“Siva begins with the birth of an idea sandwiched between two worlds, where geometric clouds are pushed away from the earth by the dancers to make space. The representation of the world being turned upside down moves us into an exploration of cultural identity, and the search for a more articulate self-expression”.
Siva is a celebration of Black Grace at twenty – part celebration, part retrospective, part contemplation of the future.
It’s great to see Ieremia’s work on a stage with the size and technical capacity that the ASB Theatre has to offer. Siva is a work in four parts, and each part utilises different aspects of the space and staging. Section One opens with heavy, geometric clouds bisecting the space. The dancers, barely lit, begin to move and roll in the claustrophobic landscape beneath.
An ocean landscape provides the digital backdrop for Section Two. This work is taken from 2003’s Surface, and makes impressive use of three large, stylised river stones. The dancers in this work embody the ink and tools of Samoan tatau, infused with equal parts energy and fluidity. Some of my favourite moments of the evening are being reminded of the prowess of the dancers over these seemingly-unwieldy props. Swift changes of level, catch and release and percussive petit allegro are signature Ieremia.
Section Three was the most surprising part of Siva for me – a beautiful animation of iconic Japanese print The Great Wave of Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai projected onto gauze in front of the dancers. The sparingly-used technique contrasted beautifully with the closing images of the dancers underwater, creating a digital backdrop. The original score by Natalia Mann complimented the imagery perfectly, with a use of strings similar to koto being plucked.
Rebuilding, restructuring, reimagining giant slabs like a contemporary Stonehenge formed the core of the final work of the evening. Some soloist moments of contemporary ballet technique were refreshing, but mostly overshadowed by the motif-and-variation canons Ieremia is proficient in utilising. The impressive chorus of singers was at its best in this piece; present onstage yet foreshadowing the action of the dancers.
Black Grace presents some new faces in their current cast of nine dancers. Occasionally the unison of timing and alignment of the men was slightly out, however, as the season continues this is sure to tighten up. Costumes by Invercargill designer Lindah Lepou were original and effective, particularly those in Sections One and Four. In Section Three, though, the women’s costumes were very much reminiscent of the dancing society competition lyrical asymmetrical-skirt-over-leo standard.
Siva concludes with the brilliant and punchy Minoi Minoi, performed as a coda by five men. This Black Grace staple is a personal favourite, and Ieremia’s choreography at it’s very best. The work was enhanced by brilliantly colourful unfurling graphics, filling the stage with flowers, as the dancers sang an original arrangement of the traditional Samoan Minoi Minoi, juxtaposed with Sesame Street’s The Pinball Song. Such a treat.
Seen: Friday 6th November
A Black Grace Production
Choreographed by Neil Ieremia