Last night marked the premiere performance of the New Zealand Dance Company’s Kiss the Sky, showcasing works by three international choreographers from New Zealand, Australia, and Korea. The theme takes on the seasons, the southern sky, and time, all presented purposefully to coincide with the Matariki Festival (Māori New Year).
Artistic director Shona McCullagh, and rehearsal director Michael Parmenter, put together a stellar performance, assisted by Korean choreographer KIM Jae Duk, New Zealand choreographer Sue Healey, and Australian choreographer Stephanie Lake.
This is the first time a collaboration between a Korean choreographer and a New Zealand dance company has taken place.
In piece one titled Sigan, we were presented with a lot of staccato movements made by the dancers as they mirrored each other effortlessly. The musical score was made with a Korean drum and gong, making the moves of the black-cloaked dancers that much more dramatic. They appeared to be performing robotic, intricate movements on an an assembly line in a factory. The overall impression is of the pressures of modern workforce, communicating the idea that humans are forced to become austere and robot-like, increased mechanisation making humans more redundant. This was portrayed well against the black background and the white floor – both very contrasting and stark colours. There was an obvious Asian aesthetic, choreographed by KIM Jae Duk, with moves that were as effortless as they were minimalist.
In piece two, titled The Seasons Retouched, choreographed by Sue Healey, there was an over-whelming sense of lyrical movement. The music was cinematic, playing Max Richter’s tribute to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons, which was expertly delivered by 13-piece chamber group, Blackbird Ensemble, paired with a violin solo from musician, Amalia Hall.
It really filled the space and the musicians being present on the stage was a welcomed touch. This piece felt emotionally more accessible, especially through samples from the different seasons of Vivaldi’s music. It seemed to contrast with the factory feel of the first piece, being a representation of hope. The dancers stood in a circle to hold a round, parachute-like piece of light, cream fabric. Lifting it together, it is then buoyed by the air beneath. Sinking slowly before they raise it again. In the background, a large digital image of planet earth slowly rotated – matching perfectly to the dancers costumes in shades of pastel green, blue, and brown. The suggestion is perhaps that if we gently work together there can be hope for our planet.
In piece three, titled If Never Was Now, choreographed by Stephanie Lake, we were introduced to a sense of whimsicality, offset with moves that were as playful and striking as they were somewhat rebellious. The costuming was visually striking with pink trousers and shirtless dancers moving gallantly around the stage as artificial snow fell onto them. The work reflected the idea of nature introduced in the second piece, but appeared to show both the beauty within it, and the brutality.
Overall, the performances were both powerful and moving, communicating the idea of a fragile world overwhelmed by the crushing pressures and atmosphere of the workforce. The dancers were phenomenal and clearly understood what they were dancing too. All choreographers did a superb job in both communicating the messages through the dancers, and keeping it very captivating to watch as an audience.
Definitely something to add to the calendar for this year’s Matariki Festival!
To buy tickets, visit www.nzdc.org.nz