Wednesday, July 14, 2010


The next little thing...

At Auckland’s Basement Theatre on the August of the 6th at the 8pm Vitamin S presents “Nest” a shameless multidisciplinary crowd pleaser. Nest is a unique ensemble of 8 people.
Described as the crash test dummies of performance this anomalous batch of performers create a world in which the logical and irrational meet and have a big pash up. It’s a metaphor. Nest is a theatrical event evoking and invoking all the usual words you tend to associate with this kind of thing; Memory, Desire, Dreams, Death, and Memory.   
Deviously deploying a heady spectrum of skills from the realms of music, theatre, and dance the roll call is thus;
The object focussed visual punster John Radford, master of cardboard and woo-er of women.
The volatile tsunami dancing of Julia Milsom, she actually CAN bring down the house
The movement savant Kristian Larsen, he’s like; Brain’s from Thunderbirds meets that liquid terminator dude from that Terminator movie.  
The hypnotistical concentration densities of musical samurai John Bell. Try distracting him, just try.
On guitar the monosyllabic Paul Buckton, don’t mess with him if you don’t have any calamine lotion - he’s an itch that you can’t scratch.
On electronic sonics, Bonehead. He’s got a laptop, and he often uses it to go on the internet, Skype usually.
From the world of theatre Jo Smith, breaker of hearts the world over. And she just doesn’t care. She doesn’t.
Nimble minded Tahi Mapp Borren, a Jack in the Box of theatrical skill. She has maybe too many R’s and P’s in her name but that doesn’t usually slow her down.
There will be a short 15 minute interval. In the middle. And quite a long one at the end. Cost wise it’s either $10 or $15 dollars, depending. You should come along

Monday, July 12, 2010


Peter Ralston's work has become an inseperable thread in my work as an improviser. Give me a few hour's, I will explain

Thursday, July 08, 2010

A Common Language

A common discourse in dance making practices is that improvisation is a process which  evokes  new and innovative movement languages. This can and does happen, but far less frequently than people tend to think. The word “improvisation” is a term that connotes an infinite spectrum of possibility, but the specificity of the words meaning doesn’t touch the sides of the territory it alludes to. Too large and too small, too assumed to be ‘universal’ as its a word that could be applicable to any creative action in any context. But in Western contemporary dance improvisation tends to be regarded as its own genre.

Typically performed improvisations tend to throw up identifiable materials ie; the historical stuff in the dancers bodies. Generally a hodge podge of modernist and post - modernist movement vocabularies informed by the dancers proportions, abilities, tendencies, dynamics, cultural inflections, and behavioural tics under the stress of performing. All that can be recognized, even named. Its possible to see what the dancer has trained in be it breaking, releasing techniques, butoh, ballet, etc.  But what is the collective name of all of that? Those are specific movement languages which are undergoing their own evolution. Improvisation is actually just a dynamic in the blending of those languages with the unfolding events in performance. 

Generalising the performance event by calling it improvisation usually masks it and distracts me from the material itself. At one level I don't actually care if the performers are improvising, I care more about what they are doing and how well they are doing it. When I lead a recent professional development workshop in dance and movement improvisation  the questions through which I focussed the workshop   were:
1. What is the language we are improvising (creating, in the moment, emergent, contingent) ?
2. What is the language in which we are improvising? (that which is already known, learnt, familiar in our bodies) ?

With those questions as the lens for the work I positioned improvisation as the method of making, the compositional paradigm I happen to be most interested in. This helped to remove obsolescent assumptions which, when allowed to remain unaddressed tend to make a lot of improvisations look very similar. 

At the moment my experience is that in order to improvise skilfully, movement languages have to be trained and refined (amongst a very large spectrum of other sub practices).  Otherwise it just ain't jazz

Some recent work with Touch Compass

I'm currently developing a new work with mixed ability dance company Touch Compass. The dancers are directed to improvise with specific skills, shared understandings of composition, time, and character. The core idea for the work will emerge out of further developmental work, including small improvisational performances. 

In these photos: Julia Milsom, Emilia Rubio, Kerryn McMurdo, Alisha McLennan, Daniel King, Jesse Steel, Adus Smith, and yours truly.

Thelonious Monk's notes

On developing a cough

What makes a good dancer? I think there's a cluster of attributes that are not necessarily all skills, some are attributes.

Personally what I go for are dancers with high technical skills and low self esteem, dancers who care more about the choreography than the money (so low pay or none at all). And will tend to want to do anything that I ask them to do in the name of dance or the art form and will make the (my) work look good which is ultimately the outcome. So basically a kind of subservience laced with interesting stage presence.

I have a tendency to work with very good looking people from other countries as it 'spices' up the work, A strong classical ballet training is actually essential even though I am constantly departing from it in the name of contemporary innovation, but any dancer who doesn't have it is just dreaming! Of course its best if the classically based dancers have one or two other minor secondary skills such as being expertly competent and /or brilliant at singing, acting, acro balance / acrobatics / tissue / aerial work, contact improvisation, at least 4 name brand contemporary dance techniques (such as Cunningham, Cage, or Babooshka), Salsa or any other generic Latino type partnered dancing (Zumba for example), hip hop, breaking, krumping and hip hop, typing and administration skills, some stage managing and production / marketing experience, and of course an interest in 'other' art forms such as painting or dancing.

But mostly I look for a positive attitude and someone who is not racist. I hate racists.

Hope this helps


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