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Taumata - Bianca Hyslop, Taane Mete, Sarah Foster-Sproull & Loughlan Prior
15 October 2016, Q Theate, Auckland
TEMPO Dance Festival

Reviewed by Francesca Horsley



Four abstract works made up Taumata, one of the final shows at this year’s excellent TEMPO Dance Festival in Auckland. Collectively, they demonstrated the strength, depth and finesse of contemporary dance in New Zealand.

A Murmuration by Bianca Hyslop was a delightful opening. Murmuration describes the mass movement patterns of starlings when they magically turn and scythe through the air.  Hyslop’s interpretation captured this finely nuanced relationship as four dancers maintained momentum and an organic cohesion as they constantly changed form, moving across the stage in a loose format - circling, reshaping, and twisting in and out of individual or group patterns.  Such was their flow the dancers could have equally represented shoals of fish, swept by currents or negotiating eddies.

The dancers, Chrissy Kokiri, Chris Ofanoa, Katie Rudd and Carl Tolentino from The New Zealand Dance Company, showed their artistry with an impressive interpretation of natural movement. Arm thrusts and leg flicks were picked up by all, developed further, and re-shaped by the quartet. The bird patterns on the dancers’ black and white costumes also reinforced flying as did the sound score by Rowan Pierce, which was a clever play of harmony and rhythm.

Also drawing on natural forces, Manawa was an arresting solo by Taane Mete that explored the effort required to connect to the life force and triumph over adversity.

In an almost underworld void, Mete lay prone, curled, clad solely in black boxer shorts, while a repetitive voice-over mantra intoned tahi, rua, toru, whā. It was as if the voice was instructing him to begin breathing, to re-engage with the process of living when disintegration beckoned. He struggled to gain control of his body, fighting against exhaustion or weakness - first to move upwards, then pushing against the forces of gravity, to stand, and remain upright.

Once dancing, Mete’s movement was restrained, his familiar dramatic energy and technique held in an almost Butoh-like suppression.  The sound scape evoked a whirling vortex of forest reverberations and bird calls, but Mete remained a distant figure struggling in an interior world. The subterranean narratives he was battling left the audience to speculate on what lay behind this primal struggle for breath. This was a private, personal work of integrity and honesty.

The next two works examined darker aspects of femininity, where possessiveness, ambition and desire remained unchecked.

Sisters of the Black Crow by Sarah Foster-Sproull was a powerful yet disturbing discourse on female control and possession. Drawn from an interrogation of personal experience and framed in a wider representation of womanhood or sisterhood, the work depicted cruelty, bullying, and savage repression. In a tense series of dark vignettes, the female body was shackled, the mouth muted, the mind tormented by battles both personal and mythological.

Three dancers, Jahra Rager Wasasala, Rose Philpott and Grace Woollett, clad in black and red flowing dresses, represented sirens, demons, and underworld goddesses. The narrative was deliberately gothic, with raw, angular movement - deep squats, constrained ankles and neck, erotic glimpses of breast and groin that alluded to seductive power or transgression. The dancers formed pentangle shapes with their hands, and the choreography drew on images from Kali, the fierce Hindu goddess of feminine power.

A sound score by Andrew Foster had surging, atonal and weighted quality adding to the edginess of the work.

The representation of the temptress woman as the author of original sin was the theme of Eve, an award winning choreography by Royal New Zealand Ballet dancer Loughlan Prior.

RNZB dancers Laura Jones, William Fitzgerald, Kirby Selchow, Alexandre Ferreira and Leonora Voigtlander gave a spectacular performance of a contemporary world where women threw themselves at men – maybe eliminating the need for Tinder hook-up.

Clad in corporate world gab – androgynous suit trousers, leotard tops for the women, bare tops for the men – this business look almost nullified seduction. But the choreography rendered the temptresses lean, hungry and highly focused on their intended goal - launching themselves on to the men with extended leg elevations, and provocative curling feet. In lifts, the women hooked their legs, creating knot-like shapes that suggested a snake – a personification of the biblical Eve.

A man’s suit jacket became an object of desire and in an interplay between Jones and Fitzgerald this was exchanged – perhaps teasing around the water cooler. Others dropped by, competing, wanting a slice of the action.

The work was accompanied by intermittent readings from Jo Thorpe’s LEN & Other Poems, an art song, Ideale by Tosti, and piano works by Preisner alternately providing a cerebral then an emotional landscape. The work concluded with a hint to repentance and reconciliation between the men and women, with red apples strewn across the stage.

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Taumata Review

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