All alone in a wired world

By Raewyn Whyte

Apt Y Idos explores how cyberspace has both connected and disconnected people.

Black Sheep's Apt Y Idos riffs on the ills of modern life. Photo / Blair McTaggart
Black Sheep's Apt Y Idos riffs on the ills of modern life. Photo / Blair McTaggart

Black Sheep Productions' new dance work Apt Y Idos is an anagram for dystopia, inspired by choreographer Natalie Clark's reading of dystopian novels, including several by Margaret Atwood and Erewhon by Samuel Butler.

While the books paint a bleak view of dangerous directions being taken by political regimes, the hour-long Apt Y Idos focuses on a more mundane aspect of our lives - our reliance on mobile phones, tablets and other electronic devices.

"I'd been doing all this reading," says Clark, "and then just as we were about to start rehearsals, I broke my foot. I couldn't walk, I couldn't drive, and for several days I'd couldn't get out to shop. I was totally reliant on other people to get anything done. I realised how much I relied on my phone and Facebook for knowing what was going on, too."

Being forced to sit still made Clark think about how frenetic she and her friends seem to be, always multi-tasking and juggling their schedules.

"I realised that my friends and I are generally too busy doing things to spend quality time with one another. Instead we have Facebook and text messages and Skype, scattering fragments of our lives around cyberspace. We are constantly connected, yet we are alone, lonely. We seldom have any deep experience of one another, and when we do have to spend time together we are awkward and uncomfortable. We don't know how to relate."

Those thoughts became the starting point for the dance work, with Clark and her cast of five - Sarah Elsworth, Mattie Hamuera, Matthew Moore, Rosa Provost and Lydia Zanetti - exploring the ways mobile phone and screen technology shape people's lives and limit communication.

Like her previous award-winning work How to Make Friends and Still Appear Normal, Apt Y Idos has an original score, composed by Lucy Beeler and James Risbey, with costumes by Jessica Lowe, body art by Magdalena O'Connor, and lighting design by Ruby Reihana-Wilson.

The night after Apt Y Idos opens, Atamira Dance Company brings Moko back to the stage as an interactive work with a dramatic set and projected 3D visuals.

Moko honours the physical and spiritual transformation that occurs during the process of becoming tattooed. A large lycra sheet tethered by ropes, created by set designer Robin Rawstorne, is at its centre, transforming from screen to sculptural object, and shifting position as the dancers shift the ropes. Motion-triggered projections by Dan Mace and Puck Murphy are co-ordinated with a soundscore by Peter Hobbs.

The production team includes costume designer Gemma White, choreographers Moss Patterson and Kelly Nash, and six dancers in the new line-up for Moko: Gabrielle Thomas, Nancy Wijohn, Daniel Cooper, Bianca Hyslop, Mark Saul Bonnington and Andrew Miller.

- NZ Herald

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