Thursday, October 29, 2009

This is an old review but I just found it in a folder and I think its chur as so its going up! Written by Alexa Wilson

‘Terces Ym’ – Performance Improvisation

Graduation MCPA Performance by Sarah Gavina Campus

Danced by Sarah and Val Smith

November 5 & 6, 2008

TAPAC Auckland

A calm opening in the darkness. Two women are present. At ease, open and powerful within darkness and light as if they are one. A depth created in space and body which makes performers and audience alike seem as if they are together in the deep ocean in its depth and calm- both emotionally and spiritually. The way the light cuts through deep ocean/space creating an ephemerality and a clarity, the two performers engage with their presence, each other and the environment. I am mesmerised. There is both stillness and expanse as the two move with such poise, awareness and synchronicity one would or could think this dance is 'choreographed'. Of course, we know, it is. In the same way that life unfolds and tells us its many stories in one long, manifold constant.

The beauty of liminal improvisational performance is that it not only opens and heightens spaces and transitions and transforms strong imagery also evoked in the viewer as a liminal exchange, but it fuses or morphs imagery and experience together between them in one constant exchange and endless transformation. This was my primary experience of the performance.

As the space/body work opened, I began a 'reading'- perhaps defined by these black, androgynous military costumes clothing that had such inherent female power, beauty and intelligence floating in deep space and time. I saw a connection to World War II and the trails of this left in our generations blood/DNA make up, coupled with Italian (traditional/folk) song and knowing Sarah's genealogy of Italian/Sardegnan family history. I was aware that this was my own projection and I was seeing or 'making of' the improvisation what I wanted, but this very European experience of survival during war and horrific disconnection from celebration of humanity which brought such suffering (perhaps a reason for immigration to nz?) was at once sitting inside the grief of this past and healing it at the same time. I saw also the reclamation of a long line of female magicians, healers, shamans, and witches healing this history together. This was in the beginning of the performance and an example of the imagery, which arose and was evoked in me.

There was such a depth of presence and sensitivity within both performers Sarah and Val, - such a deep knowing and trust available to them that each movement, gesture, moment of contact or solo moment was embued with extreme awareness and care. While there was the power of pain transformed in small and large stories through transitioning moments in both audience and performer, the liminal space created an extremely focused, vulnerable and powerful sense of love and safety. Things were looked after and cared for in this world created by the performers.

Retreat into darkness was as profound, loving and artful as a reach of the hand into a small square of light. There was no judgement here, only being, being in self, with other, powerful and generous. The skilfulness of this form of improvisation is so captivating because while both the performers in this work were extremely internally aware and intuitive they were also as externally aware and giving of themselves and the audience. This is SUCH a rare quality in ordinary dance. While it is fleeting in other 'choreographic' or 'improvisational' work it was continuous throughout this performance which for me was a testament to the mastery of their improvisational craft and bond together as performers and people. They created a space for new voices and experiences to be felt, heard and seen. This was done through total clarity and presence within the ether.

This was my overall experience of this absorbing, powerful and moving performance.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Prodigious Pilot

Yours Truly Productions present Prodigious Pilot
Transmission Room

By Georgie Goater

In the heart of high-rise Auckland city, an emerging group in an underground venue take on popular culture through contemporary dance. Indie/pop music (Lady GAGA, Lady Hawk, Lilly Allen, Gwen Stefani… and more) runs until we are casually ushered to the cabaret-seated dungeon facing the stage. Banana lollies in trendy vintage teacups and bowels of fruit are on offer throughout the space. In front of the stage to the right, stand racks of hanging clothes, to the left a mock band of instruments – a drum kit (tagged “The Peelers”), keyboard and 2 guitars made out of cardboard and tinfoil; evoking a memory of the knitted aesthetic in Stereogram’s video “Walkie Talkie Man”.

Out of the darkness lurks the first performer who takes their place on stage (perhaps the lead band member of “The Peelers”) - a 2-imensional life-size Banana head man, who proceeds to execute a lateral two step dance to the beat of the music, building to a climactic boogie. A gimmick false start to the show along with a voice-over announcement introducing Prodigious Pilot, sets a tone of the ironic mockery of pop hype.

