Review: Language of living with the New Zealand Dance Company

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The NZ Dance company launches its premiere season in Auckland next Friday.
The NZ Dance company launches its premiere season in Auckland next Friday.

The brand new NZDC make their debut with a platinum performance, sophisticated, innovative, polished and professional, and with cutting edge creativity. After a decades' long diet of less than inspired or inspiring home-grown contemporary dance in the city this new venture shines out like a beacon of salvation!

Five stunning works - diverse, delightful, relevant and revealing - are shown to perfection in a fascinating, all encompassing set with extraordinary lighting and a feast of music, much of it performed live.

Enormous loops of heavy silvery foil line the back of the stage. Sections can lift and lower separately to reveal David Guerin at his piano, the New Zealand Trio, The Electric Boutique in action, or a dancer turned dialogue deliverer. Titles, addresses, dancing dots and spirals and other mystical messages are play across it. In the case of the opening work Evolve, Shona McCullagh's solo for beautiful, strong and uber-expressive Ursula Robb, strange biological images are projected with great beauty on this silver backdrop.

Sometimes strips of bright neon enliven its basic gleam. In McCullagh's second work, Trees, Birds Then People it becomes a magic lake then native forest gloom. Suddenly the light escapes and flickers through the auditorium, confusing the audience/ stage divide.
Against all this technical excellence a team of truly talented dancers shine: Robb, Craig Bary, Sarah Foster-Sproull, Justin Haiu, Alex Leonhartsberger, Tupua Tigafua, Hannah Tasker-Poland and Lucy Lynch.

It is Robb's solitary figure, dwarfed but in no way overwhelmed, that comes first, in a study that marvels at the human body's evolution from a single cell. Bary and Haiu are the lyrical highlight in Parmenter's duet to Bach, performed by Guerin, the beauty of which makes the idea of a solo unbearable in that moment. All McCullagh's zany wit and wickedness leaps to life in Trees, Birds Then People, featuring a cacophony of noisy natives in Gareth Farr's Mondo Rondo. Tigafua's indignant bird is hilarious, the olive drab costumes with underflashes of scarlet perfect! Then Haiu releases his Chaplinesque Robot, melding street dance and mime, melting your heart.

The second half sees the longest work, Human Human God, with Eden Mulholland's brilliant score, choreographed by Foster-Sproull and dancers, and exploring the modus operandi of Generation Y as insular, self-focussed and always special, endlessly projecting their own perfection but tormented within.

Diverse, relevant, revealing - a platinum performance indeed!

- NZ Herald

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