Footnote New Zealand Dance is Aotearoa’s longest-running contemporary dance company. Founded by Deirdre Tarrant in 1985, Footnote is an ambitious national arts organisation that is dedicated to extensively touring dance works around Aotearoa and internationally. Footnote is known for creating and commissioning bold new work by New Zealand artists.
Footnote’s new show, Dry Spell, is choreographer Rose Philpott’s first full-length touring show. She talks to express about being inspired by mythical heat and physical release.
Your new dance work, Dry Spell, has been described as a spiralling ascension of desire, decadence and disgrace. Can you tell us first what the meaning behind the title is, and how that plays out in the show?
The name of the work Dry Spell arrived as I was thinking a lot about pressure and the environmental factors that make people feel tension. A dry spell is a long period of lack, and this work deals with the feelings of excess that can push up against this. Like a dam breaking or a physical release. There is also something quite mystical about heat. I thought about mirages and how our brains can trick us into optimism. How we might still laugh when something terrifying is happening.
Humans can be very private, if not secret beings –something you set out to explore in Dry Spell. Do you think people are perhaps too private and secretive, or is that a good thing?
No, no I don’t think so, I think people can be private if they want haha. I love having a private inner world even when it is a bit wonky, that’s what makes humans interesting. Sometimes I feel like our perspective can be challenged by how others see or experience things, but I think that as long as you have an understanding that there can be multiple truths and that what you believe to be true might be different for other people, there is huge relief in that.
Dry Spell is beautifully bright and playful, but there’s also a certain, dark undercurrent to it. It’s exhilarating but edgy. You’ve said you wanted to explore the inner self and the pressures we place on ourselves – do you have a personal approach and general thoughts around dealing with these types of pressures?
I go to therapy! I like to remind myself that making work is about questioning rather than knowing everything.
Footnote NZ Dance is a very successful dance company – how has it been working with them and their super talented crew? How much did they add to your initial idea once you began the workshopping and rehearsal process?
I love working with Footnote. I have had the opportunity to work with three versions of the company over the past couple of years and have always had the best time. This is the second iteration of this work, a development from the half-hour version to becoming an evening-length show. This particular configuration of Footnote – Cecelia, Levi, Ollie, Veronica and Emma have made Dry Spell completely their own. The dancers play a huge role in the development of the work. Through discussion and the workshopping of ideas, they become co-creators not just of the physical material but also of the thematic and theatrical components. They are such damn exceptional dancers and people. I will gush, gush, gush about them all day if you’ll let me!
The show isn’t purely ‘dance’ – there’s also lighting, set design and an incredible new soundtrack that was created by Eden Mulholland, one of New Zealand’s leading composers for contemporary dance. How much did Eden’s work inform the choreography and feeling of the whole show?
Eden is a total master. He has an ability to really tap into a sound that makes you want to move and so there are moments where the composition he has created really drives the performers in that way. The sound helps us to believe that we are in the same world throughout the show but also supports the sudden shifting of timelines. It doesn’t shy away from an emotionality (which I really love) and also supports the idea of fragments and memory floating around the performers.
Working with Eden is always a wonderful collaboration, he lives in Australia so due to covid he couldn’t be in the room with us for this project. This meant that there were heaps of videos, google drives and zoom calls so that we could get on the same page. I find technology hard so that was challenging at times! He is so creatively responsive, and my partner Hannah is also a musician so she was very helpful in communicating the specifics of what needed to happen to the tracks as we started working with them in the studio.