Six young women explode into the space with a sassy synchronised dance routine, of which the integrity is carried through a collective interpretation of the popstars personas, and each performer’s own expression of their ‘bedroom mirror’ alter-egos. This chorus of Cool Bananas complete with uniform yellow printed t-shirts and yellow sneakers is the recurring theme and structure that frames the series of dance vignettes in the show, through theatrical scenarios and leg air-guitar dancing. Overtly characterised and throw-away in performance, yet effortlessly united and succinct to the musical beats, these individuals dance well together.

A stylised Egyptian duet between a male and female is slick, fast and tight, displaying pleasurable moments of unison and partnering movement supported by the dynamic base-heavy track by Santigold.

With the choreographer herself as the bride in between murdering bride’s maids, a soap opera inspired scenario of dance unfolds. Detailed, fast and intricate movement expresses the build up of internal angst, beautifully executed by this technical trio. A deconstructed sound score of dramatic organ sound bites, is the only break in the show from popular music – in all a sophisticated highlight in the show.

An improvised dance to Joy Division has a solitude woman staunchly enter the space and bounce on and off beat across the concrete floor like an awkward lone rocker at a concert. An honest performance, as the dancer naturally progresses through the build up in the movement and melts into a grin; this is a delight to watch.

Melancholic Moby and Iron & Wine play musical access in a private friendship heart to heart duet. Helping each other into long dresses, the weighted dancers come off the floor into a soft dance of freedom.

A final solo dance to Billy Idol’s hit track “Dancing with Myself” triggers the return of the Cool Bananas, in a chorus frenzy of high legs, quick turns, swooping arms and the repeated gesture and sound of eating (bananas). The dancers charge around the space through the audience and up on to chairs chanting “go bananas” infusing the audience a with sensory banana overload.

Yours Truly Productions has bravely taken on pop music as their access to self-expressive choreography, despite the challenging nature of predisposed associations other popular art forms can present when making dance. The punchy, catchy dancing always matches the level of hype and interest of the pops songs and is never outweighed – a challenge I believe these girls achieved with their innovative dance moves. The banana as the symbol of pop eventually exhausts the show without development from its original introduction – a journey is missing with this idea. I am left wanting more, but with less banana.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Sacred Blend Satisfies

Sacred Dance Tempo 09
Collection of works
4,5 & 6 October
TAPAC, Auckland

Review by Sarah Gavina Campus

So what’s sacred about our dance here in Aotearoa? I went along to immerse myself in a programme designed to initiate a shift in consciousness.

This year’s Sacred Dance programme offered an eclectic mix of physical and metaphysical dance that traversed through emotional and environmental landscapes in search of expansion and expression.

First up was Dee Landon’s work ‘Persephone’, performed by Sassy Niven. Niven dances in homage to the Greek fertility myth of Demeter and Persephone’s journey to the Underworld. Resplendent in pink and white, Niven exemplified the Isadora Duncan style of dance – free flow, bare foot, expressly feminine.

Sassy did a great job in emotionally exposing the tale, particularly and clearly through her facial expression. Gestural movements and a flattering draped pink and white costume spoke of delicate flowers, earthly abundance and added an archetypal female signature to the piece. Invocation in arms and footwork deftly wove wave like patterns emphasising circles and arcs, continuity and female cycles of birth, growth, renewal and change. Niven dances with assurity and definition, reflecting the tradition of Isadora with a clear sense of timing and rhythmic and lyrical flow.

Jumps were precise and a welcome counterpoint to her floorwork. My sense was that Landon attempted to portray both characters of Demeter and Perspehone, speaking through the dancer’s body their relationship to the underworld and eachother. Two performers may have been a more fitting choice in order to clarify the theatrical dynamics of this ancient myth. Sassy performed both roles with commitment and an awareness of the shifts in state needed to profile each character.

Next up was Jennifer De Leon, in a brave and self-reflexive piece of work entitled ‘The Light Came Through The Window’ (2008), exploring her total dedication to dance following major hip surgery. Revival, resurgence and regeneration emerged as primary feeling tones, as did portrayal of plummeting sorrow, grieving and loss that physical injury can have on a dancer’s career and passion.

