Te Pou Tokomanawa Theatre, Corban Art Estate Centre, 2 Mount Lebanon Ln, Henderson, Auckland

16/03/2023 - 19/03/2023

Auckland Arts Festival | Te Ahurei Toi o Tāmaki 2023

Production Details

Created by choreographer Bianca Hyslop and designer Rowan Pierce
Tūī Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield, Kelly Nash, Nancy Wijohn, Samara Te Aniwa Reweti, Mihimarino Walker, Rerekohu Wikingi, Lila Porteners

A poignant and potent synergy of movement, voice, spatial design and virtual technologies.

Created by choreographer Bianca Hyslop and designer Rowan Pierce, He Huia Kaimanawa is a new performance experience that responds to the resurfacing, reclaiming and honouring of te reo Māori. Looking to the past as we move into the future, the work brings to light stories of loss and reclamation while celebrating the work of the many who have carved the path for the ongoing revitalisation of te reo rangatira.

Visually potent and experientially impactful, He Huia Kaimanawa is a visceral exploration of learning te reo Māori as second language learners, featuring some of the finest dancers in Aotearoa.

“A masterfully crafted performance.” — The Pantograph Punch on Bianca Hyslop and Rowan Pierce’s Pōhutu


Tūī Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield, Kelly Nash, Nancy Wijohn, Samara Te Aniwa Reweti, Mihimarino Walker, Rerekohu Wikingi, Lila Porteners

Contemporary dance , Maori contemporary dance , Dance ,

60 mins

This is a challenge, a calling, a beating heart of the future.
He wero, he karanga, he Huia Kaimanawa tēnei.

Review by Rachel Rucksthul-Mann 18th Mar 2023

He Hui tēnei.
A gathering of people, of sound, of darkness, of dust.
A black Box waits on stage.

A memory emerging from within.
Questions of colonisation and loss.
Nā wai i rīro. Nā wai te tangata i waiho ai?
Grief in the wavering voice.
The heart is still beating.
He Huia Kaimanawa tēnei.

I am here at the end of a different hui. A Performing Arts Hui, held in Central Auckland, for the
purposes of connection, exchange, networking. That was the day. A long day of two. I felt like a stranger amongst unfamiliar protocols of fleeting meetings. A colliding of social expectations and architectures of aural confusion. My nervous system was in shock. Tonight, I am at the edge of the city, at the newly emerged heart of contemporary Māori performance, Te Pou Theatre, located within Corban’s Estate Arts Centre in Henderson. Many of those who attended today’s hui have also travelled out to witness this premiere performance created by Biance Hyslop and Rowan Pierce, and I feel both tired and enlivened by the energy contained in the audience. I notice an anticipation, and a feeling of being at Home within both the venue and the kaupapa of the work we are about to see.
Our mana is held from start to finish. He mihi ki Te Pou, he mihi, he mihi.

A Box floats up to hover in the black.
Te Pō, Te Ao, Whakapapa illuminated,
Blinking awake, flashes of form.
Slow turnings and static
Ka kuhu mai a Hineahuone,
He ngangara,
An entrance of limbs emerging from the ground.
To stand
and greet us, i te Reo.

He mihi mai i te te Ao Tāwhito tēnei.

Te Reo Māori me ōna Tīkanga, the loss and the reclamation of these Tāonga – these treasures of heart and people, land and culture – are explored in an immersive, at times aurally and visually confronting performance experience. Oral recordings are woven into dark soundscapes that invoke the loss, the search, the struggle and the reconciliation of identities within a spectrum of individual experiences along this common journey of those who whakapapa Māori. This is not an easy work to
witness in any sense, and whilst I am at times overwhelmed by the sound, I can feel it working purposefully in alignment with the kaupapa of the piece. I am meant to be unsettled.

Waves of sound, of spine and motion.
Translations of sound to light projected.
The Hummmmmm
The background noise
The overwhelm of meanings lost or unknown
The gaps between reo.

The box is a screen a container a memory a fiction a translator a surface to enter
An idea that shifts our focus between form and space.

Nancy Wijohn brings a strength and grounded presence, projecting her reo towards us, inviting us in, inviting the whenua. Each new Wahine brings a different energy to the stage. Kelly Nash is calm, spirallic, focussed. Samara Te Aniwa Reweti, is energetic, sharp. Bianca Hyslop is detailed and light. Each have their own journeys within this world, and they are at first consumed by the yearning. Four dancers in restless motion. There is coming together and now a dance that is still
restless but collaborative. Centre, periphery, extensions and spirals of limbs and bodies across the stage in patterns that might be tracing tukutuku, waves, a search together. Here, a contemporary dance lexicon that feels strangely out of place within the larger movement vocabulary that is more unique to each dancer and scene, but seemingly a comfortable space for the dancers themselves.

