20 July 2023, Wellington
Choreographers: Holly Newsome, Forest Kapo
Reviewed by Mona Williams
“IF YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW” contemplating Darkness and Light.
Two fully realized works on Darkness and Light were staged by Footnote. They were bold, assured, highly contrasting, youthful and compelling. Advance To Go, Holly Newsome’s choreography, was a stark interpretation of the Game of Life.
Emerging through a small high window of opportunity, five shadows-turned-into-dancers portrayed ‘The Descent of Man’, creeping down a ladder, only to crawl backwards on earth’s black stage-floor, before evolving into upright humans. The stage’s brutalist architecture consisted of pockmarked concrete walls in four shades of grey, highlighted by a central cube formed in white plastic cord, and dimly lit by three lights in the ceiling and two on the floor. This visual opening encapsulated for the audience the nature of the dance. To a soundscape of staccato thumping, snatches of voice, percussive instrumentation, gunfire, heavy breathing, drumming but nothing melodic, the dancers in black active wear portrayed a dystopia of unrelieved, brutal tension. Sometimes they seemed to march, or block; or insensitively use a foot to drag two dancers like rags on the floor. That world possessed neither intimacy nor gentleness, but a keen intelligence and a get-on-with-it determination.
Moments of ritualized offering, or of Oriental military fighting stances or of archery interwove with fluid runs, jumps, falls, struggles to enter the cube and to leave it; interludes of crawling and scrambling reflected humanity’s ambition to transcend life’s bleak limitations. It seemed they danced on a treadmill of flight and restraint, seeking mastery of their environment as a duet, as a pas de cinque, in a tableau, in a wide a-la-second stance pointing accusingly, intently, at a powerful force. All led nowhere. For a poignant moment, their forlorn gaze at the window through which they could return, tore at the heart. Why? Their ladder had been retracted. Praise for Holly Newsome’s work; a dark, trenchant, artistic dance commentary on today’s broken world system.
Forest Kapo’s “Premonition” was a paean of Hope, a contrast; a lyrically delightful work, grounded in a strong sense of community and in the unstinting contributions of six individual dancers.
Bursting onto the well-lit stage with spins, fluid rolls, sweeping turns at floor height or on demi pointe, the mood in the theatre was lifted by the light hearted speed and the joyful interaction of the six dancers. Their polished performance reflected a mastery of technical skill. Costumed in light coloured creams and browns, jackets and trousers, they were fashionable yet youthfully classical. They achieved a lightness of mood by employing a few lifts, by ever shifting forward and backward rhythms, by interlocking moments, by round formations and by zipping across the stage to an increased tempo. The performance was infused with zany humour, when a dancer onstage held the hand of someone completely off stage; or the corp formed a long chain and punctuated the intensity with stillness.
The stage had been transformed after the dark vision of the previous Dance. Light, reflecting off a rectangular strip on centre stage illumined the space; light grey smoke drifted in on the dancers, red sometimes streaked the side walls, and an analogue clock counted down to the end of the performance. Airu Matsuda’s flexibility and Emma Cosgrove’s attention to finishing her movements made their contributions absorbing to watch. All six dancers exhibited a heart felt felicity in movement and a disciplined interpretation of the soundscape. Forest Kapo’s mirthful, spirited, Celebration-of-Life, many-layered work, made coming to the theatre on a bleak Wellington night well worth the effort.