Kurawaka, Ex Tenebris Lux, BeginAgain & Room - The Body Festival 2015
25-11 October 2015 - Christchurch
Reviewed by Ian Lochead
Kurawaka, performed by Hawaiki TŪ, Middleton Grange School Theatre, Thursday 1 October
Ex Tenebris Lux, performed by Anderson & Roake Productions, Old Theatre, Rangi Ruru College, Thursday 8 October
BeginAgain, performed by zoe Ι juniper, Middleton Grange Theatre, Friday 9 October
Room, performed by Fleur de Thier & dancers, The Black Box, St Margaret’s College, Saturday 10 October
Now in its 14th year, the Christchurch Body Festival presents an extraordinary range of dance performances, workshops and events across the city in a wide range of venues. Events are both culturally diverse and accessible, since entrance prices are kept low, making this a festival for everyone. Adam Hayward and his team are to be congratulated on yet another successful season.
Hawaiki TŪ makes its welcome first appearance with Kurawaka, a work in progress exploring Māori creation myths. For a company still in the process of defining itself, this is an apposite exploration of origins on several levels as the dancers probe the creative tensions at the intersection of Kapa Haka and contemporary dance. A brief film, in which the dancers respond to themes later developed on stage, provides a striking opening, although the transition from filmed to live performance needs further refinement. Sound, lighting and stretched fabric combine to evoke the drama of Tāne separating Ranginui and Papatuanuku to bring light to the world while the flash of whirling poi on a darkened stage evokes the creation of the stars. The vivid theatricality of the staging and total commitment and professionalism of the performers make Kurawaka a compelling experience. Hopefully further iterations of this exciting development in New Zealand dance will be seen here in the future.
The bronze figure of Mnemosyne, located outside the Robert McDougall Art Gallery, provides the starting point for Anderson & Roake Productions’ Ex Tenebris Lux, in which the performers undertake a journey from dark to light, presented as a metaphor for the experience of living in post-quake Christchurch. The opening sequence, with the theatre plunged into darkness, is disquieting; invisible performers are only sensed, their movements tracked by the rattling of match-boxes. The startling hiss and flare of simultaneously struck matches reveal Mnemosyne seated in her familiar pose, head shrouded but without the book and lamp of memory that form part of the sculpture. The disadvantage of such a coup de théâtre in the opening moments of a show is that it is virtually impossible to maintain this level of intensity and the promised journey towards enlightenment proves anticlimactic.
In contrast, BeginAgain builds in intensity over its hour-long span. Performed on a stage divided into multiple spaces by gauzes and areas spread with earth, this show fuses dance, projected imagery and sound in beguiling ways. At the beginning, a dancer encased in plaster escapes from her inert carapace, leaving it on stage for the rest of the show. The two principal dancers, Juniper Shuey and Ariel Freedman, echo one another’s movements in a sequence of tableaux, moving between different performance zones as the mood shifts between extremes of slow motion and aggressive conflict. At one point a dancer and her shadow interact with the projected silhouette of a second performer, while a third moves in tandem behind a screen. As the performance unfolds another figure is progressively encased in plaster. Are we watching two individuals or the reflections of different sides of the same person, shadows or doppelgängers? BeginAgain is a haunting and mysterious work that surprises and delights, leaving us with more questions than answers.
From the otherworldly realms of BeginAgain we return to reality with Fleur de Thier’s Room, an exploration of movement in seemingly ordinary domestic environments that hints at Pina Bausch’s use of found performance spaces. How do we move in our everyday environments? What is the nature of the quotidian dance through which we interact with others and our surroundings? With these thoughts of the universal dance of life in mind we can eagerly anticipate the return of the Body Festival for its 15th season in a year’s time.
See DANZ Review Part 2 - Dangerous Bodies, Tap Step & Amputation of Personality