UTOPIA #9

Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

04/10/2019 - 05/10/2019

Te Auaha, Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro, Wellington

12/03/2020 - 14/03/2020

Tempo Dance Festival 2019

NZ Fringe Festival 2020

Production Details


Created by Kit Reilly, in collaboration with international artists from Australia and Canada, and with mentoring from Malia Johnston


Utopia #9

Black mirror meets virtuosity in Utopia #9- a sterile dystopia, where technology has surpassed human intelligence and become our governing figure. Society has fallen victim to this artificial entity but resistance emerges in the search for humanity. Utopia #9 materialises our human relationship with technology for better or worse- exploring our fascination with the superficial constructs of technology, and the threat posed to our society greater than anything else before.

Utopia #9 is the first full length work created by Kit Reilly (New Zealand School of Dance), in collaboration with international artists from Australia and Canada, and with mentoring from Malia Johnston (Movement of the Human).

Kit Reilly: Director/ Choreographer/ Dancer/ Composer/ Graphic Designer
Chelsea DesLauriers: Dancer/ Movement Creator
Madeleine High: Dancer/ Movement Creator
Oliver Carruthers: Movement Creator
Jess Johns: Model and Assistant
Jodi Walker: Costume Designer and Graphic Designer
Eli Cantwell: Videographer
Paul Bennett: Lighting Designer
Cohen Stephens: Production Advisor
Justin Beaver: Sound Technician
Katrina Todd: Wellesley Studios Director
Malia Johnston: Choreographic Mentor

NZ Fringe 2020:

SHOW SCHEDULE

  1. THURSDAY 12 MARCH

    6:00 PM

    Duration 50 minutes

    Passed

    Te Auaha – Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro

    Wheelchair access available

  2. FRIDAY 13 MARCH

    6:00 PM

    Duration 50 minutes

    Price General Admission $24.90 Concession $19.90 Fringe Addict $16.00

    Te Auaha – Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro

    Book Now

    Wheelchair access available

  3. SATURDAY 14 MARCH

    6:00 PM

    Duration 50 minutes

    Price General Admission $24.90 Concession $19.90 Fringe Addict $16.00

    Te Auaha – Tapere Nui, 65 Dixon Street, Te Aro

    Book Now

    Wheelchair access available

Date: Friday 4 Oct & Saturday 5 Oct

Time: Friday – 6:30pm, Saturday – 8:30pm
Venue: Q Theatre
Price: $19.90-$34.90
Duration: 50 mins
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Kit Reilly: Director/ Choreographer/ Dancer/ Composer/ Graphic Designer
Chelsea DesLauriers: Dancer/ Movement Creator
Madeleine High: Dancer/ Movement Creator
Oliver Carruthers: Movement Creator
Jess Johns: Model and Assistant
Jodi Walker: Costume Designer and Graphic Designer
Eli Cantwell: Videographer
Paul Bennett: Lighting Designer
Cohen Stephens: Production Advisor
Justin Beaver: Sound Technician
Katrina Todd: Wellesley Studios Director
Malia Johnston: Choreographic Mentor


Performance installation , Dance , Contemporary dance ,


50 mins

Isolation, detachment and dehumanisation

Review by Courtney Mae Lim 13th Mar 2020

Utopia #9 directed by Kit Reilly and produced by Zoë Nicholson provides a protracted experience of isolation, detachment and dehumanisation  in a commentary on the social dysfunction prevalent in present, technology-based society. The work is unequivocal in demonstrating the detriments of subjection to technological enthralment. Using a combination of production elements including mixed audio tracks, lighting design, film material and a minimalistic set, on top of highly physical movement choreography, the three dancers navigate a space resembling that of a dark and troubled human mind. Despite the small cast offering unaltered appearances of the same persons, there is no sense of familiarity or intimacy facilitated between audience and the performers who sustain apathetic gazes throughout the 50-minute duration of this work. As the clinical label of ‘#9’ hints at in its seemingly optimistic title, this work exists in a world distanced from anything but an utterly cold dystopia.

