Nga Purapura, Te Wananga o Raukawa, 144 Tasman Road, Otaki, Otaki

15/05/2016 - 15/05/2016

Whitireia Performance Centre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington

27/05/2016 - 29/05/2016

Q Theatre Loft, 305 Queen St, Auckland

08/10/2016 - 09/10/2016

Tempo Dance Festival 2016

Production Details

Co-directed by Jan Bolwell and Annie Ruth

Presented by Crows Feet Dance Collective

HĀKARI  Dinner Party is a rich combination of dance, language, visual imagery and music. WE have chosen to celebrate

Judy Chicago’s 1979 art installation ‘The Dinner Party’ inspired this colourful work with a feminist sting. While Chicago honoured outstanding Western female achievers, Crows Feet have put a more local twist in their version.

In Hākari: The Dinner Party, Crows Feet dancers – both young and old – celebrate 10 women from the Asia-Pacific region with dance, video and drama: Empress Dowager Ci XiIndira GandhiAung San Suu KyiMalalaYvonne GoolagongGermaine GreerQueen SaloteQueen Lili’uokalaniKate Sheppard and Dame Whina Cooper.

All have been admired, loved and revered — or loathed and vilified! Their lives continue to shape our world.

“… it is uplifting to see and hear emphasis put on women for their remarkable lives and achievements in a colourful but colour blind performance, executed with humility and aroha to all the women featured” – Theatreview

A post-show forum and artist talk follows the performance on Saturday 8 October.

Crows Feet lead a Mature Movers Workshop on Sunday 9 October.

Tempo Dance Festival 2016, Auckland

8 & 9 October at 3.30pm – bookings:  https://nz.patronbase.com/_QTheatre/Productions/T16L/Performances


Nga Purapura, Te Wananga o Raukawa, 144 Tasman Road, Otaki

15 May at 2.30pm

Tickets  $20/$15

Bookings: Railway Bookshop, 21-23 Main Street, Otaki phone 06 364 8942

or Ticket Direct at Coastlands Phone 04 902 9885

Whitireia Theatre, 25-27 Vivian Street, Wellington

27 May at 8pm, 28 & 29 May at 3pm

Bookings: http://bit.ly/1UZZGQb  $23/$18

Performance installation , Dance ,

90 mins

Giving life to stories through their dancing bodies

Review by Leah Carrell 09th Oct 2016

Hākari: The Dinner Party invites us in to the theatre in front of a video scene of places at the dinner table; we arrive as we would a potluck dinner, at various times, with various energies and with various plates -or approaches- to viewing this performance. The video is of Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party (film by Lorae Parry, music by Michelle Scullion) we see table settings which have names, women, inspirations, influencers, accompanied by pottery evoking images of organs, female genitalia, symbols of womanhood. This famous 1979 art installation celebrating 39 Western women is the inspiration for Crows Feet Dance Collective’s second full length work; this afternoon they celebrate 10 women from Asia and the Pacific, from our part of the world.

A group of women enter, knife fork or spoon in hand and begin a soundscape, a ritualistic grace, inviting the others into the space and the stage swells to an unusual capacity of nearly 40 women. An impressively directed Opening Medley (direction and script by Annie Ruth) introduces us to the women through a script of quick witted one liners, facts, and bold announcements of the women’s names.

Hākari: The Dinner Party is a collection of collections; a series of stories of 10 important women; an amalgamation of dance, theatre and music, a collaboration between choreographers and dancers; a collective of women aged 35 plus with various skills, backgrounds, expertise and levels of dance training.

The delivery of the stories is efficient, we hear facts of the women’s lives, we see moved interpretations of them or their journey or beliefs. Tania Koptyko is a gracious Ci Xi, shifting from downtrodden to fierce warrior. Jan Bolwell is a tongue-in-cheek Kate Sheppard, bringing alive her desire for equality; have we achieved this in New Zealand yet? Annie Ruth is a persuasive Whina Cooper, spurring the audience to question our land authorities; this call for mana seems still relevant. Lorae Parry steals the show as humorous Germaine Greer, a sassy diva with an empowering mantra “I can do anything, I am a woman.” The choreographic use of space is well-organised, we see a variety of formations, pathways and each dance offers a new approach. The script work throughout the piece is poignant, an engaging balance of facts, direct quotes from the women, and interpretive writing. Some women are more comfortable with delivery than others, but overall the synergetic nature of theatre and dance is carefully crafted, a rich junction in performance. The changes between scenes are quick, these women are practiced performers and approach the stage with a strong performative sense of how to engage with the audience.