The Box descends upon frantic bodies falling and pulling
One is left outside to continue
Invisible strings pull at their chest, angles of elbows and twitches of spine.
The figures inside the box
Form Tūpuna calling.
Intimacy, touch, blood ties, come in the form of a mother figure, calming from the head to release
and recalibrate. We listen to stories of loss.

We are shifted abruptly numerous times during this show. Slow to high tempo. Light to dark. Past to present. Song to conversation. The wā of this work is circular, spiralling. “It doesn’t really make narrative sense.” Bianca says to me after in the foyer. I say “It’s Maori. And it’s art. It doesn’t have to make sense.”, and by that I mean linear time sense. ‘This happened because of that’ sense. Loss doesn’t make sense. However, loss is immersive in its its hold on our bodies as feelings, image, emotions, physical pain and sensation. In this way, the ‘sense’ of this work is understood by our bodies first and our rational faculties after. Linearity is a fiction.

Rākau emerge with fluttering feet
pounding the floor.
A small box appears on top of a chest lying down
Under the big Box
The body is breathing,

Practicing together, four dancers train in duos, and work the space forward and back.
The small box is shifting.
What are our weights

They call us to meet them.
Why are we waiting
What is blocking us

The energy is up and forward, flashing voices and spinning weapons
A duration of difficulty.
The figure shifts and the small box turns, is manipulated and held.
It is a platform to remember self and whakapapa.
They offer us a wero.
Nancy remains.
A manu, A warrior, A challenge.
Waves are floating in space.
He waka eke noa.

The surface of the floating moana shifts into a surfacing of voice as digital waves, intensifying the darkness of the space surrounding. Tūī Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield is expanding in light and sound until the crest breaks and we are in Te Pō again.
The show notes tell us that we are watching a “series of imagined realities”, and we are deep in the future with a voice from the past, a figure in the Box, conversing with dancers on stage and translated in real time between Te Reo Māori, and Te Reo Ingarihi. Who are you. I knew it was you.
Follow the path…. Glitches of text and body reveal the gaps between translations, the disruptions of digital technology as we rely on it ever more to return back to our reo as urban and disconnected mokopuna. I am thankful for the commitment of these performers not only to their craft on stage, but also to their evolutions of speaking to and as Māori. I can hear the pride and confidence in their reo. I feel the call to follow.

Alongside the pride and reclamation, and weaving between the hope, are memories and living experiences of shame, of uncertainty and difficulty. Each dancer in turn inhabits the Box to reflect and process this diversity of voices. Movement is familiar to those who work with contemporary dance forms (this is a contemporary dance performance after all!), to elicit and work with emotions that are complex, yet mainly deal with grief. Bodies moving up, down, limbs pulling inward, stretching towards the limits of the Box. This time, the walls are fluid, are curtains, are overlaid with digits. Tūī is present with her poi as wings. She is calling, singing, telling. We are still here, beating the air with our tongues, flying. E rere te reo.

We move through duets, to a whole group expression of waves, of connection, again a searching, sometimes with pauses, a sea of motion, a roiling of space. I wished there was a slower exploration, with deeper spaces of connection and stillness. I wanted to see the space condense between bodies, and to feel the physical pull of the breath as a rōpū. Tūī is a pou, a grounding figure, calling the space above the dancing waves. There is a river churning. The Box is alive.

I talked to a young dance student after the work. We talked about the power of contemporary dance to offer us the ability to shift space through the collective actions of multiple bodies – to offer us a feeling of the patterns we might see in nature, or an image of the feelings in our bodies. He Huia Kaimanawa worked towards both of these experiences. It grabs you from all directions. It pushes and pulls you. It doesn’t let you go… until the end.

In this same conversation, I said, if you’re going to cast kids in a work, you can guarantee they’ll steal the show. This was absolutely the case here. In a good way – our mokopuna emerged, vibrant, light, staunch. The future embodied. We expand as an audience together. We return to our breath. It
is complete.

My feelings for this show are complex. I’m not going to forget it. I hope it receives some more development support. Funding included. I hope it gets to tour. Aotearoa and beyond. Small towns and large. If you have the capacity, go and see it. If you can, fund someone else who needs to see it who might not be able to otherwise.

Mihi atu ki a Bianca Hyslop, Rowan Pierce, Tūī Matira Ranapiri-Ransfield, Kelly Nash, Nancy Wijohn, Samara Te Aniwa Reweti, Mihimarino Walker, Rerekohu Wikingi, Lila Porteners, rātou ki
ngā kaimahi toi o tēnei mahi pono.

The reo of our mokopuna vibrates in the space between our dancing bodies.
A challenge, a calling, a beating heart of the future.

He wero, he karanga, he Huia Kaimanawa tēnei.


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