Hit dance performance Orchids is back for a second run

Marianne Schultz (centre) in Orchids. Photo: Jocelyn Janon

Otherworldly, mythological, sensual, full of rage: Back at Auckland's Q Theatre after a sell-out run at the 2017 Tempo Dance Festival, Orchids is an exploration of the feminine.

Six female dancers ranging from age nine to 62 will perform as mothers, sisters, witches, sirens, goddesses and the different stages and relationships women experience in life.

International dancer and dance teacher Marianne Schultz has just flown back into New Zealand from upstate New York, where she was born and where she returned to live a year ago after her own life and relationships transitioned from one phase to another. Schultz’ children, raised in New Zealand, have left home, she’s split from their father, and her 92-year-old mother needs looking after back in the States. 

Mother, child, lover, dancer. Schultz is the oldest performer in Orchids, which has seen her return to the stage for the first time in decades. “It’s a very moving work. At some points you don’t see us as people - you see us as larger than people. We all become something much bigger than ourselves." 

Orchids. Photo: Jocelyn Janon

Schultz moved from New York City to New Zealand in 1986 and worked in the dance scene here for decades, later writing a book about the history of Limbs, one of New Zealand’s most influential dance companies and for whom she used to dance. After two decades working mainly as a dance historian, Schultz returned to the stage in Orchids’ first run in 2017 after becoming bewitched by choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull’s 2013 work Colt.

“I just loved it so much,” she says, her hands gesturing expressively, hazel eyes lighting up. “It was gestural, innovative, exciting and unlike anything she’d seen for a long time. “I said ‘I want to dance for you, if you ever want to work with an older dancer please consider me’.” As it happened, Foster-Sproull had the germ of Orchids seeding in her mind already, and the next year rehearsals began.

It was an intense period for Schultz, who felt at times elated to be dancing again after such a long hiatus, at other times completely deflated. 

“I felt like ‘what am I doing, I can’t do this anymore, I can’t compete with these 25-year-old, 30-year-old dancers, my body’s different, my stamina’s different, my abilities are different I’m so different’. And for a long time, I beat myself up and didn’t feel - I couldn’t understand why I was doing it.” But when it came time to step on stage, everything clicked into place. “I went through this incredible transformation. It made sense to me. I love performing, I’ve performed my whole life.”

Orchids. Photo: Jocelyn Janon

It is unusual for a dancer to keep working on stage in their 60s (“traditionally your 20s and 30s is when you’re in your prime”), and Schultz says she’d think carefully before taking on a project with anyone but Foster-Sproull. “You know it’s funny, sometimes I read interviews with older actors, and they say they become very choosy about what they do and I think for me it’s the same.”

For her, Orchids is that special work, and she’s excited to see exactly how changes the dancers have been through in the two years since its first run will change things. One woman has had a baby, she’s left the country, Ivy (Foster-Sproull’s daughter) has turned nine after performing in 2017 age seven. People can be scared of dance, that they won’t ‘get’ it, Schultz says. Orchids isn’t like that - it’s visceral and emotional, but not overt in its messaging. “It’s unlike any dance show you have ever seen.”

Orchids by Foster Group Dance happening at Auckland Q Theatre, 17th – 20th July.

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