Auckland Arts Festival has put two prolific choreographers, The Human Expression Dance Company’s Swee Boon Kuik (Singapore) and Black Grace’s Neil Ieremia, together in one commissioned double bill. Why? I’m not quite sure, other than each company’s reputation for highly technical, virtuosic dancing. On that level, both deliver. Beautiful bodies performing… well, beautifully. I can appreciate the level of skill on stage, forged through years of fine-tuning the body. They are all wonderful to watch.
Choreographically, I feel that both works could use some more time in the oven.
Kuik’s Change and Constancy takes inspiration from the cultural diversity of both companies’ dancers, who come from a range backgrounds and cultural heritages. We see these manifest through glimpses of haka, siva, tai chi. I can’t help feeling this is all a bit predictable, though. There is lots of running. But it is beautiful running, at least. The introduction of bags of brightly coloured dust thrown onto the back wall of the stage is a surprise, however, and I enjoy the splashes of brightness that conjure up a Hindu Holi festival or some kind of expressionist painting.
Ieremia’s work, Another Letter from Earth, deals with Death and five different journeys through it. A striking, dark character – an intriguing mix of Cantonese opera meets Kaumatua - sets the tone of the work. Her stirring tangi in the beginning ushers in an invisible trail of grief that touches the dancers’ solo and duet work (again, beautifully performed), right down to the last figure laid to rest as part of a striking final tableau with life-sized military men cut-outs standing like tombstones in a graveyard.
Perhaps with a bit more time, Changes could have been more fully realised by both choreographers, but in the meantime the dancing does not disappoint.