Jenny danced with conviction and fortitude, opening her vulnerable self to the audience. She combines her history in modern and balletic dance with contemporary sensitivity to the space around her, softening her body at times to yield to forces of gravity and momentum.

The exposure of Jenny’s open chest to the sky added another heart felt depth and sense of intimacy to the work. Falling and spinning into the backspace combined with strong limb extension provided dynamic balance and showed Jenny’s willingness to embrace current contemporary movement genres. A repeated series of rond de jambes appeared to reference the location of her injury; evocative of the ordeal her body has experienced.

Music by Leonard Cohen was the perfect sonic accompaniment to support themes of sombre loss, purposelessness turning to purposeful, the rekindling and picking up pieces of broken anatomy, and an uncompromising ferocity to stand tall in the face of adversity.

A free standing split leg balance displayed De Leon’s physical skill and ability to control her form. Her prowess as performer and technician emerged strongly, and I encourage her to continue to find stability in her work, both physically and in live performance. Jenny appeared to be breaking some of her own habits in dance by committing her body to move in a ruthless and tender pursuit of her own journey.

Monisha Kumar presented ‘Natraj Dance’, a potent mix of polarity in response to the deity Lord Shiva. Kumar cuts a stunning figure of Indian graciousness, speed, charm and precision. She energises a direct line to her audience, which captivates our hearts. Monisha communicates to each audience member, allowing us to witness her passion and commitment to her sacred dance.

This dance revered Lord Shiva through a series of continuously morphing and fluid images that explored ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ aspects. Movements alternated between articulate traditional finger, head, arm and foot patterns more evocative of a feminine essence in classical Indian dance, to explosive and dynamic whole body expressions that propelled her directly and speedily through space and with ‘masculine’ energy and force in limbs, eyes and torso. This provided a real winning combination for the viewer. An extended sequence of ‘on the spot’ turns displayed Monisha’s ability and expertise in this dance form.

Musicality comes naturally to Monisha, evident in the marrying of her superb footwork with the beats of both traditional contemporary rhythms and contemporary music which accompanied the change of states from ‘feminine’ to ‘masculine’.

I delight in watching Monisha dazzle with costume and a face that so expressively lights up the space around her. She appears effortless in her ability to hold contradictory rhythms in her body with animated power and one pointed focus and attention to detail, whilst dancing with such joy!

Benny Ord’s solo presence on stage is unmistakable. Mixing fluid precision with a length in his limbs that seem to wrap themselves around the entire stage, Benny also exudes calm and serene stage energy. Ord epitomises the ‘cross-over artist’ – equally masterful in both camps of contemporary and classical form.

‘Peter’ (2003), choreographed by Mary-Jane O’Reilly, was originally commissioned for St Paul’s cathedral in collaboration with the Auckland Choral Society. Ord eloquently embraces the moodiness and turmoil demanded by this piece. He appears instinctively in command of both melancholic qualities and technical virtuosity - who can forget those leg extensions! Benny is rapidly coming into his own as a mature male dancer, able to portray the inner world of the solo dance character. He captures in movement the poetry and sensitivity needed to dance this journey in a modern ballet style.

Ord’s lines sear through the space. He appears like a sea bird in the wind – highly articulate, delicate and powerful in a masculine style. Although classically trained, Ord’s body owns a contemporary sense of weight and momentum that strikes the space in a lightning like manner. He sets and conveys the story with honed focus and commitment to each moment to ooze a simple looking body whilst dancing complex choreography.

Benny’s next challenge is to bring his quirky and unique dancing signature to his face and allow his mask to generate aliveness and expression so natural to his body. This will enrich and add whole new layers to his charismatic presence.

The stand out highlight of the evening for me was ‘Siva Aitu’, the new 30 minute work by emerging company Ura Tabu, choreographed by Charlene Tedrow. This strong band of women is a potent force to be reckoned with – a posse of young bodies grounded in earth, in sensual stage presence and in their relationship to eachother. The mix creates a performance synergy that ignites the space with reverence to cultural and spiritual homelands.

