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Dance Review: The Bloom

An exciting aspect of the cultural life of Aotearoa New Zealand is the burgeoning of dance and moving art practitioners as well as numerous small dance companies full of energetic and talented people. They are pushing boundaries, shaking up formats and experimenting with ideas about identity, sexuality, politics, and gender. It is being driven by young artists who seem pretty fearless, and supported by established contemporaries in the arts. 

A perfect example of this is The Bloom, the latest offering by the impressively creative Jessie McCall, which comes to life in the wonderfully hip Lot 23 in Eden Terrace. 

The former industrial workshop is the perfect location for The Bloom which has a dystopian sterile aesthetic to it. The performers wear skimpy outfits with latex looking aprons over them. There is a ‘machine’ which is shaped like an office photocopier, and is sort of used as such, but it also has a 3D printer and a fridge in its body.

The entire concept of the show with its outlandish story elements, soundscape and minimalism is ingenious. With no other pieces of furniture or unwieldy props to distract us, the audience can form a very interesting and voyeuristic relationship with the three dancers.

This trio consists of Sofia McIntyre, Raven Afoa-Purcell, and Sasha Matsumoto. Over the show they present different characters and a variety of situations. The movements are sometimes very simple, at other times energetic, restless, harmonious.

All three are clearly excellent performers, not only in movement, but also in their ability to convey a range of emotions and attitudes without speaking. What was wonderful to see was their interactions and the trust they had in each other. Not a step out of place, not a moment of hesitation. The vignettes they created were at times very physical and intimate and required absolute concentration and a reliance on one another. This they delivered perfectly with a fluidity that was exhilarating. 

What was it about? Well, I’m not 100% sure although I could hazard some guesses. Trust me, this is not a criticism. The nature of this kind of dance performance gives the audience the right to make up their own minds. Some of the imagery and ideas seemed obvious. Others perhaps vague. 

In my interpretation, this was potentially a series of thoughts about sexuality, violence, birth, motherhood, and perhaps conformity versus individuality. It might also have been about changing identities over time, and how we humans evolve as we age. 

The use of a VCR and a video projection of a cabbage seedling took on a number of symbols. I think perhaps the tape machine represented ‘old’ ideas, and at one stage it definitely represented a baby. The brassica perhaps representing anything from new ideas, a foetus, or even a candida infection. 

I don’t wish to give too much away for those who might yet go and see this production, but the use of a cabbage in a very cleverly orchestrated scene was remarkably inventive and incredible to watch. 

The Bloom is a very clever piece of work superbly presented and full of surreal, funny, and memorable moments. It is up to each viewer to work out what it means to them, and I would definitely recommend going to see it for yourself. 

THE BLOOM

13-17 February 2024

Tickets and information 

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