Dance review: Prime Cuts at Tempo Dance Festival

By Raewyn Whyte

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Body/fight/time is a new full length work from Malia Johnston. Photo / Supplied
Body/fight/time is a new full length work from Malia Johnston. Photo / Supplied

The annual Prime Cuts showcase in this year's Tempo Dance Festival comprised just four works.

Two were excerpts which left you wanting more - a precisely timed 20-minute section from the polemical New Treaty Militia by Cat Ruka, and a 15-minute excerpt from Antje Pfunder's tightly structured solo There There, sensitively danced by Footnote's Francis Christeller.

Sarah Foster-Sproull's carnivalesque Tragic Best, performed by nine students from the NZ School of Dance, was all angsty slapstick, cartoonish moments and a wry commentary on the rising generation which these dancer represent.

The standout was Mia Mason's entrancing Brunhilde Observing Gunther, Whom She has Tied to the Ceiling, co-created with stellar dancers Sarah Foster-Sproull and Alex Leonshartsberger, and exploring the power dynamics of a loving relationship which nevertheless has her trussing him up like an animal for impending slaughter.

The richly referential and metaphorically layered new body/fight/time was the final mainbill work in Q's auditorium for Tempo.

Collectively developed by choreographer and director Malia Johnston and co-director Emma Willis in partnership with the dancers, this presents a series of bodily encounters, some with catastrophic impact, which affect our perceptions and the future we anticipate as a result.

Created by Rifleman Productions in partnership with Footnote Dance Company, and a scenographic dream team (music by Eden Mulholland, set by John Verryt, lighting by Brad Gledhill, AV by Rowan Pierce), this is a fully integrated whole, with highly memorable mood-setting songs, compelling video portraits and sequences which
interweave seamlessly with the dancing.

A number of questions are posed within the work, challenging us to think more deeply about our experiences with the ravages of time.

During Tempo's second week, Black Grace presented a programme of short works by Neil Ieremia, Verse 2, at the Maidment Theatre. A mix of old and new, the opening PatiPati presented the company in classic style - an intricately structured dance whose patterns, rhythms and timing are drawn directly from Samoan traditional Sasa and Fa'ataupati.

A selection from 2010's Verses and the closing section of 2009's Keep Honour Bright also presented rhythmically driven, constantly flowing muscular motion, with little respite. A new work, The Nature of Things, set to luxuriant, lyrical harp music played on stage by Natalia Mann, incorporates balletic arms and formations, but keeps the pace cracking along - the less driven, more lyrical side of things remains yet to be explored.

What: Tempo Dance Festival: Prime Cuts 20 and body/fight/time
Where: Q Theatre, with Rifleman Productions and Footnote Dance
What: Black Grace - Verse 2
Where: Maidment Theatre

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