Footnote Dance is in the pink
Footnote's five young dancers leap freely off metaphoric cliffs and are busy, busy, busy conceiving three new works.
Because communication isn't static.
Climb to the top of a mountain, throw your arms in the air and freedom shouts. Hunch your shoulders, drop your head, a conveyance of pain.
Our bodies are language, dance is its alphabet and Footnote New Zealand Dance is at a jumping-off point.
At the bottom ... its new show, Rebel Pink.
It's about relationships and the shaky ground we walk on. The joy, the confusion, the words and the spaces between them. And it's about the way our bodies figure in it, fail at it, fight and fly.
A trio of fresh-faced, emerging choreographers fill blank pages with movement and drummer/composer Tom Scrase is at their disposal.
It's three discussions, three dialogues and three very different landing points, all set to an instinctive heartbeat.
And that's the exciting bit. The free rein of it all.
Nancy Wijohn has to move to explain what she means. She has choreographed a piece called The Silent Partner, a duo between dancers Anu Khapung and Joshua Faleatua.
It's a touching, funny, close-to-the-bone kind of a work and it doesn't stay still. Neither does Wijohn for long. On her feet are "I love horses" socks and she jumps up "does that feel like he's looking at you? What does that look like?"
She says she sees things like it's a film and The Silent Partner started with a script. A loose mapping out of a story, not movement, but the words to sculpt and hang dance phrases from.
"It was a really creative process; the structure was loose. I didn't want preconceived ideas, I wanted to work with what these guys had. There are ideas of ceremony in there too. Anu's from Nepal, Fale (Joshua's nickname) is Samoan and I'm Maori, so I wanted to touch base on the things that are already obvious and somehow create narrative."
The dancers work on a sequence for a solid 10 minutes. It's not quite right and they go through it gesture by gesture figuring out where the conversation between the dancers isn't quite striking.
"Don't dance, like, don't point like a dancer. Just point."
Khapung reacts, drops her arm quicker, strikes the beat faster and the communication becomes clear. It's an intonation of body, a felt cadence that is just so.
Khapung is strong, she'd win you money in an arm wrestle and there is a joy backing up that strength. She smiles a lot and giggles too. She sets the whole room off more than once.
Faleatua is cool, a contrary mix of streetwise innocence and he too has a sense of the absurd. It's those mundane, comical things that we don't know we do, until these two do it, that's funny.
Scrase picks up on their energy. He is confident with his intuition and although this is his first time working with dancers, he adds a nuance that understands Wijohn's thought patterns of "more spiritual" or "playful".
"Nancy is quite explorative, which is great, so the work has been able to evolve and it's been allowed to breathe."
Choreographer Eliza Sanders has also wandered off map in her investigations through text and movement. Sanders approached her piece as a chance to create something new through improvisation.
"The dancers are all such different movers, with individual talents and skills, so I really wanted to create a process which just opened up a setting for them to deliver what they were good at. I started from a really open place."
It's the associations we have with words and what they look like in our movements. A non-verbal speaking through gesture, the expressiveness, but also the frustration of interpretation.
"The interesting thing that happened is this relationship between text and movement, literal and non-literal, started to really say something to me about our attempts to communicate with each other and actually our failed attempts."
The dancers and Sanders played and watched and thought and Scrase got to be in on it too, jamming and following the energy. Sanders says he was great at "just responding".
It's something that the youngest choreographer, Holly Newsome, has learnt as she has moved further into her work Sweet Salt. She is used to quite a direct approach and laying down her own music tracks, so having a musician on hand has been quite the experience.
"It's a huge learning process for me, so I think there is a lot that I will take out of this."
Newsome is working with three of the Footnote dancers and as they finish up their rehearsal they are trying to work out bringing a head stand motif from the beginning of the piece.
Cue a crazy body bending, "let's see what happens if we do this with our bodies' moment". A little girl who is waiting for her ballet class to begin pops her head in and her jaw drops as a whole new world of what ballet can mean fires off in her head.
A line of little girls file into the studio like a delightful procession of ducklings and Newsome explains her inspiration as she puts her shoes on.
"I thought about the colour pink and how it's a colour that is supposed to increase your heartbeat. So I came in with the idea that I wanted something quite upbeat and hectic and then somehow that got to the idea of K-Pop and J-Pop videos."
The weird and extreme world that combines pop, dance and fashion, contriving and contorting its ideas of Western culture. It was the craziness of it that Newsome was drawn to.
As a result, Sweet Salt is bold and Newsome's work feels like it is right on the cusp of something. She is exploding with ideas and the beautiful thing that comes out of being young and handed an opportunity in the form of a blank page.
Her words stand on their heads, get hurled across the studio and are presented with a "take them as you will" shrug of the shoulders.
Because that's the thing, we misinterpret daily, hear what we want, say the opposite of how we feel and our bodies often show the actual truths. Take away out-loud-words and what you are left with is not a shouting silence, but a breathing beauty that moves.
Visiting Wellington, Palmerston North, Nelson, Greymouth, Christchurch, New Plymouth, Tauranga and Auckland, Footnote will also be holding masterclasses alongside Rebel Pink. For more information, see footnote.org.nz.