Jolt Dance Company Fish Review
Finding a performance venue in an industrial estate may not be the norm in most cities but in post-quake Christchurch this is not such an unusual experience. Jolt Dance Company are presenting a week of performances for students with disabilities in the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra’s (CSO) current rehearsal space, a converted warehouse on the fringe of the city. Audiences usually number around fifty, although at the performance I attended numbers were down because one group failed to show. This was unfortunate because they missed a vital and rewarding programme. Jolt’s performance style is informal, with the emphasis on interaction and collaboration with the audience. Everyone is greeted as they arrive and given a nametag. Don’t be surprised to be addressed by name during a performance. Audience and performers share the same space and the boundaries between the two are fluid.
The plot is straightforward; a fisherman puts out to sea, paying his respects to Tangaroa, god of the ocean. He throws out his lines but the catch is elusive. Eventually he weaves a net and the fish is caught. Nothing could be simpler, but the magic is in the voyage from start to finish. The bond between performers and audience is immediately established when the fisherman casts his lines into the sea, to be grasped by those seated in front of him. The five ropes are extensions of his fingers and from then on we were all participants. Spoken narrative is used to establish atmosphere and live music, played by the CSO’s harpist, Helen Webby, and percussionist, Mark La Roche, reinforce this with sounds that conjure up the rippling of waves and the scratching of sand.
The creatures of the sea all play their part. The mighty stingray, a diamond shaped canopy of green fabric with goggle eyes and long tail, floats above the audience, inviting members to sway beneath it to the movement of the ocean. A tiny and secretive crab ventures forth, ingeniously embodied through a pair of orange gloves with ping pong eyes, scuttling along the seabed, up arms and over heads to squeals of horror and delight.
We were asked to name our favourite fish as buckets full of sea creatures are handed out for admiration and exchange while a rope of seaweed dangles overhead. Finally the fisherman weaves his net across the ocean, the lights dim and the harp’s music fills the air. In the darkened room flashlights shining on water bottles turn prosaic objects into iridescent fish swimming in space while sinuous hands and arms suggest both the traditional dances of Samoa as well as ocean life. Rapt in admiration, an audience member spontaneously joined in this graceful dance of hands and arms. At last the regal salmon appears but the net descends and wraps around the fish. The fisherman has his catch and the audience are invited to join in a final dance of celebration. There was little in the way of conventional applause, but the fact that all but one shy audience
member rose to participate told its own story.
Director Lyn Cotton and her cast of performers, Renee Ryan, Sam Stevens, Nylia Tamati and Michael Leota, along with Cameron Boot and Rochelle Waters, have, with the simplest of means, created an entrancing show that captured its young audience throughout the hour-long performance. The production is perfectly adapted to the special needs of the audience, some of whom will, perhaps, discover new avenues of expression through dance. The choice of music, including Carlos Salzedo’s ‘Song of the Night’ and adaptations of two pieces from Jack Body’s ‘Rain Forest’ was both fitting and memorable. Stepping out into the bright winter sunlight and the incongruousness of an industrial landscape it was clear that magic does occur in the most unlikely places.