Dance Review

The New Zealand Dance Company’s Lumina ‘Hypnotic’
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By Bernadette Ray
Maidment Theatre, Auckland
19-22 August 2015

The three choreographers contributing state of the art pieces for this ground-breaking season with The New Zealand Dance Company were given the brief of “light, illumination, space, image and movement” by the company’s artistic director Shona McCullagh who has long excelled in dance film-making and in creating interactive art installations.

The challenge is met on three separate levels, the programme in total presenting a veritable explosion of fantastically illuminated spaces, images and superbly performed contemporary dance.

First up is The Geography of an Archipelago, from American-born Dutch choreographer Stephen Shropshire, in a co-production with the Holland Dance Festival. Lumina will be performed there next year.

Shropshire takes the most traditional reading of McCullagh’s brief, eschewing fancy AV design for a hand-held light source in a darkly shadowed space, his three starring dancers dressed in black, with lower legs and forearms in gleaming, highly expressive emphasis. A percussive soundscape from Chris O’Connor and a Beethoven sonata form the aural backdrop.

The effect is cave or temple-like, the movement vocabulary swinging from an hypnotic bent-knee treading to some extraordinary extensions of legs and spines, the whole a concentrated, intellectual exposition on the search for individual identity in a globalised world.

Louise Potiki Bryant in collaboration with musician Paddy Free presents In Transit, the most radically illuminated piece, in which the flesh and blood dancers almost play second fiddle to that of light and projected images: long sticks multiply in number against a bank of six tall screens, dice and slice the stage and its occupants while almost holographic images of human-like figures suggest ancient mummies or creatures from space. Senses are overwhelmed, insides becomes outside, future and past become fused.

There are, still, some beautiful danced passages, rich in subtle Maori gesture or in lyrical duet to Moana Maniopoto’s Aio Ana.

Malia Johnston’s Brouhaha perfectly balances the play of light and projected image with fantastically danced movement. Discordant chords (music is by long-time collaborator Eden Mulholland) are matched by an emerging pathway of light, for example. AV design is by Rowan Pierce. Blocks and vivid strips and stripes and rectangles of light always meet or match or lead the danced movement. And the dance – and the eight dancers – are fantastic: strong, exceptionally fit and beautiful.

The Maidment audience on opening night gave this triple premiere performance a standing ovation. It is sure to also knock the Holland Festival’s socks right off.