THE NEW ZEALAND DANCE COMPANY
Wednesday 24th August
Consisting of two works, The Absurdity of Humanity is an aptly-titled full-length contemporary dance programme by The New Zealand Dance Company.
The show opens with Lina Limosani’s Whispers From Pandora’s Box, which aims at a fusion of perfomance genre; comedy, slapstick, theatre of the absurd, clowning, horror and contemporary dance. Some visually striking moments are interspersed in the work, notably the first impact of vividly stylised thespian costumes and twisted clown makeup. Dancer Xin Ji is effervescent in Whispers From Pandora’s Box, performing with his characteristic dynamic control and flawless comic timing. Another standout performer, Carl Tolentino, moves with passion and modernity without resorting to wearying echoes of former hip hop movement vocabulary.
Whispers From Pandora’s Box produces some satisfying choreographic sections through the diagonals, and an intricate staccato floor section from the human chickens. The sound design relied heavily on pop culture, including a long section of the infamous monologue from the 2004 James Wan film, Saw. Other moments of the accompanying sound felt like the music had been ripped from video games (although it was predominantly movie soundtracks). The clowning theme in Limosani’s work was clear, and drew on the experience of dancer Tupua Tigafua with the sweetly narrative mime performances of White Face Crew. The work frequently featured movements steeped in violence, a theme that was repeated with little variation. Motifs of stabbing and slashing, accompanied by screams, were used to fill long gaps in the dance choreography, which weakened the power of the piece as a whole. The reference to Absurdism in the programme didn’t really eventuate onstage; with no clear exploration of existentialist considerations.
Ross McCormack’s Matter was a more carefully structured and crafted work. Inspired by the striking sculpture Vessel by Canadian artist David Altmejd, McCormack considered “…lifting a rock and witnessing a thriving mass of micro-life instantly beginning to reorder itself”. These two inspirations are very clear in the finished work; urgency, ritual, darkness and alteration are superbly represented in the the choreography. Additionally, McCormack has five large spear-like structures onstage. These provide divisions and reference points for the movement, while simultaneously provoking questions for the audience and partially obscuring sightlines.
A masterful manipulator of production technology, movement and tension, McCormack delivers with his usual power in Matter. This work is more closely aligned with considerations of Absurdist theatre, and at times even Theatre of Cruelty. His ability to draw the audience in, delicately and subtly, enables him to deliver sudden blows of such effect and contrast that we are physically affected during the performance.
Matter was my favourite perfomance to date by dancer Lucy Lynch, who brought an asexual accuracy to her movement that allowed the choreography to speak for itself. Xin Ji once again stood out for his technicality and precision, and perhaps the key is his attention to stillness; giving it the same consideration as movement in both effort and control.
This premiere season of The Absurdity of Humanity plays in Auckland until August 27th.