What They Said: NZ Dance Co. – Q Theatre: October 7, 2022

What They Said is a fascinating and intriguing modern dance performance where every element is fluid and continually morphs.

Choreographer: Jo Lloyd                                                                                                                               Performers: Carl Talentino, Eliza Sanders, `Isope `Akau’ola, Josie Archer, Kosta Bogoievich, Ngaere Jenkins, Oli Mathiesen

What They SaidFrom sounds to words, primordial shapes to bodies, expanse to environment. If all the world is a stage, then dance creates the order from the entropy.

This is one of the concluding performances in this year’s Tempo Dance Festival, a multi-genre dance festival, and is the longest standing annual event of its kind in New Zealand. From its inaugural 2003 beginning.

This production also marks the tenth anniversary for the New Zealand Dance Company.

After the lights go down, we are confronted with a flat, white expanse of a stage to begin. From the left appear the seven performers, all in flesh-coloured body suits. They are not so much naked as undifferentiated.

What They SaidLying on the floor, moving across the stage in one single writhing mass. One by one they gain homo erectus posture. From primordial oceans to land.

Clothes drop from high above. They are minimal at first, but the act of putting them on is part of the choreography. They keep dropping throughout the performance, and they get more complex. Eventually you don’t perceive the costume changes and the performers suddenly appear in bright colourful changing outfits in the flash of an eye. Costumes by Andrew Treloar.

Dancers appear to move independently whilst forming a pattern simultaneously. A small detail of one bumping into another stands out momentarily like grit in the velvet.

Choreographer Jo Lloyd comes from Melbourne which is the London-New York-Paris of the southern hemisphere. Her premise of this piece was to write a play set to modern dance.

Watching dance is to also watch the thinking of the dance.

What They SaidOver the course of her artistic journey, she has collected sound bite statements. As she explains I have readjusted and used the collective statements to form new conversations and monologues that play with fiction and meaning. To reveal seemingly random intentions, compositions and patterns.

This aligns with the works and ideas of experimental novelist and Art terrorist William Burroughs. Language is a virus from outer space.

Especially his pioneering ideas of Cut-Up and Fold-In. Taking written prose and breaking it into three-word phrases and reassembling it in seeming random fashion. What appears is a new work with a mind of its own. Another voice of which the author is just the conduit.

Says Lloyd. Non-patterns become familiar patterns and logic is revealed.

The dancers speak in single words, then phrases which lengthen out. Accompanying this is the music, superbly compiled by Duane Morrison.

Collages of Afro-Funk rhythmic samples cut with fragmented voice recordings close to the landmark work of David Byrne and Brian Eno with My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Byrne did a similar score to the Twyla Tharp Dance Company’s acclaimed work, The Catherine Wheel.

Also, the inspired mash-ups of Laurie Anderson, who conjures up visions of dance when performing live on stage.

All these borrow heavily from Burroughs.

Lloyd: Dance occurs when deliberate thoughts are suspended, ambiguity becomes a sustainable state.

Dancers continually move, often backwards. They morph into familiar patterns of everyday behaviour and keep re-forming. A scramble suit dance.

They form two mountains where they find a way to connect to each other. The stage is a flat expanse, so they could just as well be islands formed by the Voodoo Child.

The world was sung into existence according to Aboriginal folk lore. It came from the stars and it is dance that shapes that world. What They Said is a bold and moving expression of that.

Rev Orange Peel