The solo show that explores youth, queerness, and existentialism—through dance, theatre, and fruit.
Downtown, in an underworld of majestic beings and hypnotising lights, there is a stage in an upstairs room where artistry comes alive. As an emerging dance artist, at Basement Theatre I often find myself welcomed by the aroma of creativity, beverage in hand, to the pounding social connection of Tāmaki Makaurau. One of their recent shows was dance/theatre hybrid In 200 Minds, performed and choreographed by Katie Shaw.
As a solo performer, Katie bravely created their world and invited the audience into it. With a goth-fairy-like character, their statically hypogenic movement quality stirred an interest in me. Trespassing through the audience’s state of mind, Katie seemed unmoved by the presence of those in the seats. But I was surprised when juxtaposition broke this—keeping eye contact with everyone in the room.
As Katie explored the power of the mind, they invited me into a scrumptious taste of a world that stood on the stability of a castle of walnuts, apples, and lemons. Katie’s performance stroked a unique range between thought-filled stillness and self-evoked rage. It was apparent that Katie’s body awareness as a performer was highly professional, and signalled a continuous development of this skill on stage.
The openness of their body formed intricate pathways for their limbs as they glided and bounced throughout the room. Their body positioned against brick walls, touching a multidimensional surface for their whirlwind staircase of movement. I wish I had been there during Katie’s open classes, to further discern the meaning of their movement.
Katie repeatedly left the centre stage where their rock castle was breathing with sentiment (nuts, apples, and fruit) and carried themself to the back of the stage. As this practice unfolded, I could see a strategic mind map transferred from their head into the physicality of the brick wall. They moved their body within and beyond their costume, which seemed to be orchestrated as a performance quality. It stimulated questions: were they simply imitating and entertaining old thought patterns/concerns? Or were they purifying new designs by revisiting past places physically/emotionally?
It was not just the Basement space Katie was biting and consuming in this performance, but an entire life through the substance of citrus and nuts. Her dancing initiated a play with spatial limits, her hands stretching to the edge, and her mind taking us on a journey of food for thought. Kaite’s experimental digestion of food as a dance-theatre prop displayed their personal relationship with the chosen food. It was an interesting take on food and had intentional meanings and uses within the performance. To Katie, the walnuts were for logic, lemons as bitter truths, and apples for desire. There were moments of ‘nothing’ revealing time spent daydreaming or in thoughtless motion. I let my thoughts take me to a new place. I wondered if our thoughts and artistic ideas depend only on the moment we experience them. Or can we transfer these into different times, spaces, contexts and emotions to replicate the same experience for others?
The costume by Lauren Buer and the entire visual aesthetic broadened my understanding of this solo piece, and amazed me with the depth of detail to each design element. It was movable and a character within itself. Nuts came bursting from the performers’ feet, enabling this prop to elope within the fabric of the shuffling noises from the audience seats. And the sound of this entire work really inspired me, it had me constantly engaged and stimulated sparks of thoughtful energy into the overall piece. The community support and contribution were evident, on stage and in the audience, highlighting Katie’s profound ability to connect with others through the development of In 200 Minds.
Dance art in Aotearoa plays a big role in our communities, constantly raising questions, presenting experiences, uplifting the people and challenging the world we live in today. Go get amongst it e hoa mā!
Katie Shaw: @k8ie_sure
Jess Crompton: @jescrompton
Tessa Redman: @tessa.anne.artist
Lulu Qiu: @lulu_pdf
Stenn Francis Deare: @morganflowers_nz
Lauren Buer: @laurens_buer