ACQUISITIONS '14: Theatreview review

Acquisitions '14 - HUMANITY EXPOSED
Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad with music by Claire Cowan; Catherine Chappell with music by Chris O'Connor

at Q Theatre Loft, Auckland
From 6 Aug 2014 to 10 Aug 2014 
[1 hour]

Reviewed by Dr Linda Ashley, 7 Aug 2014

Curated by Touch Compass Dance Company director Catherine Chappell, Acquisitions '14 layers dance with film, music and very clever boxes.

Beginning in the Q foyer, the DanceBox project is led by film director Alyx Duncan and supported by the Ministry of Social Development Make a Difference Campaign. This online project, launched on International Dance Day (April 29), is a clever strategy to engage with as many dancers as possible, including some in Wellington and Christchurch. Designed to shine a light on special personal milestones of change, the stories in these mini-dance films strike both profound and amusing moments. You are invited to join in. Watching these personal and enchanting films, with coincidentally a couple of company dancers jamming in front of them, is a real treat. The interactive short dance film installation is the start of many boxes.

Undertide, by NZ/USA Minnesota-based directors of the BodyCartography Project Olive Bieringa and Otto Ramstad, is a sepia study of dynamic sustainment and a sustained study of intense confinement. Beginning as a film (director Alyx Duncan), seven dancers communally jostle for position within the confines of a box, viscerally. Bodies ripple, nerves jitter and energy flows successively like the blood within. A gory filmic moment reveals the viscera; the audience make uncomfortable noises.  Morphing into real time, dancers slowly leave the box only to cling to each other as the empty box spins. Magic and trickery? Returning to the confines of the cube brings reversal and echoes through time. Ending with the dancers return to real time, planetary spinning leaves us in calm, contemplative absorption.

The score by Claire Cowan cradles the dance, showing off the minutiae of the movements, as music that is good for dance should do. It is hollow, deep, squelchy, lunar and evokes the steady flow of body and ocean fluids that we see in the dancers' bodies.

Watching Windows, co-created by Catherine Chappell, Liz Kirk and dancers Georgie Goater, Adrian Smith, Tess Connell, Jesse Johnstone-Steel, Alisha McLennan and Zildjan Robinson, plays with the ideas of physical boundaries and limitations of several boxes. We are gifted a mischievous, childlike and yet grown-up whimsical series of solos and duets that delight in a playground of appearances, disappearances, balances, slides, glances of touch, astonishing suspensions, gestural conversations, making full use of (to use some old Laban language) moving over, under, around and through the boxes. Watching Windows exemplifies how to make full use of a set-prop and provides a lesson in how thoughtful transitions enhance the balance, pacing and flow of choreography.

Chris O'Connor provides a sound score that choreographers and dancers can only dream of – 'loving the musical boxes, the mix of live percussion and recorded sound that supports the quicksilver final section.  

Lighting design (Jane Hakaria) and production (Romola Lang) add value to the whole. I would love to know who made those clever boxes. There is much to watch in this production and a second viewing could prove equally rewarding. Physical restrictions disappear in Acquisitions '14 and Touch Compass unequivocally meet their mission of making a difference in terms of who can dance.

Tuesday, 26 August, 2014