Rushes - Movement of the Human
21 February 2017, Lower NZI Aotea Centre, Auckland
Reviewed by Sarah Knox
Shadowy figures are poised on tiptoe, eyes closed, faces showing varied degrees of patience, concentration, serenity and discomfort. As we filter excitedly into the first room of Rushes, we are forced to slow and negotiate the precariousness of the dancers. We involuntarily participate as we weave through the group, no longer certain who is who. Moments of voyeurism are playfully presented and the audience begins to meander, chatter and document.
A dream team of movement (Malia Johnston), music, (Eden Mulholland), light (Jo Kilgour), projection (Rowan Pierce), and design (John Verryt) have created a paper walled world, containing multiple rooms, of varying sizes, each a surprise, a delight, a feat, to happen upon. Johnston is masterful at complexifying simplicity with her signature explorations of balance, proximity, spatial restriction, and endurance. Mulholland’s live musical landscape inhabits the space with messages of connection.
Each space presents new encounters: an endless teetering embrace behind a smoky veil, a woman in a red dress forever waiting, a miniscule violinist down a long peep hole, a room full of balloons bumping against each other in response to a dancer’s movement, a white beam of light shrinking a trio of dancers into an ever more confined space, a writhing, shimmering torso far in the distance, scattered paper shards remain of a wild dance once performed for an empty row of chairs, a platform of visitors endlessly coming and going, a pulsating room of loud morphing movement. The paper labyrinth plays tricks on the eye and experience of where we might be led and what might emerge through the walls.
The performers are diverse in age and performance background, dancers, actors, creators; some leaders in our dance community and others at the cusp of a career. The joy and togetherness of spirit and physicality emanates from every single member as they select what room or task to engage in, quietly stopping on their way to greet audience friends. Authenticity and energy seeps heavily from every brow and pupil. Each performer is dressed in an outfit of their choice, carefully revealing details about identity, desire and flair.
There are several metaphorical reflections of the current state of our professional dance community. Physical perseverance, endurance of attention, care and neglect of others, selfish moments in the light, and we all fumble in the dark. Towards the end we gather in the largest space watching a dance party subvert itself – the dancers fall to the ground exhausted. But then, they begin to rise, reaching, stretching upwards like a vine into the light. Then, one, two, three, several dancers push them down again repeatedly but they can’t quite smother them enough. The other dancers continue to fight. There is an undeniable uprising on its way. They are spinning, spinning, spinning, and then balancing once more, masked, sightless. An audience member extends a hand to steady a swaying dancer and I believe that in amongst our creative, social and cultural challenges, somehow, we will be okay.