When Chloe Loftus steps into her office, she walks through a stand of native bush, greets tui singing around her and harnesses herself to a robustly-built Pohutukawa tree.

It's here she spends the next few hours making an artwork the likes of which few New Zealanders have seen.

Loftus is Auckland Council's 2017 Regional Parks artist in residence and the first dancer/ choreographer to take up the eight-week residency since the programme began in 2008.

She's based at Long Bay Regional Park until later this month and, after more than a decade living in the UK, says it's an exciting opportunity to introduce the public to a style of outdoor performance becoming more common in the Northern Hemisphere.


"There's a really strong outdoor arts scene in Europe so it's exciting to have the opportunity to create something outdoors here," says Loftus, whose bungy-assisted dance aims to highlight the calming effects of being surrounded by nature.

She describes Long Bay, home to the historic Vaughan Homestead and included in the Te Araroa walking track network, as a place of serenity where people come to unwind. Those who have stopped to watch her rehearse tend to keep a respectful distance, but she always invites them to talk with her about what she's up to.

"They are very polite and watch from a distance but almost seem to become kind of mesmerised by what I'm doing," Loftus says. "So far, one person had a bit of a grumble about the project but everyone else who has stopped has been really positive.

"I think most people realise it's an opportunity to see something they might otherwise not see and, because it's in a park, there's a chance to attract in the audience those who might not go to a theatre to see something like this. Who knows? It might tempt them to see more or even become involved themselves."

She says Auckland's unseasonably wet weather has made devising and rehearsing a little difficult but she's on track for performances in early December.

Loftus was selected for the residency based on her original performance style. Past recipients include a poet, installation artists, composers, photographers, filmmakers, painters and theatre-makers.

Regional Parks manager Rachel Kelleher says work from the residency has an educational component and it's a different way of getting park-users to reflect on the environment and art itself. Artworks must be influenced in some way by the park or residency experience.

Each artist lives and works in one of Auckland's 35 regional parks and must create a new and original artwork that is then shared with the public. They get help with accommodation and a small weekly allowance which generates a new exhibition, performance, publication or permanent feature in the park.

Last year's artist in residence, Kate Parker, spent eight weeks in the Waitakere Ranges and constructed intricate paper light boxes that were displayed at the Arataki Visitor Centre for three months.

The 2D whimsical pictures told a story called Kowhai and the Giants about forest destruction, reflecting on west Auckland's past and future. Parker, a theatre-maker and puppeteer, used basic tools, paper, cardboard, scissors and glue to craft her art.

She's since gone on to work with Auckland Theatre Company on a possible performance of a children's show about the importance of trees and preserving nature.

Loftus' performance will be showcased on Saturday December 9 at 6pm and Sunday December 10 at 12pm at Long Bay Regional Park in front of the Vaughan Homestead.

•You can see Chloe Loftus performing next weekend, at 6pm on Saturday and noon on Sunday, at Long Bay Regional Park at the Vaughan Homestead.