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New Zealand Fringe Festival 2016 Review (Sringaram, To Infinity & Beyond, Know Yourself, Knitting While Sleeping)


Sringaram: Dance of Love, To Infinity & Beyond, Know Yourself, Knitting While Sleeping - NZ Fringe Festival 2016
12 February-5 March, Wellington

Reviewed by Leah Maclean



Sringaram: Dance of Love, Swaroopa Unni – 14/02/2016, Whitireia Theatre Wellington
To Infinity and Beyond, Infinite Dance Crew – 15/02/2016, Whitireia Theatre Wellington
Know Yourself, Lauren Byrne and Emma Martin – 16/02/2016, BATS Theatre Wellington
Knitting While Sleeping, House of Sand – 24/02/2016, BATS Theatre Wellington

The 2016 New Zealand Fringe Festival painted the capital bright yellow and invaded the city with some of the coolest national and international talents on offer. It goes without saying that the team at Fringe deserve a round of applause for their efforts in pulling the well-established festival together. Dance was offered in an assortment of forms this year, Fringe being that great platform to experiment and showcase in a fun and boundless setting. 

Dunedin based Swaroopa Unni explored the emotions of love felt by a fictitious devadasi (courtesan), Nayika, through classical Indian dance, Bharatanatyam. Swaroopa is an
 enchanting and beautiful story teller who is just as convincing through her facial expressions as she is with her evocative movements. As a solo piece Sringaram was well executed in the small space of Whitireia Theatre, it was intimate and subtle. This begged the question, how would the performance develop with multiple dancers? Swaroopa told Nayika’s story of shameless promiscuity, love and emotion convincingly with both movement, music and spoken word. What stood out the most in Swaroopa’s presentation was the sensual, almost spooky piece performed behind a near transparent curtain. Nayika’s provocative dance for her lover. Sringaram was tantalising, mesmerising and graceful, Swaroopa has successfully opened a new, and I’m sure in some circles controversial, dialogue within a western environment and audience, around Bharatanatyam and its history.

In the same intimate setting as Swaroopa’s elegant piece, Infinite Dance Crew (IDC) occupied Whitireia Theatre. IDC and a handful of young Wellington region talents danced a story which takes particular precedence in this day and age; the mission to find a sustainable planet for the human race.  The audience followed the journey of Captain Williams, the bold and designated explorer, across distant planets in the bid to find a new liveable planet for humans. The mass hip hop group commanded the stage with their attitude and clear passion for the art form. The engaged and vocally supportive audience added to the powerful energy and every dancer was infectious. The costume changes were swift and awesome between each new planet. We were treated to graceful, contemporary dust storms,kooky alien life, suffocating water planets and an energetic team on earth supporting Captain Williams’ mission. For a large group it was impressive to see such on point synchronicity, and even in the moments there were mistakes, they were handled like champs. And of course there was the foreseeable Star Wars homage, predictable maybe, but seeing C3PO pop and lock was something of a treat. The performance ended with Captain Williams successfully finding a sustainable planet, proof in the plant which sprouted in the pot she had been carting to each obscure planet. There was a huge uproar from the audience as every single dancer appeared on stage and gave it all they had in conclusion. It was very easy to imagine future Parris Goebel’s amongst them.     

The stunning duo of Emma Martin and Lauren Byrne introduced the audience of BATS Theatre to Know Yourself, their intimate realm of imagination and contemporary dance. The piece opened with the voice over of a woman questioning modern life followed soon after by the two dancers emerging elegantly on stage. Almost immediately and throughout the piece you could sense the strong connection between the two dancers, even when they were apart. The moved together so effortlessly, it was as though they were connected by an invisible thread. They seamlessly transitioned from delicate, wistful choreography to the more fast-paced, attitude built stuff – as a pair and individually. Emma and Lauren had a certain infectiousness which made following their movements a wonder and a question of, what next? Even their use of repetition was done so tactfully. The promotional artwork featured bubbles and rightly so, the delicate liquid spheres dominated the stage on multiple occasions, creating a beautiful scene as Emma and Lauren whirled through them. It was dreamlike and for a lot of audience members, a resurfacing of childhood delights. Yes, there were grown men and women reaching out to pop the little orbs. Also, we can’t forget the stunning glitter filled (literally) hand dance.  Know Yourself was quirky, fun and left you wanting more.   

Fringe is well known for its assorted and sometimes down-right bizarre programme of performances. Knitting While Sleeping fit the down-right bizarre category. It was like
being in a weird dream or on an acid-trip. Choreographed by Eliza Sanders of House of Sand and performed by Jadyn Burt, Tyler Carney, Sophie Gargan, and Laura Beanland-Stephens, Knitting’s main purpose was to challenge the perception of what it is to perform/put on a performance. It was a state of total chaos with half the audience being told to take off their shoes, as they entered the theatre, and lie down on the stage. They became an important part of the shows execution. The dancers were clearly insane, presented in their grotesque facial expressions, sounds and disjointed movements. They relished in the control they had over the stage and the audience members that filled it. White feathers rained down on the stage during one point and it was a beautiful sight, the calm before the storm of absolute madness. The dancers took full advantage of the whole space which was a refreshing scene; they also took full advantage of the participating audience – though this came to be a bit of a distraction. The dancers themselves were energetic, dramatic and worked well together, particularly when they ‘knitted’ in a clump of flesh and limbs. They successfully created a sense of unease and disorder with their jerky, unpredictable movements, bouts of shouting and audience demands.  I truly couldn’t figure out this contemporary piece, and the raw chicken used during Sophie Gargan’s heart-wrenching ‘mental break’ solidified my bewilderment.

See ChoreoCo by Footnote, Who Are We Now? Review

New Zealand Fringe Festival 2016 Review (Sringaram, To Infinity & Beyond, Know Yourself, Knitting While Sleeping)

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