Sometimes dance has the power to remind us that we are creatures riding an evolutionary coil. Kiko does that. Filling a late slot in Tempo 2022, Kiko (trans. flesh) presents as a window into a work-in-progress, by some of New Zealand's most acclaimed performance artists. With less than two weeks production time, Kiko has the fresh edginess of ideas surfacing. It might not be fully realised, but it is exhilarating living on the edge.
The performance is a brilliant sequence of high-intensity vignettes, moving through a wildly eclectic range of performative movement genres. Like a post-lockdown gig, it's a blur of the dystopian and the heavenly, but it's also boldly queer. The performance has evolved through group improvisation-as-research into body-intelligence-clues, for surviving an apocalypse. Kiko is flesh under threat. The outcome literally teems with somatic metaphors. The programme notes describe a journey from “the queer to the ineffable”1. Those on the fringe who share an instinctual kinesthetic ingenuity, aspire to lightness and the ineffable, a wordless non-prescriptive freedom. Queer is intimacy without pretext. Team work is the progressive edge. This is deep enquiry into the somatic metabolism of the queer body.
Technically, Kiko explores the performative interface between live dance and digital media choreographed and directed by Kelly Nash with Body Island. Like multi-dimensional shadow puppetry, the filmic components appear and disappear into endless spatial configurations across the stage with layers of shadow play and live interaction. These fluid juxtapositions shift scale and space, back and forth, throughout the performance, it's a highly stimulating layered interplay, an absolute pleasure workout for the audience brain.
The show opens with the raw apocalyptic shamanic wonderland of Te Hā Te Kā , a duet by artists Nancy Wijohn and Taane Mete, who appear as unhomed creatures in padded overcoats of dangling appendages, carrying every crucial survival item on their bodies. If the future is dystopic then how do bodies evolve? Despite the bulbous costume Wijohn and Mete go match-for-match in dance athleticism, and in a fluid gender interplay, keep flipping roles back and forth, so enigmatically that gender appears only to disappear. Simultaneously flicking through inflections of movement vernacular from flamenco, Sumo wrestling, giant crab scuttles, Eskimo huddling, samurai sparring, and kapa haka, all with astounding speed, precision and musculature. Until they are unhomed by a younger pair of perfectly in-sync twin stooges, danced exquisitely by Abbie Rogers and Caleb Heke who flit like birds, elementals, joyous, decadent, irreverent. They zig zag through the space or through the air in perfect tandem, holding the counter poise of lightness and a hint of the freaks of the circus. They later appear as slaves that flatter and charm to appease their sleazy circus master, (Sean MacDonald) who stalks his pimp, all hubris and bristle, King of the flesh marketplace. Suddenly we have lurched from shamanism to Vaudeville and parody. This is complex, intense social somatic enquiry. Our very beingness is the evolving state of mutable creatureness.
In a moving duet between partners Kelly Nash and Nancy Wijohn, Kiko shifts gear to soft tissue, closer to the reciprocal tension and fluid glide of connective tissue. As these powerful wahine move, they heal, and create worlds. As they heal they create worlds to move in. A soulmate dance, wairua breathing in rhythm, they move wisely and efficiently, and love enduringly. Attuned and yet individual. Queer soma as the holistic body. Gender is a broad continuum we move along, its entire spectrum offers gifts. Queerness is the alchemy of the gifts of gender, an invitation to play, but also to pretend, elude and subvert.
In the piece Pepe Mā (white butterfly), Mete orbits around the stage in a torn wedding dress, trailing ripped lace behind him, while on film he is running on a desert track through the alpine grasses of the Ruapehu plateau in the same dress. Slowing and turning inward into soft undulations as though he is underwater watching his body pulsate in waves in a moment of deep personal self wonder. Like a young man in the attic secretly wearing his mother's wedding dress, it's a private revery. As innocence crosses into taboo, the body involuntarily blushes, the nervous system switches up, the sweat glands open, the hormones fizz, and the brain has zigzags of light waves moving back and forth across hemispheres. Moment-to-moment our inner queer creature quietly metabolises biofeedback signals scanning for new adaptations. The queer soma feels the taboo and does it anyway.
As the apocalypse sets in the Egyptian God Horus or one of his acolytes drops in from outerspace to Te Ngahere o Woodhill, with his falcon wing moon headdress, but he is disoriented and cannot remember his name. On stage he morphs into a many armed deity, but no one can remember the ritual. Kiko descends into a chaotic shamanic climax of forewarning. The final scenes danced by Nancy Wijohn are sheer bloody-minded physical survivalist overdrive to the point of collapse, and then nothing. Finally the wordless moment has gone global. The body is spent. There are no more moves. There is though Papatuanuku breathing and Ranginui sighing and the entire amorphous tribe of sentient beings going about their daily rhythm. In that quiet space the evolutionary move might just be the body in deep listening.
Or reic tem delignihil mo etusa istios in poribus esed ma sumquas adi omni rero id ut quibuscit volupis aute volless impercia ne quae quatius dolorat qui aut atio.