The annual New Zealand School of Dance (NZSD) Choreographic Season has been a highly anticipated addition to the capital city’s arts calendar for decades. This year’s season, entitled Meraki, showcases the talent and accomplished artistry of NZSD contemporary dance students as emerging artists.
Known for their innovative technical approach, the students present a compilation of diverse short works, all connected by a common thematic thread – the creation of art imbued with something of the creator’s essence…something of the creator’s self.
Working under the mentorship of Holly Newsome, NZSD contemporary dance tutor and the director of dance company Discotheque, the contemporary dance students collaborate to piece their own short works together into a longer dance performance for audiences to enjoy.
Newsome is a graduate of the School and brings a personal understanding of the significance of the choreographic project. She, as well as other renowned award-winning choreographers such as Victoria Colombus (New Zealand Dance Company), Ross McCormack (Muscle Mouth), Raewyn Hill (Co3 Contemporary Dance), Sarah Foster-Sproull (Foster Dance Group) and Daniel Belton (Good Company Arts), all forged their choreographic careers within the walls of NZSD.
“The students have the ability to move in and out of such contrasting physicalities throughout the work, which makes for not only an entertaining show but also displays the skill each and every one of the students has,” says Newsome. “The audience will be taken on a fast-turning journey through 13 very contrasting contemporary dance works. Meraki is highly physical and doesn’t mess around with the idea of dance. Expect to be fully immersed in the well-known physical ability of the students at the NZ School of Dance.”
Expect to see diverse themes explored through movement, with a consistent thematic shift from work to work ranging from the complexities of familial relationships to the aesthetics of the disco era. The performance promises to entertain, provoke thought, engage with emotion and exhibit NZSD’s talent.
“The piece I have created for the Meraki season is about the connection between the internal and the external,” says Hahna Nichols, 3rd Year NZSD contemporary dance student. “How can we create a sensitivity and awareness of our own physical bodies to help calm the mind and find a sense of groundedness throughout our lives? It has been a privilege to work with my close friends Airu [Matsuda], Sofia [Dimasi], Luke [Romero] and Sefa [Tunupopo].”
The 2021 season is to be performed at BATS Theatre, one of Wellington’s iconic performance venues. It’s the first time in over 20 years that the season is to be performed outside of Te Whaea: National Dance and Drama Centre in Newtown.
NZSD in Wellington is one of the Southern Hemisphere’s leading dance training institutions, preparing students for careers in professional dance performance. Students study full-time, majoring in contemporary dance or classical ballet, while learning both techniques.
As NZSD Director Garry Trinder says, “For those who desire a career in dance, the New Zealand School of Dance offers a programme of consummate excellence. We focus on preparing students for the demands of the dance world and their future place in it.”
The day-to-day reality of being a dance student is one of long hours and an incredible amount of determination and passion. The annual Season debuts the choreographic artistry of the students and at the same time provides them with a unique opportunity to explore the skills essential for the dance profession, including the process of choreographing, producing and performing in their own works, all whilst under the supportive guidance of Holly Newsome and the BATS Theatre team.
The students keenly anticipate this season, especially at a time in history when so much remains uncertain. They have put the best of themselves into their works: to celebrate their journey through the School, their love of dance and their final year together as a cohort.
“You get a real sense of who these humans are, what their voice is and how they want to express themselves,” says Paula Steeds-Huston, head of contemporary dance at NZSD. “This is what is needed to invigorate the next generation of theatre.”
Meraki opens at BATS Theatre on 28 May and runs until 5 June 2021. Tickets are from $12-23. Visit nzschoolofdance.ac.nz/event/choreographic-season-2021 for details.