It takes the length of the Opening Medley to settle into the performance, we see some women watching others, counting, looking at the ground, but from the second scene the collective knows their place on stage and throughout the performance they are really engaged in each moment of the dances. When the audiences clap we see the performers’ genuine appreciation – sometimes surprised gratitude, and when they perform their moves well they smile, they laugh when the catch each other’s eye or a friend’s in the audience. This approach is humbling, to see such honesty on stage can challenge what the point of performance is; in this case, women honouring not only influential women but also themselves, each other, and those who came to support them. Watching these older dancing bodies create shapes, fiercely throw punches in the air, balance warrior-like, embody the ocean in their arms as they hula, is inspiring and brings us back to the heart of dance; giving life to stories through our bodies.

Staging is simple, lighting kept to a minimal, but the projection along the back wall helps gives us context: we see original footage of Indira Gandhi, Queen Salote. This also helps shape the colouring dynamics – black and white footage behind colourful costumes. The costumes are beautiful and we hear in the Q & A after that most are genuine costumes – Indira Gandhi’s saree from a personal collection, Ci Xi’s costume borrowed from the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office, and skirts brought in Hawai’i.

The piece stirs some interesting questions about cultural appropriation, cultural borrowing – though answers cannot be attempted here. We see these performers portray women of Asia and the Pacific and they are honouring in the way they do so. The choreographers and dancers are simply wanting to share the stories of women who have inspired them and they do so with the best intentions. It is in the Q & A afterwards that we discover the hula dance is choreographed by hula expert Liora Noy, an Indian dance choreographed by Carolyn McKeefry, who has spent much time in India. Director Jan Bolwell choreographs “in the style of” and uses “references points, gestures, patterning” to choreograph on her dancers – acknowledging here some level of adaption is required for their bodies. This conversation reveals the level of research engaged by the choreographers and dancers for this performance. It is an interesting dilemma, do we risk cultural appropriation or perhaps cause offence and tell the stories of these women, or do we avoid sharing their stories. As artists, when do we really have any authority to share a story of another? Art offers inspiration, art offers controversy, art offers a discussion point for us to deepen our modes of watching and making, dancing and choreographing. Hākari: The Dinner Party does all this and more. It activates in each of us a view point and it is important to engage with these stirrings, these questionings, these conversations. 


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Colourful but colour blind performance executed with humility and aroha

Review by Kahukura Kemp 29th May 2016

tou i whakarangatira i tō tātou Wānanga.

It was our turn to be entertained on 15 May when co-directors Jan Bolwell and Annie Ruth brought a dance theatre work to Ngā Purapura.  Hākari: Dinner Party is inspired by a 1979 art installation, ‘The Dinner Party’ by Judy Chicago that celebrates famous Western women. 

The Hākari production focuses on women from the Asia and Pacific region: Empress Dowager Ci Xi; Indira Ghandi; Kate Sheppard; Aung San Suu Kyi; Malala; Evonne Goolagong; Whina Cooper; Queen Salote; Germaine Greer; Queen Lili’uokalani. 

The intriguing opening medley commences with the troupe entering the stage and making music with cutlery and then introducing the individual women who are to be celebrated. 

While the focus of each individual segment requires one performer to carry the theme and seek attention from the audience, this is no way relegates the rest of the supporting troupe.  Beautifully costumed, they are as important as the principal dancer, all being graceful in movement and serene in expression. 

Aside from the dancing there are two other standout features of the performance.  One of these is the costumes:  vibrant, some simple, some elaborate, but each weave an extra strand to the mana of the piece, individually and as a whole.  The other is through the identification of each subject of the work: this is effectively presented by a black and white photograph placed on discrete boards that stand facing away from the audience and are turned around just before the individual performance.  It is a clever piece of stagecraft that heightens the overall experience. 

The finale is one of amazing energy, about eight minutes long: quite a feat when considering that the age range of the dancers is between 38 and 76.

Jan Bolwell acknowledges during the show that some people may have a problem with Western/Pākeha women portraying the subjects (only two were Western) but that doesn’t matter to me, nor to my companion, a kuia whose response to the portrayal of Whina Cooper is to be moved to tears.  Indeed, it is uplifting to see and hear emphasis put on women for their remarkable lives and achievements in a colourful but colour blind performance, executed with humility and aroha to all the women featured. 

In speaking with some of the performers after the show it emerges that each characterisation had to be extensively researched by the individual performer in order to bring accuracy of portrayal and a connection with their character.  It shows. 

