Flying Down Sand Dunes by Well Fare State
BATS Theatre, Wellington
28 November 2019
Reviewed by Lyne Pringle
How do you fly down a sand dune? Carried by momentum with the ground falling away beneath your feet – perhaps? Flying Down Sand Dunes is the second iteration of a heart-felt dance work. A group of accomplished recent graduates first presented this show at the 2019 Fringe Festival. That rendition was, in a simple reading, an exploration of luscious movement. It celebrated the pleasure of group endeavor in bodies sumptuous from three years of training; bursting forth onto the tiny Propeller Stage at BATS Theatre with enthusiasm for somatic exploration. Ten months later the Well Fare State company present their second iteration. Sebastian Geilings and Jareen Wee take the lead, Lachlan Broughton and Alanna Main return with new additions Hamish Phillips and Gabriella Mersi.
The work has shifted and changed to reflect the challenges of their first year in the dance industry. It still has a spine of pure movement and begins with organic shapes that evoke birthing; multiple arms as tendrils reaching skyward leading into slow soft group choreography full of curve, lilt, rise and fall. It is a poetic sigh. Their well-grounded bodies hugging the earth are refreshingly tender. A murmuring signals the introduction of voice into Jack Jenkin’s multi-layered evocative sound which cleverly augments the visuals. Elekis Poblete Teirney’s inventive design lights the way with many striking effects.
Emerging from the harmonious chorus, Jareen Wee begins a monologue that maps her ‘year out’ and the reality of survival. The introduction of a specific narrative and voice out of abstract movement jars but the power of her performance, a fairly decent script and the intricate choreography carries this segment through. She talks of forging a path on her own whilst, ironically, lifted with great skill by the group, who move her through a series of swoops and dives like the ningyōtsukai in a bunraku performance. It is a clever invocation that even in her solitude she is still being supported by her year group in the most satisfying section of the work.
Sebastian Geilings delves further into anxiety with a solo augmented by a chorus of multiple selves. The vocabulary shifts into torrid, urgent, lashing and frenzied movement that signals self-doubt and despair. Spasms of angst become urgent and desperate. He is a stunning mover.
The work deepens further emotionally with a truthful micro solo by Gabriella Mersi. Her close-up vulnerability and despair is confronting.
Much of the movement is lateral due to the flat rectangular space. This limits choreographic choices. When the work concludes with exuberant unison and the company releasing their pent-up physical potential, they are constrained to running side to side like caged wild animals. Brave and bold as they are, we yearn for their release.
The strength of the bonds this group share is palpable. This development season has been made possible by sponsorship from Chris and Kathy Parkin and support from BATS Theatre and the Fringe. The gift of time and space to revisit a dance work is incredibly rare and precious.
Flying Down Sand Dunes reads as a plea from Well Fare State: from birth and support to aloneness, despair and anxiety to regrouping and re-grounding into their elemental creative process. It maps a difficult journey as they start their careers. Where are the ongoing resources and the wide-open dance spaces to ensure the sand dune does not fall away from under the feet of these delicate and talented young artists?
Flying Down Sand Dunes runs until 7 December at BATS Theatre - BOOK NOW...