Thursday, November 27, 2008

Favourite Things 2008

Guy and Malia's wedding..seriously the best social event of the year and the nicest time I have ever had with a large group people from the dance community. The MAU Forum, including Lemi's latest version of The Tempest. At the end of that piece, I looked at Sean and said "That was GOOD." Performing at Melbourne's Dancehouse with a group of fantastic artists "You Are Not Alone You are Just In New Zealand". Put together by the tireless Malia Johnstone. Performing in Settlement in good ol Wellington..gotta love that dust Claire O'Neill's MTYLand performed by Footnote, seriously contemporary, seriously about fucking time! The Trial directed by Stephen Bain, with exemplary design by Andrew Foster and a deeply cool collaborative cast of interdisciplinary performers. Kraftwerk at the Auckland Town Hall. Flawless Will stay with me for a long time (Thanks for the ticket and the company Paul McLaney). Robot Chickens Star Wars Episodes. I havent fully grown up yet. The Article that Summed It All Up (Kay S. Hymowitz) Collaborating with Simon Ellis (a very smart man) on improvisation, online. Hofesh Schecter..I just like what he's doing. Peter Ralston's Cheng Hsin workshop in Auckland Santeri Ojala, aka StSanders and his virtuosic overdubbing. I know he made this stuff a couple of years ago but whatever, I laughed in 08. Personal Thanks and Awards ‘High End Conversations’ award (s)…Sean Curham, Larry Lavender, Alys Longley, Brenton Surgenor, Natalie Medlock, Helaina Keeley, Cat Gwynne, Simon Ellis, Chris Jannides (keep on plugging CJ)

‘Ass Kicker of the Year’ award…Lemi Ponifasio

‘Hospitality & Generosity’ awards…Guy Ryan, Ali East, Malia Johnstone, Allen Roberts, Sian Tucker (keep those social cogs oiled!), Raewyn Whyte and Derek Tearne

‘Damn Fine Flatmate’ award…Charlotte 90

‘Dedicated - Hard Working - You’ll Go Far - etc’ award…Jess Quaid

‘Nice Work Dude’ award…Josh Rutter

"Take Your Place Among Them' award...Sarah Foster

The ‘I Like Where You’re Going with This’ award…Dave Hall

‘Damn Fine Human Being’ award…Drew MacMillan

Special Thankses for keeping me going …Vitamin S peeps, me folks out West, Douglas Wright (for addressing it directly and getting what was going on), Geordan Wilcox, David Zeitner Smith, Ash, teaching opportunities with Touch Compass and 101 stuff at Uni, Ralph Buck, Nick Rowe, Camille Boyte (for understanding), Matt Smith, Claire O'Neill, Jenny Macarthur

...and in the end when the fire burns out, you're left with whatever it is that you're left with.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

New Online Collaboration

Simon Ellis and I have set a new blog in motion here. The new blog is focussed on practices of improvisation. Take a look, contribute, etc.

Thursday, September 04, 2008


From a conversation online between myself, and an esteemed colleague (read: 'good mate')..... (A part of our discussion touched on) 'recognition' versus 'understanding'. This made me think of of the word 'reading' - literally means to re-cognise. But this act of recognition is part of how we develop an understanding of a work. Perhaps KL is suggesting not to put the cart before horse in how we go about perceiving/witnessing performance? My bugbear in this part of the 'problem of dance' (or perhaps art in general) is the notion of having to "get it". As if it has a solution. Strange in a way b/c we can be so sophisticated in our understanding of the nuance of physical action (only need to look at our understanding of the action of rugby in NZ (for example), but within an arts context there is suddenly a pressure to 'get it'. This 'problem of dance' is ongoing, and probably cultural. For example there is no identifying cultural or national dance representing the pakeha population of New Zealanders. Although there could be an argument made for ballet given its proliferation of schools country wide, and there is a national dance company; The Royal New Zealand Ballet - which still tends to be perceived by NZ male's as effeminate, and homo-erotic. Contemporary dance has a kind of guilt-by-association in that respect also. But anyway that's beside the point. Problematically contemporary dance is far from simple in its movement intentions. Rugby by comparison is easy, no one really looks at its movement in terms of nuance for nuance sake. It's a GAME. It's very clear that that's what it is. Therefore the movement and the intentions behind the movement are very easy to read - 'He threw himself at the other man in a full body blow in order to get the ball and win the game' Simple. However in contemporary dance - 'He threw himself at the other man in a full body blow because...' a - He was demonstrating or illustrating or expressing an issue around relationship and /or sexuality in gender specific, ambiguous imagery in order to satisfy the choreographers sub agenda(s) around deconstruction, interrogation of sexuality in contemporary culture, cliche' in post post modern concert dance on mainland Europe (and its outlying areas), issues about the portrayal of men dancing together on stage and/or undescribed intuitive hunch(es) about intersections of bodies in space.

or perhaps

b - In attempting to move away from issues of identity, sexuality, and meaning the choreographer in collaboration with the dancers was working from conceptual provocations that resulted in a movement vocabulary that was; new, innovative, hybridised, and uncharacteristically honest in its attempt to be nothing other than movement for movements sake with no subtext, narrative, construed meaning, or any other cloying non linguistic coding even if driven by therapeutic somatic concerns. If this is the case as often as I suspect it is, I can see why rugby is usually the winner on the day.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Thursday, May 22, 2008

