Back of the Bus

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26 September 2017, departing from MTG bus stop
Hawke’s Bay Arts Festival

Java Dance Theatre have returned to this year’s festive by popular demand. It’s easy to see why. Close-quarter dance theatre, with the audience contained on a moving bus and a few scheduled stops to intrigue, couldn’t be more fun.  Sacha Copland, Emma Coppersmith and Lauren Carr, (and Natalie Hona), embody their caricatures of people we’ve all seen at times on the bus.

Immediately there is the running hustle of a latecomer running across the street with bags a-flurry. Sacha boards the bus in a hurry with the bread, the popcorn going everywhere, bits and pieces strewn. It’s a multifarious zing of things swung around, all loose and fine, and gestured with tumbles into laps or simply holding on in the aisle. It’s hilarious.

Lauren’s French-influenced amour stretches up and down, sharing the love with an ‘I’m so glad I’m here’ attitude, hugging us all and giving us treats and flowers. While Emma renders a fine piece of contemporary choreography perpetuating a stressed-out, boxed-in, ringtone-confined woman, all prim, proper, succinct, with no time. This is sharp sass.

The audience loses all bearing to the outside; we have given way to a lot of laughter.

We visit a stylish décor shop for more performance. The air holds curious anticipation. Performing in an unfamiliar location is testing our nerve to embrace a clever notion – one of dancers using space differently to its set rhyme or purpose.

More antics ensue back on board before we are ushered off up a street into someone’s private residence, a beautiful home. The dancers are already there: we file down the hall, passed Sacha standing in the running shower, into the lounge where Emma sups wine on the couch, Lauren in the kitchen.

Emma un-moulds herself from her hypertension cell-phone state, the strain and stress unwinding. We realise that we have been watching their journey from town on the bus to the bliss of home.  Kitchen-mate Lauren conveys a kind of sanctity for us. She stretches into a long-standing yin yoga pose. She holds like the base, the anchor, whilst Emma contorts, still unwinding herself till eventually she holds the same pose. This is a magic, ‘thorough’ moment.

Sacha returns, moving through the crowd, bringing a change of mood, music. Feet thump hard on the floor, there are turns and demands from all three dancers, underscoring the crossing of norms here. We’ve walked into someone’s home, not knowing who they are. There is anticipation in this encroachment, a bit like a violation, but not. We are kind of relaxing, and as this drama of music and dance unfolds in someone’s lounge we are suspended, watching. How far do we whoop?

Back on the bus, the inclusion of a local dance student is a fine gesture of the connectivity and commitment Java has to engage relationships in the places they perform. What a great opportunity for this young dancer; she is clearly having fun.

We gather for Java’s final dance set in Breaker’s Bar, one which the dancers draw the audience in on. Everyone’s had an awesome time.

Finally, if you haven’t got Back of the Bus tickets, we recommend Java’s two other shows: The Creamery, Friday 29 Sept, 9.30pm, and Cheese, Saturday 30 Sept, 11.00am – both play in the Spiegeltent. Catch them while you can!

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