Hearty applause and rousing cheers greeted Limbs@40, a homage to ground-breaking New Zealand contemporary dance company Limbs, featuring six reconstructed works from its historic 160 work repertoire.

Given beautifully polished performance by 27 mostly student dancers form UNITEC and the NZ School of Dance, who would never have seen the company perform live, these works provide a blast from the past for Limbs fans.

It is now 40 years since Limbs was founded and 20 years since they ceased performing. The six dances are barely representative of the company's range - oldies but goodies which have stood the test of time.

Three works from the early years show two different directions within the repertoire and are performed with appropriate mien. Two of Limbs co-founder Mary Jane O'Reilly's populist works are danced by members of her current company, In Flagrante.


Perhaps Can (1979) is a sensuously self-contained solo for a bare-breasted dancer in skirt and shawl, while the laidback quartet in Talking Heads (1980) wear sleek grey unitards and have bobbling heads and sashaying hips riding over quickly shuffling feet. By contrast, Melting Moments (1980), by the director of Britain's Rambert company Mark Baldwin, is a slow and controlled sextet, very much a form-based modernist work.

The other three works are more substantial and are performed with panache. O'Reilly's septet Poi (1983) is a detailed movement study drawn from poi dances and bird behavior, beautifully presented. One of Limbs original dancer's Douglas Wright's trio Knee Dance (1982) is as compelling as ever, drawing you into its weighted intricacies and deeply connected flow of motion.

His often romping Quartet (1987) is as revolutionary and thrilling now as it was then, filled with unpredictable and often contrary movements, experimentation and convention-breaking combinations. Technically very challenging, it gets a fine performance.

The versatile and technically strong dancers who perform these works have been taught by Limbs alumni during their tertiary dance education, a further fine example of Limbs' enduring legacy.

What: Tempo Dance Festival 2017 - Limbs@40
Where & when: Rangatira at Q Theatre, closes Friday, October 6
Reviewed by Raewyn Whyte