Blueprint – SUB / Toi Pōneke Productions
21-24 March 2018, Te Auaha, Wellington
NZ Fringe Festival
Reviewed by Leah Maclean
Connor Masseurs and Toa Paranihi of SUB are a force to be reckoned with on the stage; the recent New Zealand School of Dance graduates bring a genuine dynamism and vibrant passion to the performance landscape. Their new show, Blueprint, supported by the Toi Pōneke Arts Centre Dance Residency, is the beginning of what I’m sure will be a striking portfolio of independent choreographic works.
Blueprint premiered at the 2018 Fringe Festival to a delighted audience in Wellington’s brand new arts institution, Te Auaha. The production is an amalgamation of Masseurs and Paranihi’s background in hip-hop, contemporary dance and theatre, supported by the mind-blowing beatboxing of Molly Mason.
The stage is almost bare, excepting two panels of white string; string which as a recurring motif comes to represent the web of life. Masseurs and Paranihi enter the stage wearing matching tracksuits and the work proceeds with a series of synchronised routines, powerful solos and mesmerising hand motions. We watch as Paranihi darts across the stage with metres of string creating a large-scale spider-web, which he later battles through in frustrated rapture – much like the way we deal with some experiences in life. But despite the seeming intense connotations of the 'web', the duo don’t present an entirely gloomy production. Masseurs breaks the third wall following Paranihi's passionate battle with the string, it is hard not to laugh and feel a bit of relief ... "I liked your solo with the string. I bet people will read into that." Part of me has to agree. This kind of comedy throughout, verbally and physically, creates a comfort within the audience and conveys the fact that Masseurs and Paranihi are having a bloody good time. It's marvellous.
Their fluidity between contemporary dance and hip hop is seamless and watching that shift between genres is fascinating – from moments of tight, controlled upright movement to liquid smooth floor work. When Molly Mason enters the space and uses remarkable beatboxing techniques to dictate their movements, the technical precision of the duo becomes even more apparent. They respond flawlessly to Mason's sounds and effortlessly entertain with their expressive, independent movements and animated stage presence. In the moments they perform apart, it is difficult to choose a focus point.
The music is eclectic as is the lighting by Mattias Olofsson. It connotes feelings of different worlds and experiences which is precisely what one would expect from a production with such hybridity. Blueprint is an entertaining, accessible and experimental piece of dance. This is clearly just the tip of the iceberg of what Masseurs and Paranihi have to offer the New Zealand dance world, it will be a delight to watch the journey of these two young artists as they seek to evolve their choreographic voices and practice.
Photo by Conor Cameron