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August 19, 2013 | by  | in Arts Theatre | [ssba]

Interview with Sarah Foster-Sproull

The Made in New Zealand series is in its final year after seven successful collaborations between Kiwi choreographers, dancers and musicians. For the 2013 edition, a work called Colt, guest choreographer Sarah Foster-Sproull teams up with old friend and musician Eden Mulholland.

I could not have received a more curious introduction to Footnote’s new production than peering through the studio door on Cuba St, and seeing five svelte bodies prancing around the room wearing rubber horse-heads. Sarah Foster-Sproull explains that the inspiration behind Colt comes from its multiplicity: it can refer to new horses, guns, cultish groups, and “untried things”.

This is a personal work for Foster, yet she is an advocate for the collaborative process. Mulholland’s music came first, then Foster-Sproull’s inspiration, and the result is the upshot of hours of devising and interpretation by the dancers. Foster-Sproull believes that a director and choreographer’s role should be to shape, not dictate, and she encourages as much input from the dancers as possible: “that way, it gives them ownership over what they’re doing.” She is careful to credit the dancers with choreographic content. This disinterest in “authoritarian structures” comes from Foster-Sproull’s own frustrations as a performer and her struggle with work ownership during her freelance dance and choreographic career.

After seven years of Kiwi dance collaboration, why is this the last one? Foster-Sproull explains, rather cryptically, that “the company’s shifting its structure—it’s going from a single artistic-director model to an artistic panel with four different projects”. In short, to keep up in current economic and artistic environment, Footnote is diversifying to get more going at once.

Foster-Sproull’s attitude to the health of dance in New Zealand is a mixed one. Yes, dance will always be reliant on funding. She thinks there is a lot of new interesting work being made, but at the same time, there is not enough work or classes for freelance dancers. Her major critique of dance culture in this country is that we have an “obsession” with modernism, and anything other than that is shot down by reviewers. There is a sense that reviewers are Foster-Sproull’s worst enemy, not because they have treated her badly, but because they discourage audiences from making up their own mind. “A review is there forever… but my work is gone.” Trust someone who has her dancers running around in surrealist horse-heads to come up with something as universally truthful as that.


Made in New Zealand 2013 by Footnote Dance, directed by Sarah Foster-Sproull, music by Eden Mulholland. Wellington Opera House, 21 & 22 August, 8 pm. Tickets: Students $20 from


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