Hamilton Gardens, English Flower Garden, Hamilton

10/02/2018 - 10/02/2018

Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival 2018

Production Details


A free performance will be presented in The English Flower Garden at 11am on Saturday 10 February  followed at 2pm by a free workshop in the Chinoiserie Garden.

True Value is the latest offering of site-specific contemporary dance presented by Waikato Contemporary Dance Projects Trust and choreographed by local artist Helene Burgstaller. Set in the seclusion of the walled English Flower Garden, audiences will enjoy the values of the colours, textures and design in which both dancers and plants flourish. Inspired by the garden, this dance work explores the ideas behind the Arts and Craft design movement and its ongoing relevance in our modern times, with a link to environmental and social issues. Sun hats recommended.


Other Dancers: Gabriel Baker, Veronica Buturini, Ella McLeod

Singer: Hannah Ashford Beck

Music by Bach, Edith Piaff, Vivaldi, Simeon Ten Holt, Louis Armstrong, Phantom Papers, Cold Play, The Verve.

Producer, sound operator and video documentation: Karen Barbour. 

Site-specific/site-sympathetic , Contemporary dance ,

1 hour

Beautifully and creatively situated

Review by Dr Debbie Bright 12th Feb 2018

First of all, congratulations to Helene Burgstaller, Karen Barbour and the other performers and technical assistants for successfully planning, choreographing and presenting ‘Plan B’: the wet weather version of True Value. ‘Plan A’ had been a site-specific dance work based in the English Flower Garden of the Hamilton Gardens, but the torrential edge of the latest cyclone did not make it possible to perform in this outdoor venue. Instead, we are treated to an hour of dance that makes the most of the gardens, displays and spaces within and outside of the Victorian Conservatory. This ‘Plan B’ work is also undeniably site-specific; it is beautifully and creatively situated in the Victorian Conservatory spaces. There is no hint that there has ever been a performance planned for another venue.    

The faithful and committed audience members can be commended for keeping up with the weather-driven changes of programme communicated via Facebook, persevering in getting to the Victorian Conservatory while keeping relatively dry, walking with care on the increasingly wet interior tiled floors, accepting the need for the mopping up of wet floors, particularly in the performance areas, and finding a seat that is, hopefully, free of drips from the roof.

And it is so worth it!

In keeping with its philosophy and the themes of this work, this is a free performance. We, the audience, are asked to wait by the door until the dancers arrive. We are then invited to explore the adjoining tropical and succulent plant houses for approximately 10 minutes before we are summoned by a bell to find seats in the main performance area. The bell-ringing becomes a recognisable feature, marking certain transitions within the programme and a simple means of communication among the participants. As we explore the gardens, we are immediately entertained by dancers in luscious long pastel-coloured dresses, as they interact with the plants, each other, and props as varied as small plastic ducks, ballet pointe shoes… and umbrellas that help us to forget the rain outside and think instead of sunny days and parasols. I am reminded of playfulness, pausing to absorb, observe and enjoy, a slower-moving pace of life, beauty, creativity, quirkiness and humour.

Creative use of props and costumes becomes a recurring highlight: the key items of a picnic tea party, water bottles, and, ultimately, dozens of empty 2 litre plastic milk containers. The removal and donning of costumes that transition from variously-coloured dresses of the ‘romantic’ leisurely pace of another place, another era, to identical, pragmatic, modern-day, work-orientated overalls – a costume of mass-manufacturing.

In turns, delightful, humorous, thought-provoking. This is a dance work that cannot help but engage audience members in the exploration of the environment, delighting in playfulness, taking time to linger, observe and listen. But, jarringly, to be confronted by busy-ness, ugliness, dislocation from nature, waste and the destruction of the environment. A jaw-droppingly graphic comment on the obsession, use, abuse, casual disposal of plastic with its earth destroying, death-laden impact on our precious environment.  The silencing and burying of the voice of science and facts. The casual, shocking disregard for the environment in the use and disposal of our mountains of toxic non-degradable commodities.

Clearly evident are the Arts and Craft design movement’s protest against the mechanised, production-line, mass-manufactured, economically-driven, increasingly fast-moving, environment-disregarding world we live in, as, all the while, the dancers perform a work of skilled and interesting contemporary dance: vignettes, changes of pace and groupings, lifting and nurturing, the sublime, the ridiculous, the mechanical, the calm environmentally-connected life lost in the violent disintegration of dance and music. The sense of longing for a simplifying, for stopping the madness.

And after the performance, we are treated to cups of iced tea, Mary Barbour’s repeated gift to attendees at Waikato Contemporary Dance Projects Trust Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival performances. Thank you Mary. Such a warm, friendly comforting gesture. 

As explained on the programme, the Trust aims are:

to increase the accessibility of dance in the Waikato region; to offer regular dance classes, workshops and performance events; to foster and support local dance as a means to physical activity and wellbeing; to utilize dance as a vehicle for raising awareness about social & environmental issues; and to be an umbrella organization to source funding for dance projects developed in the Waikato.

A number of these aims have clearly been achieved through this performance – including the reference to umbrellas!


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