Dance review: Rotunda, Q Theatre

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New Zealand Dance Company production of Rotunda. Photo / John McDermott
New Zealand Dance Company production of Rotunda. Photo / John McDermott

The buzz in the pre-performance foyer is palpable. Inside Rangitira's space, though, set suitably "in the round", the chatter quickly settles to a hush. A shadowy figure stoops to more closely examine a patch of white, a silky light.

Then, the soft hum of floor fans and the gauzy silk comes to life in a ghostly dance: a pale spectre, a wraith, a memory.

The band arrives but not in brassy magnificence. Their first sounds come not from gleaming instruments but just from their choreographed breath, the trumpeter's power, the dancer's fuel, the essential measurement of all life and death,

Rotunda focuses on the life stories of World War I, in costumes of rough, ankle-buttoned khaki and the crinkly, wafty parachute silk which rationed wives stitched finely, when they could get it. But its chronology of innocence and the exhilaration of youth (beware of that twirling staff!) approaching a barely known crisis, is one that speaks in every age.

Then the crisis hits at full crescendo, North Shore Brass in full blast. Dramatic lighting effects. Frightening thumps as "parachute drops" hit the floor. There is a relentless precision to much of the choreography that speaks of the military - and how that edge can quickly translate to the jerks and thrusts of terror, derangement and desolation.

But there is also a lot that is lyrical and lovely in this work, from the most poignant of homecomings, damaged, dysfunctional, desolate, to its final resolution of Healing and Memoriam. If some sections might be a little long, this is still a work in progress, for an outing for the Anzac Centenary in 2015.

The score is exceptional and the band, under the virtuosic baton of Don McGlashan, is as stirring and nostalgic as only brass bands can be. Choreographer and company chief executive Shona McCullagh has not only banded together a generous clutch of impressed sponsors, but a troupe of terrific dancers, as interesting as they are talented, to achieve another fierce and fabulous strike for professional and profound contemporary dance in New Zealand.

What: Rotunda, with the New Zealand Dance Company
Where: Rangitira, Q Theatre, to Sunday

- NZ Herald

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