You’re Not Alone…You’re Just in New Zealand

Including: You’re Not Alone…You’re Just in New Zealand, Broken by Design, Locked, Ink

Choreographers: Malia Johnston, Kristian Larsen, Julia Milsom, Maria Dabrowska

Performers: Malia Johnston, Kristian Larsen, Julia Milsom, Paul Young, Maria Dabrowska

Design: Paula Van Beek & Martyn Roberts

Thursday 5 June to Saturday 7 June @ 8.15pm

Dancehouse, Sylvia Staelhi theatre, 150 Princes Street, North Carlton

Bookings: Dancehouse 03 9347 2860 or

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Throwing The Baby Out With The Bathwater

n 1989 Wendy Preston, Maggie Eyre and Alison East established in Auckland what was then called the Performing Arts School to offer a full time dance programme for a two year Diploma of Contemporary Dance. In late 1994, PAS relinquished its independent status to join Unitec, by which terms the school would gain improved facilities, financial viability (dependent on targeted levels of student enrollment), and the right to develop a degree programme. In 1998, as The School of Performing and Screen Arts (PAS/SPASA) began offering NZ's first dance degree, with students in effect majoring in choreography and contemporary techniques. This was its vision statement: "The Performing Arts School is committed to encouraging the development of personal creativity and artistic process through the theory and practice of the contemporary dance discipline and its related arts. There is a strong commitment to identifying a contemporary dance form that reflects the social, cultural and geographical environments of Aotearoa, New Zealand. The broad based holistic education programme is designed to develop a disciplined and sensitive human being and dance artist." Sadly the current population of students attending Unitec's dance program know nothing of its history, its original vision, and its aims. Their level of exposure to and interaction with the community of people that now exist as a result of that vision is token. This is compounded by a narrow and generic training programme that has come about through endless waves of restructuring. Unitec was never focused on creating company dancers, that’s the New Zealand School of Dance’s specialty and no one does it better than them. Rather this was a dance course with a vision to create dance artists capable of mounting and producing their own work, people with unique voices, and most potently community. Under the original direction of Ali East it was policy to implement an industry led curriculum. This is something that was done in line with other leading edge institutions such as the School for New Dance Development (Amsterdam) and the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (Perth) After Ali had left, Chris Jannides (alongside industry stalwarts such as Felicity Molloy, Raewyn Whyte, Charles Koroneho and too many others to list) continued to evolve the programme. They also continued to invest in the development of graduates in order to support a healthy vibrant scene of contemporary dance performance in the real world. It’s fair to say that a lot of shows wouldn't have gotten made without the significant time and energy given freely by these people. Chris was the last one left in that institution who not only maintained an agenda that supported the original core values, but who also had the ability to provide a conduit between the professional world, and the students. Management didn’t really approve of his methods - Unitec was providing the resources unofficially to get work made. It couldn't last. At the end of 2006 Chris Jannides left the dance course after a radical restructuring (over seen by an educational policy maker, the current head of Unitec’s School of Performing and Screen Arts) disestablished his position as Head of Department and replaced it with a lesser role of Programme Coordinator. Lesser in terms of its autonomy, the job description was almost identical to a department head. That role was filled by a South African classical dancer with plenty of administrative nous, but no experience in making contemporary choreography. In a financially strategic and fairly typical move for an educational institution, a policy limiting the hiring in of part time tutors was enforced and the proportional salaried staff took the brunt of the teaching workload. This was at the expense of the the programme’s unique approach that exposed students to new, progressive, informative practices in dance, choreography, art, interdisciplinarity etc. Teaching nutrition and somatic anatomy (as well as classical ballet) is a former ballet dancer and sales representative for a diet supplement company called Ultimate Sports Nutrition. He was hired by an interview panel of three that included his wife - the new Programme Coordinator for the Dance Dept.

Curriculum staples that set this course apart from other full time dance institutions are no longer taught: Skinner Releasing, yoga, improvisation, Feldenkrais, Alexander technique, & Contact Improvisation. All current practices within the industry globally, all so deeply interwoven into the original course philosophy and practice, all but non existent. However a commercial jazz dance teacher has been hired. Choreography was once taught by anything from seven to ten different current practitioners throughout the course of a year, industry professionals who were out there working on the practice. Now this is handled by two proportional staff, one of whose background is in classical ballet choreography and the visual arts.

The interdisciplinary approaches and projects inherent in the contemporary dance course (and now interestingly enough being favoured by other institutions such as Toi Whakaari) are gone. The initial vision that the course was built on, the culture, direction, and spirit are also gone. It’s a historical turning point. The new direction appears conservative, retrogressive, fiscally driven and mediocre. Unitec's dance course was a peerless construct with a spirit deeply devoted to the uniqueness and longevity of the people who went there. As it detaches from its history in the name of progress it seems out of step with the times. Just when the NZ School of Dance is focusing more on outreaching to the community and industry it seems sad that Unitec is unable to sustain those same relationships intrinsic to its identity.

Lets hope that this period of transition will result in the eventual manifestation of unique vision and soul in the work being done there. Thats something many of us want to see out there in the world anyway, something that I think a lot of us are going for in our own work.

comments posted here

(Thanks to Raewyn for the editing feedback and input, and Ali for inspiring the title)


Things that Move Me Created and performed by Oliver Connew - NZ Fringe - BEOP Studios , Mt Eden, Auckland - 2017 Dear Olive...