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Dance Review: Rotunda


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What: Rotunda, with the New Zealand Dance Company
Where and when: Aotea Centre, to Saturday, April 25

In the very midst of Anzac centenary celebrations and a media saturated with WW1 images, reflections
and tributes, a dance work built around the concept of band rotundas, that common, often strangely
beautiful, small town memorial to the fallen, strikes an instantly poignant note.

Conjuring up the presence of a full brass band, live, marching and stirring up the blood as only a brass
band can, is the touch of a mad sort of genius: a characteristic choreographer Shona McCullagh has
shown throughout her long and eclectic artistic career.

The opening stage is set with a tall scarlet banner which flows, bloodlike, from the rafters and bears the
names, of relatives of the company one suspects, lost to the savageries of war. A lone male figure enters
to a melancholy bell toll and in an eyeblink the scarlet flow becomes a silken, moonlit wraith, writhing
and floating in the fan-stirred air.

A sudden brightening of the house lights startles his melancholy reverie, but then from the darkness
behind, North Shore Brass makes its jubilant arrival, single filing down the twin isles through the stalls
and a roused audience responds with cheers and spontaneous clapping.

Rotunda, is from there a definite duet between musicians and dancers, with celebrated conductor Marc Taddei and ‘drummer boy” percussionist Pte Cameron Lee, very much a part of the action. The ASB
Theatre offers a huge stage and without such a significant partner, the NZDC’s ensemble of eight, the
men in a pared back version of khaki fatigues, the girls in poppy red dresses, might have struggled to
fill the space.

The choreography offers a series of intimate narratives to paint the faces of war: young men, goonishly
innocent at play with its weaponry; the blossoming of love in lives that are just beginning; the enlisted
glory.

The horrors of the battlefield come, though, in a dramatic section of shadow play which hugely
magnifies the dancers’ presence, and in a series of projected black and white images, similarly huge.
Scenes of wounding and death and the aftermath of war shrink back to human size in two soul-stirring
duets, with a soldier confronting the loss of his mate, and a wife dealing with her traumatised and
unresponsive man.

Stylishly evocative, danced – and played – from the heart, Rotunda closes lyrical and lovely, with an
image of hope for a peaceful and loving world. Don’t we wish?

Reviewer: Bernadette Rae