Who Are We Now? - ChoreoCo by Footnote New Zealand Dance
26 February 2016, Circa Theatre - Wellington
Reviewed by Mona Williams
Maria Dabrowska's Who Are We Now?, a 2016 Fringe Festival opener, played to a packed Circa Theatre evening audience on 26th February. Saturated with sly wit, youthful exuberance, inventive interludes, trans-sexual send-ups, contemplative moments and from a dancer at the beginning of the hour, an explosion of volcanic rage, this exploration of Today's world was well structured, thoughtful and engagingly visual physical theatre. Although, from their supple movements, smooth transitions from high octane stanzas to sustained placidity, from their strong, supportive interaction as an ensemble and from their facility with lifts, it is obvious that these are dancers, they resisted expected contemporary dance vocabulary and infused their performance with 'organic, seemingly everyday' locomotion.
Begun with a tableau of newspaper readers, engaging in today's world through the medium of print, their responses varied from amused, unperturbed, intensely curious and rather incredulous to (a screaming female who was) monumentally incensed. Their engagement with newspapers, and thus with vexing issues of our times, was threaded through the work, especially in a unified rhythmic stomp-jump-clap ensemble sequence, embellished by the sound-effects of slapped newsprint. The performance was climaxed by their applause-milking finale of males sporting crushed-paper 'breasts' and grotesque, paper-stuffed tights parading as ridiculous 'bums'.
One particularly well developed sequence involved a seated dancer lifted and held head height, at right angles to a back wall against which her feet walked and the corps glided her chair legs effortlessly. Visual momentum was sustained with dynamic movements across the stage, climbing onto the backs of dancers, melting on and off the stage and merging with effective lighting. 'En vogue' gay dance moves, 'queening', strutting, adding a Polynesian wrist-twirl here and a knowing backward-head turn there, were greeted by an roar of appreciation.
Yet, this collaboration which produced expressions of myriad moods, of edgy movements to pop melodies and to driving cross rhythms, and of pleasingly visual linear and sculptural structures; this 'woven kite' between the choreographer, Dabrowska, and her six dancers felt like a work in progress; an achievement produced on a minimalist budget. While this quality is often the hallmark of Fringe productions, I sensed the enormous potential which could have come to fruition, had funding permitted a longer gestation than three weeks, to dancers of so much ability and talent.