CONTRAST - Footnote New Zealand Dance
27 October 2017, Baycourt Community Arts Centre, Tauranga
Reviewed by Dani Miller
Footnote New Zealand Dance’s CONTRAST presents two thought-provoking works created by Emma Murray and Sarah Foster-Sproull.
CONTRAST opens with Participation, choreographed by Emma Murray. Participation consists of a simple, rhythmic sequence which is repeated and varied throughout the duration of the work. The opening lighting reveals four dancers costumed “casually” in op-shop-esque attire, rocking rhythmically in unison. As the rocking sequence continues to repeat the audience begins to question what they are watching, pulling phones out to re-read the programme and whispering amongst themselves. The choreography continues to develop and we gradually see subtle changes that then make the audience question whether these changes are actually occurring or whether due to the choreography’s simplicity, they are just becoming more aware of the finer movement detail. These subtle changes soon become more obvious variations with dancers increasing arm movements, adding directional changes, and turns. The increasingly varied movement sequences accompanied by fast paced rhythmic music is reminiscent of Footnote’s 2005 work ‘Kura’ by Moss Patterson.
The programme quotes “we imitate and we empathize because human beings are not closed, wholly autonomous creatures.” This quote is embodied as Anu Khapung entered the stage with an energy in direct contrast to that portrayed by the other dancers. Despite seeming withdrawn from the others, she is quickly drawn into the choreographic sequence, latching onto dancers through weight-bearing movement. The way that she blatantly invaded the other dancers’ space depicted that of a socially awkward individual striving to fit in. Eventually, Anu is also imitating the repetitive sequence and the group choreography continues to increase in scope, becoming more playful as she is accepted into the group.
Participation, simple in nature, is a captivating work and a refreshing reminder of how impactful and absorbing simple motif variation can be.
The second work, Super Ornate Construct choreographed by Sarah Foster-Sproull strongly contrasts the first work. As a narrative work focusing on ‘the man alone’ archetype, the work depicts the anxieties and inner turmoil of ‘A Man’ danced by Adam Naughton. The opening sequence reveals Adam pondering his thoughts while flanked by four dancers. Moving to voiceovers, the dancers produce cardboard cut-outs of objects and arrows used to compliment Adam’s movement. The flanking dancers use of arrows is a highlight of the work as they re-occur throughout the piece, drawing focus to movement as the dancers fluidly manipulate the arrows from one position to another and at times adding a humorous element to the work.
Despite being a narrative, Foster-Sproull has abstractly pieced the work together telling the story in a RONDO type structure, returning to the initial choreographic sequence multiple times while layering other character interpretations as the work goes on. The dancers expertly portray the narrative throughout their performance, you can feel the frustration of Tyler Carney’s character as she expresses her narrative by contrasting tense movement with moments of softening and release.
Super Ornate Construct is a beautifully presented, thought-provoking work, that leaves the audience in somewhat of an existential crisis.