MEAT – DANCE PLANT Collective
14 August 2018, Basement Theatre, Auckland
Reviewed by Lauren Sanderson
MEAT is a contemporary dance theatre work that looks in depth at factory- farming, delving into the darkest corners of New Zealand’s animal industries. It’s a powerful piece about the psychology of consumption and leaves you questioning what are you consuming and more importantly what consumes you?
Choreographed by Tui Hofmann in collaboration with DANCE PLANT Collective, a performance group that creates politically challenging and transformative work. Hofmann’s choreography is brought to life by the talented dancers (Brittany and Natasha Kohler, Rosie Tapsell, Bella Wilson and Jaz Yahel) who explore the process of meat consumption and the journey it takes from farm to fridge. The dancers take the form of the animals, butchers and farmers, and we as the audience represent society as the spectators to the animal cruelty that has been embedded into our culture.
As we entered the space, the piece had already begun. A female figure (Bella Wilson) was crouched on the floor and began slowly convulsing. As the room began to fill Wilson’s breathing became more frantic and her convulsing grew more aggressive as she started to take on more animalistic qualities.
The work consisted of group choreography and solo movement that was extremely clever, dynamic and fast-paced. The performers were perfectly in sync and fed off each other’s energy to create new and engaging movement. The recurring imagery of humans as animals was strong throughout and although some imagery was shocking it certainly captivated us.
As the piece unraveled the theme of consumption broadened, focusing on the environment, privilege, health, accessibility, colonisation and culture. Rosie Tapsell creates a powerful image that will remain in my mind. She enters the stage naked but covered with a single plastic sheet, as she moves across the space she consumes more and more plastic to the point she has formed a full dress. I think this is extremely relatable in today’s society.
The use of the space and props was incredible. Two dancers lay slumped at the top of the scaffolding like carcasses and had us questioning whether they were real while the other three dancers utilised the space erratically thrashing from one corner to the next. Although the solo choreography was strong, the group work was certainly the most powerful as the gestures were sharp, erratic and stretched from floor to ceiling.
The costume designed by Lisa McEwan was stunning as it still had elements of human to it and wasn’t fully animalistic. It allowed the dancers to transition from human to animal with ease and highlighted just how easy it is as humans to be consumed by the industry. The music composed by Alex Zielinski and lighting design by Paul Bennet really complemented the choreography and reiterated the chaos of the meat industry.
MEAT confronts topics that others necessarily wouldn’t and that’s what makes it so engaging. It challenges the norm which is exactly what needs to be done in dance. It will make you feel something, whether that be anger, sadness, laughter or just darn right confusion. It’s not a judgmental piece, more of a conversation that needs to be had.