Ann Dewey 33.3 Revolutions Per Minute
The Boatshed, Star Boating Club, Wellington
Originally published in NZ Listener, 10 December 1993
— reviewed by Raewyn Whyte
Ann Dewey’s newest production 33 and-a-third revolutions per minute is an exceedingly mellow, refreshing and enjoyable, laid-back hour-or-so of contemporary dance. This is dance to relax with, to be absorbed by. Deceptively simple in appearance, the dance wheels, swirls, flows across the gleaming wood floor of the Star Boating Club, a space which will no doubt be in demand for dance performances from here on. But though the dance looks simple, it’s a complex piece of choreography which allows all the permutations and combinations four dancers can produce, with just enough virtuoso quirkiness to keep your attention focussed on the performers, just enough contrasts to ensure the subtler nuances don’t go unremarked.
The individual qualities of dancers Neil Ieremia, Ursula Robb, Nicole Bishop, and Dewey herself, are to the fore throughout the work. Each gives a different emphasis, a subtly different inflection to the phrasing, and a characteristic tweak to the interactions amongst the quartet. Dewey is all precise articulation, stretched lines with sudden releases, dartingly quick movements, care and protection. Ieremia is staunch, a still point even in motion, and is at times absorbed in his own patterns as if following some internal narrative. Robb is all joy, lithe, bold and sure, fiercely eating up space, intent, all concentration. Bishop is almost delicate by contrast, watchful, introspective yet playful, her arms and hands flowing through the air as if inscribing secret messages there. There are moments of isolation, of standing one’s ground and making one’s mark while responding to risk. There’s good humour and playfulness, gentleness, softness and vulnerability.
The props are simple but effectively used–Blundstone boots, a swing, a large bouquet of dried chrysanthemums, a pair of 1.5 meter high speakers–and the space is lit by Helen Todd in ways which defy the norm in dance. There are shadows over feet at times, and shoulder-high bands of dark which shift the focus from the dancers to their dancing. There’s a sense of community, as if these are friends, and this is their everyday life, and their lives are inextricably intertwined.
JPS Experience’s Bleeding Star album provides the accompaniment, the music woven into the dancing,yet taking the spotlight for itself once in a while. The dance continues between tracks, with the silences extended, punctuated by breath, the bump and slap of feet, the faint swoosh of bodies passing across the floor. And there’s a wonderfully determined boot dance, for many the highlight of the performance. It rapidly proceeds from unison stamping to complexly-canoned, cross-rhythmed and hocketed sequences. Interwoven with the delight of the dancers in stamping so vigorously, with their pleasure at playing full-out in public, are moments of fraughtness, fear, crisis, conflict and resolution, and above all this a suggestion that every minute is valuable when lived to the full.