Step into the revolving-door question of what it means to grow into oneself.
Imagine you are casually scrolling through Instagram and you see a friend posting about a show she is producing: with deconstructed marketing, the images of two unidentifiable characters inviting each other to become one, and bizarrely abstracted art design—it’s strange and I want answers. Well, shoutout to Madi Cronin because this is how I was drawn into the contemporary dance duet, Tunnelling Wormholes. A reminder to other creatives out there: shamelessly promote your friend’s work online big or small, because people are watching, period.
The show, which has been previously staged at BATS in Wellington and the Hamilton Gardens, recently whirled through the upstairs Studio at Basement Theatre. It is choreographed by Miriam Eskildsen, with her dancers and collaborators Sharvon Mortimer & Elani Austin-Tennant. And as previously mentioned, current post-grad student, the amazing Madison Cronin, served as producer.
It was a Tuesday evening and a contagious creative bug was in the air. I walked up the stairs at Basement to the intimate studio. I felt it before I could see it, before I took my seat—the space was already inhabited with movement. I wasn’t late—the doors had just opened—but it was as if I was late to the establishment of this world. It existed long before I purchased tickets, before I knew it had been born.
In an interview, Miriam told me what she hoped people would feel watching her show: “I hope they would feel immersed and that it might open a pocket of tenderness, an old memory or a sense of wonder.” Credit to her as what she dreamed was realised for me as an audience member. The show was open and surprising, spare but luscious. It took the audience through adventures—spontaneous hands jumping out of corners, overlapping replays of choral humming, characters appearing with no face, backdrops changing in an instant, dancers interacting with their set, and the mood of the movement redirecting the entire aesthetic of the stage mid-performance. It was evident that a lot of detailed practice and decision-making had gone into this show—Miriam highlighted the interesting work timeline: “This work has been made within sporadic pockets of time over a three-year span. The last development (leading up to the Basement show) was made over roughly eight weeks, with twelve rehearsals in total.” Over this rehearsal time, it’s clear that Miriam and her collaborators reached intently into the metaphor of Tunnelling Wormholes. It intrigued me because as a dancer, I could sense the essence of worms as a movement quality all throughout the performance. I was interested in the title of the work and drew the connection between worms tunnelling to make room for plant roots to go deeper into the soil to retrieve nutrients, and the way in which art and creative practice can create tunnels and space for the vulnerabilities we share with each other.
When I asked what advice she would give to young aspiring artists Miriam responded;
“Invest in your artist friends and collaborators, be kind to yourself, and don’t be afraid to make a bad thing, it’s how you learn to make better things.”
And overall, her work exemplifies a beautiful rendition of a collaborative approach. You can see it in the impressive and diverse workload of production technologies that were vivid in this particular choreography. All of which were created alongside other young professional artists here in Aotearoa. From the elaborate painted backgrounds by Indiana Carder-Dodd, multi-layered costume design from April Haszard, video projections, interchangeable soundscape, paper mache, and more; each were characters and contributors to the story in their own right.
As I watched the show, I witnessed an embodiment of worming or gliding through thick broken ground. It felt like sometimes there was moisture in the air that was allowing the dancers to move so easily, and other times when the ground completely dried up. I imagined liquid moving between the dancers, like a shared bowl of water. The characters were trying not to spill it, but it eventually tips and their relationship is challenged. There was a strong confusion between fiction and reality at times. Even the movement of their toes were detailed, and every decision was important to the character, testing the audience’s perspective and attention. And a comment from Miriam that gives a glimpse into her experience of the show as a choreographer was that, “Seeing how ideas gain dimension and clarity when working collaboratively. Making new friends. Watching a fully formed project bloom after sitting with the seed of it in your head for a long time.” The show toed the lines of contemporary movement, picking at the strings of companionship and friendship, and unspooling the threads of reality and fantasy to weave them together through dual movement. Tunnelling Wormholes offered a stage of imagination; a place where two souls creatively interact with the world through their intertwined memories. It will be hugely interesting to see where Miriam, her collective Solveig Mov., and this team of young creatives will go next with their multi-disciplinary/multi-media/multi-dimensional work—what worlds they will build and nourish to transport us into.
A koha I learned from watching and engaging in Miriam’s work? To be bold, to get out there and create! Keep leaning into whatever it is that sparks an interest in you because it will be the thing that builds your style and will attract others who align with your artistic values. And for Miriam, choreographing is “… a way of trying to understand interpersonal dynamics and things that have happened in my life, and for other opaque reasons that I don’t feel able to articulate, it’s just something I’ve always been drawn towards doing.”Ngā mihi to Dance Studies here @ UOA for helping me along my journey as a young creative. Lastly from Miriam: “An enormous thank you to my incredible team of collaborators who worked with me to put this show together! It takes a village. I am also incredibly grateful to Sharvon and Elani, for the huge number of hours they put into this work, and for sticking with this project till the very end.”