HOU 2012 - Atamira Dance Company

Corban Estate Arts Centre, Henderson, Auckland

24/03/2012 - 24/03/2012

Production Details


Atamira Dance Company
Dancers: Jack Gray, Maaka Pepene, Mark Bonnington, Daniel Cooper, Kelly Nash, Bianca Hyslop, Nancy Wijohn
Producer mentor: Dolina Wehipeihana
Associate Producer: Zoe Williams
Production Manager: Vanda Karolckzak 
Stage Manager: Sarah Briggs
Sound/AV: Paddy Free 

90 minutes including forum

Compelling programme promises a strong future

Review by Jesse Quaid 25th Mar 2012

Atamira’s sold out performance Hou 2012 presented a dynamic programme of three very diverse works. Although not finished pieces the strength of the ideas and the polished presentation made them compelling to watch. Choreographers Jack Gray, Moss Patterson and Taane Mete drew on various aspects of their heritage and wove these together with universal themes to create visions both truthful and poignant.

The evening was opened and closed by Kaumatua Selwyn Muru, with his opening address  followed by a powerful, and subtly altered Haka, choreographed by Moss Patterson. This ability of Atamira as a company to mix the traditional with the now, to take the solid grounding of their culture and make it speak in new ways and forms is, I believe, one of their great strengths. This idea resonated throughout the performance.

The warehouse space of Atamira’s new home aptly suited the style of the evening, which felt more like a sharing than a showing, although the works, on occasion, became swallowed by the space, allowing the wide apron at the front of the stage to seemingly separate the dance from the audience. The video interviews used to introduced each piece gave the audience an extra insight into the processes and concerns of each choreographer before viewing their work in progress.

Driven by an untiring electronic beat (Reptile Room by Pitch Black), Moko explores the forms and meanings of the traditional tattoo patterns, tracing them in the space with a loose yet concentrated energy. It starts in silence. At the back of the stage a spotlit tableau of dancers frames and supports the form of Mark Bonnington before he slides smoothly to the floor and rolls forward, the heaviness of his roll somewhat jarring. A new tableau forms around him.

The concept of mutuality and group dynamics comes through strongly as the six dancers intertwine and manipulate each other in fluid daisy-chains, precise gestural tracings and breathtakingly composed lifts. Occasional stutters in the transitions betray this as a still unpolished work, as does the constrained energy of the dancers. The work shifts continually between ensemble, trios, duets and solos, echoing the relentless pacing of music and movement; from the moment the third tableau breaks until the group reforms into a gorgeous pattern of repeated floor work at the end this piece is in constant motion. Underlying the flux, the visible tracings of the moko patterns provide a stable and satisfying structure. Despite some looseness, the forms are reassuringly visible, creating a base for the fluidity and physicality of the dancers.

The second piece of the evening, Taane Mete’s Piata, provides an unsettling yet enthralling experience. The repetitive structures and primal feel of the movement are hypnotic, cut by staccato rhythms and the asymmetric shapes the dancer forms. The feeling of a space caught between worlds is enhanced by the diffuse lighting and Eden Mulholland’s eerie layered soundtrack.

This solo created for dancer Bianca Hyslop, makes use of her strength, flexibility and the long clean lines of her limbs. Bianca places herself precisely and confidently in the space, making the creature-like movement both aesthetic and natural. Rapid motions carry her across the space, interspersed with moments of sustained strength and starkly emotive shapes. Strong balanced poses seem to fight against gravity before dropping abruptly to the floor. The sound of her almost sobbing gasps float over the soundtrack, adding another layer of tension to the work. She seems to be trapped, seeking something. Tracing and retracing the same patterns and movements across the stage, caught in a loop, or in a cage.  The final image of Bianca standing, caught in the spotlight centre stage, seems to promise a new stage in this journey.

Jack Gray’s Mitimiti, opening with an intense flare of blue light from the back of the stage, is a radical departure in form from the previous pieces, and from the choreographer’s usual style. Fragmented, layered and visceral, this is a work full of contrasts and honesty, laid out with a self-deprecating humour that invites the audience to collude. Performed to the hilt by the six dancers Mitimiti takes the dissonance of a fractured cultural identity and makes it stunningly visible.

From out of the orchestrated cacophony images stand out: Bianca Hyslop’s wrenching contractions, Kelly Nash wrapping and unwrapping herself in the back curtain, fading in and out of view as the blue light flares, Nancy Wijohn’s arrival, preceded by her clothes, and Maaka Pepene’s shuffling, zombie like entrance. Daniel Cooper’s undulating action dance and high-energy leaps underscore Mark Bonnington’s confession to the audience. At times is seems like the dance is in control, driving the performers through their motions. The dancers come together in trios, divided by gender, and then mass for a night-club dance-off before dissolving again.

The final image cuts through the humour to leave the honesty of this work displayed. Daniel offers his hand and his introduction to an audience member, breaking through the last remaining space between us and them.


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