New Zealand School of Dance Choreographic Season 2016: ‘SCOPE’

NZSD students Jacob Edmonds & Jag Popham. Photographed by Stephen A’Court

This month, May 20-28, New Zealand School of Dance students are preparing for their Choreographic Season, SCOPE. The Season is a collection of 10 works created by third-year contemporary dance majors. One of those students, Jag Popham, tells us a bit about creating the production.

In SCOPE, we are looking into the idea of the human condition, and what our existence means to ourselves and each other.

All third-year students have undergone their own way of researching the topic they’re exploring and ways to stimulate their dancers. These include Ted Talks, videos, books, or any writings, music and visual art.

It has been great to see the second- and third-year groups come together and bond over the creative process. It has been highly rewarding for those choreographing to see the class fully immerse themselves into the works of the show, which has allowed our ideas to come to life and take a form of their own. It is highly fulfilling for each of us to develop our creative voice and put something of our own making before an audience.

NZSD students Jag Popham and Tristan Carter in Choreographic Season 2015. Photographed by Stephen

NZSD students Jag Popham and Tristan Carter in Choreographic Season 2015. Photo by Stephen A’Court.

Time has been the biggest challenge so far. Developing movement is quite time-consuming and with ten of us creating a work each, we have to always be aware of how long each task is taking and manage our time accordingly.

Combining our individual pieces and turning them into a complete running show is an ongoing process and is extremely challenging, as there are many elements to bring together to create a smooth running show – for example, set design, costuming, soundscape and transitions between works.

In order to put on a highly professional show, we have collaborated with lighting designers, costume designers, production managers and composers. We feel we have gained a vast range of backstage knowledge and skills in production that are an essential part of staging dance.

We have been running a crowd-funding campaign to help facilitate the creation of multi-layered costumes that are essential to this production. The costuming is the most literal way we explore the concept of humans developing from organic to civilised beings. It unifies our dances and ties all our concepts together.

The campaign was a huge success, exceeding our $2,000 target and raising $2,420.

While the costumes are integral to the production, we have been focussing on how raw we can make the show, trimming away any unnecessary elements to create a streamlined finished product.

There is a wide range of music being used this year, ranging from static white noise and ambient to club music. There are also a couple of original soundtracks being created for the show.

Audience members will get a different view of the production, by way of a unique arrangement of seating. This will hopefully engage them with what we are performing in front of them, which we feel will ignite thoughts about the human experience.

In terms of my own choreography, I believe that all the ideas that I consider my own have been influenced by everything that I have experienced; therefore, every work I have ever seen has shaped how this piece is. There are a few choreographers who have majorly influenced the process so far. These include Ross McCormack and Kristina Chan for the way they seamlessly weave an engaging experience for the audience while maintaining integrity in the piece.

Thanks to all the makers for doing what they do and influencing the art form.

For tickets to SCOPE, visit

Photo (top): NZSD students Jacob Edmonds & Jag Popham. Photographed by Stephen A’Court

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