The opening week of this year's Auckland Fringe offers two well-considered contemporary dance works focusing on personal issues which nevertheless have broad relevance no matter what age or ethnicity the audience member might be.

How to Make Friends and Still Appear Normal is an hour-long work which explores the question of what it is to be normal in the face of social pressures to conform and the unpredictable nature of social interaction. It also takes a close look at the way friends try to help one another when faced by difficult or embarrassing social situations which are likely to recur, and how easy it is for best intentions to go awry.

A series of theatrically complex scenes alternate - dance sequences, projected text, and dance with dialogue, accompanied by an unobtrusive yet apt soundscore by Emi Pogoni and remarkably subtle lighting by Ruby Reihana-Wilson. The work has been co-devised by the three performers - Natalie Maria Clark, Sofia McIntyre and Sarah Elsworth - under Clark's overall direction, and it is an assured, polished production in which all three seem equally at home.

The dancers are strong, lithe, flexible, matter of fact movers, and their performance is beautifully executed. The audience quickly becomes fully engaged by the work, charmed and challenged by the mix of self-reflection and revelation threaded by wit and whimsy, and leave the theatre with much to think about.


The nature of friendship is also at the heart of Salted Singlet's hour-long work An Unfortunate Willingness to Agree, set against a backdrop of the everyday complicity which lets us suspend our connections to matters of earth-shattering significance on a world scale, and our choices to let sleeping dogs lie when it comes to our closest relationships.

Co-devisers Oliver Connew, Gareth Okan and Zahra Killeen-Chance skilfully take the audience through a series of situations which move from order to disorder, from news of the world to more intimate events, leaving viewers thinking about the issues they face in their own lives.

What: How to Make Friends and Still Appear Normal, with Black Sheep Productions, to Feb 21
Where: Maidment Musgrove Studio

What: An Unfortunate Willingness to Agree, with Salted Singlet
Where and when: Basement Theatre, to Feb 24