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Magpie Music Dance Company to perform in NZ

Magpie Music Dance Company information

Media Release
For immediate release
27 January 2004

Magpie Music Dance Company to perform in New Zealand

In February, Amsterdam-based Magpie Music Dance Company is arriving in New Zealand. The company’s arrival provides a rare and unprecedented treat for the New Zealand music and dance industries.

Magpie is one of the most exciting and innovative dance companies to appear in New Zealand from overseas. An internationally renowned company, Magpie has toured extensively around the world, performing in 21 countries in 2001 and 2002.

As well as performing in several venues in Wellington and Auckland, Magpie will be holding workshops for dancers and performers from 18th to 29th February.

Magpie is unique in the way it uses improvisation in performance. Ballet International described the company’s methods by saying, "The company has dedicated itself exclusively to improvisation and has attained a high level of mastery in it. Magpie is a perfect example for one to grasp the extent to which the engendering of the magical moment, of the fantastic, coincidental encounter, may, or perhaps must, rest on familiarity, mutual trust and being attuned to one another."

The practical diversity of the dance artists in Magpie ranges from modern dance to ballet to new dance, with music from artists influenced by punk, electronic-based music, jazz, rock and traditional western contemporary performance practices.

Magpie’s performers have worked for the Ballet Frankfurt, Twyla Tharp, the Feld Ballet and Pretty Ugly Dance Company. Musician Mary Oliver has premiered works by Richard Barrett, John Cage, Chaya Czernowin, Morton Feldman, Brian Ferneyhough, George Lewis and Iannis Xenakis among others and worked alongside improvising musicians such as Ab Baars, FURT, Tristan Honsinger, Joelle Leandre, George Lewis, Phil Minton and Evan Parker.

Unique to Magpie's real-time creative process is the inclusion of a lighting designer, whereby choices are made through the selection of colour and light density to create an ever-evolving performance space.

Magpie has been invited to New Zealand by Pineapple Productions, with funding from Creative NZ, the Royal Netherlands Embassy of NZ, the NZ Netherlands Foundation and the Netherlands Podiumkunst. Juliet Shelley is the founder of Pineapple, a company which specialises in promoting dance and music improvisation in New Zealand. Juliet draws from her own overseas roots and international connections in bringing the company to New Zealand

“To me, this company is like a breath of fresh air. They are dazzling in their ability to weave virtuosity with seeming casualness and they move from moments of almost surreal poignancy to humour in an instant. They are simply unforgettable. I really wanted New Zealand audiences to experience their work so I invited them over and they said ‘Yes’. We are very lucky to have them here.”

Juliet says the company is also offering an amazing opportunity for New Zealand dancers to study with them through workshops in February.

Accompanying Magpie in their performances in Auckland are Libella Fa, a new company of New Zealand dancers and musicians employing improvisation as a primary performance mode. Drawn from some of New Zealand's finest dancers and musicians, the group will workshop and perform with Magpie and before going on to perform in Wellington at Bats theatre in March.

Magpie teaches workshops in Technique, Improvisation and Composition from 18 - 27 February at The Auckland Performing Arts Centre, Motions Rd, Western Springs. Workshop bookings and registrations: Juliet Shelley 04 569 1664

Magpie performs
- in Wellington at Te Whaea on 21 February 8pm Bookings: 04 384 3840 and
- in Auckland at TAPAC on 26 - 29th February Bookings: 09 300 3700
- Magpie:

Libella Fa performs
Bats Theatre, Wellington from 5 - 7 March, Bookings: 04 802 4175

Libella Fa Performers’ biographies

Juliet Shelley:
Dance artist
Juliet Shelley is a dance artist, teacher and performer.

She is based in Wellington. Juliet undertook her professional training in dance at the Laban Centre, London and the Centre for New Dance Development, Amsterdam. She was a member of Jointwork Dance Group in Oxford for two years.

Whilst with Jointwork, Juliet performed extensively throughout the UK and worked with Jos Houben of Theatre of Complicite, Katie Duck, Kirstie Simson and Julyen Hamilton among others. During this time, she created solo shows as well as choreographing for Jointwork and other companies.

Juliet undertook Alexander teacher training and moved to New Zealand in 1994.
In New Zealand, Juliet has worked extensively within the professional dance community as an organiser, a teacher, a producer and a performer. She has organised and participated in projects to bring over Nancy Stark Smith and Martin Keogh to New Zealand from the USA, who taught in three major centres in New Zealand, including tertiary institutions in Wellington and Auckland. She performed with Nancy Stark Smith and Martin Keogh prior to each workshop. She received funding from Creative NZ in 2000 to undertake a three week intensive training with Nancy Stark Smith in the USA.

In 1997 Juliet travelled to New York where she performed a solo at the IMprovisation Festival NY and participated in workshops with Kirstie Simson and Karen Nelson. In 2000 Juliet performed a solo piece at Cecil Street Studios, Melbourne as part of an improvisation performance which featured the work of Nancy Stark Smith and State of Flux dance collective. Both trips were self funded.

