The Art Of Black Grace 1/5, presented by Neil Iremia and Black Grace opened on November 20th. The 13th Floor’s Carin Newbould was there. Here is her report.
A mysterious, alien structure has landed on Auckland’s Waterfront, designed to transport those willing to enter on a roller-coaster trip which will challenge, entertain and delight… all in the space of thirty minutes.
On a rain-sodden Sunday evening my daughter and I entered the cylindrical arena for an insight into Neil Ieremia’s creativity and a brief showcase of Black Grace’s varied and accomplished talent. While many people will be familiar with the Pacific contemporary dance group’s work, no prior knowledge is required to appreciate this “immersive experience”. From the outside, the black six metre tall sides feature small technical components, hinting at what will be encountered inside. The banners lean toward the “art” element of the piece, with figures featured in abstract poses.
The audience enters the arena to stand in a roofless area – the Black Grace umbrellas supplied were needed during our show, but didn’t get in the way of viewing the proceedings on the massive LED display, which is of truly outstanding quality.
The audience stand as they’re guided through an ever-changing and evolving journey – from hyper-realistic dance performance to surreal animation. I found myself in the midst of apprehensive performers, listening to Ieremia’s pre-show briefing and warm-up encouragement session, making us feel part of the performance about to happen. The audience of “The Art of Black Grace” is part of the performance – maybe not displaying the acrobatic and graceful skills of the dancers, but certainly turning around, moving their heads and wondering at the different images and stimuli in the fast-moving action. The footage constantly darts around the screens, as life-sized projections of dancers chase, roll, lift and leap in the 360° surroundings. It’s far closer to the feeling of being on stage with them, than of simply being in a theatre audience.
In parts, the Pasifika influences which shape Black Grace are evident, in minimalist costumes, beats and calls, all translated into innovative contemporary movement. However, the piece is extremely diverse, with massive shifts in pace from graceful balletic elements through to stylised street dance to Supergroove, segueing into beat-heavy Indian/Pasifika fusion.
“Live” dance action is interspersed with impressive animation, exploring our response to external stimuli. Ieremia’s personal responses to stimuli and experiences are explored in a memoir piece backed by “My Favourite Things”, providing a swift trip through New Zealand’s history from the 1960s onwards, featuring both family pictures and footage from key events which have shaped today’s Aotearoa. This speaks to the purpose of the installation, described by Ieremia as “to create transformational dance experiences that represent our unique place in the Pacific”. While we could have been anywhere in our tall, futuristic, dark cylinder, New Zealand’s place in the Pacific was definitely illustrated in this portion of the piece.
We were transported from being on stage to being underwater, taken to space, treated to visions of mountains which became collections of limbs and dazzled by colourful, kaleidoscopic displays. The sound quality was outstanding and definitely assisted in making the whole experience immersive and captivating. It celebrates not only dance and the human form, but creativity, our response to our surroundings, enjoyment of music and – crucially in these days when recent access to performance has been so limited – the joy of coming together to enjoy artistic freedom.
So who is The Art of Black Grace 1/5 for? Dance lovers certainly, but pretty much anyone open to something unique, interesting and enjoyable . It’s family friendly, stimulating and affordable… definitely worth a trip down to the waterfront for an extraordinary, exhilarating experience.
“The Art of Black Grace 1/5” is at Karanga Plaza, Wynyard Quarter, Auckland until Saturday 10 December.
Showings are from 6pm on weekdays, Saturdays 11am – 11.30pm and on Sundays from 11am – 8.30pm, with session times every half hour.
Tickets are $20 from www.ticketmaster.co.nz
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