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Brains Before Beauty

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Footnote Dance’s Anita Hunziker puckers up in Raewyn Hill’s new contemporary dance work “Here lies within” - which will feature in the inaugural Footnote Forte Season opening in Christchurch on 6 April. Hill offers a social commentary, both humorous and serious, exploring society’s fascination, obsession and pursuit of, physical perfection, all danced to well-known kiwi tunes. The Footnote Forte Season is a new annual initiative from Footnote Dance, presenting a touring programme of work by a leading New Zealand choreographer. Raewyn Hill is the inaugural choreographer to be featured.


20 March 2006

Brains Before Beauty

Contemporary dance company Footnote Dance premieres a new, annual season initiative –The Footnote Forte Season – this April. For the first time, Footnote’s touring programme will present dance work by a single leading New Zealand choreographer – including a new commission exploring obsessions with the pursuit of physical beauty and perfection that promises to be thought-provoking as well as crowd-pleasing.

Christchurch-based Raewyn Hill, one of this country’s most innovative creators of contemporary dance, is the inaugural Footnote Forte Season choreographer. Over the last five years her intriguing short dance pieces have featured in Footnote’s repertoire. Now, in a significant move, a single programme has been dedicated to her work and created with Footnote dancers in mind.

“Over the years Footnote has become renowned for nurturing both emerging and established contemporary dancers and choreographers,” says Footnote Director Deirdre Tarrant. “In the five years Raewyn has worked with our company, her work has grown and matured. It is exciting now for Footnote to present a whole programme of her work, and gratifying to see Raewyn’s journey as a choreographer reflected in this inaugural Footnote Forte Season.”

The Footnote Forte Season will open in Christchurch on April 6, before heading to Dunedin (April 12) and Wellington (May 5). The programme includes the return of Hill’s 2003 work, “In Time of Flight”, performed with music by Nic McGowan – a firm Footnote favourite.

Hill’s new commission, “Here lies within”, breaks new ground and looks set to captivate audiences. It builds on themes from Hill’s 2005 piece for Footnote, “How Ugly is that Duckling?” by exploring people’s obsession with physical perfection, trumpeted in magazines, advertising and reality TV. Like much of Hill’s work, “Here lies within” offers a commentary on the way we live – this time on the uneasy appeal, the horrors and the growing acceptability of extreme means for achieving the “perfect” look. Cosmetic surgery, body-building, eating disorders, full-body waxing, as well as helpful hints for “shaping-up” –all get the Hill treatment in a funny, insightful and questioning dance work performed to classic Kiwi tunes.

In researching her subject, Hill has cast a penetrating eye on the world around her and found plenty of all-too-real inspiration. She uncovered alarming Internet chat-room exchanges between cosmetic surgery patients, investigated the world of TV’s radical makeover shows, and sifted through the media hype that surrounds the horrific yet fascinating pursuit of bodily perfection.

“My interest in this topic was inspired in New York in 2003 when I noticed people caught up in the search for the ideal look and image – even down to their dog’s grooming!” says Hill. “Media interest has continued to focus more than ever on the extreme end of the beauty industry, with reality makeovers that horrified viewers yet also made it okay to do it. I asked myself, ‘Why do these people put themselves through it? How far do you go and where do you stop?’

“Much of the social stigma of body-perfecting has gone. Whether it’s Botox shots or body-building, a Brazilian or a package-holiday nose job – it’s a multimillion-dollar industry! This dance work is presenting an exaggerated world, but the message I’m keen for audiences to take away is: look on the inside first, before fixing the outside to make yourself feel good.”

Danced to well-known New Zealand tunes from performers such as Suzanne Prentice, Sir Howard Morrison, Patsy Riggir and Gareth Farr, “Here lies within”will have audiences smiling and tapping their feet – while giving thought to some smart questions about body and soul.

The Footnote Forte Season opens at the Repertory Theatre, Christchurch on Thursday 6 April at 8.00pm; then at Dunedin’s Regent Theatre on Wednesday 12 April and Wellington’s The Opera House on Friday 5 May.


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