Juliet has choreographed and performed original solo and group pieces which have been presented at the Watershed Theatre, Auckland, The University of Waikato, Thames High School, Unitec School of Performing & Screen Arts, New Zealand School of Dance and Wellington Performing Arts Centre. She has created work on students in the contemporary dance programme of WPAC and performed in two fringe festivals in Wellington.
She founded Pineapple Productions in September 02 after a self funded trip to San Fransisco where she studied with Katie Duck and Shelley Senter ( ex- Trisha Brown dancer ) at the Dancers Group Summer Festival workshop programmes.
Juliet has presented four evenings of work under Pineapple Productions in September 02, November 02, March 03 and September 03.

Alyx Duncan:

Alyx Duncan is an Auckland based Choreographer and Videographer who has extensively traveled, directed, edited, performed and studied dance and video dance over the past five years.

Highlights include: completing a Bachelor in Performing and Screen Arts at UNITEC in Auckland; performing and touring with Lemi Ponifasio’s Mau Dance theatre Bone Flute ivi ivi within New Zealand and at the Pacific Arts Festival in Noumea in 2000; studying with renowned Japanese choreographer Min Tanaka both in New Zealand and at his Body Weather Farm, Hakushu, Japan; rehearsing and studying with Guinean Dance Master Secaba Camera and his company in Guinea, West Africa; creating in 2003/2002 five successful Video Dance pieces which have been excepted for screening at the New Zealand International Film Festival in 2003.

This last highlight stems from her work over the last two years directing, shooting and editing a large range of dance work, both created for the camera and for live performance. Most recently she has been one of the Directors of Photography and editors for The BodyCartography Kahurani Project; Directed and edited Malia Johnston’s short dance video Small War; co-choreographed, produced and performed Midnight’s Laughter with choreographer Maria Dabrowska; directed three short video dance works for the mixed ability dance company Touch Compass: Timeless, Union and The Picnic; and completed a cinematic version of Midnight’s Laughter called Passage. Of these recent film works Kahurangi, Union, The Picnic, Passage and Small War will be screened as part of HomeGrown 3 in the New Zealand International Film Festival.

Her passion is producing site-specific dance film in which all elements of time of day, lighting, props, sound, and set, reflect and relate to the themes and emotion of the movement. She exposes the movement and supporting images to the camera in order to tell a narrative through metaphor. She then, develops the choreography beyond its live potential through the manipulation and treatment of the moving image.

Wilhemeena Gordon:
Multi-media artist

Multi-media artist Wilhemeena Gordon has been working in the areas of theatre, dance and multi-media installation for over six years. She has performed with MAU Dance Theatre, Coriolis Dance co. and The BodyCartography Project (in NZ), and Dappin Butoh Co. (USA) but has primarily pursued her own artistic vision - multi-media performance art/human installation/sculpture. She is a qualified Skinner Releasing Practitioner and movement education specialist and is interested in body as site, body as home. "The body is at once the most solid, the most elusive, illusive, concrete, metaphysical, ever-present and ever distant thing - a site, an instrument, an environment, a singularity and a multiplicity."

Francesca Mountfort:

Performing artist, musician and composer

Francesca completed a Bachelor of Music degree at Victoria University of Wellington in 2002, is a freelance performing artist, musician and composer.

She produced a multimedia show Chair Water Air with collaborative partner You Jay Lee at bats theatre in the 2003 Fringe festival. Chair Water Air was an experimental instillation of dance, music and silent film.

As this was very successful, Francesca and You Jay produced their next show Nervous Doll Dancing as part of the Dance Your Socks off festival in September 2003. Both performances were made from original compositions for solo cello and electronics performed live by Francesca Mountfort, with silent film, dance and movement by You Jay Lee.

Francesca is involved in many different music and arts events around Wellington, often writing and arranging music collaboratively with other artists.
One of Francesca’s most regular groups is Carousel, who she has been working with steadily over the past three years.

Carousel is an original acoustic ensemble of cello, violin, guitar and mandolin. Francesca collaborates in writing and arranging the music for this group who recently toured Melbourne and played in the Wellington Folk Festival.

Carousel recorded a debut album in 2002 and provided live original music for The Princess and the Pebble; a 2003 fringe festival play performed at Bats theatre.

Magpie Music Dance Company background information

For this production, Libella Fa is directed by Magpie Music Dance Company. This Amsterdam-based collective calls upon the rich tradition of improvisation in the Netherlands as a model for performance collaborations involving dancers, musicians, text, humour and lighting design.

