The Solo Project MMXII

Old Boy’s Theatre, Christ’s College, Christchurch

13/07/2012 - 14/07/2012

Production Details

The Solo Project MMXII is an evening of original dance solos curated by Julia Mckerrow. These works are created and performed by a collection of local and international artists whose pieces celebrate the diversity within contemporary dance culture, and present the unique artistic voices and influences coming from Auckland, Melbourne and Christchurch. 

Each choreographer offers a distinct style that invites a new perspective on dance and its ability to inspire others.

90 mins

Solo Project 2012 Shows Poise, Creativity and Variety.”

Review by Toby Behan 15th Jul 2012

First of all, we applaud their courage.

Solo performances are never easy as a dancer. There is no-one to fall back on, cue you, prop you up, or assist if needed. It is simply you, the audience – and the barrier between these two elements. What is this barrier? Anything that can lessen the impact,  message, or emotion that the performer is trying to deliver. A daunting task indeed, and for all seven performers onstage for the opening night of ‘The Solo Project’ (at the Old Boys Theatre, Christs College) last night, a task that was undertaken with aplomb.

Julia McKerrow has once again curated a collection of performances for the 2012 season, all concentrating specifically upon the solo form. There is a pleasing variety within the mix – solos that focus on visual effects, lyrical dance movement, emotive performance, frothy fun and satire. Happily, this mix hangs together very well, providing a quality evening of contemporary dance for Christchurch audiences whilst allowing both emerging and established artists to create and perform. The Solo Project is an event we welcome back again, as well as an event that makes sense to continue due to the benefits it provides to all.

Opening the evening, McKerrow dances her own solo, as the strains of ‘Dry Bones’ (originally from Ezekiel – no accident there) are heard over the speakers. Moving amidst a set constructed of building blocks (added to and partially knocked down as the solo progresses), McKerrow’s solo is one that demonstrates construction. The ‘bones’ of something represent its essence – the building blocks, the major components upon which detail is crafted – and so it is with this solo. A simple, solid movement vocabulary is introduced, repeated, developed and extended before our eyes as the building blocks which form the set are similarly manipulated in front of us. Occasionally parts of the set will fall down, prompting the uneasy question in our minds – ‘Was that meant to happen? Is that a part of the show?’ We realize that the answer to this question is merely detail – the focus of this solo (as mirrored in the set itself) is the bones, the basic constructs being gradually built up.

It would be nice to simply move from this quality introduction to the next item seamlessly, but instead there is a lengthy pause as the set is cleared away. Perhaps if this could be smoothed out, the transition would be less clunky – literally.

Samantha Brown appears next onstage – although not really. Hers is a solo performed largely in darkness, with small lights attached to her body. Instantly the focus becomes upon form and pathway, rather than the normal audience reaction of initially studying the faces of those whom we watch. This is a welcome change and a potentially wonderful solo. As an NCEA level student of dance, Brown demonstrates an ability to create and perform interesting movement. Further rehearsal time ‘in the dark’ would allow this work to become developed more, as some moments appear choreographed for full visibility – there is much room for achievement here, in a positive way.

Fleur de Their performs easily the most dance-focused solo of the evening next. ‘Letting the Line Out’ opens in a circle of 12 red blooms, within which Fleur moves with signature elegance and assuredness of movement. At times nearly breaking out of this self-imposed circle, only to retreat within once again, the solo echoes the programme notes which allude to a renewed search for an identity that has been recently given more room to breathe.  De Thier displays strong technique and effortlessly pulls the focus in toward her movements, as ever appealing.

Katie Burton bursts onto stage next – all froth and frivolity to begin with. Her face covered with her own hair, she bops and shakes to Black Sabbath across the stage. Not content with having the audience laugh at her antics, the somewhat breathless Burton greets the audience next (some by name) as she introduces her next segment of movement as a work created along with students from Unitec. As she promises to us, those collaborators are thanked for their contribution as the piece is performed, with their names being called out at the appropriate time. Burton reveals herself to be a thoroughly talented dancer during this second sequence in particular.

After a short interval the performance continues with Jodie Bate’s solo entitled ‘Amputation of Personality’. In arguably the strongest work of the evening, Bate demonstrated considerable dramatic talent as music and spoken text (a mix of original writing and harrowing comments from CS Lewis after the loss of his wife) provided a well constructed backdrop to her performance. Moments of grief were intelligently portrayed. Although her background is primarily dramatic (as opposed to dance) – the movement within the solo greatly enhances the overall effect. A wonderful presentation.

Madeleine Krenek’s ‘A Transient Sound’ was a solo with roots firmly established in family history and background. A unique demeanour, countenance whilst performing, and original movement combined to make this solo somewhat of a surprise package. Billed as the second part of a larger scale work within development, we wait with interest to see how this fits into the whole. Certainly it felt as though something was missing here, for the audience – in terms of the barrier mentioned earlier. Additional material to help us understand what is being portrayed here may have profound effect.

To finish the evening, Anna Bate sidles onto the stage and proceeds to lance everything that has gone before with a satirical take on contemporary dance. Bate explains to us that this work is highly experimental, working within a space that is densely layered and full of intricate detail. Her performance and comments capture perfectly the ‘knowing understanding’ that many audiences of contemporary dance (perhaps secretly) feel as though they lack. Playing the part of an artist who takes her work too seriously to hilarious effect, this is a polished performance and a perfect way to end the evening.

This is a rewarding evening of contemporary dance and a pleasure for attending audiences to be a part of. The dancers and choreographers themselves will certainly benefit from these showings as well, with support and attendance – which is more than well deserved. 



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