Pre-show, the black box theatre is empty except for an exposed television set displaying a black screen, diffused fog, and several geometrically-arranged white electrical cords forming a rectangular perimeter on the floor and suspended diagonally across the space from a central point to the upper balconies bordering the stage. This remains a constant setup throughout, although the sense of space and focus within the world of this work shifts with the use of focused spots or expansive flooded lighting. Attention is drawn singularly to the television screen at several moments, including the piece’s opening with a series of period American tv-commercials advertising technological products one after the other until the they are overcome by jarring static, which altogether sets up the abstracted tone of the piece.

A single spotlight scans around the dim theatre bringing to mind scenes of searching for an escaped target on prison grounds, giving rise to thoughts of confinement and repression. Three dancers appear in a collective unit under a dim spot, morphing through physical structures created with their intertwining bodies, whilst a repeated stepping motion rotates the group slowly. Within the entanglements, their faces are mostly hidden and their shapes are shrouded in shadows. As they come apart they move around in a generally sustained tempo, sometimes monotonous and at points quickening to a more intense convulsive rhythm, all the while suppressing their movement to a shriveled and obscure form. In moments of contrast, the dancers break out into phrases of dynamic, locomotive movement with full-bodied articulation and strong senses of directional length. The wide range and stable control consistent in their movements reflect the outstanding physical proficiency of all three dancers.

With progression, a cyclic pattern forms switching between the above two modes of physicality—repetitive and obscure; elaborate and virtuosic. Additionally, there comes torment from computer-generated entities whose automated voices are heard periodically from start to finish of the work. These entities excessively detail and criticise the very personal lives of the performers, predominantly expounding on topics of image, impression and appeal in relation to other people. In moments of absurdity, the voice analyses one dancer’s social media activity, targeting tactics for ‘increased popularity on Instagram’; yet again it appeals to another dancer to adopt it as a ‘computer boyfriend’ in place of human companionship. The robotic blabbering of absurd provocations is quickly comparable to impressions of the ‘nagging voices in one’s head’ or even the bombardment of information and influences from the media today. These recurrent visual and audio components generate an unyielding cycle that mimics experiences of anxiety and hysteria, which hold timely relevance within our present age of humanity troubled with psychological and sociological complications.

Despite close proximity with each other and with the audience, the performers withhold eye contact relentlessly, creating a powerful tension and uneasiness. A climatic point of this tension is reached in one of the final sections when Reilly and DesLauriers move into a duet segment where they are dressed solely in nude undergarments, presenting themselves in a bare and organic fashion, yet remarkably demonstrating an epitome of distorted dehumanisation. They examine each other’s bodies in an analytical manner, with hands hovering all over the skin. Reilly lifts and carries DesLauriers using several methods of dispassionate manipulation rather than partnership. They arrive at moments of touch, holding hands or sitting side-by-side and resting upon each other, yet do not emote in any way subsequently. When they reach a prolonged state of lifelessness, High returns to the space placing an entanglement of electrical cords over their heads. It snags around their necks and holds their limp bodies together in a bind that is in every way unsettling to observe. She manipulates and interacts with their motionless bodies—dragging, stroking, hoisting up and holding the two—in what can be read as the final attempts at finding connection, still met with concluding failure.

Throughout the performance, the dancers’ overall lack of acknowledgement of those watching and of each other strongly establishes the sense of disengagement that is central to this piece’s message.

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Dystopic or utopic? dancing ourselves into the future

Review by Paea Leach 06th Oct 2019

The word utopia conjures multiple meanings – utopic societies, philosophies, geographies, policies. The concept and its opposite, dystopia, has been explored in a plethora of films and books; it occupies a lot of human imagination and creative output. In Utopia #9, emerging dancer and choreographer Kit Reilly presents what seems to be an amplified future version of (our) technology saturated world; towards an effort to comment on the nature of its control and our strange dependence and complicity in our own human-to-human (dis)connection. Created and performed by Reilly, with dancers Chelsea Des Lauriers and Madeleine High, the work is highly energised, tightly choreographed and ambitious. It is, though, overloaded with ideas, sounds and loaded movement narratives.

