The darker side of women's relationships with one another is at the heart of Foster Group's beautifully atmospheric Orchids.

These relationships are examined through repeating cycles of succour and support which degenerate into rejection and betrayal. It uses six female archetypes and their shadow selves morphing into the maiden, mother and crone of matriarchal societies while a preternaturally aware fairy-child completes the roster.

Intense individual moments of rage, anxiety, frenzy and narcissism are interspersed with group encounters, collectively comprising a disquieting portrait of femininity.

Throughout the work there are detailed images of a diverse array of orchids. The symmetry and particular structures of the flower, stems and tendrils are reproduced by arraying fingers, hands, forearms and whole bodies brought into focus or settled into niches.

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Design plays a significant role in this production, with Andrew Foster's set and Jennifer Lal's lighting creating a crevice in the Earth which opens on to a clearing. Alternately saturated with mist, moonlight or sunlight, this world is inhabited by six women clothed by Elizabeth Whiting in an array of loose silk robes, each in a single hue on a spectrum of browns, ranging from fawn to ochre.

Sparsely layered rhythmic music by Eden Mulholland is rich in sampled strings and bass tones with spatters of percussion, remarkably seductive to the ear, and this aids the flow of attention. Sarah Foster Sproull's choreography has echoes of the nature-derived vocabulary invented by Isadora Duncan and a ritual feel.

Intensely intimate interactions are punctuated by statuesque poses and occasional group frolicking while solos bring out the particular qualities of each of the archetypes.

The seven dancers, aged 7 to 60 years, are superbly cast. Marianne Schultz, Rose Philpott, Katie Burton, Tori Manley-Tapu, Joanne Hobern, Jahra Rager Wasasala and Ivy Foster all present deeply committed performances.

What: Tempo Dance Festival - Orchids by Foster Group
Where: Rangatira at Q Theatre
Reviewer: Raewyn Whyte