What They Said - NZ Dance Company

Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

07/10/2022 - 08/10/2022

Production Details

Choreographer: Jo Lloyd

Music: Duane Morrison
Costume: Andrew Treloar
Lighting: Jo Kilgour

Premiering in October at Tempo Dance Festival 2022 as part of the Tempo: Te Rerenga o Tere programme, What They Said unites The New Zealand Dance Company (NZDC) with celebrated Australian choreographer Jo Lloyd for her first work made on a New Zealand company. In this cross Tasman collaboration, Lloyd and her longtime collaborators Duane Morrison (Music) and Andrew Treloar(Costumes) take the leap into creating her first “play without words”, for dance. 

Years of gathered phrases, statements and insults, will culminate in an embodied live work that explores our tendency to be preoccupied with drama and our fascination with the inevitable. As the dancers navigate, persist and exert themselves in an attempt to understand each other, nonpatterns become familiar patterns and a logic is revealed. Potential narratives slip and perceptions morph as the dancers trade words for saturated physical states. When the words erode and go missing, what do the bodies become? A new moving landscape is formed without extraneous junk. Nature with its own drama, more than a collection of words and pictures, a glorious dance.

What They Said will be simultaneously relentless and mesmerising – a feast for the senses.

New Zealand Dance Company dancers: Carl Tolentino, Eliza Sanders, Isope ‘Akau’ola, Josie Archer, Kosta Bogoievski, Ngaere Jenkins, Oli Mathiesen.

Dance ,

60 minutes

Can you talk to me? A Legacy of Artistic Communication

Review by Felicity Molloy 08th Oct 2022

Can you talk to me? What They Said, an original dance work presented by the New Zealand Dance Company for TEMPO Te Rerenga o Tere, rouses interesting discussion between verbal dialoguing and the gestural, expressionist, figurative movement vocabularies of contemporary dance. The responsibility to select dance work that moves our profession forward is a critical undertaking, and generously signified and supported this time by Australian dance maker, Jo Lloyd.

What They Said, employing the embodied skills of an offshore dancer, shows New Zealand Dance Company ably continuing a legacy of artistic communication, local and international. Arguably abstract in its composition, this performance becomes an extension, not always so visible in the fragmenting and just as precious performances, of occasional home-based dance artists. Contemporary dance is here in slow and fast form and motion. What has been called abstraction, can be renamed distraction, eclecticism, at its finest.

The soundscape by Lloyd’s long-term collaborator, Duane Morrison, envelops the artist’s choreographic skills, occasionally interrupting the dancers themselves, at play in their wildly expressive visual landscapes and sensitive narratives of bodies in dance. Choreography like this can exist independently from expected visual references, while watching the thinking of the dancer body responding to the world. Yet, in What They Said, reference to the visual is sometimes so introverted as to leave us watching, rather than becoming sufficiently involved to be influenced. While easy to connect emotionally to the spectacle, there is potential for disconnection, as an influencer might eventually wish for in passing climates.

Costumes are intuitively inspired by Andrew Treloar. A starting point of wormlike undulations of the dancers dressed in flesh coloured unitards, is another self-conscious reference to the art form and to other choreographic artists who similarly hook a costume over the flesh without revealing the flesh itself. Blanching leaves us with the sweet didactic semblance of a Cocteau painting, with monochromatics, switching to surrealist palettes of tulle, floral, fleuro, darkening hues and primary colours, full of bodies and reinspired through dance.

Light framing lowered, creates a sensible backdrop on an otherwise classical set of white dance floor (once ruptured to throw dance costumes underneath, which creates a welcome visual wrinkle), and the black floor divides between floor and wings, an artful perspectival representation. Lights by Joe Kilgore, and like the costumes have a throw away effect of light and fleuro, broadly showing off the dancers in situ, and dimming the stage in certain locations.

The dancers artfully avoid all these presumed boundaries, and casually dance or walk between them fulfilling their three-dimensional brief of dance as subtly communicative and spatial. Changing costumes on stage and the dropping of costuming from the fly tower, present more artefacts of the contemporary dance gaze. Elevation, a signature expression of dancer’s capability, is otherwise underused in this evening’s festal offering. An age-old reliance on balletic sentences, are moves inserted when the dancers need flow and direction. Without further to do, the gaze rests on the dancers themselves.

Quick changes of costumes from one to another dancer, present the most challenging choreographic of interventions. While positively a-gendered in costumes and in dance moves, there is hardly a lift or a pairing, the most recognisable technical prowess belongs to the females, in particular Ngaere Jenkins, who maintains an acute clarity throughout the evening. Her partners in dance, Josie Archer and Eliza Sanders share similarly watchable offerings. As the dancers navigate and exert themselves, there are multiple glimpses of thinking dancers and embodied experience. The other dancers, Carl Tolentino, Isope ‘Akau’ola, Kosta Bogoievski, and Oli Mathiesen, are simultaneously deferential, coy, and detached. I get the feeling this versatile company has even more potential. In What They Said, a lack of precision technique is made up for in what is to be expected from post-post modernism – neo-materialism, namely individualism with a saturation of shared decision-making. There are abstract poetical vocalisations about a conversation between mountains moving and in the minutiae of pauses between space, collation and timing.

The insistent rhythms of Duane Morrison’s music, at odds with these written perceptions creates an abruptness in the supposed purpose of communication. A dissonance in meaning-making leaves me with questions. Are the dancers talking to each other? Are there lost lines between them in the art of movement difficulty, and the instancy of dialogues between dance, dancers, and watcher? Is the choreographer speaking through the dancers? Upshot projections as an audience member, are compelling orientations towards the dance itself.

All that said, or written, as response to the feeling of seeing and being in the full house Rangatira theatre, What They Said is a dancerly contribution, an exchange of greatness, and well worth seeing. I hope this work goes on the road. The currency of dedicated repetition is that nuance and expression become embedded and a gift to the artform itself.



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