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Image Credit: John McDermott

Review by Bridget Conway

 

Right in time for the ANZAC Centenary comes Rotunda, presented by The New Zealand Dance Company. A fresh and elegant dance celebration that isn’t afraid to highlight all the aspects of war: love, loss, freedom, loneliness, and strength.

Riverside Theatres has done it again: a graceful and powerful dance piece that shakes right down to the bones. Rotunda has the element of surprise, the professionalism, and the beauty to live up to the history it talks about. We follow eight dancers, all in tip top shape for the challenging and emotive movements ahead, and our ears are tantalised by the City of Holroyd 24 piece live brass band conducted by Marc Taddei with special guest on percussion, Cameron Lee. All eight dancers exemplify those young men and women who were affected by the war. They are at a bright young age, full of enthusiasm and youthfulness, and we watch this progress downwards and into full maturity.

The beauty of this performance has its foundation within the choreography. From playful moments where the boys play with the conductor’s staff and move with joyful grace, to the loss of a solider in the duet of dancer Gareth Okan and Hannah Tasker-Poland. The choreographer behind Rotunda, Shona McCullagh, is also the artistic director. It is clear that a whole lot of thought is put into McCullagh’s work, as the style shines clearly.

Like art is truly meant to be, Rotunda questions what in life we often take for granted until it is spilled onto our laps. With war comes a loss of life so monumental that it shakes the country to its core, and as we learn to enjoy the company of each “character” that dances through the stage, the loss of losing them and seeing the departure of young men becomes just as harrowing as if it was happening to us. The physical manifestation of war works well on stage with dance performers as talented as these. With chaos comes faster more erratic movement, with sadness and loss comes the slow upheaval of limbs, the pain of it all exemplified with each heavy step.

On a short run at the Riverside Theatres, from 13-16 May, Rotunda is the New Zealand Dance Company taking a stab at the big time over in Sydney. They achieve this will fullness and wit, and with each flow of the arm, they bring us closer to those we have lost and loved