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DRAGON: Best Experimental Film

Good Company Arts present a new dance-theatre film featuring artists from Japan, Australia and Aotearoa to observe the incoming Lunar New Year (of the Dragon) 2024. Te Tumu Toi New Zealand Arts Foundation Laureate Daniel Belton, leads a stellar creative team.

Soul-jazz pioneer Mark de Clive-Lowe’s new music is interwoven with taonga pūoro from Mahina-Ina Kingi-Kaui and Alistair Fraser. The elevated sonic textures inspire dynamic screen performances from IDIOT SAVANT Theater Company (Tōkyō), with Airu Matsuda and Samara Reweti (Aotearoa). The virtuosic dance-theatre presence of Nao Akao, Chikako Arai and Yasuhiro Kondo, channels energies of the dragon. Acclaimed wordsmith, Katherine Lyall-Watson (Belloo Creative, Australia) adds a poetic script, igniting sonic and visual spaces in this brand new work.

In Eastern mythology the magical dragon represents courage, wisdom and power. Sometimes known as a shape-shifter, the dragon is a playful, powerful totem. Dragons are symbols of celestial mobility with sweeping abilities - breathing clouds, moving seasons and controlling waters. Asian traditions venerate a set of elements called the "five great". These are air, water, earth, fire and void. Within this there is a timeless philosophy used to describe the vital relationship and interdependence between all living things.

The appearance of the celestial dragon invokes an ancient connection to the multiverse. Dragon is a tohu signalling higher dimensions. Our game-like cinema opens alternative pathways, expanding geometries of the cube and hexagon, morphing spatial portals through the fusion of dance, music and digital arts.

Daniel Belton Biography

Good Company Arts was founded by renowned New Zealand artists Daniel Belton and Donnine Harrison. Good Company Arts creates live events, exhibitions and installations through the fusion of multiple art forms. Our work has been produced and presented for theatres, art galleries, museums, found spaces, new media and architectural facades, cinemas, planetariums and VR. Project based and working from Aotearoa New Zealand, we are internationally recognised as arts and design innovators, combining contemporary dance, choreography, fine arts, new music, animation, digital cinema and AV technologies. Good Company Arts engages prominent artists and technicians to create and present original new work with the spirit of the South Pacific.

Director Statement

"For the DRAGON film Chika Arai's dance is the ecstatic ‘dance like nobody's watching’ release. The geometry of the hexagon in filmic spatial play, references origami - within the concertina of the fold exists potential for the surprise of new dimensions - expanding spatial perception as discovery. The game board matrix of this work, with it's building block elemental design pieces and honeycomb cell layouts, offers multi-level interaction for the participants (the performers presence and the music drive the narrative of DRAGON). The arrival of the dragon signals colour codes. Geometric designs companion the codes as each of the screen performers represent an element.

Our film is celebrating the ‘Year of the Dragon’. We are teasing the folding and unfolding of space, and the re-registration of environment. It is the human questing supported by the energies of the dragon which is the ‘passing of the baton’ of responsibility - from the celestial wisdom of the dragon to the human to say ‘you are worthy’. Are we worthy? Can we do this? This is the challenge - are we ready for greater responsibility? The hexagon is the sacred geometric baton which references Metatron's Cube in our play from pixel spaces and the binary of ones and zero's. This extends out through the power of gesture, movement, music - to the abandon capable of dance. There is this sense of the dragon investing in the human with optimism. The message embedded within the DRAGON film offers a kind of geometry of trust, a spatial language crystalline in climax moments, even prismatic with spectral hues occurring where film frames intersect. For our opening scene, Lyall-Watson's script affirms ‘Net of hope holding safe’.

DRAGON resonates with the poetics of human movement through spectacular dance-gesture performances, immersive 3D motion graphics scenography and a magnificent music score. Dance-theatre, sound and optics intertwine to re-sculpt the digital stage through a series of 5 scenes. The hexagon frame which contains our story, is a galactic ship, pulsing temporally, gliding and refracting light as multi-prism portals tracking the key elements: AIR (Silver-White performed by Chikako Arai), WATER (Blue-Green performed by Nao Akao), EARTH (Green-Grey performed by Yasuhiro Kondo), FIRE (Red-Orange performed by Airu Matsuda), and VOID (Violet performed by Samara Reweti). This project creates a syncopated dialogue which levers on the pattern of the hexagon - 6 sided scales and stepped cubes manifest scenographies which respond to, and provoke the presence of the screen performer.

A line that works diagonally in space creates the illusion of 3 dimensions because it suggests depth. We are used to the idea that low on the picture plane is near, and high is far - a Western thought paradigm. The design in DRAGON references orthogonal perspective. Axonometry is a type of orthogonal projection, yet having all the lines of an object at the same length, they are not drawn as shortening into the distance, which renders an unnatural compression. Architects use this descriptive drawing methodology to generate planar images of 3 dimensional objects and structures. Jac Grenfell’s exquisite motion graphics authored from hand animated ink on glass, suggest hills or valleys, with ridges and mountain peaks that roll out as rhythmic vistas for the performers to inhabit. He describes the film opening sequence as: “The ratio of the theatre space, pushed out to the edge of frame, opening up an alternative esoteric world”.

The celestial dragon is celebrated as a totemic being within our electronic game-like film journey, where time can rewind, cut, warp and weft. The digital amalgam of light and sound that we know and love to be cinema, hosts this party to honour the divine dragon.

Creative Producer Donnine Harrison and I would like to thank the brilliant artists from three nations contributing their work to this 4D cinema vision” Daniel Belton (February 9-10, 2024)


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