Magpie Music and Dance Company is a collective of dancers, musicians, a lighting designer, visual artist and video artists who use improvisation as the means by which they can express their work. The Amsterdam-based collective calls upon the rich tradition of improvised activity in the Netherlands as a model for creating possibilities in collaborations between the various backgrounds of the dancers and musicians. The practical diversity of the dance artists in Magpie range from modern dance to ballet to new dance while the musical artists' diversity calls from punk, electronic and computer based music, jazz, rock and traditional western contemporary performance practices. Unique to Magpie's real-time creative process is the inclusion of a lighting designer, whereby choices are made through the selection of color and light density to create an ever-evolving performance space thus shifting the physical presence of the whole performance.

Magpie Music Dance Company artists in NZ:
Katie Duck, Michael Schumacher, Mary Oliver, Ellen Knops

Performers’ Biographies

Katie Duck

Artistic Director

Katie Duck is a dancer, choreographer and teacher. From 1973-6 she toured with the company 'Salt Lake City Mime Troupe'. She left the United States in 1976 to live in Amsterdam, Holland and toured throughout Europe as a performer in solo productions, in duet with Carlos Traffic, and in improvisations with the local music artists. In 1979, she moved to Italy where she formed the company GROUPO.

GROUPO toured through out Europe with the productions 'Ruttles', 'The Orange Man', 'Brown eye Green eye' and 'Mind the gap'. In 1986 she accepted a senior lecturer position at Dartington College of Arts teaching for the theatre department and led the choreography course. In 1991 she accepted a position at the AHK dance department in Amsterdam where she teaches composition, improvisation and technique.

Throughout her career, Katie Duck has worked with music and dance artists who share her passion for collaborating music, text and dance in improvised performances. She has performed and collaborated in productions with Tristan Honsinger, Michael Moore, Derek Bailey, Alex Maguire, Michael Vatcher and many others. Besides participating as a performer and composer, she has initiated numerous dance and music improvisation projects in her three bases Holland, Italy and England. In her current base, Amsterdam, her initiatives include an improvisation series (monthly) at the Fijnhout Theater and the Muiderpoort Theater (1994-9), The Melkweg Theater (2000-2001) a (yearly) Improvisation festival at the Frascati Theater (1994-9), Magpie Music Dance Company (from 1995). She is currently touring her solo work, professional workshops and with Magpie Music Dance Company.

Michael Schumacher has danced professionally with Ballet Frankfurt, Twyla Tharp, the Feld Ballet and Pretty Ugly Dance Company. He has danced as a guest artist for Peter Sellers in "Bijbelse Stukken" and "Peony Pavilion" and in productions with Sylvie Guilliem, Dana Caspersen, Anouk van Dijk, Danela Graça, Mark Haim, Mikayo Mori and Paul Selwyn Norton.

As a choreographer, Michael has twice collaborated with dancers of the Ballet Frankfurt creating "Splendor Shed" in 1990 and "Blender Head" in 1994. He also choreographed for G.R.I.P. with Matilde Santing and Anna Affourtit in the Netherlands. With his brother Steven, Michael produced "Unwrapped", as solo dance evening which has been performed in Germany, the Netherlands and the U.S.A.

In addition to performing, Michael conducts workshops in movement analysis and improvisation techniques. Michael began dancing in musical theater productions in his hometown of Lewiston , Idaho. After moving to New York, he received a B.F.A. in Dance from the Juilliard School. He currently resides in Amsterdam.

Mary Oliver was born in La Jolla, California, and studied at San Francisco State University (Bachelor of Music), Mills College (Master of Fine Arts) and the University of California, San Diego where she received her PhD in 1993 for her research in the theory and practice of improvised music. Her work as a soloist encompasses both composed and improvised contemporary music.

She has premiered works by Richard Barrett, John Cage, Chaya Czernowin, Morton Feldman, Brian Ferneyhough, George Lewis and Iannis Xenakis among others and worked alongside improvising musicians such as Ab Baars, FURT, Tristan Honsinger, Joelle Leandre, George Lewis, Phil Minton and Evan Parker.

As soloist and ensemble player she has performed in numerous international festivals including the Darmstadter Ferienkurse fur Neue Musik, October Meeting (Amsterdam), jazz Marathon (Groningen), Ars Electronica (Linz), Ars Musica (Brussels), North American Music Festival, June-in-Buffalo (New York), London Musicians Collective Festival, Angelica Festival (Bologna), SpielArt (Munich, Munchener Biennale and Zurich Tage fur Neue Musik, Perth Festival and Brisbane Biennial.

Ellen Knops started in 1998 in the "Noorderligt" musictheater in Tilburg as light technician for popbands. She moved to Amsterdam in 1992 and started to work with dance and theater. She collaborated to Magpie from its beginning and has contributed to solo projects with Katie Duck, Vincent Cacialono, Martin Sonderkamp and Alex Waterman. These where all improvised performances. She also works with dancers Lily Kiara, Sara Wookey, Constatien Michos, Machy Lindaue, Sayoko Onishi, Gonny Heggen. She is a resident light designer for the Melkweg Theater in Amsterdam and light designer for the Frascati Improvisation Festival.


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