Absurdity of Humanity in dance

The New Zealand Dance Company's latest programme pushes the boundaries of contemporary dance.

The Absurdity of Humanity
The New Zealand Dance Company
Q Theatre, Auckland
Until August 27

New Zealand Dance Company’s latest programme consists of two works, Whispers from Pandora’s Box and Matter which, like its previous offerings push the boundaries of local contemporary dance engaging with both international and local ideas and practices.

Pandora’s Box is one of the Greek myths which aligns with the Christian myth of Adam and Eve. Pandora, the first woman, was given a container she unwisely opened, releasing death and other evils into the world. The only thing remaining in the box once she had closed it was hope.

In Lina Limosani’s version of the tale Whispers from Pandora’s Box, the evils are released by a male figure, who dances with convulsive moves as though he is part man part animal.

The released evils  take the form of five vaguely Elizabethan ghoul-like figures who mock, tease and abuse the three humans dancing like demented souls.

Much of this dancing is set to cinematic music and the dancing is also a mixture of the cinematic and slapstick with several sequences owing much to Fellini and the music of Nino Rota.

The dancing is lively and endlessly inventive combining speech, sound, acting, boxing, wrestling, gymnastics, song and dance including a vicious sequence of beating stabbing and whipping. This is balanced by some comic sequences as the “humans “ try to escape from the ghouls.  This was one of several delightful comic sequences which had the audience laughing at the antics of the dancers – an uncommon occurrence with most contemporary dance.

The mixing of the serious dramatic dance and the comic however, lessened the overall impact of the work.

Dramatic frieze
Matter choreographed by Ross McCormack opens with a lone figure seemingly transfixed by one of the five posts erected on the stage. He was joined by another figure and from their fitful movements it appears that they are inhabiting a world where they are seeking, discovering or being activated by lines of force or energy, possibly emanating from the poles.

Then they are joined by a group of dancers to create a reptilian-like form with a nod to the work of the German choreographer Pina Bausch. Their erratic shuffling moves are driven by an inner tension as well as massive roars of music.

There is a surreal beauty to the dancing, which is created with a subtle mix of fog, sound and coloured lights while at one point the music takes on the rhythms of the Pacific with a hypnotic quality.

Another dramatic sequence involves first two dancers and ultimately all eight moving and dancing as mirror images of each other creating a dramatic frieze. This architectural aspect is also present in many of the other sequences, deriving from the five poles.

Much of the time the dancing could be likened to the movements of atoms and molecules in chemical and physical reactions, conforming to notions of particle physics and string theory.

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