Beautiful film of a secluded bay in Auckland Harbour by Vernon Rive provides the backdrop for Swimmer, the opening work in a double bill of new works by veteran dancer Jennifer De Leon at the Basement Studio. The film makes the space seem much bigger and conjures an angelic presence as it follows the choreographer on her morning swim.

As the film rolls, De Leon and dancer Justin Tregenza join us. De Leon, in a gauzy floor-length white dress with a red-tipped hem, seems to have stepped out of the film and Tregenza, in a sleek black form-fitting body suit, provides her with a shadow self.

He echoes her movements, lifting and supporting her many extended poses, curving around her body as it rests on the floor, or rolls with her across the floor, bodies alternating atop and beneath.

The second work, Bugs and Worms and Desire is inspired by a poem about an indomitable small bird who flew all the way to Africa on just a diet of bugs, worms and desire. Acting as a metaphor for De Leon's own extended journey in dance, her programme notes ask "What does it take? Where will it end?"


Her performance offers images of that little bird, breaking slowly from the egg, feeding, finding its feet and its wings, journeying through the skies, riding the updrafts, plummeting downwards with the beautifully feathered sleeves of her translucent pale dress (by Olga Khimitch) drawing the eye as they float and flit.

By the time the bird finally comes to rest, it is wearied and taxed by the extensive journey, dizzied a little from too many sets of spirals, and takes longer to recover from transitions in and out of extreme poses and inversions, its resilience in question.
However, there is a sense the next journey will not be long delayed.

What: Bugs and Worms and Desire by Jennifer De Leon
Where & when: Basement Studio, 25 - 27 Apr, 6.30pm
Reviewed by Raewyn Whyte