Auckland Town Hall, Auckland

25/02/2020 - 26/02/2020

Hamilton Gardens, Rhododendron Lawn, Hamilton

01/03/2020 - 01/03/2020

Auckland Fringe 2020

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2020

Production Details

The New Zealand Dance Company (Director Shona McCullagh)
The Conch Directors: Nina Nawalowalo and Tom McCrory
Choreographer: Ross McCormack

Presented by The New Zealand Dance Company with The Conch


proudly present


Inspired by the delicacy of our ecosystems, our effect on mother earth, and the beauty of art and nature intertwining, This Fragile Planet explores the strength of intergenerational democracy and the power of regeneration across the natural world.

In this dance theatre work of “artivism”, created by a collaboration between The New Zealand Dance Company (Artistic Director Shona McCullagh) and The Conch (Directors Nina Nawalowalo and Tom McCrory) with choreography by Ross McCormack, a cast of Aotearoa’s finest dancers, actors and singers embody the cycles of life on this earth through a profound montage of shared humanity and its endless ability to persevere through trial and tribulation.

Audiences are guided into this perpetual journey rooted in imagination, wonder, and love, and walk back into the present day with a renewed spirit of empowerment and connection, knowing that we are our ancestors’ wildest dreams.

With thanks to Malia Johnston (Movement of the Human) and Julie Nolan (Red Leap Theatre) for early development of this work.


Auckland Fringe Festival – Fringe Town
Developed in partnership with Auckland Live

Town Hall
Tuesday, 25 February 2020 at 7:00pm
Wednesday 26 February 2020 at 11:00am (school matinee) & 7:00pm



Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival
Rhododendron Lawn

Sunday, 1 March 2020 at 11:00am & 2:00pm


Performers: Carl Tolentino, Chrissy Kokiri, Ngaere Jenkins, Elijah Kennar, Arlo Gibson, Ren Slatter.

Sound design and composition: John Gibson
Set and costume design: Rona Ngahuia Osborne

Spoken word , Performance installation , Outdoor , Multi-discipline , Family , Dance , Dance-theatre ,

1 hour

A call... to ensure that the fragile planet is honoured, protected and nurtured

Review by Dr Debbie Bright 02nd Mar 2020

It is a hot sunny Sunday afternoon in the Hamilton Gardens, and we arrive with anticipation to witness a performance in what has become associated with a quintessential Hamilton Gardens setting. The seating is laid out in the shade of a gazebo and a nearby tree to offer some protection from the sun to the audience, though not, alas, to the performers in action. We gaze at an area of sloping grass (albeit rather dry at present), and the narrow rectangular prisms of two tents decorated in subdued earth-coloured patterns. As the audience members take their seats, a man in white shirt and dark trousers is already walking slowly down the slope, looking intensely around as he moves and gesturing – as if he is searching for something – accompanied by the sounds of loud bird song. As he draws close to the audience, he begins to speak – a portion of a poem – setting the scene for the dancers. The five dancers begin to emerge from up the slope and from within the tents, running, grouping, regrouping, using the tents as ‘off-stage’ areas, busy, engaged, like excited children, yet clearly strong, fit, skilled performers. The soundtrack switches to a range of music, enhancing and accompanying the dance.  

There follows a plethora of images, words, movement and dance. Images of using the earth’s resources, of animals being skinned for clothing (or perhaps just for amusement), of people dominating people and resources, of frenetic activity, humour, friendly (and not so friendly) interactions, ropes of bondage and connection, images of birth and playfulness, effort and commitment. The ‘taming’ of the earth’s resources. And the poets’ call to stop and wonder at the sky and the glories of the earth, to ensure that the fragile planet is honoured, protected and nurtured.

 The soundtrack picks up the sharp rhythms of a group dance reminiscent of the Pacific – of Samoan sasa, slap dance, haka… Once again, the skill of the dancers is very evident. At one point, the soundtrack pauses, as the audience is invited to help provide the sound by rubbing hands together, clapping rhythmically and snapping fingers.