‘Siva Aitu’ was broken into 5 parts or rites of passage, each beginning with film footage dedicated to various components of Pacific living. Geography, environmental disasters, history, colonisation, cultural artefacts, artifice and community spirit is touched upon and explored in a rich soundscore composed of natural sounds of bush, birds and animals.

The dancers of Ura Tabu are totally committed to this work. Hands appear so softly to touch the earth in respect for themselves and for the environment of Pacific peoples. Fingers trace simultaneously delicate air patterns in the sky whilst pumping bare soles lay claim to the earth inside their blood.

Choreography presents a mix of traditional, contemporary and hybrid forms, each appearing as an exploration of primarily ensemble formations. The women are so tuned to eachother that this format works very well for them. A dynamic sensitivity between each performer creates a palpable tension and longing for reunion and symmetry when one dancer departs to solo or duet.

Costumes cloak and/or reveal the body in simple lines and combinations, fleshing sensuality and honouring traditional and current fashion. The ‘mix and match’ approach further conceptually developed could create a fresh mark on the dance scene in this country. These women offer a point of difference. They are not afraid to show us their wildness and abandon, their sexual integrity, their love of their people united through time and geographic distance, and their sacred relationship to nature and cultural practice.

With a narrative hung loosely around departure from a shared point, navigating outwards to locate new knowledge from Pacific lands, and re-emerging with new forms, Ura Tabu presented a dance fitting to the recent turmoil in Samoa. Touching upon environmental themes allowed audience members to realise the preciousness of the Pacific and the fragile environment in which it sits.

Film images of faces and people in action coupled with live drumming and singing reinforced the communal elements vital to the conservation and preservation of Pacific ecology and rituals. Images were skilfully woven to impact the overall choreographic texture. With further artistic development these could become a powerful symbol to inspire and clarify a cohesive choreographic voice.

Each dancer embodied the entire movement range required by the dance - from wild head and hip movements to earth pounding plies and foot rhythms, and fantastically focussed eyes channelling the lineage and spirit of Pacific peoples. My own mind and body is steeped in kinaesthetic and visual memories of dextrous fingers dripping through pockets of air created by rippling, curvaceous, sensual arms.

In all the works of the Sacred Dance programme, my spirit was moved – someplace, to a new place, to a place I had never been. Only by the performers embodying their own sense of the sacred could I be opened to my own experience. Well done everyone. Let’s hope you continue to define and redefine the sacred in your dance and to share in skill and celebration.


Footnote Forte Solo Series

Footnote Forte Solo Series
6 pm, 12 October 2009, City Art Rooms, Lorne St, Auckland

By Alys Longley

Footnote Dance Company’s latest offering Footnote Forte gives a new twist to their repertoire, with a series of solo works, each one made by a different choreographer, performed in unusual locations. Here in Auckland it’s the City Art Rooms and the bar Cassette Number Nine. I very much enjoyed the intimacy of the works and the intensity of the dancers- the intimacy of performer and audience is matched by that of the two dance artists collaborating in making a new work – as the evening unfolded I thought a lot about the provocative nature of the solo dance work.

Michael Parmenter’s piece Somebody’s Darling folds out from itself in enticing layers of formal play, narrative complexity and creative heritage; the work is choreographed to Douglas Lilburn’s somber, moving piece Elegy, which dancer Francis Christeller’s grandfather sung for its original recording. Christeller’s intense performance quality reminded me of Parmenter’s performance of his Long Undressing, especially as this piece is actually structured as an undressing, from the formal confidence of the performing opera singer to the near naked figure of a figure stricken by loss. I enjoyed the space that Parmenter gave his movement phrases, the formal cycle of movement echoing the shifting tones of Lilburn’s arrangement of poems by Alastair Te Ariki Campbell.

Kristian Larsen’s Adze was a work of sparking, diving, hurtling playfulness, with
dancer Claire Lissaman flowing through unpredictable momentum paths into abrupt shifts of rhythm and form. Larsen made Adze as a tribute to local composer Phil Dadson, but I really can’t figure out why Dadson’s music didn’t feature in the work – his creativity sure did though, Lissaman radiated the experimental pathways of Dadson’s sonic / aesthetic experimentation with confidence and strength.

