CONTAINMENT A SHARED THEME
Tmepo Dance Festival
Reviewed by Roxanne de Bruyn, 15 Oct 2015
A popular staple of Tempo, Prime brings together new works by established New Zealand choreographers. This year's showcase includes four very different creations by Sarah Knox, Kristian Larsen & Georgie Goater, Touch Compass Dance Company and Brigitte Knight.
The show opens with a taste of Touch Compass's 2016 season. Titled 2 x 2 x 2, the curtain opens to an aluminium cube taking centre stage, which is used to explore the ideas of containment and freedom. Its presence creates a structure and a form for the dancers, yet doesn't seem to overly restrict them. There's still a sense of free, unbound expression beyond the confines of the cube, which contrasts with the more structured, minimalist movements and contortions within it.
There is also lovely sense of balance evident in the solos, duos and trios and the feeling of support between the dancers – a must in a mixed-ability dance company. The physical strength of the dancers is immediately obvious as they support themselves and others, leaving the audience unsure whether a disability is real or part of the performance. In the wonderful style of Touch Compass, any disabilities form part of the essence of the story rather than hindering it.
The next piece is Sarah Knox's new work, In the Face of Uncertainty. Six female dancers make their way across a dimly lit stage, moving in a group for much of the piece. There is a sense of conformity and collectiveness as they move almost perfectly in unison. Occasionally, one will break away, finding her own movement and direction, before coming back to the path again, sometimes affecting the style and rhythm of the collective movement.
There's something almost meditative about the steady progress and sometimes repetitive moment, but the irregular breakouts and odd quirks keep it from being monotonous. Instead, In the Face of Uncertainty draws the audience into its rhythm, remaining somewhat restrained even as the dancers break into pairs and find another movements for a short time. In the end, they are back in their group, the expressive climax never quite coming. Technically good, the performance is beautiful but very measured and contained.
A collaboration between Kristian Larsen and Georgie, Good Evening, Vietnam is the longest work of the night. Quirky, clever and sometimes awkward, it builds anticipation with slow movements leaving the audience waiting for something that never quite comes. This tension permeates the performance, the dancers ensuring every movement is precise, exaggerated and filled with effort.
There are some wonderful scenes – the silhouetted bike held upside down, its wheel spinning; Georgie standing motionless on the chair, the couple staring at audience as they slowly crumple, the embraces that never quite find their target. Uncertain and anticlimactic, Good Evening, Vietnam is full of beautiful movements that never quite reach their full extension, building a suspension and frustration that is only slightly relieved by its clever comedic moments.
The final piece of the night is the response of the choreographer, Brigitte Knight, to the suggestion that she should “stay where she's better acquainted”. More energetic than the previous two pieces, John and Eleanor is a modern, contemporary ballet, performed on pointe. The three dancers wear dark colours with shiny satin shoes, and quickly strip off their bulky jackets to display skimpy, revealing outfits beneath.
Their dancing is generally solid, with a nice energy and engaging sharpness. The unity between the three dancers is still emphasised, and their movement seems intentionally contained, despite its sharpness and speed. It's a dark comedy, not a light-hearteed piece, and the trio ends up in their initial bulky outfits once more, seemingly ultimately unchanged by their performance.