UNDOING

BATS Theatre, The Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

07/04/2022 - 14/04/2022

BATS Theatre, The Stage, 1 Kent Tce, Wellington

27/07/2022 - 30/07/2022

Production Details


Director/ Choreographer/ Producer: Eliza Sanders 


Lighting Design: Brynne Tusker-Poland 


Composer/ Sound Design: Jackie Jenkins  

PRESENTED BY HOUSE OF SAND


 

Undo to begin. UNDOING is a dance manifestation of wild abandonment and initiation brought to you by the award winning cutting edge contemporary performance company House of Sand.

A sensory ensemble experience articulated by a visual spectacular of limbs, passion and theatricality. UDOING is absurd, strange and raw. It punctures the seriousness of contemporary dance by highlighting the joy, sensual pleasure and general absurdity of the body. Unleashing and unpacking the lingering scream in the pits of ourselves.

Aware of its own absurdity and whimsy, UNDOING infuses a lightness and humour while also allowing audiences space to be swept away by the honest emotional energy and crashing intimate vulnerability of dance. Showcased by a visceral and powerful display of virtuosic craft and play, this show features an impressive ensemble cast of 10 dancers from the Põneke dance scene at the height of their technical ability.

House of Sand have a reputation for creative risk and care for community in their work. UNDOING aims to bring the audience and artists closer together to share in subtle and tender ways to interact with the presence of human bodies in a shared space without the need to touch or physically engage.

UNDOING (previously titled So you’ll never have to wear a concrete dressing gown) was commissioned and first presented by the New Zealand School of Dance as part of Graduation Season 2021, with financial assistance from the Australian High Commission.


Performers: Kia Jewell, Ella Williams, Luke Romero, Wade Walker-Berben, Hahna Nichols, Helena May, Otto Kosok, Kiki Miwa, Caspar Ilshner, Samara Reweti, Christopher Alan Moore (6th, 7th, 8th - 7pm, 9th 2pm, 13th, 14th 7pm) , Ben Ashbey (9th, 12th 7pm)


 


Graphic Design, Marketing & Publicity: Ben Emmerson 


Design intern: Morgan Dean 


Production assistance: Sabrina Martin 


 



Experimental dance , Dance-theatre , Dance , Contemporary dance ,


60 mins

Undoing - a plethora of dance conventions

Review by Helen Balfour 31st Jul 2022

House of Sand – Undoing 

Choreography: Eliza Sanders

The Stage, Bats Theatre, Wellington

Saturday July 30th 7pm

Reviewed by: Helen Balfour

Spacey electronic music and misty lighting welcomes the audience to their seats.

Abstract narration and three naked performers, their backs to us standing still in low light with T-shirts on their heads, is our first glimpse of Undoing. T-shirts with the performer’s faces on them form the costumes for the work and are taken on and off throughout the piece. Following this, simple accumulating gestures in a flocking formation with stillness’s and intent gazes, focus our attention on the eleven performers for what seems a long time.

A large portion of the piece is dedicated to a performer who walks very, very slowly from one side of the stage to the other, taking the duration of the piece (64 minutes) to do so. Fabulous focus and control from this performer. In efforts to explain the intention of walking, our narrator ties themself in amusing verbal knots discussing time, choices, comparisons and distortion before the other performers are even allowed to begin moving.

The music heralds changes as the incongruous work proceeds. There appears to be a unique signalling method through guttural sounds, possibly because performers could not see when to enter or exit, due to the open, black-box performance space, so the sounds help and, at times, these sounds appear conversational.

The work is a plethora of dance conventions, intentions and fragmented chunks of sensicaI and nonsensical ideas. I wonder if Sanders had streamlined her aims for the piece (especially as this is a re-staging), Undoing may have become more coherent? Repetition is a regular feature and it is pleasing to see repeated phrases and motives, however speed variations only arrive in the last quarter of the work, which is a relief.  The combination of obtuse conversations, singing and stating random words combined with movement is a dominant feature, successfully shown in a duet section where the audience is unclear as to who leads the improvised work, the vocalist, or the dancer.

Choices and chance are seen in some of the improvised sections, however more of the chance factor may have offered differences in energy and dynamic earlier in the work.  The contrast of stereotypical jazz sequences, nods to musicals then interruptions of talking, lifts and stillness, appear in the last sections of the work just as the performer who began their lengthy walk across the stage completes their journey.  With the absence of a programme, it was disappointing not to be able to identify the creators of the eclectic, satisfying sound accompaniment and the effective lighting which bound the work together.

This group of talented, up-and-coming performers should be applauded for their focus, energy and commitment to presenting this curious work… obtuse conversations, singing and stating random words combined with movement is a dominant feature, successfully shown in a duet section where the audience is unclear as to who leads the improvised work, the vocalist, or the dancer.

