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Reviews – NZ Fringe Festival 2024

 

 

Tapiri Nui Theatre, Te Auaha

Wellington

21 February – Lick Off My Tears, Death Is Also Dying – L!ck Dance Theatre

28 February – Rituals of Similarity – Dance Plant Collective

5 March – The Way We Wilt – EKC Choreography

 
Reviewed by Brigitte Knight

 

"Lick Off My Tears, Death is Also Dying"  Photograph by Peter Blaxter

Fringe/NZ Fringe/Wellington Fringe has been presenting eclectic arts to audiences in the Capital for 33 years. As an open-access festival Fringe does not select or curate content, instead allowing anyone to register an event and perform or present whatever they choose. Arts offerings tend to be multidisciplinary, creative, experimental, and sometimes niche. Run by the not-for-profit Creative Capital Arts Trust, Fringe 2024 features hundreds of events in more than 20 sub-genre from mid-February to mid-March, in a huge variety of venues from the expected to the surprising.

LICK OFF MY TEARS, DEATH IS ALSO DYING

Direction/Choreography: Sofija Milić

"Lick Off My Tears, Death is Also Dying"  Photograph by Peter Blaxter

Newly-established L!ck Dance Theatre presents their first full-length work Lick Off My Tears, Death Is Also Dying at Fringe 2024. In its first iteration the work was one of a collection of short pieces created for the New Zealand School of Dance 2023 choreographic season Axis where it was bold, theatrical, bombastic, and stylised. Choreographer Sofija Milić’s development of Lick Off My Tears, Death Is Also Dying is a resounding success; a clear point of view, definitive world-building, authentic and informed movement vocabulary and exploration, and a strong, balanced, and dedicated cast. Milić employs colour symbolically (grey for the pedestrian, red the aspirational) in costume and prop design created with Max De Roy, and this visual duality strategically informs the work’s thematic content. Lick Off My Tears, Death Is Also Dying considers people as destroyers and creators, two-sided creatures trapped by the mundane, but jealous of the exceptional. With a diet of capitalism, consumerism, materialism people are constantly looking outwards for fulfilment when what we really need is inside each one of us.
Milić utilises a cast of both actors and dancers, and although there are differences in movement clarity and control, the richly theatrical and thoughtfully stylised choreography is suited to integration. Likely limited by resources and time, the lighting of Milić’s work is less punchy than the original version performed at Te Whaea, however, her intentions remain clear and the full-length work is buoyed by sound design by Raven Harvey-Lomas. Serbian pop/folk music, live voice, and body percussion are engaging and effective, although at times could be employed with more restraint in order to enhance the strength of their impact. Lick Off My Tears, Death Is Also Dying is intelligent and emotionally resonant, especially in the impeccably wild falling solo by Luke Romero, and the evocative closing section.

RITUALS OF SIMILARITY

Direction/Choreography: Brittany Kohler & Natasha Kohler

"Rituals of Similarity" Photograph by Ben O'Connor

Auckland-based Dance Plant Collective has five co-directors, all graduates of Unitec’s BPSA Contemporary Dance programme. The collective has an impressive 7 full-length works in its repertoire to date, and is securing a reputation for intelligent, authentic, earnest, and professionally rehearsed and produced original dance theatre. Rituals of Similarity began as a short development showing within Dance Plant Collective’s The Cost of Arms and Legs at Auckland Fringe Festival 2018. In 2022 with the support of Red Leap Theatre’s Greenhouse Residency and mentorship from Kelly Nash and Nancy Wijohn it was developed into a full-length production. Choreographed and performed by identical twins Brittany and Natasha Kohler Rituals of Similarity is a quiet, intimate work, inviting the audience in from the opening moments with the dancers pre-set onstage, and effortlessly holding focus until the similar-but-not-mirrored conclusion just under an hour later. Abstract but with enough crafting of thematic narrative sections to move the work along, imagery of twins in the womb, through childhood fights and games, birthdays, developing identities, embraces and struggles, is supported by a pink and white palette of set (Talia Pua), costume (Zoë McNicholas) and lighting (Paul Bennett).

