HŌKIOI ME TE VWŌHALI From spirit eagles land

Te Papa: Soundings, Wellington

12/03/2020 - 14/03/2020

New Zealand Festival of the Arts 2020

Production Details

Enter a world of sacred eagles that blends the ancient with the modern

The world premiere of From spirit eagles land explores parallels between the Hōkioi (Haast) Eagle and the Vwōhali (American Golden) Eagle, embodying the majesty and mana of those two sacred birds and their shared whakapapa. Swooping and soaring, the dancers’ movement is enhanced by a cinematic surround-sound experience that cleverly transports you between Aotearoa, Duyuktv (Cherokee) land and the spiritual realm. 

For Ōkāreka choreographer Taiaroa Royal (Te Arawa, Kai Tahu, Ngati Rauwaka, Uenukukopako), this is the climax of his 11-year journey of cultural discovery that began with a chance meeting with Cincinnati-based choreographers Missy Lay Zimmer and Andrew Hubbard of Exhale Dance Tribe, and the revelation that both Māori and the Duyuktv people share a special connection through reverence of the eagle.

Creative Director Marnie Karmelita:
“One of two very special dance commissions for the 2020 Festival, we are privileged to be working with Okareka Dance Company to support the World Premiere of their latest work. Bringing the ancestral to life with a very contemporary interpretation and a surround sound experience, The New Zealand Festival of the Arts is dedicated to providing our artists with the opportunity to explore the use of technology within performance and the visual arts.”

Soundings Theatre, Te Papa, Wellington
Thu 12 – Sat 14 Mar, 8pm
Sat 14 Mar, 1.30pm
$53 – $59 (excluding booking fees). Visit www.festival.nz

Taiaroa Royal (Te Arawa, Kai Tahu, Ngati Raukawa)
Taiaroa Royal, one of New Zealand’s most outstanding and versatile dancers, graduating from the New Zealand School of Dance in 1984 with a Diploma in Dance. Since graduating he has returned to the New Zealand School of Dance to both teach and choreograph and is a part-time tutor at UNITEC’s Performing and Screen Arts. He also teaches at many private dance schools around the country. Tai has worked with the major dance companies in New Zealand including: the Royal New Zealand Ballet; Limbs Dance Company; Douglas Wright Dance Company; Human Garden; Origins; Commotion; Black Grace and Atamira Dance Company. Tai has worked on many corporate productions both choreographing and performing; has choreographed music videos for Maree Sheehan, Evermore and Ardijah and was a featured extra on Peter Jackson’s King Kong. In 2007, along with dance colleague, Taane Mete, he started Okareka Dance Company, a collaborative company working with many different artists in various art forms.

Andrew Hubbard

A pioneer for the new millennium as an educator and choreographer his talents are broadening the perceptions of the dance world. His professional performance credits include Broadway companies of Cats and Footloose, Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular, Dr. Pepper National commercial and Guiding Light. Featured on the Today Show, Good Morning America and he was featured in International publications: Dance Magazine, Dance Spirit, Pointe Magazine, Teacher Magazine and dance “bible”; Anatomy 2 by Jacqui Haas. Andrew has danced with music artists, Brian Mc Knight and Lou Bega.

Hubbard was on faculty at the acclaimed Broadway Dance Center in New York City and has taught at numerous colleges and universities as adjunct faculty at Dean College (MA), Cincinnati Ballet, University of Cincinnati (CCM), Cincinnati Performing Arts High School (SCPA) , Wright State University, Northern Kentucky

University, UK and national Dance Festivals, including Auckland, New Zealand (Okareka Dance).

Hubbard and partner Missy Lay Zimmer have co founded Internationally recognized contemporary jazz company, Exhale Dance Tribe, Dance Magazine’s “25 to Watch”. Missy and Andrew have been honored with a Princess Grace nomination from Cincinnati Ballet for 2010-2011 for Excellence in Choreography.

Missy Lay Zimmer

Missy is transforming the dance world with her choreography’s unique vision, style and musicality. Her New York City credits include: the Broadway and National companies of CATS as Victoria (the white cat), Jesus Christ Superstar (Anniversary Tour), SNL “I’m 50” with Molly Shannon, Mariah Carey “All I Want for Christmas” (dancer/choreographer), MTV|VH1 appearances, and Broadway Cares and Equity Fights Aids /The Easter Bonnet Choreography Award (co-Recipient) along side Broadway choreographer Chris Gatelli (Newies). Films: Little Man Tate with Jodie Foster (Jodie’s Double).

Other choreography credits include: Peter Frampton with Cincinnati Ballet, husband and wife duo, Over The Rhine, rapper Rakim, Tarkan (Turkish pop star), legendary Bootsy Collins, Paramount Productions, Cincinnati Ballet, Exhale Dance Tribe “25 to Watch” Dance Magazine, Kings Productions, Lachey Arts, Orion Pictures, and Tommy Boy Records.

Missy has also been featured in numerous publications including the New York Times, Dance Magazine, Dance Spirit, Dance Teacher Magazine, Pointe Magazine and Cincinnati’s City Beat, Enquirer, Post, and CIN Weekly.

In Cincinnati, she won the Cincinnati Entertainment Award for Critical Achievement in Choreography, for her work in the original musical, ‘Christmas Yet To Come’ (Know Theater). Missy also has choreographed, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ with Cincinnati Shakespeare Theater.

Missy has been on faculty with her husband at the acclaimed Broadway Dance Center in New York City and has taught at numerous colleges and universities.

