NOW 2016 - Footnote Dance New Zealand
15 April 2016, Q Theatre, Auckland
Reviewed by Jenny Stevenson
In this programme of New Original Works, Footnote has commissioned a quartet of female contemporary dance choreographers: Lucy Marinkovich, Jessie McCall, Julia Harvie and Sarah Knox, to create four short works for touring to four cities including Invercargill. The season’s intent is to introduce the present generation of choreographers to the public at large: “new ideas from the brightest dance makers”, as General Manager Richard Aindow describes it. The Artistic Advisory Panel for selecting the choreographers comprises Footnote founder Deirdre Tarrant who obviously provides a continuity of vision, dance critic and writer Raewyn Whyte and choreographer Malia Johnston. It would be interesting to know what brief if any, the choreographers were given to initiate the works.
The five hard-working Footnote dancers - Jeremy Beck, Brydie Colquhoun, Emma Dellabarca, Jared Hemopo and Lana Phillips - dance up a storm, with four of them
performing in every work. They slip into their multiple costume-changes in semi-darkness at the side of the wing-less stage,hardly pausing between the four works to catch their breath before diving into the next round. Their energy is palpable, their dancing accomplished and their enthusiasm for honouring each choreographer’s vision is unbounded.
Sarah Knox, herself a former Footnote dancer, has created what would appear to be a preamble to a much larger work in Disarming Dissent a short meditation on inherent aggression to music by Rowan Pierce. The dancers perform in stereotypical aggressive stances while emerging and then being swallowed up by the miasma of stippled light created by Lighting Designer, Alex Fisher. Ms Knox brings a pleasing symmetry to her vocabulary of movement that is consistent and well-designed as if laying the foundation for potential future deconstruction and diffusion of the movement motifs. She illustrates through unison group movement that unity is necessary for the efficacy of dissent: “united we attempt to make ourselves heard”, but also questions how to go about achieving that unity in light of the “fight within us”; an interesting premise that would bear further examination.
Jessie McCall ruminates on a Gustave Flaubert quote: “We must not touch our idols, the gilt comes off in our hands” in her work Your Own Personal Exister performed to a melange of music and the spoken word. This work has an interesting dynamic with an assured dance movement vocabulary that is spare and uncluttered. Glittering gold crowns that tie on to the wearers’ heads suggest that we are held captive by our yearnings for status and/or achievement but the subsequent inversion of some of the crowns suggests that these longings might be just empty dreams. The underlying tenet informs the construction of the work which is solid and well thought through.
Centerfolds by Lucy Marinkovich (also a former Footnote dancer) delves into the sensitive world of gender politics using humour and multiple costume changes to skewer female stereotypes. Ms Marinkovich continues her exploration of the absurd (seen in her earlier work) by having the dancers perform for the most part in bobble-headed balaclavas which lend hilarity to their movements as the bobbles maintain their own independent beats. The balaclavas then morph into masks, which are finally stripped away to reveal for a brief moment, the dancers’ true identities.
Choreographer Julia Harvie, (who as Director of Movement Art Practice in Christchurch has a strong interest in movement research), sets up a series of challenges for the dancers using balloons, in her work Elephant Skin. Danced to the music of Nell Thomas the work is designed for “transforming bodies through the objects” and “a celebration of the visceral”. It is largely successful in this intent with the dancers grappling with balloons –some filled with water, some anchored by strings and some manipulated by the dancers themselves – to create an often comical mise-en-scène.
NOW 2016 goes a long way towards creating a vehicle to highlight the new work currently being created in New Zealand. However I was curious as to why there were no male choreographers selected and the lack of indigenous or culturally-based choreographers being represented, given that we purport to celebrate diversity in Aotearoa.