NZ Arts Festival 2008, Michael Fowler Centre
March 7-9 | Reviewed by Shruti Navathe

I ARRIVED at the opening performance of Chunky Move’s Glow – part of this year’s dance contribution to the New Zealand International Arts Festival – intrigued and prepared to be impressed. Wonderfully, I was not disappointed. Glow is a highly successful exploration of the relationship between matter; in this case a sole organic being, and a completely inorganic environment. Chunky Move mines this relationship with depth and subtlety.

Frieder Weiss’s ingenious video technologies track the movements of a live figure – dancer Sara Black – at times in loving symbiosis and at others in fierce hostility and oppression. The resultant visual image is one of starkness, with underlying layers of vibrancy. Sara Black manipulates her surroundings exquisitely, both shaping and being shaped by them. Her movements are clean, technically skilled and emotionally grounded. Each movement she makes serves to emphasise her relationship with the digital landscape: curious, exploratory, joyous and finally confrontational. Gideon Obarzanek’s choreography is inventive, skillful, emotive and leaves nothing to chance. Paula Levis’ costume design captures the sense of illusory starkness admirably. The musical score by Luke Smiles is fittingly minimalist, but in the style of every other part of the performance, deceptive in its simplicity. It creates the emotional landscape for the dancer to move through, and the harmonious accord between music and dancer serve to heighten the mood of the relationship between the dancer and her environment effectively.

Glow is a beautiful illustration of how a well thought out concept can be executed simply and fully when a group of artists work together as a seamless team. The entire performance lasts less than 30 minutes and yet the treatment of the concept means that this is neither too long to be bored (!) nor too short to feel unsatisfied. The performance has much to offer a wide range of audiences, from the modern dance novices to the connoisseurs. An exquisite piece, and verging on perfection.