Dancer Anita Hunziker was positively ablaze with the confidence of a who-gives-a-shit electro-pop loving teenager in Sarah Foster’s Firecracker. Her brooding demeanour shot through excessive pathways of what the programme describes as a “cathartic onslaught of movement”. This movement was edgy, provocative, and very rock ‘n’ roll.

The final work of the evening (two of the program’s works– Ross McCormack’s Stealth and Malia Johnstone’s Lens 1 are off the evening bill) was set in bar Cassette Number Nine – a perfectly chosen venue for Maria Dabrowska’s Stark, which fantastically brought dancer Sarah Knox’s tremendous skill and spark to the stage. This was a very tight, enjoyable piece, although I must say that it was almost too tight, with a bit too much ‘tah-dah-ness’ for my taste. I would have loved to see the darker, more challenging elements of Stark’s legacy brought to the fore – and I would think that Dabrowska would be the one to do it, as she’s proven she’s highly capable of innovative and edgy work.

It was a pleasure to enter the field of such fiery, electric collaborations between choreographers, dancers and composers.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

And We Need You!!!!

A review of Prime Cuts
Alys Longley
6 October 2009

No seriously, my feeling is that right now our dance community is desperately in need of the kind of work performed in the Prime Cuts show of this years’ Tempo Festival. Big ups to the curatorial team of M.J O Reilly, Marianne Shultz and Marama Lloyd who selected a body of daring, inspiring and challenging dance works, all of which deserve longer runs and extended development.

The evening began delicately with Sefa Enari’s work Fanua. This choreography was danced with sophisticated articulation by Filio Vaila’au, with composer Poulima Salima’s soundtrack echoing the fusion of the modern and the traditional in contemporary Samoan dance.

Melanie Turner’s work Texture evoked landscape and birdlife. Abstract movement was punctuated with environmental motifs, with digital projections folding the dancers in rich texture of light, colour and pattern, reminding me of the way light creates and recreates the movement of the forest with shadow and sun.

My heart skipped more than one beat for Anna Bate’s new work Score, performed by Bate and Mariana Rinaldi. This dance felt rough, ready, confrontational and playful. From the outset this piece signalled that its audience was going to be more like a room of active witnesses (and perhaps testifiers or judges) than a safe and passive audience, to the extent that our presence as audience was cleverly choreographed into the torsion of the work. This piece had me on the edge of my seat, and really made me want to DANCE in salutation of the anti-social, the imperfect, the radiant strangeness of negotiating interactions with others.

Gabrielle Tomas’s piece Hapu was another courageous work dealing with a negotiation of shifting identity – the term “heavily pregnant” couldn’t apply to Thomas, who shared the incredible form of her pregnant body with lightness, almost ease. The want of utter easiness occurred in Tomas’s engagement with what she describes as the ‘celestial grotesque’, which she describes in the programme notes as a form of physical endurance. Tomas’s work begins with a film work; she is submerged in water, her pregnant body rich with movement – this state soon becomes uncomfortable – is she trapped in the water, will she surface? She eventually does, but the sense of a disconcerting lack of control, of weight carried and of the magnificence of this weight makes this a gripping work.

Geordan Wilcox and Kristian Larsen’s work re:set closed the evening. Wilcox and Larsen are wonderful performers,– as highly experienced dancers they might be considered an unlikely pair – Wilcox’s forte being ballet and Larsen’s being performance improvisation, but it is in the disjunction between movement vocabularies that this work sparks. The tension between Wilcox’s controlled sharp lines (heightened by his wearing a pristine suit) and Larsen’s idiosyncratic, organic informality (wearing a singlet) were perfectly matched. As the piece finished I must admit I was left with a desire for the partnering in the work to develop further, and this is a work that I think should be developed, which felt like it had further depths to mine.

In fact, all of works in this years Prime Cuts are well worth further development. I especially hope that Melanie Turner’s Texture has a further run as I felt this was a piece that was just finding its feet, which the dancers could release themselves into still further, relax into, to really find the edges of the phrasing that Turner skilfully and rhythmically choreographs into her work.

