The Status of Being: Footnote Dance


It’s been a long, long, time since your Te Puna Correspondent last laced on her ballet slippers at Mrs Undine Clarke’s dance classes, but her enthusiasm for exciting ways of moving through space has never faded. So there she was, in a fairly-full house at Baycourt, interested to see what Footnote would come up with this time.

What she got was a nicely tense and challenging, semi-improvised sequence of layered sound, images and performance that was at times more like a multi-media installation than a dance work. It was interactive. The audience was interrogated. The dancers spoke! They managed to move a live microphone around without bumps or grinds and mimed (a pity, this: with everything else so literal, they could surely have managed a cell-phone’s glowing presence?) receiving tweets and texts as real-time commentary on their performance. It was not a surprise to find that one of them was eventually symbolically strangled by mike cables. Sometimes there really was far too much going on.

Lots of symbols were employed. The poignancy of the monkey- and pig-masks, the bunch of red roses, the coffin and especially, the flags, including one celebrating Antifaschiste Aktion, placed the dance in a space where contemporary and complacent notions of stable national geographies were bumped up against elemental expressions of racial insult (‘fascist pig!” “sub-human!”). Over-obvious, perhaps, but no less powerful for that. The video of the surfing seal, completely at ease in his own place, offered a mysterious escape route from the imperatives of choice that this work placed upon us.

The interrogation (always polite) guided and directed, as all competent interrogations do, the subject audience through a process of gradually disintegrating movements. These started with Ordnung. There were lots of drill-lines, and towards the end there were naked bodies: is this the ultimate form of order for a dancer? the TPC wondered. No-one actually asked about it, except through the slightly phony (because obviously rehearsed and punny) dialogue via the mimed mobile.

From there we moved through two more choreographed sections: (re) evolution and romance to (unchoreographed) a sense of refined chaos. (The TPC has begun to wonder if that is what modern democracy now amounts to.) It was fascinating and weirdly beautiful to hear casual chat about change going on among the dancers while they twined and shifted in an extremely complicated, evidently carefully organised, sequence of moves. Without such care, fingers would have gone into eyes, or limbs dislocated. A wonderful metaphor for trust in a well-practised process.

As an audience we were, in fact, asked to vote. Which section, in our opinion, dealt with the past? the present? the future? What elements would we most like to see re-presented? Jasmine, selected from the audience to be the choreographer of the final quarter, bravely made some choices; the TPC struggled to see the company then express her preferences in recognisable form. Not that we weren’t appreciative: it was empowering, and humbling, to see these beautiful bodies in an extremely strong ensemble work daring us to engage with their willing energy for learning and change. Did we, and they, actually do this? You’d really need to see them more than once, to know for sure. Sadly, their performance in Tauranga was for one night only.


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