Bruising

Adrienne Sichel writes:

"The programme note about bruises being signs of past hurt and present healing is one of the hooks into Nicola Elliott’s poetically succinct interrogation into, and homage to, South Africa’s physical theatre lineage and heritage. This wistfully playful, eloquently introspective deconstruction of the bruising physicality of this dance form - while mirroring the aching temporalities of human existence and theatrical performance - embodies the exploratory intention and daring invention worthy of a Standard Bank Young Artist for dance. The fragility of life and being a dancer is intelligently played out as the four performers  - Vishanthi Arumugam, Athena Mazarakis, Alan Parker and Jori Snell - physically rip up the carpeted sports hall floor revealing mirrored tiles. These actions, which conjure with illusion, unleash themes about the narcissism of performance as well as what lies beneath the surface of dance making and reality. In this aesthetic playground, packed with visual surprises, Elliott weaves salient imagery and moving metaphors via her hyper intelligent use of colour, space, texture, musical choices and design as she sculpts light and movement through mature, sentient, bodies wreathed in memory." (emailed communication, 30 July).

Steyn du Toit writes:

 “Four performers gather around a tangle of rich red fabrics at the start of Nicola Elliott's Bruising. They're about to embark on an expressive, unforgettable voyage. One that will allow them (and us) to meditate on love, the ephemerality of live performance, the fleetingness of the human condition and the fear of what happens to us after we die. Their journey starts with the unraveling and deconstructing of concepts around life and love. More specifically, how these notions have been depicted through artistic mediums such as dance and performance art. Through physically picking up, and interacting with, the reflective floorboards below their feet - pieces that together provided the stage on which countless artists have danced, dropped sweat and bruised themselves over the years - Bruising's performers not only commune with all those who came before them, but also grapple with their own transience as artists/humans. By having her cast conduct their ritual through a series of "normal" or familiar movements - including walking, running, being playful, rolling around and pointing fingers - Elliott communicates their experience in a relatable way to the viewer. By recognising their everyday motions, we are able to draw parallels between the transitory nature of their performance with that of our own temporary existence. An actual and metaphorical curtain drop signals the second, sci-fi inspired leg of their journey. Using a series of props and visual cues, the performers (after climbing out of boxes) then start moving away from the past/current and into the future. The inevitable. The unknown. The having to say goodbye one day. The wondering what happens then. While watching the performers explore their new surroundings and interacting with various props/site-specific landmarks along the way, the viewer grows increasingly aware of being torn between the fact that the production will end soon - never to be repeated in exactly the same way ever again - and an intense sense of gratitude because we've been allowed to be enriched by this unique experience in the first place” (emailed communication, 14 August).

Sonja Smit writes:

"Nicola Elliott’s Bruising reveals a search, a process, into the mystery of love and the bruises it may bestow on one. Love is not interpreted through a conventional lens; instead Elliott uses the bodies of performers and props to express impossibility of representing the complexities of love. She accomplishes this by focusing on the “theatrical medium itself” which deconstructs the traditional ways the notion of love is treated through the medium of dance. Moving away from spectacle and narrative, Bruising approaches movement through the body. What I mean by this is that rather than imposing a specific narrative, Elliott approaches her subject matter through the body, focusing on task-based movement rather than “steps”. Her programme note testifies that the content of her work is sourced from the performers, meaning that the subjectivity of each performer is taken into account in the process of choreography. The four performers befittingly disappear into this engagement with form, completely engrossed in their tasks.  This can be seen right in the beginning of the performance, as four performers enter the space and conscientiously remove their shoes and socks. They each sit around a heap of red felt positioned in the centre of the stage, contemplating the material, each on their own “island”.  The performers engage with the material, each creating an image within it, while the other performers cover the sensory organs of the dancer inside the felt. Here in the first scene of the performance, Bruising begins its questioning process, as the four performers investigate the possibilities of this “raw” material: felt/love, and are simultaneously blinded and deafened by it" (emailed communication, 9 August).

Emmaly Wiederholt writes:

"Nicola Elliott’s Bruising is minimal without being minimalistic, simple without being simplistic. In many ways the production (by this year’s Standard Bank Young Artist for Dance) can better be described by what it isn’t than what it is. […] A bruise can sometimes grow beautiful in its gruesomeness. Purple splotches flair up before fading away, healed. Elliott’s bruise is an abstract one, but a bruise nevertheless. As her choreographic world gets torn apart (the floor comes up, the backdrop falls), it becomes obliquely stunning. The mirrored squares begin to look like split ice. The fabric leads like red carpets to nowhere. These images sting the mind. Bruising is categorised as dance, in one sense it is not really dance in the typical sense in that it’s more task-oriented than movement-oriented. On the other hand, it is dance in that it tackles the orientation of bodies in space. Perhaps it is the space that dances more than the bodies. […] What is likeable in Bruising is not obvious, and some may very well find nothing to like. The programme note instructs further: “Don’t try to find a key to unlock it all – you make the key and you make the lock.” She might as well have said, “You make the bruise and you make it heal.” What mark Bruising leaves will vary, but it nevertheless leaves its mark" (Cue, 12 July).

