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Tempo Dance Festival 2012
Tia Reihana, Cat Ruka, Merenia Gray, Kura Te Ua , and artists from Hawaiki Tu Productions and Nga Mana Whakairo a Toi

at Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland
From 9 Oct 2012 to 10 Oct 2012
[1 hour]

Reviewed by Tru Paraha, 10 Oct 2012

We enter the theatre, extending into the liminal spaces between performer and audience, memory and desire. The statures of Kura Te Ua, Moana Nepia and Pita Turei attract. We witness a transgression of dark umbrellas, opened to impossible rains. Carol Brown is revealed and veiled in elegant blacks. Members of Nga Mana Whakairo a Toi flank with patu, taiaha and warrior attentiveness. Here is a community - becoming, morphing with sound, shadow and scape. They wait patiently, potently with us, traversing the folded edges of the va.

The call pierces
a taki is laid and received
we are invited to assemble
to arrive and settle
we consume the food of chiefs

This could be how Tempo Dance Festival's Tuakana program began. And this could be what followed.

Extract offers a sophisticated duet performed and devised by Moana Nepia and Carol Brown. The audiovisual elements surge and echo with visceral potency. A dance of fractured absences becomes satiated by delayed moments of exquisite collision. An overlapping of image, movement and partnering curves the edges of dark/light, Te Ao and Te Po. Negotiations of intimacy and distances between the bodies of these seasoned dancers are moving and evocative.

Te Waka Hoe, Matariki and Ka Huri Au is performed by Nga Mana Whakairo a Toi, shifting the space into one of song, vibrancy and hope. The ensemble generates an invigorating weave throughout the evening, affirming the place of kapahaka as a bastion for Te reo Maori and a source of emancipation. Here, the influence of form, symmetry and unison is re-imagined as the specialty arts of poi, haka, koikoi and weaponry are  displayed. This group shines in their presentation of Iwi values so fundamental within a programme of contemporary Maori performance.

Caravan of kumara and a handful of korero choreographed by Tia Reihana, reveals a generous portrait, drawing on korero from kuia of Ngati Hine, and accounts of the ancestress Hineamaru. Reihana's 'solo' performance, worlded by multiple selves and narratives, gives a layered and paradoxical evocation of mana wahine. Video installations of the choreographer within urban and natural environments are depicted through an inventive design, made more profound by its simplicity. Complemented by a rich and sensual embodiment, this is an inspired performance journey.

Fantastically Natural Environments choreographed by Cat Ruka and performed with Haydon Timoko and Milly Grant infuses the evening with humour, critique and the challenging performance style that is Ruka's trademark. The roguish trio, announced through a plethora of light and sonic boom, enter, exit and de/scribe the space through a succession of dances, idiosyncrasies and conundrums. Thigh-length blonde wigs and eclectic urban attire seduce the appetite. A mutated, omnipotent voice addresses us with absurd instruction. We experience our own mutation through an intersection with this enchanting world. The trio sits. The trio stands. Individually they rise with a stuttering of barely audible pepeha. Ruka proposes her mana through leaves of Puriri and handfuls of wiri - a beautiful dreamer swaying at the threshold. A loss or a longing, a couple-becoming, Grant and Timoko leave us grappling.

Taonga choreographed by Jared Hemopo and performed by Hemopo, Mereula Buliruarua, Chrissy Kokiri and Lisa Greenfield is an athletic expression of aroha, dedicated to the passing of the choreographer's Nan. The female dancers present a trio of assassin precision. Bladed lines of flight, trajectories of pathway and unison are delivered with unwavering focus. The power of the trio and its potential to affect permeates without effacing individual qualities and differences that each contributes. Hemopo, a blindfolded man, meditates on a blade of harakeke. Fingers deftly strip and fashion a flower, a flame, a taonga. His explosive metamorphosis into virtuosic leaps and tensile motion is both unfathomable and refreshingly masculine.

Tangaroa choreographed by Kura Te Ua and presented by Hawaiki Tu Productions provides a closing performance which uplifts, entertains and reminds us of the essential ecologies between human, animal and ocean. A mirage of cerulean design elements and the liquid vocals of Maisey Rika support themes of wonderment, strength, flows and connection. The largest group work of the evening, this was an epic presentation of solo, duo and shifting combinations, drawing from diverse dance forms. Te Ua's grace, passion and commitment to haka theatre was evident in her additional contributions throughout this program.

Tuakana: Maori Contemporary Showcase continues to expand in its scope, curation and artistry since its inception within Tempo Festival 2011. Through the visionary efforts of Marama Lloydd and the Tempo production team, an important event has been created. To encounter these artists within a shared evening of dance is a privilege. Tena koutou katoa.

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See also reviews by:
 Raewyn Whyte (NZ Herald);