Q Theatre, Rangatira, Auckland

04/10/2016 - 06/10/2016

Tempo Dance Festival 2016

Production Details

Michael Parmenter’s Insolent River: A Tango, first created in 1985, is a seminal work in New Zealand dance/theatre. A phenomenal success when it was revived with Parmenter and Lyne Pringle in 1988, the iconic piece has never been seen in Auckland. Now, more than three decades after its creation, this provocative but ultimately affirming work has undergone a 21st century revival for its long-overdue debut on the Auckland stage.

Spanning the reach between cosmic drama and mundane trivia; between tragic fatality and ironic comedy Insolent River: A Tango is an intensely moving dance epic tracing the lineaments of desire in both its elemental and personal manifestations.

Parmenter has re-invented the work for two superlative casts of dancers who contribute improvisationally to this contemporary realisation.  Their alternating performances affirm the Herakleitean adage that “one can never step twice into the same river”. 

Do not miss this once in a lifetime opportunity to see dance that has truly withstood the test of time.


Join us for an Opening Night Whakatau at 6:45pm on Thursday 4 October in the Q Lounge immediately preceding the 7:30pm performance on Insolent River: A Tango to mark the beginning of Tempo Dance Festival 2016.

“The work is bold and subtle, funny and sad, shocking and important” – The Dominion (1985)

“There are moments of humour and the ending is hopeful. But it is ultimately a devastating work”. – The Evening Post (1985)

Insolent River: A Tango would not be possible without generous support from Creative New Zealand and The Wallace Foundation.

DANZ is a proud sponsor of Insolent River: A Tango as part of Tempo Dance Festival 2016.

Note:  This show contains nudity, strobe and haze. 

Q Theatre: Rangatira
Tuesday Oct 4 – Thursday Oct 6 2016
$25-$60 (booking fees may apply)

Performers: Josie Archer and Aloalii Tapu; Emily Adams and Kosta Bogoievski

Physical , Performance installation , Multi-discipline , Improv , Dance-theatre , Dance , Contemporary dance , Butoh ,

90 mins

Abstract and metaphysical, and mundane

Review by Paul Young 10th Oct 2016

For those of you who find such things relevant, this dance was created thirty-one years ago, exactly halfway through Michael Parmenter’s life. Parmenter is 62 years young. 

I will try to recite the whakapapa of Insolent River: a tango succinctly.

In 1983, while dancing with Stephen Petronio in New York, Parmenter became fascinated by and compelled to study with the renowned Butoh artist Min Tanaka in Japan. The ultimate challenge of Tanaka’s training was an invitation to the students to endure eight days of isolation in situ on a mountain, with neither food nor shelter. It was freezing cold and it rained the whole time. Parmenter’s great realisation was that the only way to weather the experience was to embrace it and to let the elements embrace him. This experiential opening of the body and mind was the key to Tanaka’s lesson. 

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Alternate casting offers subtle interpretive differences

Review by Raewyn Whyte 06th Oct 2016

Michael Parmenter’s Insolent River: a tango is an extended improvisational duet which demands total immersion in every moment of performance from its dancers and their utterly fearless responsiveness to whatever arises along the way. Informed by the choreographer’s experiences as an acolyte of Japanese butoh master Min Tanaka during a 10 night outdoor vigil on a mountain, and by the revelation of the vigor and passion of Argentinean tango, it takes two dancers on a journey starting with birth in a river bank, through the mundanities of a domestic relationship, to their final resting place anchored to a river rock.

First performed in 1985, this historic work was considered to be ground breaking and provocative at that time, with some shocking images and sequences which questioned aspects of relationships between men and women and raised alternate desires.  It has been reinvestigated this year by Parmenter and four dancers and subtly updated, and is a featured highlight of Tempo Dance Festival 2016 with a four performance season and alternating casts. Opening and closing nights are danced by Josie Archer and Aloalii Tapu, and the middle night and a matinee by Emily Adams and Kosta Bogoievski.

A 90 minute work, Insolent River has an episodic structure, with individual sections of varying lengths and changes of music (a sound score composed by David Downes with interpolated tracks) and subtle lighting (by Sean Curham) which keep your interest moving along with the dancers. The river bank set has been re-created by John Verryt with the audience seated above the banks on either side of the river bed as in the origonal production.

Even though it is a thirty year old work, with long sections of non-referential movement, the sensitively responsive performances by both casts absolutely hold your attention.

There are subtle interpretive differences between these two superb casts, arising from relative differences in height and body types, personal movement preferences, previous performance history, and life experiences. Archer and Aloalii are taller, lean and lithe with long limbs: Adams and Bogoievski are shorter and more compact, dynamically driven and quicker to react. The differences between them are perhaps most obvious in the fastest and slowest sections of the work. Adams and Bogoievski are more playful in the Let’s Stay Together coming-to-be-human section, more intensely combative in the antagonistic, tempestuous looping sequences leading into the closing tango, and each leave visible marks on the other where they have slapped and grabbed a shoulder or thigh. Tapu and Archer are slower in their sprawling sequences across the floor, but float on air in the Fred and Ginger dancing that releases all worries for just a moment.  Tapu exhibits mercurial changes of emotion, and is wry and introspective as he lip synchs Stand By Your Man, whereas Bogoievski is exultant and challenging; Tapu mans-up to achieve his pushup quota, whereas Bogoievski pushes himself to the point of collapse. And as the woman suckles her partner, Archer appears Madonna-like, calm, unperturbed, very much focussed on sensation, whereas Adams seems to be mulling many matters at a mile a minute, definitely not placidly waiting for her partner to finish.

