WIP ’10 Showcase #4

Galatos, Auckland

24/08/2010 - 25/08/2010

Production Details

Come join us on Tuesday the 24th and Wednesday the 25th of August from 7pm.  

Within the eclectic mix of themes the investigation of the gendered body rubs shoulders with a quartet derived from Kapa Haka, the pressures of modern life are explored, a fascinating duet navigates the transitional spaces between bodies and structures and an installation combined with live music and dance will entice and provoke your senses.

The Works in Progress dance platform was designed to providing a testing ground for new works and projects. An initiative of the 2010 Danz interns, with support from MIC Toi Rerehiko, W.I.P.10 merges a performative environment with the idea of a studio showing.

W.I.P.s previous three seasons have garnered an encouraging response, and this final season is shaping up to be another great show. Featuring a diverse range of works and exploring a wide range of themes Season 4 promises to be a stimulating and engaging night out.

Tickets for this event will be sold at the door, $10, or $8 for concession, cash only.
Doors open 7pm and the show kicks off at 7:30.

For more information visit www.danz.org.nz, www.mic.org.nz    

Beneficial testing ground

Review by Julia Barry 26th Aug 2010

The promotional material for the fourth and final season of Works In Progress (W.I.P.) promises to ‘end on a high note’ this series of showcases for emerging choreographers and dancers. The performance on August 24 lives up to this expectation in fine fashion, with five very different and interesting choreographic works by members of the 2010 cohort of DANZ Interns. 

The Galatos venue is well suited to performances of this nature, being an intimate and yet spacious venue, with a good floor for dance, seating ‘in the round’ and the facility for simple, but highly effective lighting design from technician Stuart Phillips.  

Zeitgeber by Ai Fujii Nelson

This is an excerpt from a larger work being created as part of Fujii Nelson’s Masters studies at the University of Auckland. The original score and soundscape by Aaron Nelson and Alex Raichev provides a multi-faceted parallel means of expression alongside the choreographic voice. 

The performance space is decorated with pockets of what appears to be piles of cream-coloured ‘rocks’. The work opens with six female dancers, attired in close-fitting cream shorts and sparkly sleeveless tops, entering in silence, and stepping into and rolling up long tubes of translucent cream-coloured stretch fabric, like a snake’s skin or a cocoon. 

Encased in their ‘cocoon’, the dancers sway lightly through gentle movements of the torso and bends of knees, then arms emerge upwards from the top of the ‘cocoons’, leading to sharper, more frenetic arm movements until the dancers finally escape out of their ‘skin’. 

They begin to jump and roll freely away, leaving a sole dancer (Evania Vallyon) balancing precariously in a deep kneel. As she moves stealthily around and away from the empty ‘skins’, the other dancers return, re-enter their ‘skins’ and lie down quietly. Vallyon moves with sinewy grace among the passive ‘skins’, instigating a domino effect between them until the ‘skins’ pile smoothly on top of each other. Vallyon lies protectively on top of the pile as the lights fade.

To the sound of water and the dancers making clicking sounds in the darkness, they emerge from their ‘skins’ into crawling, rolling, swirling animalistic movements, reminiscent of some of the works of Pilobolus Dance Theater. A shaft of diagonal light draws the dancers into two parallel diagonal lines, unfurling over the top of each other, progressing ever closer to the light as if drawn by some force, then retreating back. 

The music for this section grows into an insistent beat with rippling sounds reflective of the fluid integration of the dancers’ bodies. The dancers slowly sink to the floor and move away, leaving once again the solo dancer balancing, unstable, unsure, in silence. 

In the following solo, the seemingly troubled and frustrated being struggles to find co-ordination and balance, falling to the floor and re-attempting to find equilibrium many times. The other dancers then slowly carry into the space, one by one with great care, a glowing ‘blob’ (wire framed sphere covered in stretch fabric with electric bulb inside). 

