THE NEW ZEALAND DANCE COMPANY
Friday 21st August
Consisting of three brand-new mid-length works, Lumina is the latest offering from The New Zealand Dance Company. The show brings together the choreographic talents of Juilliard graduate Stephen Shropshire, and New Zealanders Louise Potiki Bryant and Malia Johnston. This season, the company has eight dancers; four women and four men.
Friday’s performance opened with Potiki Bryant’s In Transit, a collaboration between the choreographer and composer/AV designer Paddy Free (Pitch Black). The work explores the state of liminality – where participants in life’s rituals stand on a threshold between a previous state of being and a new state. The work opens with dancer Xin Ji balancing an extraordinarily long stick on the top of his head, while rotating slowly. The considered use of carefully designed audio-visuals in the work begins here and continues throughout the piece. Projection onto large black gauze panels creates texture, layering and plays with perspective. Lucy Lynch’s opening solo was one of my favourite moments in In Transit, showing her mastery of isolation, attack and manipulation of staccato movement material. The work contains a definite Kiwi flavour, with some lovely Maori imagery woven throughout.
Stephen Shropshire’s The Geography of An Archipelago (whose title reminds me of the delightful The Anatomy of a Passing Cloud by Javier De Frutos for the Royal New Zealand Ballet) is a completely different offering from the opening work. The stage is filled with fog, and dominated by a physically imposing yet seemingly weightless inverted black pyramid. A torch manipulated by one of the performers onstage illuminates three dancers through the fog, and live sound supported an original blend of drums, percussion and Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata. The choreography of The Geography of An Archipelago is dense and richly detailed. Xin Ji, who appears for his first season with The New Zealand Dance Company in Lumina, demonstrates immaculate technical control and impressive attention to detail. Ji’s solos drove the choreography for me, bringing the perfect balance of calm and vitality to every movement. His performance is nothing short of virtuosic and certainly not to be missed.
The final work of the programme, Brouhaha is the result of a collaboration between choreographer Malia Johnston, composer Eden Mullholland, and AV designer Rowan Pierce. The synchronicity between these artists is clear – movement, sound and disorientating projection are seamless and highly effective. The choreography hinges on the physically demanding repetition of jumping that develops and unfolds in an interesting yet organic way. Strength and fluidity were exemplified in the first pas de quatre (dance for four) section, with three of the men supporting Chrissy Kokiri in a fluid and original sequence of rippling lifts and manipulations. This was one of my favourite moments in a show that provided plenty of favourites for everyone in the audience.
Lumina is a very enjoyable and interesting programme, with The New Zealand Dance Company showing a new level of cohesion and strength. Catch it before it closes in Auckland, or make an excuse to visit one of the centres on its North Island tour from 1st May – 1st June 2016.