For all these subtle differences, the overall impact of their performances is very similar. The work as a whole remains absorbing, and both casts received well-deserved standing ovations.


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Dance work first performed in 1985 has not lost its ability to engage

Review by Raewyn Whyte 06th Oct 2016

From start to finish, 90 minutes later, performers Josie Archer and Aloalii Tapu utterly held audience attention as they danced their way through Michael Parmenter’s Insolent River: a tango which opened Tempo Dance Festival 2016.

Their sensitive, responsive partnering and total immersion in the world of the River, despite the close presence of the audience on all sides, made for absorbing viewing. Their remarkable dancing is largely improvised, following an episodic structure laid down in the 1985 original version of Parmenter’s work.

The opening and closing sections are completely non-referential, accompanied by a mysteriously cyclic, abstract sound score by David Downes. The almost naked dancers slowly emerge from packed soil riverbanks to sprawl and surge across the glowing blue river floor and eventually remain upright to become human.     [More]


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Insolent River: a tango: the beautiful mundanity of coupledom

Review by Sarah Knox 05th Oct 2016

I was just a toddler when Insolent River was first conceived and created and only a young wee thing of six when it was restaged in Wellington in 1988. Some 30 years on, the work is reinhabited by two exquisite dancers in the fledgling stages of their careers. As the headlining act of Tempo Dance Festival 2016, Insolent River: a tango provides a window into the fascinating but wearisome world of the heart.

An earthy rumble pulls us into darkness, and it is easy to imagine ourselves cold, and exposed to the elements, as choreographer Michael Parmenter once was in Japan. Our attention is stretched as we observe what the space has to offer us. On the edges of a thin strip of motley grey, perhaps 3 metres wide, earth is piled up like a small cliff face, slowly crumbling away. It breathes and heaves with the living bodies suffocated beneath, slowly emerging into life. Fragments of limbs emerge, miscellaneous angled skin unfolding. The two bodies are drawn together, floorbound, butohesque, so intimately it is hard to look away from their physical pleasure.

Vignette style, the work is centered around a momentary embrace, and a rock in the space: an anchor, a burden, a constant. It is a landscape where everything and nothing is possible. Where the trek from the bedroom to the kitchen is a life changing journey. Where no matter how loud you talk you will never be heard, and still without even a whisper you can hold an intimate conversation. Where it is possible to be heartbreakingly lonely even when constantly with someone you love. The river that runs between these two souls is treacherous and yet utterly romantic.

Within the work themes such as labour and endurance are addressed in a series of images that are sublimely idle or sensually industrious. It is a dysfunctional, functional relationship where each ‘war’ has no point because it has long been forgotten. And in the end, they continue to hold on, to carry the burden of each other.

It is an astonishing thing to witness these two performers hold the space for 90 minutes, unfailingly honest, authentic and vulnerable. Just a few years out of training, Josie Archer and Aoalii Tapu have a solid maturity, presence and fearlessness with their bodies and the stories they tell.

Archer is sublime and moves subtly through her role as a woman in the/at work. Mature, strong and utterly captivating, she takes time for every movement. Appearing to transcend age or experience she shifts between in-love youth, to lustful young woman, to blissful newlywed, to nonchalant homemaker. She is as physically at home in a technical contemporary tango as she is painting her toenails.  She is a physical match for Tapu, tall and dynamic, even in the most compromising or challenging of movements she is assertive and powerful. The image of her placidly starting into the distance whilst breastfeeding Tapu is etched into my memory.

Aloalii Tapu is sometimes impertinent, cheeky and sullen. At times I am confused about his masculinity, childlike incapable behavior, rewarded by pandering and pimping by Archer. Lithe and leggy he is tormented by his own body, his boredom and his lust. At other moments, relievingly, he is the patriarch I wish Archer to possess within their relationship.

The subtleties and imagination of the work are echoed by a haunting sound scape: the slap of flesh, the strike of a match, the clink of candles, the stamp of boots, wet towels mopping water on a concrete floor, any of which could be taking place in our own homes in a power cut on a stormy Sunday night.

One of the most pleasurable moments of the evening for me was observing Parmenter and Lyne Pringle (1988 cast) in the audience opposite me. Both enraptured in the performance, I could see their own bodies listening and reverberating with Archer and Tapu’s movements. It isn’t often we get to see generations of dance artists so closely connected and Insolent River is certainly a must see event of Tempo 2016.

Insolent River: a tango is on again on Wednesday 5th and Thursday 6th October at Q Theatre as part of Tempo Dance Festival. Tickets available for Insolent River and all Tempo shows from 


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