It's a dance show where instead of sitting still and watching the action unfold in front of them, the audience gets to move as much as the dancers - if they want.

Created by the multidisciplinary production company Movement of the Human, RUSHES combines live music, movement, visual imagery, light and film in 11 paper-walled rooms set up in the Aotea Centre's usually non-descript Lower NZI Room.

Audiences are free to linger or roam; they can decide to stay and observe what's happening in the evocatively named Sustainment or the Ripple Room, investigate mysterious objects and miniature environments in the Room of Portals, peer into nooks and crannies or dynamic darkness until their eyes adjust to what is, entrancingly, barely visible.

They are can engage with performers or each other, piece together strange stories, become energised by ever-changing projections or pass through the rooms to hang out alongside the band, led by Eden Mulholland, in the bar of the Music Lounge.


The RUSHES creative team wanted to transform the normal audience experience into something more playful and immersive than is possible in a standard theatre setting. Malia Johnston, producer and choreographer, likens it to creating an atmosphere more like an art gallery.

Johnston describes herself as "a gallery person" who enjoys the settings and conditions created there for viewing art.

"The conditions my body is experiencing affects the way I see," she says. "I have a different bodily experience in the theatre, influenced by the architecture and the way it positions me, than in a gallery where I am free to choose a vantage point.

"So in RUSHES we have created a gallery-like space, a social space, rather than the somewhat confronting space of a theatre. This new environment affects the performers as much as it does the audience."

The environment might be that of the visual arts but RUSHES is movement based. Performers include well-known dancers Taiaroa Royal, Kelly Nash and Lucy Marinkovich alongside recent graduates and seconded students, dancer Briar Wilson, now in her 80s, actors Jess Holly-Bates and Katie Burson, and a number of guest performers such as Matt Moore who will ensure every night offers something different.

Johnston has been developing Movement of the Human's work, along with collaborators composer Mulholland and designer John Verryt for the past decade. Projects range from the large-scale World of Wearable Arts show to 20 or so contemporary dance works. AV artist Rowan Pierce joined the team in 2011 and has contributed to smaller projects including the contemporary dance works Amanimal, Flip Pivot Boom and Meremere.

Each of the team makes a specific contribution to RUSHES.

Scenic designer John Verryt wanted the audience to be free to wander or linger among an array of places, each offering a different performance and experience. That meant creating a labyrinth of rooms with paper walls, a series of strangely shaped spaces which provide blank canvases for visual designer Rowan Pierce to transform with projections.


"Being paper, the walls are no barrier to Eden's music, and you can hear it throughout the space, no matter which room you are in. Sometimes it provides provocations for the dancers to respond to, or encourages people to get up and move onwards, but mostly it meshes or contrasts with what is happening in all the different spaces."

Pierce uses 16 projectors, ranging from handheld to full HD, to provide seven distinct visual environments and a series of "peepshows" tucked inside containers into which the audience peeks.

"For me," explains Pierce, "what entices me most about this work is the prospect of creating a 'performance' that provides a truly multi-dimensional audience experience. The audience isn't inhibited by following just one narrative or one linear trajectory here, instead they can create their own from what they encounter.

"They can engage with the elements, including other audience members, as much or as little as they please. What we have provided is as much a playground as it is a performance space."

What: Auckland Fringe Festival - Rushes
Where & when: Lower NZI Room, Aotea Centre; Tuesday - Saturday