Tempo Dance Festival attempted to bridge the world of NZ dance and music by inviting choreographers to present performances that connect with the art and music of acclaimed singer-songwriter Aldous Harding. Zahra Killeen-Chance, Josie Archer and Kosta Bogoievski responded with two daring and provocative pieces in the NZ Music Double Bill: Dances with Aldous at Q’s Rangatira in Auckland, NZ.
Archer and Bogoievski open the show each standing in front of a mic stand, adorned in costumes crafted by Steven Park (who was the designer for Aldous Harding’s The Barrel music video), sipping beer as a recording of Aldous addressing an excited crowd plays in the background.
Both dancers and choreographers have already amassed a vast experience behind them with performances for the Busan Metropolitan Dance Company (Busan, South Korea), Jennifer Lacey & Wally Cardona (New York), The BodyCartography Project (San Francisco), and Michael Parmenter (Auckland).
As seen in Josie and Kosta’s project for FEASTA!: Pedestrian Guiiiiiiiiiiidance! in 2018 and innocent bystanders earlier this year, Archer and Bogoievski often push the boundary of contemporary dance and performance art. Seeing both of them create and perform their ode to Aldous was both seductive and mesmerising at the same time.
Archer and Bogoievski want to show their own memories of Aldous, often during the most mundane of daily chores and the sound of a vacuum cleaner heralds a ‘walking dance’ that climaxes into a fast-paced blend of dance moves seen in Aldous music videos amidst a cacophony of tracks that includes What If Birds Aren't Singing They're Screaming, Blend and more. Bodies and shapes changing and evolving as garments are discarded to eventually reveal bare naked skin.
No more hiding in plain sight, Archer and Bogoievski end in a ‘slow-motion’ piece with their glistening naked bodies bathed in golden light, forming lines and shapes to the haunting strains and wails of Damn and Party.
Archer and Bogoievski's performance is not only compelling but stands proudly defiant against present-day commercial pop. Disjointed and disconcerting movements that oppose the default settings of everyday life.
The second piece for the Double Bill was choreographed by Zahra Killeen-Chance called Kissing the Doubt (which is a line from Aldous Harding’s song Heaven is Empty). It is performed by three female dancers who embody the elemental power of Aldous’ creative pursuits in costumes of white, red and black.
Award-winning Australian dancer Ella-Rose Trew (Co3) joins seasoned New Zealand dancer Sarah Knox (Footnote New Zealand Dance) and emerging ballet star Ariana Hond (Melbourne City Ballet) to portray the light of joy, the blood of life, and the shadow of mystery.
Immediately, the costumes in this second performance stand out. Killeen-Chance worked with Amanda Smith, Rachelle Moore and the AUT Textile & Design Laboratory to create the costumes with its marvellous colour and rounded silhouettes.
As the piece progresses, one wonders if this trinity is dancing on a line between the sacred and the unsanctified? Each dancer twirls in and out of the light, blurring the consciousness and allowing Aldous to lightly tread the corridors of the mind with Weight of the Planets, Stop Your Tears, Heaven is Empty and more.
In the end, the dancers intertwine and one by one lose their ‘hats’ which feels like a jarring way to show how logic must sometimes be discarded for the spirit to soar… much like the lyrics in Aldous Harding’s work which may seem illogical but yet evokes a sense of freedom in expression.
A special mention must go to Molloy and Creative Ambience for the brilliant stage lighting throughout the show. The visual feast of shadows and silhouettes against a floor bathed in subtle picturesque colour and alternating harsh spots was simply divine.
Cat Ruka and her team at Tempo Dance Festival have surpassed all expectations for a phenomenal show that connects with one of Aotearoa’s beloved singer-songwriters. One can only hope that this will be the start of many more similar shows because the bridge between music and dance must stand firm and relevant against the rising tide of conformity.