The New Zealand Dance Company’s Lumina
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By Jenny Stevenson
Maidment Theatre, Auckland
19-22 August 2015
The New Zealand Dance Company’s season of three new works aptly entitled Lumina, works its own particular magic with its themed focus on lighting and audio visual design as competing elements with the musical ambience, to become the drivers of the dance. Showcasing several new dancers, the Company under Artistic Director Shona McCullagh, has produced the season in conjunction with the Holland Dance Festival where Lumina will be performed next year.
Louise Potiki Bryant’s outstanding new work In Transit created with composer and audio-visual artist Paddy Free fully exemplifies the possibilities of this multimedia approach. Together they conjure up a world where the constant presence of ghostly figures created through projections of fluorescent, outlined silhouettes, emerge as what Louise designates “previous states of being”. They could equally be perceived as spiritual guides, or tipuna, moving as they do with their own unique larger-than-life aura.
Together with set designer Kasia Pol, Potiki Bryant and Free have created a highly-mobile set of screens on which to project the images and also to invoke gateways, open doors or windows to the soul. Referencing a work by Charles Koroneho, Potiki Bryant uses the imagery of balancing a stick on the head, perhaps as a metaphor for the precarious balance of our existence. The moving hongi duet danced by Carl Tolentino and Chris Ofanoa is the highlight of the work. The powerful final image of collapsing sticks shatters the illusionary parallel universe that the audience has been privy to.
Malia Johnston’s Brouhaha created with composer Eden Mulholland and audio-visual artist Rowan Pierce inhabits an altogether different landscape. Projected vertical pillars of light and textural shapes move sequentially across the screened backdrop, contrasted by a black, sharply triangulated structure in the foreground, also designed by Kasia Pol. The result is an edgy urban atmosphere that offers a pleasing contrast to the movement vocabulary performed by the full company of dancers who dance with ever increasing velocity, until the denouement unfolds.
In the final moments, Johnston creates an unforgettable image, with tiny Chrissy Kokiri undulating through a full rippling movement of the body while being borne aloft in a side-on horizontal position by three men travelling across the stage. The dance vocabulary veers from softly exploratory and flowing phrases through to highly energetic, jazz-based jumps and bounces. Eden Mullholland’s beautiful composition for cello, (played by Helen Mountfort) and piano, (played by Alex Burke) layers the work with quite unexpected textures
Visiting guest choreographer, Stephen Shropshire brings a unique vision to his work The Geography of an Archipelago, which as yet, is still to be fully realised by the dancers. Of the three soloists, a dynamic Xin Ji most successfully inhabits the taut and spare style by accessing the coiled tension inherent in the choreography.
Shropshire creates a single guiding light, held aloft as a beacon to lead the lost souls through the gloom. The dancers would appear to represent what he describes as “the body as an island”, symbolising the struggle of isolated individuals to establish identity in “an increasingly globalized world”. The dancers’ unison movement is strangely hypnotic, accompanied by Chris O’Connor’s softly insistent music and drums. Later Beethoven’s famous Moonlight Sonata casts its shining spell. Adding percussive scratches and sound whorls is a meandering minstrel, Tupua Tigafua, who plays on a shell-like instrument as he follows the dancers’ journeying.
Jo Kilgour’s lighting design for all three works is masterful: using light as a precious commodity to pierce the pervading darkness of the stage. Her response to each work is original and thought-provoking and creates a strongly unifying thread throughout.