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Review – LIMINAL Choreographic Season 2024 – New Zealand School of Dance



Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre


10 May 2024

Choreographic Mentor: Holly Newsome
Lighting Design & Operator: Elekis Poblete Teirney
Costume: Elishia Ward

Reviewed by Brigitte Knight


Photographs by Stephen A'Court

The New Zealand School of Dance presents Liminal; eight works choreographed and performed by the eight third year contemporary stream students, curated into a cohesive 60 minute production overseen by choreographic mentor Holly Newsome. Presented unconventionally in the round, the student choreographer/dancers manage and manipulate spatial and sightline challenges seamlessly, animating most of the theatre’s space while focussing energy and the audience’s attention centre stage. 

Opening the show Anna Hosking’s In the Making relies on breath and sound from dancers Aleeya McFadyen-Rew and Sophie Sheaf-Morrison contracting and rippling across the floor. The two dancers provide intriguing casting, simultaneously matched for strength and engaging stage presence whilst having strikingly different personal movement qualities. Sheaf-Morrison commands the space with charismatic performance detail, and McFadyen-Rew is exquisitely quick, controlled, elevated, and physically captivating. With the unhurried introduction of music from the Attacca Quartet, Hosking’s choreography builds and expands in a considered and well-structured exploration of “…the conversations we have with our mirrored self…”. A circle of five dancers drinking tea on a pile of small Persian carpets bookends Aylin Atalay’s Please Let Me Remain, a timely work of sisterhood, community, and hope that is both intimate and inviting. The work populates the stage with changing groupings, fluid choreography, joyful energy, and a clear sense of intention that may have been strengthened by seeding movement material and integrating props and positioning in a more interconnected way.

Natural? by Lilia Brackley is one of Liminal’s boldest and most directional works. Wielding lighting, masks, and movement material with modernist, sophisticated precision, Brackley delivers punchy horrorshop imagery and vibrating isolation-informed choreography without ever slipping into the territory of the kitsch or over-familiar. All eight dancers come together for this propulsive and satisfying work, which earns more volume than it’s soundtrack is afforded in the second part of the dance. Sophie Sheaf-Morrison’s Primo looks to “…embrace the freedom and vitality of movement; indulge in the frivolous insignificance of it all…”,  juxtaposing vernacular disco and vocational contemporary dance vocabularies supported by beautifully focused expressive theatricality by dancers Aylin Atalay, Anya Down and Trinity Maydon.

Hardly Working by Anya Down is brilliant in the round, and utilises a reasonably familiar core concept of bisecting pathways, greetings, and short physical interactions with intelligence, nuance, originality and resounding success. Down’s work for seven dancers has momentum and integrity and her choreographic voice speaks boldly and with clarity. Four square windowpanes of light delineate the performance space in Audrey Stuck’s A/Effect danced by Atalay, Brackley, Down, and Maydon. A more streamlined iteration of Liminal’s costuming enhances appreciation for the strength and power of the dancers in a choreography that delivers on what it promises, exploring proximity, connection, disconnection, effect and affect, animation and tension.

Accidental Renaissance by Aleeya McFadyen-Rew makes thorough and considered use of classic props – chair, table, briefcase – in an everchanging power struggle between her three dancers Brackley, Hosking, and Stuck. Engaging two marginally different movement vocabularies, one quite reminiscent of Crystal Pite’s The Statement, the work is well structured, entertaining, and complete. Finally, Trinity Maydon’s Worn Shoe once again bisects the space with lighting, however, in this work it cages soloist Anya Down in, constructing living, moving parameters for increasingly wild choreography. With the inversion strength of a breaker, Down masters the attack and release of Maydon’s emotionally-honest movement material, dancing with integrity and vigour to near exhaustion as the choreography and concept demand.

Liminal is supported by thoughtful, effective lighting by Elekis Poblete Teirney which helps to provide structure for the eight different choreographies. Costumes by Elishia Ward have a clear design aesthetic and enough options to support the cohesive yet varied works within the show. The colour palette of white and off-white is crisp, yet offers little to delineate one choreographer’s set of bodies in motion from the next, and occasionally some of the designs’ fabrication and bulk masks finer movement detail. The New Zealand School of Dance 2024 third year contemporary students are a class of remarkably strong and consistent dance artists; each of the eight women technically refined, professionally skilled, thoroughly engaging and vibrant onstage.

Photographs by Stephen A'Court


Review – LIMINAL Choreographic Season 2024 – New Zealand School of Dance

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