Missy and Andrew have co-founded nationally recognised contemporary jazz company, Exhale Dance Tribe, Dance Magazine’s ‘25 to Watch’. Exhale Dance Tribe is a resident company at Broadway Series theater, Aronoff Center for the Arts in Cincinnati. Missy and Andrew have been honored with a Princess Grace nomination from Cincinnati Ballet for 2010-2011 for Excellence in Choreography.  

Dance ,

Full of heart and committed performances

Review by Lyne Pringle 21st Mar 2020

Hōkioi me te Vwōhali – From Spirit Eagles Land invokes the majestic hōkioi (Haast eagle) and the vwōhali (golden eagle) for totemic inspiration.

Ōkāreka Dance Company, based in Auckland, and Exhale Dance Tribe from Cincinnati, United States, have collaborated to create the work.

Exhale have a connection with the Cherokee (Duyuktv) people and Ōkāreka, led by Taiaroa Royal, bring staunch Māori kaupapa to their practice. [More]


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Speaks to the heart and soul

Review by Grace Ahipene Hoet 15th Mar 2020

The majesty of the Hōkioi (Haast eagle, pronounced Hor-key-oy) and the Vwōhali (golden eagle, pronounced A-wor-harley): where the Cherokee Duyuktv people and their movements meld and blend with the Māori world, Te Ao Māori, fused with expressive rhythmic language and storytelling. The kaupapa for the collaboration is inspirational – the messengers of the Gods: the Tuakana, the Older Sibling, and the Teina, the Younger Sibling Eagles.

The collaborative fusion is created by Exhale Dance Tribe from Cincinnati, United States and Okareka Dance Company, based in Auckland. The creative genius of exceptional Broadway dancers Missy Lay Zimmer and Andrew Hubbard, the founders of Exhale Dance Tribe with credits like CATS and Footloose behind their names, is fused with Aotearoa’s own dance royalty: Okareka Dance Company, outstanding dancer and choreographer Taiaroa Royal, whose pedigree includes Black Grace, Douglas Wright dance works and the Royal NZ Ballet.

Cherokee (Duyukty) and Māori become one, where the audience is transported into the spiritual realm through kupu (words) like “Aue te Mokemoke, Tenei au, Ka po, Ka Ao…he murimuri” (“this is me transitioning from darkness to light, from loneliness to deep longing, this is me.”)

The ngahere (native bush) comes to life with a cacophony of powerful bird sounds building into an enormous crescendo.  Blinding sharp light, Te Ao Marama (the world of light) interjects into Te Kore (the nothing) revealing two dancers – then three, five, seven and eventually 11 performers – each appearing from Te Kore (the nothing) and moving across the stage like Butoh dancers.

The karanga pierces through the cacophony of birds to blend in as one call, the manu ngangahu (the chitter chatter of the birds) symbolic of the wāhine preparing to do the Karanga.

Nga manu (the birds) and wāhine (women) are the messengers and the openers of the spiritual dimensions: Te Ao Māori – where birds are the messengers that journey through dimensions and cross timelines through the physical and spiritual worlds.

The 12th dancer is the awakening Hōkioi, powerful and intense with sweeping movements that entrance the audience as karanga (calls) and moteatea (chants) ring out across the ether with kupu (words) that capture the power and majesty of the eagle: “He manu tupuna, he mana mananui o te Ao.”

The dancers swoop, swirl and soar, lifting like eagles that glide and play with each other, enhanced with the surround-soundscape of Maree Sheehan and the powerful karanga of Tui Ransfield. Sheehan’s stunning sound design enlightens and enhances the movements of the dancers.  

The lighting of Vanda Karolczak is stunningly powerful and gorgeously graceful, creating striking moments of beauty that, with the soundscape, supports the dancers, creating rippling pebbly waterways and wind-soring skies.  

Tipatapata – bird footwork replicated by the dancers; foot movement that the ancestors learnt from watching the birds – blends with the rhythm of the pahu (drum) and melds with the lighting effects, creating a rippling tapestry of a brook on stage.

The jerk or tock movement of the staccato birds distinguish the grounded bird, in juxtaposition with the floating soaring eagle. Unconventional movements, gathered from a variety of dance styles including Māori and Cherokee to Jazz and Modern dance, have been choreographed to flow smoothly like water that ripples and drips. The storytelling does get a little lost at times with the gender cross-over … Does this signify the failure of the Hokioi and the Vwōhali to reproduce?

Linda Lepou’s costume designs surprisingly embody the Harem pants, which serves the dancers well. Her use of dresses to underline personal relationships between characters, creates symbolism of gender cross-over, creating a story of its own or quite possibly of the failure of the Eagles to procreate.

The strength of the dancers is physically striking, giving great mana to their movements, enriched by the lightness on their feet. A true warrior lays down a wero, light like a bird on his feet but fierce with the strength and might of a warrior. They moving together like a roopu (group) – nukunuku (move about); nekeneke (to move gradually); te apu (to move in a flock).

A circle of blessing, circle of kai, each to their own interpretation, given and offered to the Gods then transformed into the nesting of the young’uns, the layers of faces sculpting memorable tableaus … Are they telling stories of whakapapa (genealogy)?

The ‘live’ piercing karanga coming from behind signals the completion of the journey. As an audience we know we have shared and witnessed something special. 

The feeling this Māori reviewer has on leaving the theatre is that a Tupuna (Ancestor) has just visited, played, fought and empowered us with the mana of their presence.  A stunning piece of Māori, Cherokee and Contemporary Dance that speaks to the heart and soul.


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