All the park’s a stage for bungy­ing dancer

Weekend Herald - - News - Dionne Chris­tian

When Chloe Lof­tus steps into her of­fice, she walks through a stand of na­tive bush, greets tui singing around her and har­nesses her­self to a ro­bustly built Po­hutukawa tree.

It’s here she spends the next few hours mak­ing an art­work which few New Zealan­ders have seen.

Lof­tus is Auck­land Coun­cil’s 2017 Re­gional Parks artist- in- res­i­dence and the first dancer/ chore­og­ra­pher to take up the eight- week res­i­dency since the pro­gramme be­gan in 2008.

She’s based at Long Bay Re­gional Park un­til later this month and, af­ter more than a decade liv­ing in the UK, says it’s an ex­cit­ing op­por­tu­nity to in­tro­duce the pub­lic to a style of out­door per­for­mance more com­mon in the North­ern Hemi­sphere.

“There’s a re­ally strong out­door arts scene in Europe so it’s ex­cit­ing to have the op­por­tu­nity to cre­ate some­thing out­doors here,” says Lof­tus, whose bungy- as­sisted dance aims to high­light the calm­ing ef­fects of be­ing sur­rounded by na­ture.

She de­scribes Long Bay, home to the his­toric Vaughan Home­stead and in­cluded in the Te Araroa walk­ing track net­work, as a place of seren­ity where peo­ple come to un­wind. Those who have stopped to watch her re­hearse tend to keep a re­spect­ful dis­tance, but she al­ways in­vites them to talk with her about what she’s up to.

“They are very po­lite and watch from a dis­tance but al­most seem to be­come kind of mes­merised by what I’m do­ing,” Lof­tus says. “So far, one per­son had a bit of a grum­ble about the pro­ject but ev­ery­one else who has stopped has been re­ally pos­i­tive.

“I think most peo­ple re­alise it’s an op­por­tu­nity to see some­thing they might oth­er­wise not see and, be­cause it’s in a park, there’s a chance to at­tract in the au­di­ence those who might not go to a the­atre to see some­thing like this. Who knows? It might tempt them to see more or even be­come in­volved them­selves.”

She says Auck­land’s un­sea­son­ably wet weather has made re­hears­ing a lit­tle dif­fi­cult but she’s on track for per­for­mances in early De­cem­ber.

Past res­i­dency re­cip­i­ents in­clude a poet, in­stal­la­tion artists, com­posers, pho­tog­ra­phers, film- mak­ers, painters and the­atre- mak­ers.

Re­gional Parks man­ager Rachel Kelleher says the res­i­dency has an ed­u­ca­tional com­po­nent and it’s a dif­fer­ent way of get­ting park users to re­flect on the en­vi­ron­ment and art it­self. Art­works must be in­flu­enced by the park or res­i­dency ex­pe­ri­ence.

Each artist lives and works in one of Auck­land’s 35 re­gional parks and must cre­ate a new and orig­i­nal art­work that is then shared with the pub­lic. They get help with ac­com­mo­da­tion and a small weekly al­lowance which gen­er­ates a new ex­hi­bi­tion, per­for­mance, pub­li­ca­tion or per­ma­nent fea­ture in the park.

Last year’s artist- in- res­i­dence, Kate Parker, spent eight weeks in the Waitakere Ranges and con­structed in­tri­cate pa­per light boxes that were dis­played at the Arataki Visi­tor Cen­tre for three months.

You can see Chloe Lof­tus per­form­ing next week­end, at 6pm on Satur­day and noon on Sun­day, at Long Bay Re­gional Park at the Vaughan Home­stead.

Pic­ture / Dean Pur­cell

Con­tem­po­rary dancer Chloe Lof­tus is at Long Bay for eight weeks, com­bin­ing dance and na­ture to en­cour­age in­ter­est in the re­gion’s parks.

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