Tēnā koutou wāhine mā nā koutou ērā wāhine i whakarangatira kia maumaharatia e te ao   


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Celebrating women's stalwart commitments

Review by Jennifer Shennan 28th May 2016

Crows Feet Dance Collective, founded by Jan Bolwell in 1999, is a grass roots phenomenon through the Wellington region, in which women over 35 years, some of them twice that age, join forces in dance explorations. They present their work in an annual season, in defiance of any notion that dance is a youth cult, or that a mix of professional and amateur is not standard practice. Some are seasoned performers, others are taking the stage for the first time. That requires courage.

Hakari, a dinner party, was performed in Wellington this weekend.  Co-directed by Jan Bolwell and Annie Ruth, it was inspired by The Dinner Party, the art installation by Judy Chicago, which is now housed in Brooklyn Museum, celebrating 39 women of world influence, almost all European / Western societies.

The Crows’ large cast present a line-up of their own list of ten celebrated women of Asia and the Pacific, including New Zealand, who by stalwart commitment to their visions of how to make the world a better place, did just that and earned a place in history. Before you read on, make your own list of who you think ten such leading women might be. 

Each subject is profiled in a solo or small group presentation, including spoken text, interspersed with chorus-like danced items. The deep satisfaction that preparing and telling good stories brings is evident among the performers, and the research involved will have enriched their own lives.

There are three standout performers in the cast but they wouldn’t want to be singled out, and one section was a particular gem to my eyes and ears. Crows Feet will travel to the Mature Moves festival in Tasmania later this year. I wish them good lift-off, and safe return.   

How did you get on with your own list of ten leading women?

Their women are: Empress Ci Xi of China, Kate Sheppard of New Zealand, Queen Lili’uokalani of Hawaii, Queen Salote of Tonga, Indira Gandhi of India, Germaine Greer of Australia, Whina Cooper of Aotearoa New Zealand, Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma, Evonne Goolagong of Australia, Malala of Pakistan.

Make a list of ten men too while you’re about it. Add yourself to one list or the other. Is it really 3 minutes to midnight?  Time is running out. 



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Celebrating famous women from our region

Review by Ann Hunt 28th May 2016

Crows Feet Dance Collective was founded in 1999 by Jan Bolwell and is a mix of trained and untrained dancers. Anyone over the age of thirty-five may join. What started as a group of four people has now expanded into forty-five dancers spread over four groups in Wellington, Kapiti Coast, and the Hutt Valley. The Collective performs a new work each year.

Hakari: The Dinner Party is their latest. This dance theatre work is inspired by the work of American feminist artist, Judy Chicago. Her much publicised and influential 1979 art installation The Dinner Party celebrated thirty-nine famous women, all of whom were within the Western tradition. Hakari’s  co-directors, Jan Bolwell and Annie Ruth wanted to bring the ideas closer to home, and so focus on famous women from Australasia, Asia and the Pacific. They honour ten women – some loved and acclaimed, others loathed and vilified – all inspiring.

More than forty women from the various Crows’ Collectives participate in the production, with each group creating a section of the work. The music is mostly recorded, with the added bonus of Michelle Scullion playing the bamboo flute live on stage and an ipu (gourd) which accompanies Lili’u E.  Video projections by Andrew Foster are an interesting accompaniment to many sections, and lighting throughout is by Janis Cheng.

A prelude to the evening begins with a short film by Lorae Parry with music by Michelle Scullion.  This shows the extraordinary place settings for Chicago’s The Dinner Party, with an embroidered runner, hand-painted ceramic plates, and a golden chalice for each of the thirty-nine women depicted.

The pleasing Opening Medley (direction and script by Annie Ruth) follows. It is danced by Crows 1 to a composition by Scullion performed by Crows Kapiti.

The first homage of the evening is to the Empress Dowager Ci Xi. This remarkable woman effectively controlled the Chinese Government in the late Qing Dynasty and banned foot binding among her many reforms. However, she has also been portrayed as a ruthless despot responsible for many deaths.

Choreographed by Jan Bolwell to music by Scullion and Tan Dun, the piece features Tania Kopytko as the Ci Xi accompanied by the Crows Kapiti dancers. The work is beautifully costumed with a stunning robe and tall headdress for the Empress and bright red, orange apricot and gold trousers and tops for the women.

Kopytko dances with poise and grace, her aptly impassive face still managing to convey the woman’s steely core.

Held poses and quick walking steps are used in the early section. Long sticks which beat out rhythms on the floor and on red-painted boards are a forceful and welcome inclusion in the latter sections, adding much-needed drama to the proceedings.  But the work’s length could be shortened for greater impact.

