Limbs Dance Company: Dance For All People 1977-1989
Author: Marianne Schultz
Year Published: 2017
Reviewed by Brian Jones
Having seen Limbs Dance Company perform in Palmerston North when they toured the country in the late 70's, I looked forward to reading the history of one of our most influential dance companies.
The scene is set with A Brief History of Modern Dance in New Zealand, giving readers an insight into the point at which dance evolved in New Zealand leading up to the 1970's. Each of the following eight chapters focuses on a particular period of development or change within the company. It begins with the gathering of artists in January 1977 at the Rongomaraeroa Marae in the Hawkes Bay, convened by Gaylene Sciascia, where participants talked and shared their dreams. From there it moves on to the formation of Limbs; going through the years of struggle and success, tours to Australia and the USA, ending with the eventual disbanding of the company in September 1989.
One thing I particularly liked about the book was the way reference is made to what was happening in New Zealand socially, politically and in the arts at the time, giving context to the narrative of the company’s development and influences.
Spotlight, used at the end of each chapter, takes time to look in detail at various works from the company’s repertoire. Discussion of the origins, creation, and description of the various works was something I found particularly interesting.
Reading through the book, it is amazing how many of the members mentioned are still recognisable as people who have continued on through their own dancing, choreography, teaching or management to progress contemporary dance in Aotearoa. Chris Jannides, MaryJane O'Reilly, Douglas Wright, Shona McCullagh, Taiaroa Royal are just a few who come to mind. The appendices at the back give you a full list of dancers, choreographers, associated staff and works listed chronologically.
There is no doubt that Limbs had a significant place in our dance history, not only by making dance more visible but by taking risks and drawing on all that was available to them, to create something that was unique. To paraphrase a line from Cath Cardiff’s interview with Marianne Schultz, Limbs' dances allowed New Zealanders to connect with dance in a deeply visceral manner, providing a 'sensual athleticism' that aligned with New Zealanders' love of sport and physical daring.
Marianne Schultz PhD, dancer, choreographer, teacher and historian was also a member of Limbs Dance Company in its later years. Through her research, interviews and involvement with the company she has produced a highly readable book highlighting and preserving an important part of our cultural history.
Contact DANZ if you would like a copy of Limbs Dance Company 1977-1989: Dance for all People
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