Dance review: Tenderness in The Absurdity of Humanity

The Absurdity of Humanity takes the imagination into dark absurdist realms.

The Absurdity of Humanity takes the imagination into dark absurdist realms.

The Absurdity of Humanity, New Zealand Dance Company, Opera House, September 20.


In a brilliantly worded introduction, New Zealand Dance Company leader, Shona McCullagh, eloquently articulates the purpose of both the company and this season of inventive contemporary dance. She deserves congratulations for her curatorial choices and passionate vision.

Finely tuned dancers take command of the stage; with crisp and assured execution of choreography that takes our imaginations into a dark absurdist realm.

Whispers from Pandora's Box, choreographed by Lina Limosani, demands, in a curmudgeonly manner, our attention. The sound scape, of expertly mashed film soundtracks, propels the action as it flirts with a malevolent comedic narrative.

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Carl Tolentino is a superb arch villain, in a work that nods towards Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and the over-the-top blood and splatter of Tarantino. It crescendos through a mayhem of evil, where innocent bird-like victims are plucked and slaughtered. One of the highlights of the evening is the delicious silence, when carnage is suspended, and the hapless victims attempt to escape, only to be thwarted by their altruism. This is the first of two moments of tenderness in the entire evening, both are intensely poignant.

Matter choreographed by Ross McCormack again invites us into a dark archaic realm with the ritualised placement of humans and objects. Stark metallic pou separate Heaven and Earth as the insect-like dancers assemble and disassemble in a diffident frenzy; as if searching to inhabit their skins. Chrissy Kokiri is utterly compelling in her precision, she is a cartographic shaman.

It is masterfully choreographed with elegiac dendritic twitching, inventive partnering and mesmerising group sequences, but it needs a sharper edit. The second moment of tenderness arrives when the dancers assist each other to navigate the precipice above the orchestra pit before descending once again into furtively searching.

There is a commonality in the movement vocabulary of both works: utterly grounded with intricate arm movements. The genius of the evening is the marriage between movement and sound (Jason Wright for Matter) which invites a perfect synchronicity between the eye and the ear. 

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