The electronic-sounding music for this section has a magical quality, as the dancers finally gather all the ‘blobs’ into an upstage corner, re-enter their ‘skins’ with their glowing ‘blobs’ and gradually switch off each ‘glow’, leaving the entombed beings leaning silently against the wall. 

This is a visually and aurally carefully crafted piece, sensitively lit, with very close correlation of movement and music. Perhaps reducing the length of the last section may add to the overall impact of the work.

Option B by Xinia Alderson. 
Music by Tool and Bloc Party. 

The programme note explains the theme of the piece, of the inherent ‘busyness’ and personal demands of student life and this is clearly evident both in the choreographic content and the convincing performance of the dancers from AUT. 

A set of short strips of wide white tape are fixed to the centre of the floor space, rather like the centre lines on a road. The dancers enter in a queue formation, all jostling each other, one dancer insistently trying to get past the others, holding a badly closed suitcase spilling clothes. They all seem to be nervously looking for someone or something and engage in individual repetitive action sequences, perhaps representative of the “catch up conversations happening again and again” mentioned in the programme outline. 

The movements become more frantic and the ‘suitcase girl’ runs quickly to draw a picture and dashes around the audience worriedly asking, “Is it good?” Ever trying to ‘measure up’ to our own and others standards is perhaps the message here?

A series of ‘fitness runs’ from side to side across the space give the impression of continual stress, of constantly being ‘flat out’. Suddenly, the dancers run to put on clothes from the suitcase, one of them blows up a balloon with which they all play briefly – a moment of light relief, respite from stress perhaps? The music becomes louder, the dancers begin shouting and appear really under pressure until they fall to the floor, exhausted. 

A much more relaxed mood permeates the next section, where all dancers seem to be comfortable and allowing themselves to express their feelings naturally. 

Suddenly, one dancer becomes frustrated and tries unsuccessfully to rip up one of the white tape strips – she screams, the others watch, considering their response, then all rip up the rest of the tapes with enthusiasm and pleasure!  A frantic scrambling to throw all the clothes back in the suitcase and try to close it ends the piece in keeping with the theme.

The high energy of this piece is appealing and the scenario and sensations depicted are easily recognized and understood. Perhaps tightening the length of some sections could enhance the imparting of the key messages.

A gender and performance inquiry – concept by Val Smith. 
Music by Rubber Bride. Performed by Smith and Mike Holland. 

This work makes use of the bar area, as the two performers enter singly in silence and take up natural, but pensive positions at the bar, ignoring each other. They are dressed in jackets and trousers, with feminine blouses with frilled collars – a ‘gender inquiry’ indeed – one is clearly male and the other female yet sporting painted facial hair, so the gender could appear ambiguous. 

They walk steadily forward to face the audience and stand side by side, eyes intently focused ahead. Gradually, and very, very slowly their gaze moves from side to side. Then heads turn and bodies ease into swinging actions, strong body turns and further acutely focused stares … quite mesmerizing. The dancers turn to face each other, and their eyes eventually connect. The female peels away one shoulder of her jacket as music begins, then walks away to the main performance space and removes it fully. 

A guitar melody begins as she reaches slowly upwards, seeking, seemingly deeply pained. Her open blouse reveals black tape in strips around her chest, rather than the expected feminine undergarment. Her movements are slow and deliberate. Finally she retrieves the jacket and exits at the opposite end of the venue to the bar, where the male has been waiting and watching. 

An intriguing piece, which certainly explores the power of stillness, silence and focus and leaves the questions surrounding gender open to interpretation.

An old friend in a new time by Kura Te Ua. 
Music compiled by Te Ua and Paddy Free.

As explained in the programme note, this work offers “the beginnings of a new discovery in Maori movement derived from the fundamentals of Kapa Haka.” The piece opens with a montage of still photographs and video clips, some historical and some more recent, of Maori cultural performers and performances, compiled by Maurice Rapana. This is an effective introduction to the theme of “the need to break through the confines of traditional rule, but keep the notion of looking back to move forward.” 

