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ORCHIDS – Foster Group
13 October 2017, Q Theatre, Auckland
Tempo Dance Festival

Reviewed by Lauren Sanderson



Representing the girls at Tempo Dance Festival is Sarah Foster-Sproull with her striking new work ORCHIDS.

Born from a fascination with the mythology that surrounds the orchid flower, ORCHIDS contemplates the conflict of females at different stages of their lives. The all-female cast explore a variety of relationships - from interpersonal relationships to the other worldly metaphysical realm of the goddess.

Sproull sets out to uncover the complex female spirit through the art of dance. Her powerful choreography shows women in all their glory: Women as mothers, witches, lovers, beasts and otherworldly creatures.

The contemporary piece is made up of strong female performers: Marianne Schultz, Rose Philpott, Katie Burton, Tori Manley-Tapu, Joanne Hobern, Jahra Rager Wasasala and Sproull’s daughter Ivy Foster.

ORCHIDS connects some of New Zealand's most intriguing artists and designers who have come together to create compelling imagery, which is complemented by Eden Mulholland's evocative score.

Marianne Schultz and Tori Manley-Tapu open the show with a delicate duet, hand gestures soon turn into elongated whole-body movement as they re-create the structures of the feminine flower.

Elizabeth Whiting’s costume design certainly catches your eye with each dancer dressed in a unique autumnal colour yet the same loose playsuit design, which suggests a cultish quality to the work. The costumes aren’t the only aspect to catch your eye, one of the main attractions of the piece is the diverse age range on stage. From 7 years old through to 60, each performer adds their own personality and share their own stories.

The choreography was cleverly crafted with an intertwining mix of solos, duet’s and group sequences. It was evident that the solo performances were mainly choreographed by the performer as each dancer added their own spin to the work, demonstrating a different side of the female physique.

Joanne Hobern’s solo was a highlight, bringing a unique energy to the stage as she plummeted into the air with ease and travelled across the space at lightening pace, while remaining beautifully eloquent.  While Jahra ‘Rager’ Wasasala’s powerful solo was visually stimulating as she became possessed by a demonic presence. Her disjointed movement worked in her favour as she contorted her face and body simultaneously to create a contemporary and hip-hop fusion.

While the solo performances were strong, the simultaneous group choreography fused the piece together delivering eye opening imagery. A stand out image was when Rose Philpott took on the role of Medusa, the other dancers pulled her hair in different directions as she danced around with the women attached to her, revealing the darker side of women's relationships with one another.

Overall, ORCHIDS is a symbol of female empowerment. All I can say is two nights certainly wasn’t enough. The work was high energy, robust and pure magic. It makes a bold but true statement that every woman has to experience darkness in order to grow into a beautiful flower.

See Theatreview review (Jenny Stevenson)


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