All in all, I would say that Prime Cuts is a must-see. It’s rare to see such a diverse body of choreographic ideas brought together in such a way that the works accent each other, with the singularity of each work still being supported. And a random tinsel bird person as well!! Perfect!!

Biljana Bosnjakowich, titled "the vitruvian woman", as part of Chiba&LaPupazza at Okidoki Gallery, Neukölln Berlin, 0ct 3rd 09

So I just posted this on my facebook status because I was moved by a small piece of performance art in a gallery that my new Italian friend Sara had taken me to in my local suburb of Neukölln in Berlin, which was a group exhibition organised by Italian artists. I said 'Alexa Wilson saw a performance in an exhib last night where a woman lay naked on the floor and encouraged people to sit around her touching her as she joined people's hands gently across her body. . nice and unexpected for berlin. something quiet, something ...gentle.. something honouring of vulnerability. cool to see small children also observing with curiosity. no irony, no rock n roll, no ego. simple. .'

Then Cat, the editor of this review site, wrote to me 'yellingmouth!' and I thought I don't know who the artist was though, but then I realised that not only does this performance sum up alot of things I think European progressive performance really has to offer right now in 2009 going on 2010, but we ARE in the digital age and I can easily find out who she was. And this is the strength of this age.. so here we are creating and sharing webs of community, experiences and ideas.. across the world, across the net- with my Italian friend opening me up to a world of Italian artists in an underground Berlin gallery, Cat encouraging this website for caring community performance and so it goes on. And really, I need to say and share this stuff actually because it is part of a wider trend right now, helps me feel there is hope for the world, is very much a direction which interests me in performance and makes me just feel more normal to write about it. So here it is...

The exhibition is called 'Chiba&LaPupazza' (Italian for 'Feed' and 'The puppet') presented in Okidoki Gallery and is a mixture of photography, painting, installation, object art, illustration, music and performance. And there's also a great feed.. which goes with the title of the show. Free (often vegetarian) food in a community based- artistic context is not unusual in Berlin, which tends to have a former east, communist-anarchist-community arts vibe about it, with lots of food collectives around putting on free food nights everywhere. Not only Italian artists present work at this exhibition, there is also a heavy presence of Japanese artists with live electro music, video and object art. Being Berlin right now there is alot of nudity in the photography and I am not surprised to then see a naked performance. Infact I have seen nudity in public in non-creative contexts. It doesn't seem to be a big deal to bust out nudity in Berlin in public.

So all this understood, a female performer (Biljana Bosnjakowich) enters the front room of the packed and pretty small gallery, covered in white paint and nude, to lie in the middle of the floor like a starfish, facing up. As I am standing outside, I have to crane my neck to see over people's heads or between their legs to see that she has joined up the the black lines/markings on her body with those of a circular type grid marked out on the floor- which I had earlier noted and thought was some kind of basketball court or sport-like demarcation of space. So I read it as making her body somewhat like a known territory for games or sport, aggressive, competitively fought over etc.

She lay there for some time. The audience had that combination of anticipation caused by waiting and bordem as they sat and stood patiently expecting something to 'happen'. People left the room as the silence became more uncomfortable, so I was more able to see as- and I'm not entirely sure what initiated this process, perhaps the performer beckoning- about 5 or 6 people, both men and women, slowly came and sat around her body, touching her with theirs in an alarmingly gentle and respectful way. It was not what I was expecting.

It was actually disconcerting to see people in Berlin responding in such a kind way toward vulnerability. They even had beer in their hands, as most people tend to here. I didn't know what to make of it. Then Alice, the performer, began to touch people's hands and faces gently, with fingers which created some kind of gesture towards measuring their bodies. Then she started to join their hands together, in pairs or groups, across her naked body. Some of them touched her body gently with their own hands. She undid some hands and joined them with others. I noticed a girl around 10 or 12 sitting in a chair looking directly down the event with totally patient curiousity. Oftentimes here I have seen the small children of Berlin witnessing some really amazing event or world-class international artist do their thing and thought 'lucky little bastards' and 'they're so cute' and how they will grow up so so cool. And so they should, its the new skool way.