Employing soundscape, brilliant unison choral speaking, gentle humour, proximity, and minimalist but effective props Rituals of Similarity is accessible without being simplistic, and offers satisfying moments of strong and clear technique. Brittany and Natasha Kohler partner with utmost care and respect, all the while reaching for one another’s bodies with a confidence, assuredness, and entitlement that may well have developed on a subconscious level. Intentional or not, the result reinforces the layers underpinning the work, and makes Rituals of Similarity a thoroughly honest, loving, nostalgic, and welcoming production. 

“It’s hard to say when this work began, considering we met before birth and have been dancing together ever since…”

Rituals of Similarity brings to mind the whakataukī kāore te kumara e kōrero mō tōna ake reka; humble, effective, and perfectly capturing the sibling/twin relationship.

THE WAY WE WILT

Direction/Choreography: Elizabeth Cocks

"The Way We Wilt" Photograph by Natasha Halliday; Edited by Elizabeth Cocks

EKC Choreography returns to Fringe with their second full-length contemporary dance production The Way We Wilt. Comprised of two separate works, the duo Love to Mourn and solo Tears of a Marigold, Elizabeth Cocks’ choreography is realised by New Zealand School of Dance students Aylin Atalay and Anna Hoskin, and graduate Bailey Ema Dewar (Ngāti Kahungunu, Rangitāne). The works sit comfortably together assisted by the juxtaposition in costuming by Elvis Booth-Claveria; creamy, flattering classically feminine silhouettes for the duo contrasting with crisply groomed hair and stark, elegant black for the solo. Booth-Claveria’s set design is less successful, with strips of white fabric and other suspended items untouched and doing little to enhance the limited space of Te Auaha’s smaller Tapere Iti theatre. A box covered in white fabric is utilised for levels (although otherwise unexplored) in Love to Mourn, but the hoop of suspended white fabric filling centre stage in Tears of a Marigold leaves precious little space for the soloist. When the hoop fabric is used to open the work, create silhouettes and shadows, and to mask the dancer, glimpses of possibility suggest rigorous exploration and utilisation of this device could justify its significant stage presence in future.

Love to Mourn is “an intimate look into the pursuit of joy and the fragility of this emotion despite the inevitable ending of those moments” and moves through pleasing sections of choreography danced with skill and attention to detail by Atalay and Hoskin. Unfortunately the transition out of the initial movement of Love to Mourn was disrupted on opening night by an usher bringing a late group across the front of the stage and into the top of the seating block. In spite of this disruption, the closing section - reminiscent of the iconic corpse waltz in Hofesh Schechter’s Grande Finale – landed effectively with intended subtlety and intimacy. Transitions into and between movement sections would benefit from deliberate crafting, likewise the dramatic composition of the work needs the holistic overview of a dramaturge to deliver an emotive arc that resonates with the audience. Tears of a Marigold presents personified death “come down to understand the living…it must experience everything to understand anything”, delivering some satisfyingly nuanced and beautifully controlled choreographic detail performed with commitment and finesse by Dewar. Incorporating live voice and attempting rapid transitions between emotional states, Tears of a Marigold undermines its own dramatic intensity; the lack of dramaturgical crafting a barrier to bringing the audience along with Cocks’ choreographic intentions. Both works in EKC Choreography’s The Way We Wilt show plenty of skill and promise, however, and with editing may be more effectively realised in possible future iterations. EKC Choreography have also done a beautiful job with their online promotional material, with professional images and videography capturing moments from The Way We Wilt season.

Lick Off My Tears, Death Is Also Dying - Photographs by Peter Blaxter
Rituals of Similarity - Photographs by Ben O'Connor and Kusal Ekanayake
The Way We Wilt - Photographs/Editing by Natasha Halliday and Elizabeth Cocks

 
 

Reviews – NZ Fringe Festival 2024

 
 
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