Comments

Make a comment

Raises laughs, opens emotions, alerts us to human possibilities and frailties

Review by Deirdre Tarrant 28th Jul 2022

This is a second season of this work as the first was hit by Covid in April. Some cast changes but essentially this is a re-present and not a re- stage of this work by Eliza Sanders.

An exploration in episodes, there is no connection or cohesion in the content but these same qualities are firmly embodied in the bodies and movement of the eleven performers. Wearing white shirts printed with cast faces – that starts us on a quest to match them up – these dancers are strong, committed, involved and energised.

The audience is drawn in on a physical journey through a range of improv exercises culminating in tantalising snippets of hi octane production line dance. The cast are individuals and excellent, immersed in their small part in the big picture. A solitary ‘chosen’ Walker crosses the stage and captures our attention as he plods through his life – eyes down and a little erratic but s-l-o-w-l-y… In the space behind him bodies carve and curve dimensions, energies and glimpses of social and personal comment.

A Kurt Vonnegut (?) recording sets a philosophising pathway. A script written and devised by Eliza Sanders and delivered with wry amusement and a brilliant sense of seriousness, absurdity, mockery and pace by actor Christopher Moore form the palette to set the context. The words are there to inform, intrigue and rather sardonically amuse.

Essentially it is the randomness of the 64 minutes as this parade of beautiful people entertains that engrosses us until that solitary Walker reaches the other side – of life? Time? Decisions? – and we all breathe again!

Undoing sets up humour and raises laughs, opens emotions and alerts us to human possibilities and frailties. Undoing is fragmented and perfunctory, unhinged and totally true, isolated and together, cliched and innovative, showtime and chance.

Undoing – whatever it is – is worth seeing. In the voice of narrating our human journey in weird and uncertain times, a stand out section riffs on the affirmation that it will be “All right”! And it is!

Comments

Make a comment

Clever, glib, nimble, and confident work

Review by Sam Trubridge 08th Apr 2022

I hadn’t been to a sit-down piece of performance for six months, until this week’s Undoing by House of Sand and choreographer/director Eliza Sanders. Self isolation, projects, and a newborn have enforced a sustained absence from theatres for me. It felt like a return home, to sit in a darkened room and wait for a body, movement, or voice to bring the space to life. 

So it was a great surprise to see so many bodies on stage, dressed in uniform white T-shirts, underpants, and sports-bras. Eleven in total. Their faces are printed on the front of the shirts, sometimes the backs of their heads. 

Early on, a dancer is chosen from the ensemble, and delegated with with the task of traversing the stage in a slow walk for the entire performance – to arrive at the opposite side just at the point of its completion. This slow indicator of the show’s progress creates an intriguing progress-bar for the show, familiar to all citizens of our Netflix/Youtube era of time-coded viewing experiences. On another level, this invisibly moving figure provides a still centre, a meter against the more frenetic energies that bounce between the walls of Bats’ tiny Propellor stage.

Undoing is a clever, glib, nimble, and confident work. Christopher Alan Moore provides a verbal canopy over the action on stage – sometimes commenting on what is happening, and othertimes babbling his way through conceptual tangents as he footnotes his own statements, discusses the scripted words that he is speaking, and us the audience.  The script and the choreography is by Eliza Sanders, which he makes pains to remind us of.  

It recalls works like William Forsythe’s (2000) Kammer Kammer and subsequent projects that bring spoken word into dance in a way that is sometimes textural or impressionistic, rather than necessarily about the literature or language. 

The other ten performers fill the space with patterns of movement, tableaux, grunts, and sequences of vigorous action. The strongest moments are when the boundaries of the stage are filled with dance, where the choreography of ten bodies in this tiny space may consist of three or so groups with their own movement, each weaving around the other. This tension between the limits of the architecture and the energy of these young bodies is electric. 

In a pause that follows one dance section, Moore is approached with a microphone. Even before a word was spoken, I found myself mouthing the word ‘alright’… and sure enough this was his utterance, many times, in many intonations, with masterful control of voice – sometimes like Nina Simone, sometimes Leisure Suit Larry. I am both surprised and unsurprised that I spoke the line before it came. What it revealed to me was how this kind of self-referential dance has an aura of predictability or inevitability to it. It is a well composed and beautifully executed piece, but this would be my only criticism. This style of solipsistic performance-making is a bit dated, and can become a bit of an ‘in-joke’ to other performance-makers.

And yet, there is a beautiful, delightful inevitability to watching that single figure with their single task,  slowly crossing the stage through all of this business, slowly sliding from right to left, drawing infinitesimally closer to that wall, and the serendipidous placement of a bright-red fire alarm switch. It is sometimes unclear what is being ‘undone’ in this show called Undoing – but in this action it seems to make sense. An irrepressible creep of time seems to be embodied in this figure. Despite the monotony of the performer’s task, they are incredibly captivating, full of threat and dread and  certainty. The closer they get to their destination, the less I can concentrate on anything else, until that final moment that they touch the wall.