So finally the group left her, and again I've no idea what initiated this as I couldn't see very well. She then got up, the lights went dark, then (maybe accidentally) on again as she then ripped a video camera off the official looking videographer of the evening to leave the room. I wasn't sure if this was staged or not. Ambiguous. People clapped. She returned to thank everyone, including the Italian community who had supported the event. She sounded American when she spoke english but was fluent in Italian also.

Upon discussing it with my Italian friend after- we decided the circular grid was actually Leonardo da Vinci's famous drawing of a male body splayed with anatomical circular measurements around it. Was Biljana Bosnjakowich therefore addressing issues around the female body, which does not fit the male archetype or (art) world, having and doing its own measurements of others from a position of powerful vulnerability? I really couldn't say. All I was really left with was a feeling. A feeling that something special had happened. Something rare. Something I have not seen yet in performance. In a typically 'rock n roll' internationally urban cool gallery environment in a city which is renowned for 'anything goes'- that a naked woman lay in her ultimate vulnerability (visible from the street) on a concrete floor under harsh lights inviting people to sit around her and hold hands. It drew me in, it took away a sense of separateness that I may have as an urban dweller, it softened me, it certainly softened those who participated, and it gently asked all involved (including viewers) to question the power of vulnerability to transform social relations in a healing, loving and community way. There was no judgement, no irony, no pushing away or harshness. It was fresh, both for Berlin and the world (of performance too) because it was not trying to be anything other than people relating- genuinely, real-ly, in the moment, in a respectful way to female bodily vulnerability. I thought it was very powerful in a quiet way.

Within context I know that Europe has a lot of somatic and healing performance processes and ways to offer. I have done alot of workshops to this description since being here. I know it has been happening for sometime but it seems to be gaining momentum at a pivotal time in world history- with the threat of planetary destruction upon us. Gone is the need to harshly strip bare, or push to the extreme, or deconstruct, or ironically and sardonically entertain to make a point or say something via performance.

We are looking at a new era of what is real and truthful here in this world- through the existential lens/platform/vehicle/artform that is performance- using the live body presence to do so. If there's anything I've learnt from being here it is that if performance/choreography is putting itself on a pedestal of spectacular virtuosity or even deconstruction in the privileged western world at this time in history in pretentious or elitest ways to only the privileged that maybe its day is over- and it certainly pails completely in comparison, in my humble opinion (lol), with an emerging underbelly of work worldwide- whether performance art or improv based- which aims to meet and transform communities in a genuine attempt to make the world a better place, starting with being real in respectful ways. To me, all else seems shallow, egotistical, just dull and somewhat lazy... when faced with so much to actually change. Sometimes I want to tear my hair out. So yay for the likes of Anna Halprin and a legacy of powerfully healing community work.

And thanks to Biljana Bosnjakowich for sharing the love. The world needs more of it as we know, and I hope to pass it on... to beloved Aotearoa. Which has so much potential for genuine love as well. If only we could really realise it. Europe is defs not the be all and end all of everything of course, just more stuff. Lots more stuff. Thanks Cat for reminding me! It's all about sharing.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Steel Ballerina

Steel ballerina
Tempo 09 Dance Festival
4:00pm Sunday 4th October 2009, TAPAC Theatre, Western Springs, Auckland

Reviewed by Rosemary Martin

I was hopeful that Steel ballerina might just be a production that would offer the ‘real, rough and raw’ side of the balletic environment, through a production inspired by the life of Dame Margot Fonteyn, Prima Ballerina Assoluta - the woman who was possibly the epitome of all things ballet. As the advertising stated, Steel ballerina was to explore “... the idea of a creative expiry date and the private versus public face of a dancer”, I was hyped.
Steel ballerina, created by Mel Dodge, Pagan Dorgan and Jacqueline Coats, and performed by Dodge and Dorgan, demonstrates that unless you have a very real understanding of the nuances of the ballet world, it is difficult to offer an audience a version of events that is free of stereotypes and clichés.

