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Kiss The Sky
New Zealand Dance Company
Bruce Mason Centre, Takapuna
Reviewed by Chloe Klein, 30 Jun 2017
Kiss the Sky is New Zealand Dance Company’s Matariki triple bill featuring an international ensemble of choreographers, each bringing an offering of relationship and connection to the natural world.
Sigan is the evening’s first work, created by Korean choreographer Kim Jae Duk, and for me is the choreographic highlight of the programme. The Bruce Mason Centre stage is preset with a luminescent moon casting a soft glow onto the pale dance floor. Sigan is a philosophy of lines and circles, geometric puzzle pieces, angular discipline. The four dancers are braced with potential energy, the explosive action that never quite comes to fruition. Chrissy Kokiri and Xin Ji command with strength and precision. The movement is controlled by a relentless (heart?)beat created with traditional Korean percussive instruments that builds throughout the work, dictating timing, formation, pace, and stillness. The lighting design structures space with more moons, rising and falling, on the floor, directing focus, just as disciplined. Sigan holds back, it’s restrained, even in its final climax. It’s a dynamic quality I haven’t seen in a long time, and I find Kim’s choreographic choices intriguing.
Second in the programme is Sue Healey’s The Seasons Retouched. The work opens with a moment of ethereal and viscerally captivating awe as the stars of the night sky are seemingly switched on and encompass the stage. The Blackbird Ensemble, whose artistry is both thrilling and moving, make their way through the galaxy upstage where they remain throughout the work to perform Max Richter’s Recomposed, a tribute to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. The work moves through the seasons, each change signalled by a transition of animation, masterfully designed by Augusto, against the curtain, the floor, and performers themselves. Sheer fabric is lowered to create three dimensional animations. Blackbird Ensemble’s enthralling presence in the work is the foundation of it’s magic. Violinist Amalia Hall ventures to centre stage and is encircled by dancers as she performs a virtuosic and impassioned solo, easily the hlighlight of the piece.
The Seasons Retouched is in vast contrast to Kim’s linear, structured, and disciplined Sigan. The work is characterised by soft, free flowing and release-based movement. Both Carl Tolentino and Breanna Timms shine in this movement tone, flying in their own bodies. It is a celebration of the seasons in their most romantic perception (Auckland’s seasons in reality are far from being so clear cut), and while the piece is beautiful in every sense I find it difficult to place it in any way other than as a fairytale – enchanting and mesmerising, but not mine. I feel this particularly as a parachute is brought out and fanned, backdropped by a projection of the earth (I’m unable to find New Zealand), in generalised Utopic bliss.
If Never Was Now closes out the evening with the most abstract connection to the programme, urgent chaotic energy disorientating, reorientating, and disorientating again in an ongoing cycle of anarchy. A perfect circle, another moon perhaps, of small polystyrene balls – the kind you stuff your bean bags with – sits centre stage. Their ordered perfection is disrupted by a curious and cheeky duet, continuously spread over the stage in increasing disorganisation. Underfoot the balls squeak, the choreography composing an undending chatter. A small army dressed in uniform neon pink sweatpants and nude-seeming upper bodies, homogenous, explode. Despite the choreography’s refined lines, patterns, symmetry and group work, I feel rushed, adrenaline pumping. They are continuously searching, flailing, the searching for the next. Heavy front lighting casts frantic writhing shadows against the back curtain. There are moments of darkness, violent aggression, frustration with chaos amongst playfulness. Dynamic lifts are executed seamlessly within excellent partnering. A powerful closing image, Chrissy Kokiri kneels under the spotlight as a stream of polystyrene balls rains from the ceiling and clings to the light as the stage is enclosed in darkness.
Curationally New Zealand Dance Company has raised the bar with Kiss the Sky. Well-polished performance is complemented compositionally with excellent production design for an evening of sensory indulgence.
Kiss the Sky will be performed at the Bruce Mason Centre until July 1.