Reviewed by Malcolm Calder
What They Said
By Jo Lloyd
NZ Dance Company
Q Theatre – Rangitira
Until October 8, 2022
Reviewed by Malcolm Calder
Taking their cues from one another, seven shell-less terrestrial gastropod molluscs slither slowly onto the stage. One pauses, they all pause. Another slithers, then a third follows. They stop. They continue. Each is an individual. Together they comprise a group.
This opening is a wonderful metaphor for What They Said. It is an evolving sociological interaction that’s all about collaboration. Obliquely whispering to, and then encouraging, listening, and working closely with her sound and costume designers is how choreographer/director Jo Lloyd has brought this new contemporary dance work together. It is created as much by the entire team as by their leader who draws it from them.
The initial slugs quickly morph into humans who adopt many different personae, both singularly and collectively. They hear and see one another, agree and disagree, misinterpret and explore, all the while undergoing a seemingly endless series of costume changes, designed by Andrew Treloar, that hint but never state.
And just like the people I see every day at my local coffee shop, they interrelate, they socialise, they bitch, they moan, they adopt others’ habits and they also experience joy.
Jo Lloyd has said this work is more like a play performed by dancers that both explores and pushes her own comfort zones. But it is much more than just the dancers and the interactions between them. Yes, there are words and phrases – deliberately repetitive at times – but not ones that form sentences or monologues. Instead the dancers’ movements are underlined by a Duane Morrison soundscape and a resulting score to which the dancers mouth, move and mime. But we are also reminded that dance is at the heart of this work as counting and the word ‘repetition’ both have a lurking omnipresence.
For any creative leader, doing so poses a huge creative risk that requires bravery, supreme confidence, nuanced eyes and ears and a mind that pulls everything together and keeps it on track. At times I found Jo Lloyd to be a choreographer, at others a director. She certainly enthrals.
Bringing her highly-credentialled background from Melbourne, she has created something very special for this NZ Dance Company world premiere as a part of the 2022 Tempo Dance Festival and something that celebrates the company’s 10th year.
What They Said is hard work for audiences and, as Jo herself mentioned in her post-performance korero, this work provides no answers for audiences, merely the potential of food for thought – perhaps at some time in the future.