Rotunda - The New Zealand Dance Company
30 August 2013, Q Theatre - Auckland
Reviewed by Dr. Linda Ashley
Rotunda is an accomplished work of modern dance for contemporary times. Shona McCullagh, probably mindful that capturing the suffering of war is a difficult gig, exploits the gamut of emotions. The ANZAC sacrifice is deeply felt. Bicultural threads run throughout in the waiata, images of rakau – a haka is rhythmically shattered, poignantly overpowered by the reality of the battlefield. A constantly shifting dynamic range, pacing and balance maintain our attention. Jolts of mood swings are etched into contemplative small gestures, tender contact, vigorous lifts, expansive travelling and explosive jumping in which dancers are grounded one moment and then flying above me, tearing at my emotions.
Seated on the same level as the action, and also in the ‘wings’, I have a sense of ‘being there’, made possible by the use of Q Theatre’s configuration of an apron stage. The dancers’ youthful athleticism and intense performances are immediate, making an already accessible work even more so. Intensity falls away occasionally when comedic moments and rather pedestrian mime is sometimes still proscenium driven.
The dancers carry this work with open hearts. Their contributions to creating the movement produce a strong sense of ownership. Hard work is writ large on their skin. Emmi Coupe’s captivating softness. Chrissi Kokiri, Lucy Lynch and Hannah Tasker-Poland deliver dollops of feminine strength. Emma Dellabarca’s cameo as an ominous female Angel of Death is perhaps still in development. Justin Haiu, Gareth Okan, Tupua Tigafua and Carl Angeloque Tolentino carry the poetic narrative (Michelanne Forster) with a range of playfulness, robustness and despair.
North Shore Brass is the perfect musical paradox, bringing a subtext through the creases of nostalgic memories as the brass sound breathes through the air. Is there something just as Kiwi about how they play, much like the distinctive way the dancers drive through the space with verve? If the work travels they have to go. Percussionist Chris O’Connor is magically expressive. Don McGlashan’s thoughtful score includes compositions from Gareth Farr, Alex Lithgow and John Ritchie. Amongst other captivating moments of postmodern pastiche, a cheeky rendition of the theme tune from that most English diehard pastoral radio show The Archers (Arthur Wood) paints a sound landscape uniting Allied troops. Lest we forget…
As is the company’s mission, this consummate collaboration provides high quality set (Joe Bleakley), costume (Jane Holland) and lighting (Paul O’Brien). Spectre like, silk appears as Aotearoa’s cloud, a melodrama of suffering shadows, and Alwin Nikolais sheathlike contortions leading us to the satisfying finale section. (I’m not giving the game away though, you’ll have to go and see it yourself).