Transfer / Footnote New Zealand Dance
Massey University Tea Gardens, Wellington, 6 July 2016
Reviewed by Dr Tania Kopytko
Footnote New Zealand Dance has developed a reputation for being experimental, presenting dance in non-traditional settings and producing the work of NZ dance artists living abroad. Transfer delivered to those aims.
Comprising of two works, the second work, Bridges and Doors by New York based New Zealander Jeremy Nelson, stood out. Inspired by NZ architecture, the work explored external and internal structures, places and nuances. With confident choreographic skill, the work extended the dancers showing their movement skill, strength and emotional engagement. This was Footnote as a dance company. Opening with a beautiful rolling sequence, the work explored design and form and throughout provided satisfying reading of complex choreography. The movement vocabulary created fertile possibilities - little houses perched on hills or suburban streets, their inhabitants jostling for space, a comfy lounge or outdoor park, perhaps a playground with odd angled shapes or people needing to trust each other. The beautiful venue, with its art deco plaster ceiling and cubic walls, amplified by the lighting, enhanced this work. The wintry jackets, soon shed, gave a very Wellington feel, and the stretchy, comfy dance clothing added to the kiwi casual homely feel, as well as providing an uncluttered view of physical designs. The introduction of a table to the “couch sitting” sequence was unnecessary, as the choreography adequately covered a myriad of sculptural shapes. The audience well appreciated the quality of this work.
By contrast Berlin based New Zealander Joshua Rutter’s opening work Tomorrow After All, was performance art - the experimental end of the Footnote spectrum. Using a basic narrative structure the work openly and slowly flowed, at times vaguely humorous, frequently ponderous. The key performers were the black plastic rubbish bags, joined to create inflatable, malleable, long tubes, supported by an interesting mashed-up music score. This landscape was manipulated by the performers from inside or outside the tubes, creating a “whatever the audience wants to read into it” scenario, depending on the success of the manipulation. Beginning as primitive life, nerdish snakes or worms, by the denouement, the tubes somewhat predictably became a sausage or gun, tank, phallus or flaccid phallus and turd-ish. Wearing retro, op-shop clothing and faces fully covered by wigs, the performers were denied human face to face communication - perhaps creatures of the modern western world’s anomie, angst, disengagement and helplessness - the rubbish the first world has become? With rasping semi coherent speech like Macbeth’s three witches, or childlike high voices, plus a limited movement vocabulary of scratching, rubbing, gesticulating and quivering, this was a work that could have been performed by actors or physical theatre performers. It did not extend or explore the skills of the dancers, except for a sustained solo quivering, during which the dancer was lifted and rotated. The work felt a little like a first world indulgence.
Transfer presented the programming dilemma that Footnote New Zealand Dance faces - is it a dance company or performance art company? Are these polemics mutually inclusive or exclusive? The audience applause on Wednesday voted in this instance for dance.
Top: Bridges and Doors by Jeremy Nelson / Photographer: Andy Tsang
Bottom: Tomorrow After All by Joshua Rutter / Photographer: Andy Tsang
See Theatreview review by Dione Joseph (NZ Herald)