a fireplace is an entrance for peculiar beings you may or may not wish to meet. People scuttle like beetles or spiders across the floor, dressed in a ragbag of costumes (Jane Boocock, Donna Jefferis,) that appear to have come from different time periods. Short skirts may carry a bustle. There are sleeveless deconstructed tail coats and mini crinolines. Within this dystopia, the individual dances are informed by the student choreographers’ own backgrounds.

Interestingly, the set was designed by last year’s students from Toi Whakaari: New Zealand Drama School for a film project and re-cycled for this year’s choreographic season.

One of the production’s pleasures is the seemingly random way the residents of this odd world have acquired aspects of previous cultures.  Standards by Cole Porter vie with Du Bist Die Ruh by Schubert, Sempre Libera from La Traviata and pounding disco beats. The dancers  move like Charlie Chaplin one minute and Gene Kelly the next. They often seem like beautiful automatons, within predestined roles over which they have little or no control. Colour and individuality is leeched from newcomers to their world.

If this is the students’ comment on New Zealand 2014 it is indeed a bleak one. And yet, in spite of,  (or perhaps because of,) within this sombre outlook, they have created this powerful, darkly beautiful work, which is surely a warning cry to beware the future, and act now.  

The standard of choreography and performance overall is excellent and all deserve mention. But Michael Ramsay’s Supreme Arcitecture (Sic) (correct title) stood out for the originality of its conception and the intense performances from James Wasmer and Mason Kelly.

Fade, (choreography, Jeremy Beck,) secured The Residents’ surreal world and was a good opener.  It was followed by Mark Semple’s What is Touch which underlined the insecurity of the inhabitants in a world not of their choosing. 

Eliza Sanders Pink!ish featured a powerful duet by Chris Mills and Mason Kelly, as well as weird and somewhat disturbing crinolines on two men, from which women’s heads suddenly and freakishly protruded. Wonderful!

Sophie Gargan was memorable in Roymata Holmes’ Born Under a bad Star. Her fluid lovely movement contrasting with jerky, anxious ones.

Paige Shand’s In the Mood is a fast, effervescent homage to old movies. Jacob Edmonds’ whimsical clown-like character, first Chaplin, then Kelly, is very amusing and the work’s ending delightful.

In Tess Hall’s The Game, Eliza Sanders performed a strikingly dramatic solo and Alexandra Clarke’s ‘Ally’ was arresting.

!#@?!* (choreographyLauren Byrne,) let the dancers rip in a full-on, fierce disco-like number. While Amanda Mitrevski’s Line utilised long strips of cloth to form spider web-like strands or chains, across the stage that caught the dancers’, sometimes choking them and sometimes preventing them from speaking. They symbolised “…laws like spiders’ webs, that entangle and hold the poor and the weak, while the … powerful will easily break through them.” This work ended on a positive note with the webs breaking apart and falling to the ground.

James Wasmer’s frantic Fasnet (a German carnival,)concluded the evening. William Keohavong was a passionate, disturbing fool/jester, inciting the crowd to greater extremes of wildness. Again, the costumes were striking, especially the masked men dressed in aproned skirts with scarves tied under their chins, resembling weird harridans or witches from twisted folk tales.

The standard of this production is indicative of the high quality of teaching that makes the New Zealand School of Dance one of the foremost dance institutions in Australasia. 


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Ingenious staging for Resident choreographers

Review by Pip E-Lysaah 17th May 2014

It’s the NZ School of Dance and the venue is clean bright and extremely professional, I guess as one expects, but retaining an atmosphere of eagerness and fun, the young and beautiful are here as are the artist  creme de la creme, and me … but we all share the joy of anticipation:)
As someone who has studied choreographic technique, this event was a treat, I saw techniques I had read about brought to life, none more poignant for me than ‘The Game’ choreographed by Tessa Hall, possibly a little esoteric for some, but exciting for me.  There was some explaining to my companion post-show, that it was in fact partially improvised, and yes some things were planned, but we the audience participated in its creation.  I especially loved this piece, thank you Tessa.
But away from things dear to my heart and onto the Show.  The deconstructed stage environment with its stairs and doors and 3D like views through doorways was quite ingenious and provided a rich staging environment without being too messy for the eye.
Each choreographed piece followed seamlessly one into the other, I suspect in part due to Victoria Columbus, the Director. It must be quite the challenge to take the stories of ten unique people and entwine them into something that showcases not only their choreographic work, but creates a complete visual feast for the audience.
The evening roller-coasted well, traveling from a safe level through some sparks of creative fire and then leading ever upward to the finale item.  The dancers themselves, both The Residents choreographers (the Level 3 Contemporary students) and the Level 2 Contemporary Major students acquitted themselves well with their physical dance ability.  Their hard work and effort to this work extremely clear.  I expect as the Season goes on these performers will draw down deeper into their characters and break the third wall between them and us, their audience; I’m tempted to go back and see the last night.  Please don’t read that wrong, they all performed fantastically, but some truly held their presence and you could feel it throughout room and some remained at the edge of the stage, unsure of the final commitment.  Please never be afraid of what the audience will think, as long as you make them feel 🙂
Watch out for Michael Ramsay, his storytelling in “Supreme Arcitecture [sic]” was clear and beautifully uncomfortable; and perfectly followed by Paige Shand’s “In The Mood”, but Amanda Mitrevski’s “Line” took me to the edge of my seat and had me hold my breath, thank you, and thank you to Mason Kelly and Tessa Hall who made that look flawless and easy.  But if you go, don’t read the blurb for the finale piece “Fasnet”, wait until after you have watched it, I believe this piece works with no explanation and is best left for you to take your own interpretation before reading what its about.
Some items in “The Residents” will make you squirm, some giggle, some look away, but whatever you do, appreciate the work that has gone into creating these pieces. These young choreographers have put a little piece of themselves out there for us to enjoy, so please do enjoy it!
My advice, go see  The Residents and be amazed at the artistic output of our young choreographers.
Oh and one last thing, I loved the T-Rex 🙂


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