Kiss the Sky

Kiss the Sky | New Zealand Dance Company

If Matariki is regarded as the perfect time to start new collaborations and unexpected conversations, the stars have clearly aligned for the New Zealand Dance Company.

It’s become the first major New Zealand dance company to commission a Korean artist to make work here (although a fellow Korean, Unitec graduate Min Kyoung Lee, has presented several of her works here).

Kim Jae-Duk is a multi award-winning composer/choreographer whose work, Sigan (time), is on the company’s Kiss the Sky triple bill. It will be presented alongside Sue Healey’s Retouched and Stephanie Lake’s If Never Was Now, bringing together voices from the Pacific into one stellar programme.

During the past three years, NZDC artistic direction Shona McCullagh has visited China, Hong Kong and Korea to familiarise herself with diverse approaches to making contemporary dance. During her visits, McCullagh found herself increasingly drawn to Korean dance.

“China showcased classical influences and much of the Hong Kong work had a performance art influence, but it was the Korean work that resonated with me the most,” she says. “The grounded and percussive nature of the movement, its connection with nature and culture – all these are elements that I was particularly interested in for our Kiss the Sky season.”

Kim’s work features a distinctive approach to layering movement and images and a subtle accumulation of complex sequences. His design is strongly theatrical and attentive to the moods of his music.

McCullagh says the dancers thrived under his direction.

“He has a genuinely organic approach to creating work and this is also because he is both a composer and a choreographer. The dancers loved working with him because he layered movement in such a way that one movement would build into the next. He also provided a very special, unique experience of building narrative into dance, developed in a generous and creative fashion.”

Aside from joking about how much he enjoyed the food in New Zealand, Kim says the chance to work with our dancers was an opportunity for him to learn more about dance in Oceania. He acknowledges the physicality of our dancers is different to those in Korea and was amazed at the size of the dancers’ leg muscles.

Kim’s work is aptly titled Sigan (time) and provides an opportunity for us as New Zealanders to reflect on the need for increasing diversity in the arts.

“New Zealand is changing – and rapidly so,” says McCullagh. Our programming reflects those changes and through invitations and collaborations such as these, we reflect the shifts that are taking place right before us.”

Meanwhile, Kiss the Sky also includes multi award-winning choreographer New Zealander Sue Healey’s The Seasons Retouched set to composer Max Richter’s Recomposed. This touches on images of the seasons and changing weather, combined with a formal architectural approach to the choreography. Richter’s music will be played live by Blackbird Ensemble.

Australian choreographer Stephanie Lake rounds out the programme with If Never Was Now. This is described as “eccentric and whimsical with a playful, riotous edge” to reflect the “beauty and brutality” of the natural world.