What They Said
New Zealand Dance Company
Tempo Dance Festival
Choreographed by Jo Lloyd,
Q Rangatira Theatre, Auckland
7-8 October: 7.30pm
Reviewed by Jenny Stevenson
Photo: John McDermott Photography
In her new work for the New Zealand Dance Company: What They Said, Australian choreographer Jo Lloyd uses subtle humour to create her exposition on the impact that words can have on people. It is an exuberant romp of a work, performed by a sterling group of dancers – the company augmented to seven - who parade, preen and pose in an environment where almost anything seems possible.
It demands a certain amount of complicity from the audience. The dancers with their carefully arranged expressions and lurid eyeshadow, cast knowing glances at the audience in the manner of theatrical “asides”, that assumes they are in on the joke. But while there is much that is amusing there is also plenty of food for thought, underpinning the spectacle.
The work depicts a type of evolutionary process, with the dancers making an entrance in low light, clad in white full-body unitards while undulating and slithering on the floor on their bellies. They enter a carefully delineated white space and slowly become upright, sentient beings, attaching hair to their bodies with red string and beginning to move backwards, jumping from one foot to another, like small children in a beginners’ ballet class. It is a very funny start, with Carl Tolentino’s face a picture of mock-sagacity – giving off a Melania Trump insouciance vibe of “I Really Don’t Care, Do You?”
Gradually the dancers don and then discard, colourful miscellaneous items of clothing designed by Andrew Treloar, which they retrieve from the side of the stage or which are hurled unceremoniously to the floor, from above. They begin to interpret vocal instructions with words and fragments of phrases initially forming an almost constant part of the soundscape, featuring music by Duane Morrison.
The dancers are moving in random or patterned formations until they suddenly stop and arrange themselves into two “mountains” in opposing corners. The “First Mountain” voices inanities to the “Second Mountain” across the expanse of stage that separates them and they respond in kind. A wonderfully surreal moment.
In the course of the work there is some beautiful dancing which can be enjoyed on a purely physical level. The seven dancers: Tolentino, Eliza Sanders, ‘Isope ‘Akau’ola. Josie Archer, Kosta Bogoievski, Ngaere Jenkins and Oli Mathieson are highly trained in the technical sense, but also innovative and playful. Their rapport carries the momentum of the work.
As it progresses, words no longer feature prominently in the soundscape and the dancers begin to transform into what is referred to as a “moving landscape” with some clothed in fluorescent-coloured costumes. The movement dynamic alters and eventually gives way to less-mobile formations until the performers finally revert to moving at floor level – as in the beginning of the work.
New Zealand Dance Company states in their programme “we exist to change the way audiences experience contemporary dance” and What They Said goes a long way towards fulfilling this goal.