Fleur de Thier, Robyn Webster & Hyde Productions - Anchor Point
4 September 2016, CoCA Art Gallery, Christchurch
Reviewed by Sheree Bright
Anchor Point is a stimulating performance, the first phase of experimentation on a work after five days of dancers creatively engaging with an exhibition of installation art (Robyn Webster). As part of an open process, guests of the CoCA Art Gallery were able to view the installation with choreographer (Fleur de Thier), dancers, musician (Jace Northe), and lighting designer (Sean James) during their collaborative creative processes.
As the audience waits in the foyer, dancers enter from outside while Jace plays an electric guitar beckoning to them from the top of a double height, cement staircase. Creatively utilising the wall and banister, six dancers manoeuvre their way up the stairs as the audience follows. Professional dancers; Julia McKerrow and Aleasha Seaward work as a cohesive unit with dancers from the Hagley Dance Company; Olivia O’Brien, Tessa Newton, Phoebe Mander and Frankie Harris.
As we first get up the stairs, the four Hagley dancers are manipulating and intermingling with 12 black, human length Harakeke sticks (NZ Flax) joined end to end creating a circle. The white joins are flexible and move in the most remarkable variety of angles, rotations and designs, from floor level to high above the dancers' heads. There is a stunning moment when Phoebe is left with the entirety of the Harakeke draped around and extending above her. She turns slowly. The sculpture goes with her but changes itself as it moves and as she eases into a slow, controlled backward fall to the floor with the sculpture wrapped around her.
Jace changes from electric to acoustic guitar while Aleasha and Julia dart deftly in and out of the negative space created on the floor by the Harakeke sculpture. As the sculpture is moved to be hung, the audience moves to sit on three sides of the installation which consists of several interactive sculptures suspended from approximately 4 metres.
Aleasha and Julia move with clarity and ease, mirroring and responding to the moving angles of the now hanging Harakeke sculpture as other dancers raise and lower it by moving water-filled plastic bags that serve both as counterweights to the sculptures and sound sources.
There is a hanging mobile of weighted, white strips of canvas in varying lengths and two lengths of NZ art slides. This mobile is turned as two dancers turn inside it, while the musician calls haunting tones. There is a moment where Julia is moving on the floor under it when one of the lengths, ever so gently caresses her cheek.
Various unique elements manage to work together like different instruments in an orchestra, an innovative, cohesive recipe. Keyboard, acoustic and electric guitar and singing are all performed by Jace, as he changes his position in the room, superbly interacting with the dancers. There are some choreographed synchronised contemporary moves by all six dancers, some repeated short phrases by individual dancers along with improvised movements. Julia McKerrow demonstrates her silky smooth, effortless pivots and turns.
Green netting is draped from covered hooks. Several suspended large red net tubes are stuffed with streams of black video tape. While the dancers are moving with long strips of tape pulled from the netting, the musician explores making sounds with the tape. Frankie manages some interesting moves while being blindfold with the video tape and having it wrapped around her body, perhaps images of the past restricting her from seeing or experiencing the present.
Sean James navigates the room, controlling the lights with his iPad and shining a green hand held light on different dancers/sculptures creating a movement of focus. There is a wonderful interplay between the movements of the musician, lighting designer, dancers and the suspended sculptures. From where I am sitting, at one point, I can see dancers right in front of me and, through the sculptures, a dancer at the opposite end of the room. The dancers extend the spatial footprint of the installation and the installation extends beyond the spatial footprint of the dancers.
Fleur and Robyn speak with deep sincerity about the project. Fleur speaks of the joy of the process. For Robyn it is a representation of what we all universally share, “movement, change and the progress through time”. She observes that the various elements in the installation are asleep and then danced to life by the dancers.
This multifaceted show is beautifully performed, captivating and easy to watch. An audience member comments, “I lost all concept of time. The (Harakeke stick) section was like sacred geometry.” I think for most viewers, rather than providing a narrative, Anchor Point stimulates the senses and heightens awareness. It creates a desire to get up, have a play and interact with the installation art. Thoroughly enjoyable!