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The Absurdity of Humanity
New Zealand Dance Company
Q Theatre, Auckland
Until August 27
New Zealand Dance Company’s latest programme consists of two works, Whispers from Pandora’s Box and Matter which, like
its previous offerings push the boundaries of local contemporary dance engaging with both international and local ideas and
Pandora’s Box is one of the Greek myths which aligns with the Christian myth of Adam and Eve. Pandora, the first woman,
was given a container she unwisely opened, releasing death and other evils into the world. The only thing remaining in the
box once she had closed it was hope.
In Lina Limosani’s version of the tale Whispers from Pandora’s Box, the evils are released by a male figure, who dances with
convulsive moves as though he is part man part animal.
The released evils take the form of five vaguely Elizabethan ghoul-like figures who mock, tease and abuse the three humans
dancing like demented souls.
Much of this dancing is set to cinematic music and the dancing is also a mixture of the cinematic and slapstick with several
sequences owing much to Fellini and the music of Nino Rota.
The dancing is lively and endlessly inventive combining speech, sound, acting, boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, song and dance
including a vicious sequence of beating stabbing and whipping. This is balanced by some comic sequences as the “humans “
try to escape from the ghouls. This was one of several delightful comic sequences which had the audience laughing at the
antics of the dancers – an uncommon occurrence with most contemporary dance.
The mixing of the serious dramatic dance and the comic however, lessened the overall impact of the work.
Matter choreographed by Ross McCormack opens with a lone figure seemingly transfixed by one of the five posts erected on
the stage. He was joined by another figure and from their fitful movements it appears that they are inhabiting a world where
they are seeking, discovering or being activated by lines of force or energy, possibly emanating from the poles.
Then they are joined by a group of dancers to create a reptilian-like form with a nod to the work of the German
choreographer Pina Bausch. Their erratic shuffling moves are driven by an inner tension as well as massive roars of music.
There is a surreal beauty to the dancing, which is created with a subtle mix of fog, sound and coloured lights while at one
point the music takes on the rhythms of the Pacific with a hypnotic quality.
Another dramatic sequence involves first two dancers and ultimately all eight moving and dancing as mirror images of each
other creating a dramatic frieze. This architectural aspect is also present in many of the other sequences, deriving from the five poles.
Much of the time the dancing could be likened to the movements of atoms and molecules in chemical and physical reactions,
conforming to notions of particle physics and string theory.