Wesley Deintje writes:

 "Nicola Elliott's Bruising is the most moving piece of dance I have ever watched. It is a profound exploration on loss, emptiness, and attempting to heal. The effect of the performance was harrowing and left me chocking on tears. Thank you to Nicola, Alan Parker, Athena Mazarakis, Jori Snell, for a beautifully crafted and exquisitely performed work. I have not experienced something like this in a long time" (Facebook post, 13 July).

Shaun Acker writes:

"Nicola Elliott's Bruising is a testament to the poetics and purity of oblivion. Witnessing it, one feels bound and free at the same time. The performers (Alan Parker, Jori Snell, Athena Mazarakis, Vishanthi Arumugam) satisfy with a demonstration of presence at such an exquisitely fine level, that every actor needs to observe them. The choreography is beautifully shrewd and almost fibonacci in its mapping. Illka Louw's design sings all the way through. All the while, you experience the sensation of a duet between absence and presence. It is an inspiring, gorgeous, valuable and vital work" (Facebook post, 12 July).

Nicola van Straaten writes:

“… you are thinking the work is going one direction and it wryly grins back at you and goes another direction. […] Curiouser and curiouser. It seemed to me that Nicola Elliott managed to choreograph a space, as opposed to a dance. […] It remained one of the more original pieces of the festival and one of my favourites. The work went about itself with a half-serious, nonsense sort of humour, paying homage to the stupidity and silliness that is art, that is the body, in the kindest and cleverest of ways.” (Blog post, 3 August).

Run!

Gayle Edmund writes:

 "Elliott's choreography goes so far as to question the movement constraints she is using to question the societal constraints. [...] Elliott doesn't let up on the audience and demands attention" (City Press, 2013).

Juanita Finestone-Praeg writes:

Run! is "a work of international quality with a high level of professionalism. It is a fresh, sophisticated and elegant choreographic work that significantly contributes to the discourse on choreographic form while challenging choreographic boundaries" (Letter of Reference, 25 February 2014).

Alan Parker writes:

"After watching the work [at the National Arts Festival] I immediately began talking to friends, students and acquaintances, urging them to go and watch this production. As a South African dance theatre work, Run! is incredibly unusual. In this work, Elliott's signature of finely crafted, nuanced choreography is complemented by the athletic and energetic performances of the four women. The women exude a raw energy that is somehow both feral and fragile, dynamic and delicate. The work challenges the viewer on many levels and expectations are continuously satiated, then questioned, and ultimately upended. The work probes what we understand to be 'dance', how we expect 'women' to dance, and what it means to 'perform'. Both conceptually and in its form, the work is experimental, but through Elliott's careful direction of the performers and the keen crafting of the complex choreography, the work does not alienate the audience. This experimentation with dance is sophisticated, quirky, humorous and unashamedly entertaining. […] I believe that the potential of this work to make a lasting and significant impact on the industry is substantial (particularly in inspiring and motivating the younger, up-and-coming generation of emerging choreographers, performers and researchers)" (Letter of Reference, 26 February 2014).

Kate-Lyn Moore writes:

 "The experimental athleticism of 2012 Ovation Award winner Nicola Elliott intrigued and baffled in her piece Run!. Exploring the fullest capabilities of the female form, dancers streamed through a series of structured and unorthodox movements: athletic, crude and then gentle" (Cue, Sunday 7 July, p.9).

Fragile

Lorraine Coetzee writes:

"[Fragile is] a supremely satisfying experience, which, like the aftertaste of good wine, on reflection, just gets better" (Die Burger, 2012).

Proximity Loss and Having

Adrienne Sichel writes:

"Delicious! Nicola Elliott’s commissioned Proximity Loss and Having is a pristinely eloquent spatial idyll about life and language" (The Star, 2011).

This part should be uncomfortable

Jay Pather writes:

"Powerful meta-theatre ... funny and disturbing, enlivening and enlightening" (External examiner report, 2008).

Steyn du Toit writes:

"A surprising delight" (Sunday Independent, 2009).

Danielle Bowler writes:

"[In] This part should be uncomfortable (part one) Nicola Elliott has produced quirky, intelligent dance theatre that is self-reflexive and hilariously funny. Her work is flawless and delivered with a cheeky attitude towards the performance and creation of dance. Absolutely one of the best works at this festival" (Cue, 2010).

"Nicola Elliott featured as 'the choreographer' in a piece where that is her off-stage role too - one of the more interesting pieces of dance/drama, exploring the role of the performer, in This part should be uncomfortable (part 1)" - Fiona Gordon, Artspoken and Reviews, 2010.

Nondumiso Msingmanga writes:

"Nicola Elliott’s This part should be uncomfortable [part two] ... sparked uproarious laughter" (2010). 

Loss and Having

Jane Stone writes:

"I laughed and cried. these theatre makers ... are both irreverent and ... profound in their acute and compassionate observations. [...] An artistic experience of touching intimacy" (www.artsblog.co.za, 2011).

Corrine Knowles writes:

"Brave performers ... showed mastery and vulnerability in these interesting and unsettling pieces" (Cue, 2011).

Ballad

Moira de Swart writes:

"playful, flirtatious [and] blissfully sweet" (Artslink, 2008).