The work opens with a series of advertisements from the 1950’s onwards, projected onto an AV screen; flashes of voices and images speaking about the advantage for the housewife of a phone with an especially long cable for example, the necessity of a colour television. It was implied, even ‘then’, that the acquisition of technology was imperative for an easier, fuller and happier life. Along the back of the stage lays detritus from an era passed; redundant technology in the form of cassette players, radios, old computer monitors and keyboards. I am reminded of the Christmas we received a Commodore 64: it was bulky and cream coloured, and it was such a fancy piece of technology!

The three dancers enter, each wearing a future indicating costume; black high-waisted shiny pants seemingly made from a ‘fake’ fabric and black chest-plates strapped on with buckles you would find on a backpack. They breath and reach, move with fierce acumen and togetherness and begin their journey through the work. The sound, composed by Reilly, drives the work with an overbearance: a series of movement ‘scenes’ occur, folding one into the next; a trio, a dance party, a solo. I think of Israeli choreographer Hofesh Schecter because of the tucked in socks, the low work through the legs, the attempts at pulsing rhythms. That, and the dramatic danceworks of Scapino Ballet in Rotterdam.

The world is already known to these inhabitants – utopia or dystopia (?) –  and we are watching their inhabiting of it. There is a narrative at play, begun with a level of intensity that is not found or revealed, but shown to us. The dancers are accomplished with form and execution, but the question emerges as to why the intensity of dramatic reaction to and within the world they have created is between each other: or, to what end? What has happened? There is such a strong desire to convey an emotive arc, to express something through the moving, that I am, for the most part aware of this desire and not sure how to receive it.

The sound features an imposing voice at times; sort of like the ‘Siri’ that we each have available in our I-phones. I am reminded of Spike Jonze’s film ‘her’ that tells the story of Theodore Twombly, (Joaquin Phoenix), a man who develops a relationship with Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), an artificially intelligent virtual assistant personified through a female voice. Jonze conceived the idea in the early 2000s after reading an article about a website that allowed for instant messaging with an artificial intelligence program. And it is these such ideas that are the most unsettling aspect of the work: a voice that tells us (and the dancers) “your whole life is stored in me”, “you can call me the entity” and “I will be here when you fail”….”because you will fail”. Riley is attempting, through this work, to present to us just how unsettling the interference of technology is in the fabric of our lives.

Given the young age of the dancers (which I assume to be below 25 without knowing for certain), I reflect that they have never known something other than mediated spaces and device saturation: what is it like to only grow up in the techno-saturated “matrix” commanded by the great motherlode of data? The reality is that the level of intrusion into their lives will only become more insistent and manipulative, coming at them with greater speed and from more devices. I have known a world without this, and I am grateful for that – nostalgic for it even. This work is a response to their lived world; a multi-media, thoroughly danced, technically executed thinking through. And in this sense, Utopia #9 has the possibility to be disquieting – invoking a response from and through the moving body.

At the end of the work the ‘old technology’ is arranged into a type of graveyard of yesterdays. Two dancers have de-clad and attempted to connect skin to skin. Their efforts are earnest but futile; they end wrapped in their own cables – silenced. In dance works that attempt to integrate technology I often feel the primary question is not addressed: what affect does this saturation and monopoly have on the dancing, moving thinking body on a cellular level? How do we not re-present our shared (and known and complicit) experience, but move beyond that, or beneath it, to try to reveal the rupture this kind of dystopic, apparently utopic world, is having on deep personal and intercorporeal levels. Utopia #9 is ambitious and not without its kinetic spectacularity and accomplishments, but perhaps tries to do too many things in one short frame of time – a perfect reflection of the sign of the times and the speedy world it is unable to escape from. In a sensualist economy, resistance is futile, the logarithms of our identities are on fire, and we in the maelstrom of in-betweens.

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