Choreographer Claire O'Neil is fascinated by the everyday things that ordinary people do as they go about their lives.

She likes to observe the ways people move through shopping centres, car parks and playgrounds; the ways they interact with one another, greet one another, share their happiness or anger, eat and drink in public places.

"We all have bodies and minds and feelings and instincts and we have all learned ways to be part of our society, our communities, to be present in public spaces," says O'Neil.

These ways differ depending on our age and cultural background, where and how we have grown up, and we all have our own personal quirks. But there are also aspects of being in the world that we all seem to share, regardless of those particular aspects.


"Even when we are doing something very ordinary and normal, like buying groceries at the supermarket, or eating lunch in a public place, there are subtle differences between one person and another in the way we use our bodies, pay attention to what's happening around us, interact with other people and deal with objects.

"In public places, in particular, there's always a marvellously random collection of people to observe. Taking time to see what's happening in your local community can help you to keep your own life in perspective."

Everyday scenarios and situations have inspired several of O'Neil's dance works during the past 25 years. Caffeine was set in a cafe; Lost Property in the late-night lounge of Hotel California. Her latest is Extra Ordinary Folk, developed with performers aged 10 — 50 years old and the sound artists of Fidget Collective.

It goes one step further than O'Neil's previous work by featuring only everyday actions and interactions in the 75 minute performance.

"All the movement, the clothing, and the objects the ten performers encounter are ordinary, everyday ones which most people are familiar with — tables and chairs, a potted plant, masking tape, a megaphone, hazard cones," she says, adding that it also includes social situations most people recognise and experiences we'll empathise with.

Extra Ordinary Folk is an example of social choreography, a kind of performance which explores everyday social realities and is open and accessible to as many people as possible. There's no "dancey" or abstract movement or provocative intellectual issues, though there are often philosophical questions inspiring the works.

Instead of celebrating spectacular physical virtuosity or technological wizardry, the focus is on people interacting in space. The audience is invited to watch closely, reflect on their own experiences and enjoy sharing the event with others.

Sections of Extra Ordinary Folk were performed this month at New Lynn Memorial Square. Despite the rain, passers-by were attracted by the strangely familiar antics of the performers, and stayed to watch, with passing drivers slowing and stopping long enough to hold up other traffic.


Further outdoors performances have been presented at Aotea Square and WestCity Waitakere as part of NZ Dance Week to raise awareness of dance in this country.

What: Extra Ordinary Folk by Fidget Collective
Where and when: Corban Estate Arts Centre, Henderson; tonight — Sunday
Other performances — Saturday, April 28 4pm, Riversdale Reserve, Avondale in the Whau Arts Festival