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May 20, 2014 | by  | in Arts Theatre |
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The Residents [Review]

From first entering the space, this performance from the students of the NZSD is entirely enthralling. The set, from first glance, holds the creative and practical potential of mysterious entrances and exits, as well as being beautifully constructed and painted. The lighting design throughout is also cunningly crafted to direct the audience’s gaze to the appropriate space. As such, whatever it lacks in subtlety, it makes up for in its support of the drama of each section of dance.

As the dancers emerge from the deep dark, their costumes, designed by Jane Boocock and Donna Jefferis and constructed by students, are strikingly elegant and beautifully made, setting the scene for this bizarre performance – outside of any specific time or place. And so the magic begins, holding a little bit of something for everyone is terms of the variety of style and pacing. Highlights choreographically include Paige Shand’s ‘In the mood’ for it’s pure energetic brilliance and style, and Amanda Mitrevski’s ‘Line’, for it’s complexity and stunning metaphorical depth. ‘Born Under a Bad Star’ choreographed by Roymata Holmes, also had some beautiful statements to make about anxiety and depression, and was skillfully performed.

The most striking routine was Eliza Sander’s ‘Pink!ish’, during which two male dancers perform an intense and complex choreography while keeping their mouth’s constantly in contact. As it came to a close, I was left with an image that defined the experience of falling passionately in love. On this point, throughout the performance I was thrilled to see pairings between same-sex partners. These relationships were not exoticised or eroticised, and worked beautifully; it is wonderful to see this level of openness and equality in a show.

Although all of the dancers put on a compelling and highly skilled show, highlights among the second-year crop were Latisha Sparks, Jacob Edmonds and William Keohavong, whose particular attention to expression and enthusiasm made them electric to watch. The most striking performer for engagement with and energy towards the audience was Felix Sampson, who captured the spirit of so many different genres and eras with charisma and commitment.

Among the student choreographers, Tessa Hall, James Wasmer, Roymata Holmes and Eliza Sanders captured the crowd’s attention with devastatingly strenuous solos and beautiful pair-work, although once again, these are the highlights of an incredibly strong cast of dancers.

While my guest searched for a structured narrative, I found several themes around affection prevalent, which was enough to guide me through the performance in a linear fashion. This performance captured the joy, anxiety, total infatuation, control, and potential abuse involved in human relationships, and even though the pieces were individually choreographed, this overarching intensity and profundity was gracefully achieved.

My only criticism of The Residents can be put down to opening-night jitters – it is vital that dancers backstage and to the sides of stage recognise that they are still visible to the first rows, and as such must remain still and quiet. Other than this, it was a wonderful mix of styles and pacing, and the skill and stamina of the dancers made for an awe-inspiring and highly engaging show.

 

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