REVIEW: Contrast (Footnote New Zealand Dance)

Review by Brigitte Knight

[Right Direction]

Contrast presents works from two choreographers of significant national and international standing: Switzerland-based choreographer, dancer and teacher Emma Murray, and Creative New Zealand’s Choreographic Fellow 2017-2019 Sarah Foster-Sproull. Potentially, the season was named before the works were created – they share similar general concepts but strongly contrasting realisation.

In Murray’s work Participation, four dancers enter into a trance-like, continuous, accumulative choreography which blooms from an elementary stepping pattern. The content of the work includes improvisation and development through visual cues, some of which are bold, others subtle. Participation is hypnotic, and its development and progression interesting. The opening is challenging, being so long, and minor losses of unison are quite evident due to the form and nature of the choreography. Music by Till Hillbrecht develops into a pulsating electronic beat, creating flashes of end-of-the-night overload, particularly as the choreographic content beings to warp and distort. Costumes by Murray’s sister, Alice, present a colourful, anti-fashion palette, simultaneously unflattering yet character-full.

Increasingly narrative and gently humourous, Super Ornate Construct by Foster-Sproull takes an abstract approach to exploring the archetypal “man alone”. The work considers exposition through the removal of façades, and the complexity of human relationships. Foster-Sproull has progressed her signature peripheral hand motifs to peripheral cardboard cut-outs. This works beautifully with a narrative created by Andrew Foster, and imbibes Super Ornate Construct with exquisitely restrained moments of humour.

Foster-Sproull’s work features beautiful, sophisticated contemporary pas de deux choreography, and an outstanding solo from dancer Georgia Beechey-Gradwell. Beechey-Gradwell’s performance showcases her strengths brilliantly, and she effortlessly steals the show with her attack and speed. Although the choreography generally flatters the Footnote dancers, Joshua Faleatua’s hip hop-rich background is evident in the bound movement vocabulary and alignment of his upper back and shoulders.

Unfortunately, preshow and intermission lighting was painfully bright for audience seated in the front of the auditorium; a row of footlights faced directly into the eyes, causing audience to avoid facing forward until the lighting state changed for performance.

The Contrast season is certainly a step in the right direction for Footnote New Zealand Dance; both the company and their audience are richer for the opportunity to experience the work of these two choreographers.

Contrast played at the Raye Freedman Arts Centre on 1st November. The National Tour continues in Wellington, Nelson, Christchurch and Dunedin. 

SEE ALSO: Theatreview.org.nz review by val smith 

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