Blending fact with fiction the performance merges narrative and movement. The narrative, provided in short vignettes incorporating the experiences of Fonteyn and friends (Nureyev, de Valois and the fictional ‘Anna’), were well crafted and poised, and it was apparent that Dodge, Dorgan and Coats had done their history homework.
The downfall of the production - the part where I just wanted to close my eyes and make it all go away –was when the dancing began, which is a shame when you consider that this is a production motivated by the lived experiences of one of the greatest ballet dancers of the 20th Century. I understand that Dodge and Pagan were not attempting to emulate Fonteyn’s movement; however some refinement, originality and sophistication in both the choreography and dancing could have gone a long way in making this work more convincing and compelling.

The movement vocabulary itself was lacking in depth and substance, with the section performed by Dorgan on the floor being cringe-worthy and unattractive. The soundtrack – a blend of artists such as Bjork and Thom Yorke, Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Purcell, Jeff Buckley and Gary Lucas – fitted the storyline like a glove, though only further emphasised the lack of choreographic development and innovation. The lighting by Corinne Simpson was superb and provided a focus for those times when I couldn’t bring myself to view yet another sickled foot in sur le cou-de-pied.

It was clear that the focus of this work should have remained on the spoken text and sharing the fascinating on and off stage moments of Fonteyn’s life. Steel ballerina only just began to raise themes such as identity, transitions, retirement, pressure, fear, aging and pain in ballet, without looking to explore why or how such issues exist and are dealt with in the ballet world. There are hints offered that Fonteyn’s life may have been much more complex than just tutu’s, Tchaikovsky ballets and Covent Garden premieres, however we never find out much more that the subtle suggestions offered throughout the work.
I learnt two things from this production, firstly that I shouldn’t have got my hopes up, and secondly you should always believe the wise words of Public Enemy - “don’t believe the hype”.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Tertiary Colours

Tertiary Colours, 30th September-1st October, Tapac Theatre

By Cat Ruka

Tempo Auckland’s Festival of Dance 2009 kicked off tonight with it’s first show Tertiary Colours, showcasing 7 works from 5 of Auckland’s leading tertiary dance institutions. A fine idea in my opinion to begin the Tapac season with the future’s talent!

The programme begins with the University of Auckland’s ‘Woven’ choreographed by Juanita Jelleyman. Woven demonstrates a threading together of Maori, Pacific and contemporary movement, resulting in a subtle and clean vocabulary neatly interpreted by 9 female dancers. Crisp formations roll and dive into one another, fitting together like an M.C Escher puzzle painting. Also representing the University of Auckland for the evening is Juanita Jelleyman and Ai Fuji-Nelson’s duet entitled ‘Whisper’, a delicate interplay that explores the dynamics and relations between two females.

‘Hokkai Bayashi’ is a solo piece performed by Pamela Sidhu (East Auckland Performing Arts School), whose physical prowess is well suited to the athletic and technical balletic style of choreographer Patrick Sunderhauf. Sidhu performs each moment of this piece with an attacking precision, mirroring the fierce drumming music that accompanies her.

Dancers from the Apollo Theatre School perform 2 pieces for the evening, ‘Sing, Sing, Sing’ from the musical ‘Fosse’ and ‘Latin Fever’. Both pieces are executed with high doses of energy and strong commitment to movement, and a genuine sense of enjoyment and pleasure that only fresh young bodies can achieve!

Human Scenery is a modern ballet piece choreographed for 13 dancers from the Auckland University of Technology. Choreographer Phillipa Pidgeon does well to manage this number of young dancers on stage, who although at times seem to drop away from the performed moment, still do well to maintain the general form of the piece.

Those Left, choreographed by Shona McCullagh and performed by 11 female Unitec dancers is a dark and brooding choreography set to an amazingly emotive piece of music by Gorecki. Having already seen this piece performed in 2008 I had a fair idea of what to expect, and I would like to congratulate these young dancers on interpreting this challenging choreography with passion and heart.

I commend all of these young dancers on their obvious professionalism and dedication to movement, and look forward to seeing them grow through the years to come. Great start to Tempo! Hugs.