While there are some very serious themes presented in this work, there is also a lot of humour. Of course, humour can be a more effective vehicle for communication and the engagement of the emotions, than a message that is portrayed only through negativity, anger and guilt-making statements. Entertaining interactions and groupings appear in the dance, and movements reminiscent of slapstick add comedy. The dance is highly skilled, high energy, requiring intense engagement and flexibility to manage the ground surfaces and outdoor conditions, proximity to other dancers and the themes of the work. Not to mention the sunlight pouring down and the overheating provided by fur coats!

Between sections of dance and action, the poet/orator proclaims poetic messages. My husband, Stephen, immediately recognises sections of a poem by New Zealand poet James K. Baxter (High Country Weather). And we hear from the works of other writers, such as the Persian poet Hafiz whose quote Fear is the cheapest room in the house. I would like to see you living in better conditions has been reproduced many times on posters with different background images. Sounds additional to the soundtrack are produced by the clacking of a typewriter operated by the poet/orator, while pieces of paper supposedly covered with his typed words are read and played with by the dancers. The many pieces of white paper then provide their own form of choreographed dance, as the wind sweeps them along the ground. In the midst of this, the papers are used by the dancers as steppingstones – to another phase of this journey.

I note that this show was performed in Auckland 25-26 February in the Great Hall at Auckland Town Hall. This being the case, then I imagine that being outside on the bare ground has added an appropriate layer of meaning to this multidimensional work. It seems very fitting that the performers use the sloping grass area as a key entry point, along with the site-adaptive movements of rolling down the slope and perceiving the concrete pathway as a foreign obstacle to be crossed with collaboration, humour and creativity. However, the collaboration of artists in this work of ‘artivism’ brings its own message of reconciliation and co-operation, and the creative power of art.

Ngaa mihi. Kia ora ki enei hoa o te rangi. Best wishes for the future spreading of the message of This Fragile Planet.


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Sweet symbiosis

Review by THIS FRAGILE PLANET 25th Feb 2020

In the 1920’s Lenin stated that “art belongs to the people”. A stone in the hand of the first human is not, as you might imagine, a weapon. More a bird, simply in preparation for harmless flight.

The sweet symbiosis of nature, art and people are deftly reeled out as metaphor for the subsequent patchwork entrances of the premier performance of This Fragile Planet. Birdsong, the running cadence of playful dancers, a floor in dappled light, the manifestation of space and sound through the eerie vast distance of the organ player (John Gibson) and then the dancers: Carl Tolentino, Chrissy Kokiri, Ngaere Jenkins, Elijah Kennar and Ren Slatter rolling down the Great Hall choral stairs collectively. These all seem like incidents of earth’s old leanings: leaves falling or trees growing or mushrooms sprouting or humans living.

Material symbolism is rife in This Fragile Planet’s complex structure. Dance sequences are melded together by paper, furs and cloth and rope. The tension in the tableau of a girl skinning animals is reminiscent of grappling with bodily torsion – echoed when dancers strain in the intersections of rope and cloth in one of the final cameos sections of  dancing. A soft hand-swishing/rubbing spreads in a moment of audience participation. The staggering beauty of comedy, nature, art and culture is expressed through a mosaic of contemporary and traditional movement from numerous sources. It is alive right to the fingertips and toe tips of these generous, consummate swirling dancers.

And in embodied witness to notions of regeneration, there is choreographic imprint of more than one fine maker. Amidst the score of John Gibson’s inventive composition is reference to the early choreographic work of Shona McCullagh and, as stated in the programme notes, the contributions of of Malia Johnston (Movement of the Human) and Julie Nolan (Red Leap Theatre).

The choreographer, Ross McCormack, and Conch directors, Nina Nawalowalo and Tom McCrory, never lose sight of the marvellous nuances and individuality of each performer. Whether they dance together in seasoned harmony, or grieve through slap-dancing for a fading culture, or witness a pensive Arlo Gibson, a vocal actor with his air of wonder and poetic sonnets. In clots of corporeal splendour, the dancers produce their own singular aesthetic vistas of mortal change.


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