NZDC_Rotunda_reviewIn August of 1914, world war erupted, drawing both New Zealand and Australia into an era of conflict, loss and destruction that irreversibly shaped our national identities. It is this powerful subject material that New Zealand Dance Company have chosen to explore in Rotunda, and in further demonstration of the mate-ship forged between our two countries through these times of adversity, they have here in Rotunda collaborated with local ensemble Darebin City Brass, a collaboration that affords this performance much uniqueness

This is not only a superb night of dance, but also a delicate story that traces the casualties of war, both from the collective and the individual view points. It demonstrates the strain placed on the mothers, sisters, girlfriends and wives left at home. While further afield, the breakdown of mate ship and how irreversibly, the youthful bravado shown by these young men before they are sent off to the killing fields, deteriorates.

The way in which this performance handles such delicate material, where by you are pulled slowly into the inner working of each characters, and then at the moment you feel both most connected and empathy towards, the true, catastrophic results of war, are driven home. This performance leaves audiences with nothing short of a powerful emotive reaction to a reality most of us, could not begin to imagine.

Rotunda is not a performance about the frivolous complexities of modern existence or belonging, nor is it yet another exploration into metaphor through dance, it is truth telling, and this is key to it’s success, audiences have no choice but to take note that, what this story they details is not just very much part of New Zealand’s social fabric, but ours also.

What is displayed in Rotunda is dance, not reliant on those choreographic bells and whistles adopted by so many main-stay company, instead it opts to bring contemporary dance some what back to a more classic formula, refined moves that have been clearly rehearsed and polished in the studio to the point of perfection. They played with such device as timing, sequencing and repetition to much success, in Rotunda the choreography is impossible to fault, matched equally by the deliverance of each of the dancers.

The sense of pace and urgency that begins from opening choreography is kept through till the end of this performance, there is something about the way in which this youthful cast take to the challenging physical constructs with such passionate vigor, that somehow communicates just what this performance details.

Darebin City Brass are a beautiful addition to this performance, each of the ensemble work together giving not just musical accompaniment, but warmth to Rotunda, they help evoke images of bands playing on the rotunda, while in the foreground; loved ones say goodbye to their sons, brothers, boyfriends and husbands perhaps for the last time. It’s these sort of cross overs between device and historical accuracies that cannot be dismissed when describing the work.

Perhaps the only down fall to Rotunda, was at time’s the production, though difficult to match such powerful material, a little more refinement could of elevated this performance even further. That’s not to say there was nothing outstanding delivered here, opening scenes where as mesmerizing as the climax, both which involved some pretty awesome effects that where immersive between the physical and choreographic elements of this work.

When there is so much spin currently found in the media surrounding the ANZACS and the glorification of war, it is work like this, which dare speak of the truth in an un-glamorized, and unapologetic manner, that cuts to the heart of the matter. New Zealand Dance Company should be commended for such a daring production that which brings creative’s from our two countries together in such a way.

Playhouse – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Thursday 7 May 2015 – 8.00pm
Season: 7 – 9 May 2015

Rotunda is currently playing at Riverside Theatres, Parramatta until 15 May 2015, then the Geelong Performing Arts Centre: 21 – 23 May 2015. For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Rotunda – photo John McDermott

Review: Jessi Lewis