The Empress Ci Xi is also included in Three Asian Rulers – a conversation, (script by Annie Ruth.) Here, Ci Xi is joined by Indira Gandhi (Carolyn McKeefry), and Aung San Suu Kyi (Daphne Pilaar). This is literally a conversation between the three women, and although we can clearly hear all that is said, a tendency to declaim rather than simply speak proves irritating. This tendency affects a number of the women delivering spoken text throughout the evening. Whitireia has quite a deep stage and it might be preferable to bring some scenes further forward to avoid the performers feeling they have to over-enunciate in order to be heard.

Bolwell strides onto the stage in full flood as the redoubtable Kate Sheppard – the most prominent member of New Zealand’s Women’s Suffrage movement, whose portrait is currently emblazoned on our ten dollar bank note. The spoken text is by Rachel McAlpine.

Carolyn McKeefry choreographed and designed the colourful costumes for the charming section on Indira Gandhi. It is quite moving to see ten older women – here, the Hutt Crows – dancing with such obvious pleasure and making something pleasing in the process.

There must be few who have not heard of the incredible resilience and bravery of Malala Yousafzai. In 2012, this young Pakistani schoolgirl activist boarded a bus. Moments later she was shot in the head by a masked Talaban gunman.  He was objecting to her defying the Talaban’s ruling that banned girls from attending school. Miraculously, Malala recovered and went on to become the youngest person ever to be a Nobel Prize Laureate. She has written her own autobiography: They Called Me Malala and her story has been filmed. Part of the film’s soundtrack accompanies this section of Hakari

The evening’s most delightful piece was choreographed by Tania Kopytko and references the superb No. 1 world champion tennis player, Australia’s Evonne  Goolagong. Born in 1951, from a humble aboriginal background, Goolagong won 14 Grand Slam titles. The piece is accompanied by the light-hearted pop song “Hey Evonne Goolagong’ by Brandy Brandon, with the dancers dressed in short ‘50’s’ tennis dresses, cavorting with racquets. At one point they neatly accomplish a kind-of Busby Berkley (well, at a stretch) revolve: substitute rippling ostrich feather fans for tennis racquets and you get the picture. Mona Williams is a beaming cheeky Goolagong, who delivers her text in non-declamatory style and sends its message ringing home – “Believe, dream, learn, achieve!”

As Dame Whina Cooper, Annie Ruth accomplishes a coup of her own. Her portrayal of the much-loved Maori land rights activist and founder of the Maori Women’s Welfare League is carried out with dignity and love. Accompanied by the music of Moana and the Moa Hunters, the Crows 1 dancers carried placards reading “Not One More Acre!” This section seems to resonate with the audience since so much of our land has latterly been given away or sold to overseas buyers. We need you now Whina!

Trish Stevenson as Tonga’s Queen Salote is accompanied somewhat oddly by a dancer/puppeteer, Jenny Cossey. The large head of Queen Salote sits atop Cossey’s camouflaged upper body. This is an arresting concept that does not fully come off. Cossey’s movements as the puppet Salote are too fussy and not strong enough and there is a total disconnect between the two figures. This section would benefit from further work.

The same could not be said however for Lorae Parry’s very amusing and sexy Germaine Greer. Of course, she has a head start with a gift of a role! Seizing the stage and accompanied by excerpts from Helen Reddy’s iconic song “I Am Woman,” she shines.

The final person to be honoured is Queen Lili’uokalani, who was the last Monarch of the Kingdom of Hawaii. Lili’uokalani also wrote songs. She composed ‘Aloha Oe’ in 1898. Carolyn McKeefrygives a lovely rendition of this as Liora Noy performs a sinuous hula.  Lili’u E, a personal song of praise for Lili’uokalani by Antoine Kao’o, with music by John Kaulia, follows with the dancers costumed in bright traditionally patterned full skirts. A contemporary hula choreographed by Bolwell to Scullion’s Lali Saka completes this section.These three last dances are all ably performed by Crows 1, but particularly by Liora Noy and Tania Kopytko.

Bolwell concludes the programme with further information about Judy Chicago and all the dancers pour onstage for a rousing finale.

When you see Crows Feet Collective dancers perform, you are not going to see ‘technical perfection.’ That is not what they are about.  What you will see is a group of lively, bright and entertaining women who are passionate about dance and theatre and stories. 

To paraphrase Jan at the work’s closure, “We have grown so much by exploring the lives of these amazing, exceptional women.”  As the audience, we feel inspired by them too. We need to hear stories about our heroes, particular our women heroes. Hearing about them helps us consider what is possible, what can be achieved. If they can do it, perhaps so can we.  


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