Short + Sweet Dance Gala - Short + Sweet Festival
6 September 2015, TAPAC Performing Arts Centre - Auckland
Reviewed by Sue Cheesman
The Short + Sweet 2015 gala night presented a pick and mix of dance works in a smorgasbord of sweets, with differing genders, group sizes, content and genres from Classical Indian, Contemporary, Cook Island, to this year the inclusion of trapeze. It was frustrating, that again like last year, music was not credited in the programme.
Transparent one of three contrasting duets was aesthetically pleasing to watch, as they seemed to liquidly share a similar dynamic throughout. Rochelle and Edward on Trapeze cleverly mapped interesting ways to connect one striking position to the next in seamless transitions. One stunning movement captured the acrobatic Rochelle Mangan twisting, turning and weaving over and around Edward Clendon, to finish hanging upside down below him under the trapeze.
Melted Brown, choreographed by Vivian Aue, was stunning, full of athleticism and commented on being Westernised with the need to connect with bloodlines through rituals such as Tattoo. This piece, which began with a formal entrance of a pig head on a traditional fale (mat), changed tack as it built and changed in intensity throughout and culminated with the two dancers, front stage, face down gnawing away at the pigs head. Well-crafted choreography provided the opportunity for Elijah Kennar and Villa Lemanu to show off their range of physical skills - particularly high aerial jumps. This work deservedly scooped several awards.
A-K-V, choreographed by Alexander Upokokeu-Henry, explored identity and gender within the context of the Cook Islands community. In traditional dress there were some
beautiful moments captured through movement and song. The traditional historic/tourist view transformed into fiery women scratching down their fronts and yelling in powerful defiance.
Escalated was set in a square. The restriction highlighted the struggle for space. This was articulately played out by Monique Westerdaal, Chancy Rattanong and Shane Tofaeono in many ways – scarcity of personal space, bumping into one another, expelling dancers from the square, commanding the inside space and holding on to the edges for grim life, ending with all three dancers falling back into the square to recapture their slice of territory.
The Rhy of Rain highlighted the earth’s water cycle by exploring the eternal love between the sun and the water. Pelting rain, thunder, lightning and sunshine created a variety of moods for this piece which blended Indian classical dance, hand gestures, wide bent knee stance and foot stamping with more abstract contemporary sections, including body rolls and floor work which created a seamless Indian classical fusion. Six female dancers expertly performed changing formations and weaving patterns,
which were beautiful to watch. A striking moment was created as all dancers in silhouette lined up with arms fanning out in canon.
Stray began with loud drumming, heralding the slow processional entrance of the four strong performers on to front stage. The choreography by Tallulah Holly-Massey was quirky and the choice of movement vocabulary, different than what we have seen in another pieces, stood out.
The Crickets have Arthritis was a stunning performance, both heart rendering and poignant in its dealing with the subject of cancer. The word score told from the viewpoint of the roommate provided the basis for the contemporary movement vocabulary, strongly performed by the choreographer Rebekkah Schoonbeek-Berridge.
Dressed in Star Wars PJs the young 11 year old Aedan Burmester embodied the role of nine year old Lewis, cancer sufferer with natural ease – “you can eat as much ice
cream as you like- that’s all there is”. At one point loaded with symbolism feathers, plucked from his pillow, drift and fall to the ground. This duet was cleverly crafted and we saw the strong yet tender but not indulgent connection between the two dancers exemplified through play, lifts and shared movement phrases danced in unison.
Secta by Perri Exeter concluded the programme and won the peoples’ and judges’ choice awards. The work was centred on the behaviour patterns of organised groups such as gangs, cults, religious sects and institutions. Cleverly crafted this work allowed for strong male performers to shine. The understated beginning with all dancers sitting in rows belied what came next. It was somewhat disturbing at one point to see two male dancers standing directly behind the two female dancers manipulating them in a circular manner like rotating dolls, with no sense of control over the situation.
The gala evening fittingly finished with a range of awards given out acknowledging the many dancers and choreographers talent and hard work.