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By Ann Hunt
Opera House, Wellington
22 May 2016
The New Zealand Dance Company recently returned from an acclaimed tour of Germany and The Hague, performing to standing ovations. It is easy to see why.
As each season passes, the standard they set gets higher and higher.
Lumina consists of three new works: two by New Zealand choreographers, Louise Potiki Bryant and Malia Johnston, and one, their first international commission by an American born Dutch choreographer, Stephen Shropshire.
Throughout the evening, the stunning lighting designs, sets and costumes are by Jo Kilgour and Kasia Pol respectively.
Shropshire’s The Geography of an Archipelago journey begins on a stark, simple set with a dark sail echoed by its shadow on the floor.
The brilliant lighting evokes clouds and sea mist. Shropshire explores themes of dispossession, solitariness and exile that are both geographic and internal.
The music by Chris O’Connor, Rob Thorne and Beethoven, speaks of loss and memory and gave a palpable sense of drama and urgency to this mesmerising work.
Thorne’s use of the taonga puoro and the solemn tolling of a bell added to the haunting atmosphere.
Potiki Bryant is one of New Zealand’s most talented and memorable choreographers. In collaboration with her long-term creative partner, Paddy Free, they have created the completely engrossing and hugely affecting In Transit.
Free’s magnificent AV design and beautiful soundtrack are totally integral to the work’s impact. The choreographic contribution from Michael Parmenter is gratefully acknowledged.
Potiki Bryant’s inspirations are many-layered. They concern transitions between different stages in life and the view that the veil between life and death is very thin. It is impossible not to reference the transitions that Maori have gone through and are going through.
Fiercely beautiful and filled with anger, sorrow and hope, it affects in a quite subliminal and unforgettable way.
Brouhaha is a collaboration between Malia Johnston (choreography), Eden Mulholland (music) and Rowan Pierce (AV design).
Against dynamic black and white projections with continually changing designs, the dancers merge and emerge from the visual assault projected onto and through them.
At times reminiscent of a club or very sophisticated gym, the piece tested the dancers’ and the audience’s stamina. Building to a vigorous conclusion, it made a high-powered finale.
The eight dancers were superb. Performing with strength and vibrancy, they used technical expertise to always enhance and clarify, never to overshadow meaning.
We, as New Zealanders, should be very proud of this company. They are superb ambassadors.