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Crows Feet Dance Collective - C is for Climate Change
11-13 August 2017, Whitireia Performing Arts Centre, Wellington

Reviewed by Ann Hunt

Crows Feet Dance Collective, under the direction of Jan Bolwell, now comprises four separate groups: Kapiti, Wellington, Lower Hutt and Palmerston North, all of whom are represented in this programme.

This inclusive community dance theatre was established in 1999 as a vehicle for older dancers to express their creativity. The participants’ ages range from 40 to 76 years and their enjoyment is obvious. Some have dance training, most have not. But all bring a range of talents and infectious enthusiasm to bear on the production.

Collective members Jenny Cossey, Tania Kopytko and Carolyn McKeefry also choreograph, and Java Dance Theatre’s Sacha Copland is guest choreographer.  

In the foyer an environmental installation by Crows Feet dancer Trish Stevenson, is interesting and very informative.   

McKeefry choreographs two pieces danced by the Lower Hutt Crows. The amusingly titled The Climate Change Deniers Dance, (music Singing in the Rain by Andre Rieu), is in lively vaudevillian-style. McKeefry also designed the delightful costumes.

Although at present the performances appear over cautious, it is very entertaining and may become a highlight as the dancers grow in confidence.

Mckeefry’s other work Melt, (music Too Darn Hot by Tony Burgos’s Swing Shift Orchestra,) is a jolly number, with vivid costumes. It would benefit by the odd solo or duet, (as would a number of other works in the programme.) 

Using dance, spoken word and song, the Palmerston North Crows perform Kopytko’s Wading into the Manawatu, which focuses on the appalling state of the Manawatu River. Music is by Eva Cassidy (Wade in the Water), and Chicago by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra.  Kopytko, an experienced dancer, stands out with her natural warmth, smooth technique and appealing personality.

However, Manawatu’s excellent message is diluted by being over-long and at times appears laboured.

Of the five works choreographed by Bolwell, the most cohesive is Antarctica, (music Cheryl Leonard; videography Andrew Simpson). It is a good example of how less is often more. Seven of the Wellington Crows move in intricate shapes across the stage, depicting changing ice flows, and Bolwell’s choreography shows the dancers to advantage.

Two of her works Paekakariki and Losing the Coast, are performed consecutively. Ken Avery’s humorous Paekakariki, (sung by When the Cat’s Been Spayed), went swimmingly, with the dancers in multi-hued costumes and Esther Williams-esque floral swim caps.

Although the concept of a happy day at the beach ruined by a huge storm is a good one, both works need pruning. The soundtrack by the talented Michelle Scullion is excellent.

Copland’s Precarious Balance (music by Maurice and the Amsterdam Klezmer Band), presents an original and striking image. With plastic water bottles balanced on their heads, Wellington Crows move in ordered lines around the stage, their shadows playing arrestingly on the back wall. Interest wanes however due to lack of choreographic variation.  Once we get the picture, we get the picture.

A ‘last-minute’ announcement by Bolwell closes the show and introduces Helen Clark (AKA Lorae Parry). Although Parry ‘gets’ Clark very well, what could have been a satirical take on Clark referencing climate change globally and in NZ, instead becomes a lecture. This is not only confusing, but also anti-climactic. Either change the format or change the placement of the piece.

C is for Climate Change is a timely and worthwhile subject for Crows Feet, but the outcome must reflect and enhance the intention.

Crows Feets Dance - C is for Climate Change

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