Comments

Make a comment

One pm news bulletin, ‘spread your legs’ situation

Review by Lyne Pringle 08th Apr 2022

Eliza Sanders has scooped up a posse of seasoned performers and recent graduates – a real bunch of characters – and given them a sense of purpose and shape to create a seemingly purposeless world on stage. What is the nature of the reality portrayed in the latest work from House of Sand – the company Sanders has founded with her sibling Charley Sanders?  They are up for the hard graft of self-producing – hats off to them for this. The work thumbs a nose at conventions to deconstruct, undercut and dismantle the usual hierarchies of theatre making. The intent is to rupture and the result is left open to interpretation.

Sanders is a deep thinking yet buoyant artist, who creates threads of meaning between people on and off stage, then gleefully snips the connections with the incisive scissors of absurdity and an ironic glimmer in her eye and those of her collaborators.

The tiny, for eleven performers, Bats mainstage becomes filled with playful chaos.  It is impressive to have such a large cast, bravo for the wrangle and cause for celebration that these dance artists get to chew over their movement chops. Sanders has a commitment to building community.

They make it work in the small space but they seem penned in and pent up needing to unleash – perfect for these Covid times. Dancing the dance are: Kia Jewell, Ella Williams, Luke Romero, Wade Walker-Berben, Hahna Nichols, Helena May, Otto Kosok, Kiki Miwa, Caspar Ilschner, Samara Reweti and Christopher Alan Moore.
They are fierce, droll performers who clown, twitch, cavort, fake pistol pout, collapse, tassel, twist, extend and flow in a kick ass way with a tinge of ‘caught in the headlights’ existential vulnerability. Then there is razzamatazz and lines like: ‘My knees are trying to kiss, they don’t know they are not mouths,’ or ‘When I fall so do my Fallopian tubes’.

Jackie Jenkins composes and designs sound in an appropriately detailed way that holds interest. The space morphs and shifts under Brynne Tusker-Poland’s clever illumination. Text and vocalizations waft through the work to add another fascinating layer.
Christopher Alan Moore delivers the majority of the text with aplomb and good timing.
White tee shirts with the faces of cast members figure large: on, off exchanged or wrapped around the head of naked figures, buttocks exposed. 

On the surface the work presents as densely chunky and yet looking closely there is, actually, nothing truly concrete there: rather a shifting set of circumstances and repeats, bumping up against each other in a constant state of flux and unknowing or Undoing as the title of the work suggests.

Undoing  is way too cool for deep metaphysics but,  slippery in its intent, deeper meaning is there for the taking if so desired.

How does the work feel from the inside? What world do they, the performers, inhabit and how transformed do they feel at the end? We are spectators to their inquiry, challenged to examine our viewing lens and the desire to make sense of it all. Nothing makes any sense, but maybe it all makes sense in the end. A slow walk across the front of the stage is rather genius. It resonates and frames the work. We watching humans are instructed to recalibrate our temporal and spatial coordinates with this slow journey.

The invitation is to spin and orbit around each other, sometimes synching sometimes crashing. Improvising when choreographed, choreographed when improvising – ‘braining the body’s thinking’.Taking seriously the business of not taking too seriously the business of weaving, sifting, choosing, making accepting, rejecting, being together, pulsing in a soup of beingness – the way, the special and particular way that only a group of dancers can congregate in a mob with their cellular hums aligned. They are finely honed, sensitive, entirely intricate, divining rods of the corporeal. 

It is, at times, startlingly vibrant, plucking the strings of space and time and each other’s resonators. There are many standout solos, duets and group moments. One exceptional scene comes with Kiki Miwa draped over the shoulders of Caspar Ilschner. He rotates slowly she delivers, languorously, poetic bodily musings under silver light. Our collective spines shiver with ihi.

Un-finding what is found, what sits in the spaces between searching and the known.
Life is a confusing tangled struggle. The work maddingly meanders through random domains. Episodes jolt to a conclusion and are discarded, or are repeated as the action is reset. It is a multi-faceted crafting of an absurdist, sweeping arms, reality.
The pelvic grind of the day to day, a reflection of our currently disjointed, disconnected, one pm news bulletin, ‘spread your legs’ situation.

Undoing is fun and a welcome tonic of vivacity – the belly laughs in the audience tell it all.
It really needs a trim and tighten and a deep think about the relationship with the viewer. Judicious use of editing would make the work even more compelling. 

Comments

Make a comment

Wellingon City Council
Aotearoa Gaming Trust
Creative NZ
Auckland City Council