Super-fit performers defy theatrical constraints
They make it look oh so easy. Dangling upside down from silks, straining under the weight of several fellow-performers or balancing on dangerously positioned furniture. Anyone could do it, right?
In reality, no. For some performers in this year's Nelson Arts Festival, it's taken decades of training to make acrobatic feats and physical theatre look easy.
Take The Goblin Market for starters. Performed by members of The Dust Palace, they're an Auckland based circus theatre company making a name nationally and internationally as masters of physical movement. This is their world premiere of the show, before taking it to Cinars Biennale in Montreal in November.
Based on a poem written in 1859 by Christina Rossetti, The Goblin Market, is a tale of temptation, sacrifice and finally, salvation. It tells of sisters who are tempted by the magical and dangerous fruit that evil goblins lure them in to eat.
The three cast of Eve Gordon, Rochelle Mangan and Edward Clendon play multiple roles as sisters and goblins. For Gordon, ten years as a circus performer after training in drama at Unitec in Auckland, have honed her skills to perfection.
It's demanding though, with between five to eight hours training per day.
"We have to train that much to keep up our level of fitness, strength and flexibility, since they all go hand in hand," says Gordon.
And gruelling practising a myriad of physical skills from silks, trapeze and aerial hoop to rope, chair stacking, acrobatics, hand balancing and people balancing. And acting skills.
"For someone to do something relatively physical it would take five to six years to get to that stage of proficiency and then it takes that something extra, that stage presence and incredible skill and discipline that are part of being on stage at this level," says Gordon.
Another show to look out for is Triumphs and Other Alternatives, which showcases performer and acclaimed dancer Ross McCormack as the 'maker' of beings. Triumphs and Other Alternatives explores the obsessiveness and traps of the creative process and combines with sculpture making to craft 'creatures'.
McCormack's Adam and Eve creations, played by dancers James Vu Ahn Pham and Emily Adams, evolve from clay and dust. McCormack employs mine and facial expressions to convey the tension, questioning and trials of a maker of beings. All three cast show their prowess as dancers in stunning solos. McCormack is careful to delineate between his human movements and those of his expressionless, less articulate evolving creations.
McCormack is co-artistic director of Muscle Mouth, a performance and installation collaborative based in Wellington. In 2015 he was awarded the prestigious Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellowship.
For details on Nelson Arts Festival shows visit http://www.nelsonartsfestival.co.nz/