VEINS - Hagley Dance Company
Hagley Open Stage, Christchurch
08/12/2017 - 09/12/2017
Hagley Dance Company 2017 Presents ‘Veins’……
‘Veins’ is a transportation of dynamic dance carried towards the heart, providing the circulation of dance to cells and bodies. The show celebrates the culmination of the Dance Company’s journey for 2017. Featuring student choreography under the curation of Fleur de Thier, Julia Harvie and company director, Naressa Gamble.
WHEN: Friday 8th & Saturday 9th December, 7:30pm
WHERE: Hagley Open Stage, Hagley College
COST: $20 or $15 Concession
(limited door sales – booking recommended)
Dance , Contemporary dance ,
Boundless energy, determined focus, and promise of more to come
Review by Dr Ian Lochhead 09th Dec 2017
The Hagley Dance Company occupies a unique niche in the New Zealand dance education environment, providing a full-time, year-long, pre-tertiary training programme for young performers who wish to explore the possibility of a future in dance without being quite ready for, or willing to commit to, a three-year course. It thus provides an important pathway towards careers in dance with opportunities to expand horizons as both performers and dance-makers. Opportunities to present work occur during the year but the graduation show demonstrates just what the eight students, six women, and two men, have achieved under the guidance of director Naressa Gamble and tutors Fleur de Thier, Julia Harvie and Megan Platt.
Unlike the standard format of graduation shows which tend to be made up of a sequence of discrete works, Veins is a 75-minute continuous show in which the different elements of the programme are joined together by a series of linking sections. Considering the time, energy and imagination required to generate just five minutes of dance performance, this is a demanding ask for a group of young and still inexperienced dancers and choreographers. Working in close collaboration with their tutors, each company member has had the opportunity to develop a segment of the programme ‘curated’ by one of their tutors. This collaborative process gives the dancers the chance to work with and learn from experienced choreographers, gaining an understanding of how individual movements can be developed into a larger whole.
The opening sequence, entitled Deep See, choreographed by Wess Sayers with curator Julia Harvie, explores the effect of light in a dark, deep-sea environment, the dancers’ head torches mimicking the effects of those sea creatures who carry their own lights with them into the ocean’s depths. The dancers coalesce to form a single organic mass and then move apart before regrouping in new formations in which hand movements, illuminated in the darkness, suggest the ululating forms of organisms subjected to water currents. If audience members were sometimes dazzled by torch beams pointing directly towards them, this was nevertheless an inventive and effective work that responded well to the music chosen, Arvo Part’s Fratres
One of the problems of the programme’s continuous format is the difficulty of differentiating between one programme segment and the next and the audience became increasingly confused about when to applaud or not, eventually giving up and withholding its enthusiastic reception for the programme as a whole until the show’s conclusion. Some clearer clues either through lighting or more overt physical signals from the dancers would address this problem and allow for a greater appreciation of individual contributions and the intentions behind them. What remains in the memory, is a sequence of telling images including disembodied lower limbs dancing in the air at the periphery of the stage and prone bodies impelled crabwise across the floor but all infused with the boundless energy and focus of the dancers, both singly and as an ensemble.
Particularly memorable was the closing item, Charvel Matiu’s Whakawhiti I Te Raina (Crossing the line), developed in conjunction with Fleur de Thier. The use of a rope as a prop that both binds and connects was effectively managed and drew some standout performances from the dancers involved. The use of the group as an anchor from which an individual breaks out but remains connected by a binding cord provides a striking metaphor for the importance of community connections that sustain but also restrain individual actions.
It comes as no surprise that three of the Hagley dancers, Charvel Matiu, Wess Sayers and Dana Moore-Mudgway, are beginning tertiary dance studies at UNITEC in 2018, a fitting measure of the on-going success of the Hagley dance programme. It is to be hoped that the other five members of the class of 2017 will continue to develop the considerable skills they have acquired during the last ten months and that they too will move on to tertiary study.
As a breeding ground for young dancer/choreographers, the Hagley Dance Company has achieved considerable success over the years and on the basis of its 2017 graduation show, this contribution to New Zealand dance seems set to continue into the future. The support of its host institution, Hagley College, also needs to be acknowledged as such valuable programmes cannot survive without committed, long-term, institutional support.
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