The two male and two female dancers enter the floor space wearing modern casual clothes – hoodies, track pants, etc – which are removed to reveal traditional Maori clothing, with the men holding an impressive greenstone patu each and one of the women, a set of poi. This woman begins familiar shimmering Maori arm and hand movements whilst the men practice various strong postures and elements of the haka.  

The soundtrack changes to a flute-like instrument and spoken Maori and English language. A short, but searing waiata leads into a very powerful and menacing haka, performed dramatically and with great commitment by the dancers. 

There is a sudden change of focus to the stage, where a pile of mattresses are stacked – perhaps reminiscent of a marae? A female dancer appears, happy and carefree, jumping joyously onto the mattress pile. The dancers who had performed the haka enter the floor space in street clothes and an apparent game of ‘chase’ ensues. 

To the sound of guitar music, one of the women appears to be teaching the other dancers a traditional Maori dance, which they gradually achieve. The dance grows in complexity until all are dancing with assurance and energy. The dancers exit chatting and giggling, whilst another montage is shown. 

The dancers re-enter in contemporary dance-style costumes – rich purple shiny sleeveless dresses over black tights for the women and black pants, purple bandanas and bare chests for the men. This section fuses the powerful eye focus and striking arm gestures of traditional Maori dance with the weight, momentum and fluidity of contemporary dance, to music with a haunting rhythmic pulse. 

The men make menacing sounds crouched low around the dance space, increasing into a full, energetic dance sequence showcasing their strength and projection of command through piercing eyes. Finally, one of the women sings more and more softly as the men move smoothly low to the ground, to a hypnotic rhythmic beat.

‘An old friend in a new time’ indeed highlights both the value and importance of retaining and appreciating cultural dance traditions and the innumerable ways in which these can be melded with other dance styles to create innovative new forms. 

22 by Amy Mauvan and Febe Holmes. 
Music: Beethoven’s Piano Concerto #5 in E flat major

This piece by two Unitec graduates opens on the stage, which is decorated as an interior with a table, stools, lamp and quantities of fabric, one length of which is covering the head of one of the two seated female dancers. They are attired in soft floral dresses, very feminine and quite timeless in design. The dancers move seemingly unaware of each other or choosing not to acknowledge each other at the outset. 

An unusual feature of this work is the way in which the very melodic music starts and stops, as though we are being shown snapshots of the many facets of the relationship between the two dancers. They appear to go through various states of mood and emotion, leaving the type of relationship a mystery. They could be sisters, friends, partners, mother and daughter, all of which could have similar ranges of feelings: connections and avoidances, joys and annoyances. 

A creative choreographic approach is shown in the dancers moving frequently with their back to the audience, making articulate use of the spine, shoulders, head, arms and hands, yet minimal use of the legs and feet. 

The serene opening section gradually becomes more intense; a paradoxical juxtaposition of soaring, graceful music with angry and quite distraught actions as the dancers seem to vent their feelings upon each other. This intensity in turn fades into calmness as the music becomes continuous, leading into the denouement of the piece. 

Finally, one dancer moves away to sit on a chair, as if in a quiet reverie. The other joins her, sitting close, and leans her head softly onto the other’s shoulder. Peace reigns and all is well with the world. This is possibly the type of work that allows the observer to find meaning based on their own ideas or life experiences, to interpret the work’s theme in their own way. 

A valuable feature of this programme is the opportunity to talk to some of the choreographers after the performance, to gain further insights into the thoughts and creative processes of this crop of talented young dance professionals. 

DANZ and the Interns are to be congratulated on the success of the W.I.P initiative and on the opportunities this has provided for new graduates of tertiary dance programs to test their choreographic, performance and production wings. Here’s hoping this ‘testing ground’ dance platform can be continued, developed and enhanced for future participants and audiences to benefit from. 
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