Meander On - OPIUM Entertainment
2 March 2019, Te Auaha, Wellington
NZ Fringe Festival
Reviewed by Leah Maclean
OPIUM Entertainment's Meander On brims with beautiful imagery, stylish choreography, powerful music scores, and 12 incredibly gifted women. Meander On is inspired by the cycle of the moon and fuses modern dance, storytelling and original music into a 50 minute journey through discovery and transformation.
The scene is set by Te Kahureremoa Taumata, the beautiful voice of this work, encircled by 11 white clad dancers, all posed in a foetal like position. They represent the full moon, the 11 sisters central to the story, and the beginning of this journey. Taumata is a singer, storyteller and co-writer of this work. Her original music and singing is laced throughout and an absolute treat to hear. Her pipes exude a soulful emotion that cut right to the core and easily transports one into the ethereal world of Meander On.
Hannah Dellow (Artistic Director and choreographer), Atareta Bridge-Comer, Raquel Abolins-Reid, Caitlin Peetz, Lucy Everett, Molly Gare, Esther Lau-Young, Emily Jepson, Liesl Eksteen, Hannah Ashwell and Sophie Martin make up the dance troupe – all Wellington based commercial dancers and all stunning to watch. As a collective they have beautiful intensity and excellent physicality on stage; I am a sucker for big group sequences and OPIUM Entertainment surely delivers.
The dancers have great synergy which shines through in the intricate formation of the dance sequences. One sequence in particular rouses an audible audience response in which the 11 dancers form a perfect line and execute an almost psychedelic metachronal rhythm with their arms – they are a slick machine. Each dancer effortlessly shifts their repertoire to express the phases of the moon; from waiflike arrangements embodying the beginning of the cycle, to an almost hostile full-body war dance to represent the 'darker side' of the moon and the lunacy often associated with it. Their transitions are clean and easy to follow, however to accomplish a truly seamless composition there could a little more refinement done on their synchronisation work.
I want to make special mention of the costumier, Nada Racic, and the lighting designer, Morgan Whitfield. There are a number of costume changes, seamlessly done by the dancers, representing the different phases of the moon. Each costume has been well considered, creating excellent silhouettes on the dancers and a dreamy colour palette of metallic blacks, silvers, reds and whites. Complementing the costumes, Whitfield's lighting design is also gorgeous, from a simple spotlight to a sheeting of dazzling stars. His range of hues and displays are striking. These, in combination with the original sound and music, work together to present a clever and well – thought out piece with excellent production values.
Meander On is a robust and empowering work with oodles of ambition. OPIUM Entertainment is a very new performing arts company in the Wellington scene. It will be fascinating to see how this team of talented artists cultivate their work and explore more deeply, the realm of multi-disciplinary art.