UNITEC Presents Choreofest 2012 - Year 3 Dance

Unitec Dance Studios, Entry One, Carrington Rd, Auckland

04/10/2012 - 06/10/2012

Production Details


90 mins

Grace within bounds

Review by Jesse Quaid 07th Oct 2012

It starts with dancers filling the space, warming up and giving us a glimpse of the people behind the performance. It ends with the most euphoric and well performed curtain call I have ever seen. In between ten individual works are meshed together to take the audience on one seamless journey.

In a departure from the usual format of a short works show each choreographer’s work is woven into one continuous overarching performance. This method undoubtedly presents challenges for the choreographers; it also changes the way in which each work is viewed as, despite their individuality, it is the similarities that draw one’s attention as they flow from one to the next. This creates the temptation to fabricate a narrative pathway between each piece and without a pause it is hard to retain a sense of each as it’s own entity. It is, however, certainly a pleasure to watch a Unitec show without the familiar blue scene-change light and its accompanying awkward pause.

The crossovers between pieces are well managed, with each new work unobtrusively but undeniably replacing its predecessor. The costume design by Cathy Pope works to create an obvious connection between the pieces. Various layers and colours of clothing cleverly change the basic design just enough to make each work distinguishable while maintaining an overall  aesthetic.

The works offer enough variety to keep the evening flowing; ranging from brooding through frenetic to contemplative each has it’s own distinct forms and energies, held together by similarities in the structures and vocabularies. A formalistic approach is preferred by many of the choreographers, characterised by the use of contrasting groups or the setting of a soloist or duet against the ensemble. This systematic methodology is carried through into the music. The choices in many cases are almost too obviously suitable, edging into cliche and providing unnecessary emphasis of themes and ideas while the linking of changes within each work to a musical change becomes predictable.

The dancers themselves are beautiful to watch. As a class they have a clarity of line, effortless flow between tension and release and a delicate detailedness. In and out of unison there is a marked similarity of form amongst them, and they work together effortlessly. Occasionally their performance becomes too smooth, making it difficult to connect with them as their humanity is subsumed into their grace.

Opening the show with a delicate and clean edge is Benny Ramsey’s ‘One to Another’. From dim lighting broken forms emerge, slow grace broken by hinges, and collapses. In a well paced slow build, commonalities and groupings accumulate. A mix of clean lines and faster paced flurries of movement produce a meditative work it is easy to get lost in. These dancers are replaced by another group and we are greeted with a nonsense commentary “blah blah blah”. Mikayla Thomas’ ‘Ladies and Gentlemen’ then fills the space with a nervous energy. Dancers holding sheets of paper, possibly instructions, to which they constantly refer create individual moments of uncertainty which act to break up an otherwise strong and consistent tempo.

Jeremy Huxton’s take on vanity “Duckface” is energetic and comic, but offers nothing thought provoking. His dancers pose, contort and sprawl across the stage space, wailing along to the music in their enforced search for beauty. A single dancer is left, standing at the back of the space as white letters wash over her. She appears remote, a feeling that imbues much of Larissa Hunter’s “This is something”. The series of duets that Larissa has created, which are entrancing and largely impersonal, break into ensemble, linear formations before returning to the opening image. It takes a moment to notice three dancers entering from the front of the stage carrying laptops displaying indistinct images. These, placed at the front of the stage, disappear from notice. An uncomfortable atmosphere is created by the lighting and sound which reaches almost painful decibel levels. Dancers dressed in black fade into the back curtain making their tense, brutal and contorted movements seem disembodied. Ending with a massed army of paper wielding dancers Jahra Rager’s “WE ARE” is a pronounced statement.

The second half starts with Oliver Connew’s “Globus Cruciger”. A dancer in red crosses a projection from google maps. From the other wing a forest enters; four dancers each bearing a branch of foliage. The controlled formation work of these four is in contrast to the looser movement of the soloist invoking ideas of control and freedom. This piece loses focus at the edges but remains intriguing. A rather depressed group of joggers and an awkward costume change begins “Danaid” by Rose Philpott. The head of the flock breaks away in a disturbing duet, the rest of the group dissolves. Dancers thump and drag their bodies across stage, gangly limbs are thrown in an amusingly awkward series of lifts and a tower of bodies is built. Despite what they say no-one is really sorry.

Sarah Mills’ contemplative “01.11.1999” maintains a slow and steady rhythm. Fragmented yet complimentary movement fills the stage before coalescing. A group of supplicants in blue is offset by the single male dancer in a solo that is not strong enough to hold attention. Lifting the mood “porpita porpita” by Lucy Beeler begins with lighting that invokes a floor full of stars. Jubilant and extreme, the dancers fill the space with colour and energy in what seems to be an exploration of fangirlism. The dancers offer the audience heart shaped candy, leaving an empty space before the final piece, “Kaleidoscope” by Grace Woolett, which returns us to an introspective mood. Moments of strong unison are juxtaposed with explorative interactions with glass bottles. Bodies roll like waves across the floor and with bottles hung from their limbs a dancer becomes a strange tree. The dancers exit backwards, leaving behind a huddle of bottles in the spotlight like sentinels.


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